GEEK ALERT – Zoomify Test

Posted in Photography Tricks on March 31st, 2010 by MadDog
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Theoretically, it should be easy to put a zoomable image in a WordPress site. At least that’s what everybody claims. You can go to all kinds of  I IS GEEK blogs and see wonderful zooms. The instructions are invariably “easy to follow”. There are so many misspelled words and grammatical errors that you’d think that they were grammar school projects. Well, the instructions are not  easy to follow, because the writers make stupid assumptions about what the readers know.

Supposing the instructions were perfect, there is always the problem of distracted, feeble minds and unruly fingers. One errant thought, one misplaced fingertip; that’s all it takes to end up with a blank hole in your otherwise lovely page. That’s what I was getting. I thought that I was precisely following the most lucid set of instructions that I could find. Nevertheless, I’ve been playing with this, alternatively grappling and then yelling, “Uncle!”, since December with no noticeable luck.

Somhow I got the attention of a Facebook friend Bobbi Bennett (three sets of double letters in your name are impressive enough) who offered to hold my hand through the process. What a difference a friend makes. Within an hour I had it working.

This was my first tentative foray into the world of Zoomify, which is, by the way, free for this simple use version:

As you can plainly see, it is a Scarlet Soldierfish (Myripistis pralinia).  The controls are more or less idiot proof. Clicking on the image zooms in. Moving the mouse around pans back and forth and up and down. The rest, you can figure out. There’s not much detail in this one, so you reach the zoom limit pretty quickly.

This one has a little more depth. It’s a Spotted Porcelain Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculata):

You can get quite a lot of detail by zooming in on this one.

Here’s the one with the most detail. I went up on the roof of our office to shoot five frames and stitched them together in a panorama:

Uploaded by FTP to my server in the USA it was 639 files totalling about 10MB. That’s how you get so much detail. Each little section of the image is loaded only when you need it. I suppose that Google Earth and similar programs work the same, only on a much more massive scale involving petabytes of data available immediately from giant server farms spread all over the world. Funny, until a few years ago I thought something called Petabytes would be good to feed to my dog, Sheba.

According to the speed of your connection, you may or may not see grey blocks and fuzzy sections that take a while to fill. If you’re patient enough, you’ll be rewarded by detail in these areas. Try moving around and looking at other areas while you’re waiting for the blanks to fill. If you’re really patient, you can make out the picture of the man on the billboard at the far side of the softball field on the left side of the image.

I’m looking forward to using Zoomify more often, though I’ll probably limit its use to one per post. It does make the page take longer to load and those with slow connections may tire of waiting for the full-sized images. At least it loads only what  is needed, as  it is needed.

I want to do some reef panoramas in which you can zoom in on individual fish. I want to do some jungle panoramas in which you can zoom in on a spider. That was what attracted me to Bobbi’s site here.

I still haven’t figured out how she got that depth. Blows my mind!

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Red and Black

Posted in Under the Sea on March 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Just when you think that everything is under control, a Pandora’s Box of silly irritations is opened somewhere above your head and all of Pandora’s little trinkets rain down on you like a plague of leaches. If I can’t start with a mixed metaphor, then I’m not going to write today. Hey, Pandora’s Box could  contain a plague of leaches.

Negatives: alternator on the car is stoned again, doesn’t alternate nor charge the battery; rebuilt the home office computer and installed Windows 7 (that’s good), but none of the USB ports on the brand-new mother board work (that’s bad); satellite TV is still out despite replacing the cable and the decoder, have to order another LNB (if Eunie doesn’t have TV over the long Easter weekend, my life quality is going to be considerably degraded); new wireless connection from my office to my house has been placed in an unfortunate place – no power on weekends if the town power is out (which it usually is).

However, there are Positives: the boat motor is not creamed, as I suspected – only a fuse; I don’t have cancer, as far as I know.

One thing that works for me, though it’s not very nice,  is to compare my problems to those of others. Alanis Morissette’s song Hand in My Pocket  is playing in the background as I write this. It seems strangely appropriate. Here’s this morning ‘s sunrise at Coconut Point:I made is all moody and contrasty. Like this:

I’m broke but I’m happy, I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded,
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine
‘Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

I’ve never been a great interpreter of song lyrics, but I’ve always liked this one for its ambiguity. It seems to be saying to me that there are two sides to everything. One hand is in the pocket and the other one is doing something else. They don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. Bad fortune doesn’t mean you’re in for a lucky streak soon. When things are going great, you don’t have to look over your shoulder. Life has a wonderful randomness to it. I can dig it.

What seems tragic or at least annoying to me by another’s standards will certainly seem trivial. I’m such a whiner. Excuse me all to pieces.

Let’s get to some fishy stuff.  This magnificently gaudy critter is a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):Somebody had a full palette when painting this one. I got these shots down deep in the big sandy bowl at The Eel Garden.  This patch of anemones and these fish were there when I started diving in the early 80’s. I’ve been photographing them for nearly that long. They know me. I’m the guy who comes around and flashes bright lights in their eyes.

The occasionally entertain me with synchronised swimming:Synchronized Swimming . . . I’ve watched it many times on the telly. I can’t decide if it’s extremely interesting or extremely boring. I just sort of sit there and stare it and think, “What the . . .”

The little one in the image above is giving me a problem. I’m not sure what species is it. It’s definitely a juvenile, which makes identification more difficult. It is also unusual to find two different species of anemonefish inhabiting the same anemone. Here’s another shot of the little one head-on:The house is a Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor),  certainly one of the most beautiful. The fish is a little blurred, because it was out of the focal plane. In this case it doesn’t seem to hurt the image.

Here’s another reef panorama:It’s a technique that is still a work in progress. Getting the colours right is a pain.

I can’t stop taking pictures of Palm Coral. It’s some species of Clavularia:The colours from group to group vary in wonderfully subtle ways.

I never pass up the opportunity to disrupt the life of a Hermit Crab (Calcinus minutus)  by gently tipping its house over and watching it put things right:Now that I consider what I just wrote in that last sentence, the hair on the back of my neck is rising.

I’d be interested to know if you  know what I’m thinking.

The Coconut Tree Community

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on March 29th, 2010 by MadDog
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For a Monday morning, things went remarkably well. I took the battery and fuel tank out to Faded Glory so the the guys from the marina could come to tow her in. Reversing the battery cables on Saturday morning was a very bad idea. I was worried all weekend that I’d blown the voltage regulator on the engine. That would probably set me back a thousand Kina or so. As it turned out, I had only fried a couple of fuses on the engine. Thank heaven for fuses! I’ll be considerably more observant in the future when hooking up my battery. If we didn’t have so many thieves around, I wouldn’t have to lug it out of the house to the boat and then back to the house every time I go to sea.

Wandering around in my garden the other day, I gave my coconut trees a thorough inspection. It’s amazing the things you find on really ancient coconut trees. I don’t know how old these are. My guess is about fifty years. They are still producing coconuts despite being old and only a metre from the ocean. Look at the circus of colour here:

Not being an expert, I can only guess that the colourful organisms here are lichens. As I remember, lichens are a symbiotic conglomeration of fungi and either an algae or a cyanobacteria. So, a lichen is neither beast nor foul, so to speak, but some crazy combination of radically different organisms that somehow help each other, indeed, can’t live without each other. Funny, that. I think that I just described my marriage.

Where someone took a big chunk out of the side of the tree there is now a beautiful little cave:At the base of the tree, just above the roots, lives another type of lichen. This one looks as if it would be tasty to reindeer. It’s sort of snowy:You can’t find a tree near where people walk here in PNG that is not scarred. Everybody carries a bush knife and nobody can resist giving a passing tree a whack. Don’t ask me why. It’s probably inexplicable. My coconuts are scarred from generations of whacking by passers-by:The poor tree seems to be bleeding orange blood.

Sometime in the distant past, someone had need for a nail in the tree. It may have been me. Any such memory has long past:

The nail is as rusty as my memories and the ever growing hole around it is not so different from the empty space in my skull left as my brain slowly shrinks to the size of a peach. Call me peach brain. I like that. It’s not at all offensive.

A few metres away is the drain that carries water under our driveway from our crab hole infested front lawn to the sea. Down at the bottom of the cement catchment basin that I poured many years ago there is a little jungle growing:It is furiously producing oxygen. Good little jungle; keep it up. We need all the help we can get.

And that, as they say, is that.

Or, as we say here, em tasol.

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My Peeps

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on March 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Despite a weekend that began with me cremating the voltage regulator on the Suzuki 140 engine on Faded Glory  by reversing the battery cables, Saturday turned out to be a very nice day spent with some of my very nice friends, some old and some new. These are my peeps.* The day ended with a ripping good party at our house where Eunie had her dining-room table built for twelve precisely full.

I’ll not take full blame for blowing my motor up. If it weren’t for the abundance of petty criminals here I wouldn’t have to lug my battery out to the boat and install it every time I use it. I know from experience that, if I leave it in the boat, it is not if  it will be stolen, but when.

Anyway, we were all in a cheery mood, since it was the first genuinely sunny Saturday that we’ve had for some weeks. Jo’s big smiles lit up the scene nicely:As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on portraits of a sort lately. Strangely enough, I’m finding that getting a portrait to look just the way I like is proving more difficult than other subjects on which I’ve been concentrating.

Snapshots such as this one of Rich and Jenn don’t usually take too much time because the subjects’ faces take up only a small portion of the frame and much of the detail is lost. It’s more a matter of composition and getting the colours right:They are so cute, eh? Like a couple of kittens in the pet shop window. You just want to take them home and cuddle them. Ah, youth, where hast thou gone?

Up close is when portraiture gets ticklish. Here’s Ush, who could become my favourite subject if I can corner her often enough. Her face is a lot more fun to explore than the moon and she is utterly unselfconscious. As you can see, she also also has a flair for the exotic in headgear – and carries it off nicely:Skin tones are proving to be my most difficult task. I’ve discovered that it’s easy to photograph fish and bugs and all sorts of things that we can identify because we’ve seen them before, but aren’t really intimately connected with precise visual details. Humans, however, are another kettle of fish, if you will. We look at people close-up every day. We know what people look like in great detail. The slightest flaw in the hue or textures of skin will spoil the image beyond redemption.

It’s hard work.

This is much easier:I did a solo dive because I dry up like a raisin if I don’t spend at least an hour a week underwater. This is the beautiful anemone garden at Pig Island.  If you click to enlarge, you’ll see several anemonefish playing in the meadow.

So, since my friends got into this post, I’ll show you this shot that Ush grabbed of me:You know, there comes a time in your life when you just have to admit, “I’m never going to look any better than this.” and get over it. No, I haven’t had a stroke. My face is just going all lopsided. I honestly thought that I was smiling. I must seem very enigmatic to others.

There is only one thing that I can think of to follow that:

In case you’re wondering. That is a big pile of poo.

* In the singular form, “peep” was African-American slang for “check it out” as in “peep this.” This early usage is probably related to the common definition of peep as “a quick look.” Oscar winner Jamie Foxx even had an R&B album titled Peep This  in 1994.

The plural “peeps” as slang for “people” or “close friends” seems to have come into use around the same time. Rapper Nas may have popularized the term in the song Life’s a Bitch  off his 1994 album Illmatic  The song contains the oft-quoted line: “I’m destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it.” Other songs on the album also refer to “my peeps” with the meaning of “my friends.”

The definition above was ripped shamelessly from AskYahoo. Heaven knows I’m no fan of Rap. The last Rap that I actually dug was MC Hammer’s Hammer Time.    Dum da da dum. Da  bump  da  bump.

A Once In a Lifetime Shot

Posted in Under the Sea on March 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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The weekend got off to a perfect start this morning when I crossed the terminal wires on my boat battery and blew the voltage regulator on my engine. I had to cancel the day for five divers standing on the dock waiting for me. I hope the remainder of their weekend went better than mine. Fortunately, Richard Jones is in town, so I went out on his boat, Sanguma  along with Jenn, Jo and Ush.

I have lots of other news about the weekend, some good, some not so. I’m sitting at the office on Sunday afternoon writing this because the power to the security camera pole where my wireless connection makes its hop to my house has been out all weekend and, of course, my wonderful TELIKOM phone lines won’t carry data today because there were a few drops of rain last night.

I could keep on complaining for hours, but I don’t have the time. Too bad. It’s my favourite hobby.

One of the bright spots of the weekend is in this image:If you’re not a diver, you might not think that it’s such a big deal. Believe me, it is.  The shot above was taken by available light at about eighteen metres at The Eel Garden  at Pig Island.

What you’re looking at is two giant Notodoris minor  nudibranchs engaged in a super slow motion mating act. (UPDATE: Frank Peeters points out that this is actually one N. Minor.  His explanation is perfect; I can’t argue with it. See our comments below. I’m only slightly deflated.) The reason I’m showing you three nearly identical images of the same scene are partly technical and partly because I’m so dumbfounded by my luck that I can’t stop inserting the images in this post. It’s one thing to see a Notodoris minor.  I’ve found a spot at The Eel Garden  where I can usually find one if I take the time to look. It’s another thing to find two of them together. However, I have never before, and very likely never will again catch two of them in the act of laying and fertilising eggs. The shot above was lit by the flash on my camera.

Needless to say, I grabbed many, many exposures of the pair. I did not want to risk something going wrong. I tried several different camera settings. I made up this image in Photoshop which, though it seems faded compared to the others, shows the fine structures in high detail and really gives a more accurate idea of the shape of the things:The image above is over twice the pixel dimensions that I usually put in the journal. I normally limit resolution to 1600 pixels. This makes them load faster if you want to click to enlarge. It also protects me a little from those who steal images from the web and foist them off as their own. Yes, it has happened to me. My copyright (see the bottom of the page) allows free non-commercial use of any of my images without seeking permission as long as you simply attach my name to the image or (preferably) include a link to Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  That’s fairly small payment for the work that I put into presenting my best work on this site. I’ve found plenty of my images on other web sites with no attribution. I’m not sure why someone would do that, but it doesn’t make me particularly happy. Anyway, if you want to see some amazing details of the egg-laying nudis, click on the image above and be ready to download about a half of a megabyte.

I also thought that you might be interested to see the old wrecked catamaran river barge which is right beside the place where I find the Notodoris minor:That image is a stitch-up of seven separate frames. It covers about 160°.

Since we’re doing a lot of yellow today, I’ll throw in this snap-shot of a Latticed Butterflyfish (Chaetodon rafflesi):I’d rather that the other one had gotten out of the way a little sooner. This image was the result of a ten minute chase. Butterflyfish are very frustrating.

I’ll have more weekend adventures later. They include a very nice party, a car theft by a drunk, a house invasion and possible rape (we don’t know yet) and probably some other things that I’ve already suppressed deep in my memory vault.

I’ll also have some nice shots of my peeps.*

* I’m destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it. -Naz

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Ancient Art Show Material Discovered

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on March 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers may note that my mind wanders more towards the end of the week. This is because I dive on Saturdays and I usually have enough pretty pictures beginning on Sunday which I can intersperse with mind numbing jibber-jabber to fill a page. Heaven knows that I seldom have anything important to say. I do, however, strive to say it with some degree of flair, if not true style. Polish is way beyond me. If I could polish prose, I’d be making a living from it. Prose polishing doesn’t run in my genes. I’m more of an assembler. I’ll screw and glue the chair. It’s someone else’s job to polish it.

Which leads me to . . . well, nothing. So, instead, I’ll concentrate on telling you more about me,  my favourite subject. Write what you know about, eh?

Yonks ago, when I was a young feller in my mid-50s the Madang Country Women’s Association up and did themselves an art show. Being a dilettante artist, I decided to try my luck. It was all for charity, you see. That usually means any fool can pretend to be anything he likes and pretty much get away with it.

If you’re a regular here, you’ve seem my so-called art work. It’s pure fakery – the purest kind. I take pretty pictures and grind them up in a computer and it spits out something that, when printed on paper, might fool bumpkins into thinking that the producer has some sort of talent. That, of course, it the whole point of the excercise.

Not wanting to get caught in a lie, I had to coin a new word to describe my wholesale pimping of digital excretion as art. Thus the novel term “Photostylizations”. I even adopted the Americanisation of inserting “z” in place of “s” to further confuse the issue:

That’s the poster which I prepared to introduce my “work”. That’s more or less how I looked at 50. I’m considerably more handsome now.

One of the “pieces” that has enjoyed the most longevity is this Beach in Christmas Bay  from an image I captured at Bag Bag Island:

It didn’t sell. So it, along with several other of these, is still hanging behind the “Blue Dolphin Bar” at our house to give the place a little class. I’ve also used this one several wedding program covers as a background image.

This is an old favourite of mine. It’s titled Fletch.  It’s based on a photo of Jan Fletcher which I grabbed at Kar Kar Island.  She was free diving down into a fresh water spring just off the coast:All of these were framed and numbered 1/1 meaning that they would never be printed again in the same format. Some people in Madang own 1/1 MadDog originals which will be worth a fortune when I’m dead. I hope that they laugh all the way to the bank.

Here’s a nice little pair of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):And another lone one:

This is a Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides):The common name is obvious. The taxonomic name, not so.

And this, regulars will recognise as a Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus):Above is the mom.

Below is the baby:Cute, eh?

This is a Shadowfin Soldierfish (Myripistis adusta):It does have a bit of the military look. Maybe it’s the chain-mail armor.

This one I titled Piscus Psychedelicus  for obvious reasons. It’s really a Midnight Snapper (Macolor macularis)  with its colours radically modified:The colours on this one came to me in a dream.

Another little fellow who will be familiar to regular readers is the Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus Reticulatus):The title of that one is Size Doesn’t Matter,  one of my favourite phrases.

Just because I could, I threw a gratuitous flower into the show. Straining my imagination, I titled this one White Flowers:The Madang Country Women’s Association apparently never recovered from the Art Show, though it was a financial success. I think that my stuff alone garnered about K500 and I was among possibly twenty genuine artists.

I hope that they do it again someday. My legend needs constant nourishment to stay alive.

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Actual Work! Oh, NO!

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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You’ll get less sense than usual from me today, which is no sense at all. Today some people at the office expected me to do some actual work. The nerve of them! I’m the guy who lives in squalor back in the IT Dungeon; the bearded dude who comes and goes in silence and nobody bothers unless the building is on fire. Some might even have to think about that one. Anyway, it was 15:00 today before I had time to think of some novel way to irritate you.

I’ll start with the same ol’ same ol’ morning sunrise:Yeah, yeah, ho-hum. Seen that scene before, man. I never get tired of looking out my front door and wondering what the day will bring. By the looks of the weather this morning, it doesn’t seem promising.

So, I hopped over to BoinbBoing to see if I could find a muse hanging about. Amid the dross of eclectica I found this delightful item for all the dads out there seeking Daughters’ Day presents:

If I’m mistaken and there’s no Daughters’ Day yet, just give it a while. Hallmark will invent it and then you’ll be obliged to spend five bucks for a twenty-five cent dard or pay the consequences in icy stares. Yes, someone has finally made Cat 5e network cables for your darling little girl. I’d say that these will work just fine until she hits about 45, unless she keeps small, yappy dogs. In that case, you’re set for life. Notice the jeweled connectors. You can get these from Cables Unlimited.

If you see these in your son’s room, you might have a little talk with him.

Being pressed for time, my mind had to wander at double-time quickstep, so I Googled “stupid stuff for girls” and found a veritable treasure chest:

Among hundreds of idiotic items at Stupid.Com I found – I can hardly bring myself to say it – Glow In The Dark Fingernail Polish. This is, presumably, for the young lady who tends to believe that she has ceased to exist when entering a dark room. She has merely to look at her hands, assuming that she can locate them, to reassure herself of her existence.

Personally, I find this unspeakably creepy, but then, I never had a daughter. Since I want to be fair about all this, I really should have a Stupid Stuff for Boys day soon.

Well, I could go on and on with this frivolity, but now it is time for the public service portion during which I will attempt to impart important information to you. You will, of course, find this information utterly useless. That is my speciality.

First, I’ll show you this rather uninteresting image of Some Kind of Coral:I can’t find it in any of my books and I’m far too lazy to wade through the web to give you an obscure Latin name about which you care not a whit. Now that I have a second look at it . . . does that dark shape near the top look like a mouth screaming? Whoa, let’s move on.

I said nothing serious or substantive would be forthcoming today, but I can’t find any place else to sneak in this imag of a Sea Squirt (Didemnum membranaceum)  colony with a Robust Feather Star (Himerometra robustipinna)  squatting right in the middle:I can’t really explain why I laughed hysterically when I saw this at about ten metres. It’s a diver thing.

You know, it’s a strange sensation to laugh with a big rubber regulator in your mouth. I can’t say that I’ve ever gotten used to that feeling anyway – sucking on that big pipe for air. It’s . . . undignified. It’s even weirder to cough and a completely wild sensation to sneeze. At first it’s very scary, when you feel a sneeze coming on and you can’t stop it and you wonder what’s going to happen. Then, KAPLOOOEEE, you let fly and a huge cloud of bubbles comes out and you think, “Gosh, that felt good!”

It’s even possible to vomit underwater, though I do not recommend the experience just for kicks. Yes, I have done it and yes, I didn’t like it at all. There are two methods used. One is to remove your regulator and get it over with as quickly as possible. This is not considered safe, because you may choke when you try to get air again and then it’s probably all over. The other way it to just blow chunks into the regulator, gasping between gushes and trying not to suck too much back in. You might still have to take your reg out and shake it around to get rid of the . . . stuff, so that it works properly. This also is considered dangerous.

I hope that I haven’t put you off your breakfast.

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