Guest Shooter – Jo Noble – Handy With a Camera

Posted in Guest Shots on March 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Being a born narcissist and a photographer, I should have a few more images of myself, eh? I just never got into it. It seems creepy to me. Beside that, when I do try it, I usually hate the result. Maybe I should practice a little. The swing-around screen on my new Canon G11 should come in handy.

Having Jo Noble along on my last trip out to the Balek Wildlife Reserve was a treat in more ways than one. Some motorcycle passengers can drive a rider crazy – always moving around, fighting the balance, leaning the wrong way. Jo is as steady as a rock, even when she’s waving her camera around taking very cute shots like this one:There are several shots in this post that remind me of  The Lowman Loop – Boise, Idaho – A Motorcycle Ride to Heaven.

Jo also goes out with us on Saturdays on Faded Glory.  She got this shot of me which I like very much:I call it The Thousand-Year-Old Man.  You could use this as an illustration in a book about Neanderthals.

Jo swings her camera around with her eyes. I like that in a photographer. It’s all about recording your vision of the world. Here’s a beautiful snap of Four-Mile Market:Nice composition.

She also has the capacity to aggravate me. I chased this dragonfly around until I was panting. She walked up to it and clicked:Okay, we’ve established that she can do macros and she’s not nearly as scary as I am.

When she turned her sword on me, I wasn’t convinced that the shot would be much good because of the backlighting. I almost chastised her for a technical boo-boo:

I’m glad that I didn’t. I would have embarrassed myself. It turned out to be a shot with a lot of visual appeal. Technical rules do not necessarily a good photo make. (That’s Yoda-speak. Speaking like Yoda, practicing, I am.)

Jo also digs “the moment”. This is what is missing in a lot of snapshots. Here the picture tells the story:When we saw that mud, we both decided that mud-wrestling was not on for today. She got the perfect moment in the turn-around, including my left foot off the ground as I wrestled the hog in a tight arc, nearly falling over.

Being a convenient moment, I sneaked off to the grass to . . . uh . . . you know. Jo caught me coming back looking all goofy and,  if I might say, macho and  she caught herself in the mirror and  the mud hole that had changed our plans:Bit of genius there, I’d say. I would never have thought of setting up such a complicated shot. She had it all lined up and was standing there waiting for me to step onto my mark.

What would a motorcycle ride be without a shot of yourself in the reflection off of your friend’s helmet:It would demonstrate a lack of imagination, I’d say. Jo didn’t fail the test.

Next time you take a friend for a ride on your Harley, choose one with a camera and smart eyes.

Thanks, Jo Noble, for a super Guest Shoot.

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The Birds!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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This morning I walked over to the Hotel Pretentious to get few more  shots of the Victoria Crowned Pigeons. There’s a story here – I’ll try to keep it short, since there are a lot of pictures in this post and I want to get to them.

But first, A Pub-like Pronouncement:  I’d been corresponding with a Facebook friend who appeared, from her profile, to be an accomplished painter. There was a compete info page and lots of nice photos. Yesterday I got an email from “her” (not going to give the name, in case she got hacked and she’s for real) saying that she was stranded in London and urgently requested me to send her money . . . well, just read the email . . .

Hope you get this on time, sorry I didn’t inform you about my trip in United kingdom, I’m presently in Surrey and am having some difficulties here because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept. presently i have limited access to internet, I will like you to assist me with a loan of £1,450 to sort-out my hotel bills and to get myself back home.

I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively, I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with, I’ll Refund the money back to you as soon as i return, let me know if you can be of any help.

I don’t have a phone where i can be reached.   Please let me know immediately.

Suspicious to say the least! There’s the fractured English, the peculiar amount, the urgent appeal, the sincere promise – all the hallmarks of a scam. In this case there was also the “lady in distress” for which I am a born sucker (ladies take note). “She” had previously contacted me via Facebook message asking me to get some more images of the Victoria Crowned Pigeon so that shes could paint them!  Fantastic!

I snooped around in Google and found that this is the “London Facebook Scam”. It seems that (if I have my facts right) hackers (criminals – it’s nearly synonymous now) set up fake Facebook sites to make “friends” (suckers!) and then use various means to defraud them of their hard earned cash. Well, I didn’t fall for that  one! All traces of this Facebook “friend” have now vanished, except  for the messages in my message folder which , curiously, now show no URL link at the bottom of Firefox and are not underlined.

So, that being announced, let’s get to The Birds! I’ll bet there are one or two which you may never have seen. This one, however is familiar to almost everybody:

It is, of course, the Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua  galerita),  considered vermin in Australia. I’ve had several as pets. I get them at the market when they are very young, sometimes still covered with tree sap from their nests. They bond strongly with humans and are incredible mimics. Walking around with your Cockatoo on your shoulder is common enough here. Over time, they gradually wander more and more until you never see them again. It’s a little sad, but if you’re going to keep wild birds as pets, it seems the most responsible way to do so.

You’ve seen the Sulfur-Crested here before in The Cocaltoo That Loathed Rush Limbaugh.

Well, you’ve seen this outrageous, world’s largest pigeon here before, so regular readers will recognise the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria): 

This one is pecking madly at a Star Fruit freshly fallen from the tree.

Here’s another fairly familiar bird, the Papuan Hornbill (Rhyticeros plicatus):

You’ve seen them here before in my post about the Balek Wildlife Sanctuary.

These are young individuals. The prominent horn on the upper beak is only now forming:

The eyes are startling.

This one is having a bad-hair day:

I haven’t had a good-hair day for a while.

I might be willing to place a small bet that you have never seen one of these:

It is a Pesquet’s Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus),  sometimes known as the Vulturine Parrot.

It does present a rather menacing aspect. As I was shooting it, it moved toward me several times, trying to get it’s beak on my camera or my fingers, I’m not sure which:

I politely declined to allow that.

The image above may remind some long-time readers of of The Lorikeet From Hell in which I brutalised the Black-Capped Lorikeet (Lorius lory)  way back in September of 2008.

The resemblance is somewhat striking.

Okay, okay, I can hear you yawning from here. “Come on! Give me something I haven’t seen!”

Right! Never fear. IN YOUR FACE  – a Parrot Fight!

The pesky male Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus)  simply would not allow the giant, vulture-like black and red terror bird keep that tasty treat. It kept hounding the larger bird until it was worn down. It was a David and Goliath sort of thing.

If you find anything more interesting on the web today, please pass it along to me.

I’m bored. That usually means something dangerous is in the works.

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Aqua Sea – Willow Tree

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday afternoon, when we left work we went over to the docks to pick up our friend, Jo Noble. She is the Steward on a giant super-yacht which is temporarily stuck in Madang awaiting repairs. We had her over for dinner and a “movie night”. Such is what passes for entertainment in Madang. We like it. Although I miss the big city attractions of restaurants, movie theaters, museums, clubs and the like, the simple pleasures of visiting with friends in our homes keeps us more in tune with each other. Relationships are closer, stronger, less concerning events and venues and more about the real things in life.

Anyway, on the way around coronation drive we all simultaneously noticed that there was a remarkable scene before us. I had to stop the car to record the moment. In nearly thirty years of driving past this spot, I’ve never seen such an odd juxtaposition of hues. Honestly, I did not fiddle with this. Other than balancing the tones so that is shows up on the black background it’s pretty much the way it appeared to us:First, the sun was over my right shoulder low in the sky, taking on the winelight colour of the tropical afternoon. The rest of the sky behind me was intense blue, making the storm clouds over the Finisterre Mountains  reflect that blueness back at us. There was also a large amount of fresh, cloudy water from the Gol Gol River  over Astrolabe Bay.  The sunlight was shining intensely there, but not directly on the storm clouds. This gave the water an aqua tint that contrasted strongly with the clouds and turned upside down the normal bright-sky, dark-water combination which we expect.

All of that fiddle-faddle of explaining it sounds stupid to me now. It dropped our jaws. No need to explain it.

This morning’s sunrise was extravagant:As I was moping around the garden for lens fodder, I was amused by the tiny sheep moving around in a little mob in the sky. I took a picture of them.

A few minutes later I heard the wimpy whine of one of Air Niugini’s Fokker F-100 jet-powered gooney-birds coming in over the  main wharf on final approach:I was a pilot for a long time, but I never got used to that term. It always gave me a vague sensation that I was nudging too close to a prediction.

PILOT: Uhhhh Tower, Gold Three-Four on final approach to One-Two.

TOWER: Confirm that, Gold Three-Four on final approach to One-Two.

PILOT: Uhhhh roger tower, this is my final approach . . . ever.

TOWER: Uhhhh Gold Three-Four, say again last.

PILOT: Tower, you got wax in your ears? I said this is my  final approach. I don’t plan on doing any others after this one.

TOWER: Uhhhh . . . mmmmm . .  Gold Three-Four, is it your intention to land?

PILOT: Uhhhh . . . Tower, Gold Three-Four . . . I haven’t decided yet, I’m just approaching for now. But this is the last time.

Well, you get the drift.

As I panned madly, blurring the trees below to keep the sharp eye of the lens on the aircraft, I was still wondering:As it turned out, it did land. This time. Every time I get on an airplane, I think to myself, “What? Are you meshuga?”

On to simpler, less transcendental things . . . like grasshoppers:This was my morning grasshopper. I sometimes don’t even bother to photograph them; it so often leads to a pointless chase around the garden. This one, however seemed to want, need to be imaged. It may have low self-esteem issues.

This is my poor, poor willow tree which simply won’t grow. I’ve been feeding it, mulching it, trimming back dead whips, talking to it in gentle tones of encouragement and tenderly stroking its leaves for three years now. It’s the only willow tree that I’ve ever seen in Papua New Guinea and I have no idea where Juli, our haus meri  got it:

I love willow trees. I had one in my back yard as a child. It was my place of escape. I escaped a lot. I built a house in it. I would have preferred to live there, if I were allowed. I would also like to have had a bicycle, if it were allowed. Too dangerous!  No wonder I’m now a mad man. Poor me.

Jesus wept. So do willows.

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Night Ships

Posted in Under the Sea on March 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Mmmm . . . stepped out of the front door last night to let Sheba out for a little swim – she likes to skinny dip in the dark – and the lights on the ships across the harbour simply stunned me. Had to trot back inside to get my G11.

I set everything to manual and cranked the ISO up to 800 and got this telephoto shot by bracing the camera against a coconut tree:

What an amazing gadget it is. If I were the Oprah Winfrey of photographers, I’d just give them away to everybody and say, “Go forth and photograph!” We would be so busy having fun that there would be no time for wars. Of course, the world economy would grind to a halt. Hey, wait! That happened already. Never mind.

I backed off the telephoto a little and got this nice little panorama:I’m not feeling too wordy today. I think I may have blown a fuse or something yesterday. Maybe it’s the Aliens influencing me to cool it.

Going back to the images from my dive with Monty Armstrong on The Lady Anne  I found one that I’d forgotten to massage. It’s a kind of Sea Squirt that grows profusely in the rich (read full of sewerage) waters of the inner harbour:Its formal name is Rhopalaea circulata.  I’m actually quite happy with the image, considering that the water was filthy. It marks the first time that I’ve posted an image of a species that is clearly better than anything that I could find on the web (not that a better one doesn’t exist somewhere). Yeah, I’m feeling a bit smug about that. Hey, I work hard at this. Even geeks should get to win once in a while.

This little Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri)  also makes me smile:It gave me every opportunity to capture a good image. If there is any fault for imperfection, it’s the photographer’s. I wish every fish posed so nicely.

Well, I’m running out of words. Some days I feel like I could write all day. Sometimes I do, for magazine articles. Other days, it just doesn’t flow. However, I can’t leave without showing you one more shot of the amazing Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  that inspired my bizarre “Aliens” post of yesterday.I had a dream this morning about these critters. Very amusing.

Ursula Andress was in it too.

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To The Aliens in My Front Yard – Live Long and Prosper

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on March 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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The Laboratory Monks tell us that a huge portion of the genes that spell out what we appear to be (Yeah, I’m a phenotype, just like you. Except I’m less inhibited.) are exactly the same. Okay, lets say that I share like maybe 90% of the genes with my dog, Sheba. That could explain a lot. But, we don’t look much like each other. Chimps are even closer, something like 98%. Don’t take these numbers seriously, I’m not checking them. I’m just sketching the general sketch here. In one sense, I’m nearly as mousey as a mouse, as moosey as a moose . . . you get the picture.

But, when you go into the ocean . . . wow . . . There be monsters there. HARRRGGHH!

When did you ever see anything like this in your front yard?Well, any fool knows that it’s just a cuttlefish, specifically a Broadclub Cuttlefish, technically a Sepia latimanus.  But, have you ever stopped, maybe after a stiff Scotch or two, and pondered just how different  it is? If you think about it long enough, you go all funny. People are always telling me that I think too much. Maybe they are right.

But, how do you shut it off? I mean, look at this thing:You can’t see it here, but it was flashing  me. No, not that way. Waves of brilliant colours were sweeping over its body. If that were not enough, it was growing lumps even as I watched. Check out cuttlefish flicks on YouTube if you want to blow your mind.

They also have this funny (not ha-ha, I mean hair standing up on the back of your neck funny) thing that they do with their arms that seems chillingly communicative. It’s like, “Hey, stupid! Yeah, you. Cat got your tongue? Can’t you see I’m talking to you?” I’ll demonstrate at the end of the post. You’ll be amazed.

As if that’s not bad enough, we have the cloaking devices. You see the alien? I’m one up on you, because I know its secret:Here on Earth we call it the Longsnout Flathead. The Men in Black call it a Thysanophrys chiltonae.  (Thy Chi  for short). I can’t pronounce what their cousins call themsleves back on Betelgeuse XVI.

Okay, now  do you see it? Unlike in outer space, the cloaking device fails to be 100% effective underwater. I think has something to do with refraction angles or some such tomfoolery:Still pretty effective, eh? The eyes are the problem. If they cloak their eyes, they can’t see you. It’s a sort of self-defeating defense. Not much use. The eyes always give them away. They need to work on their technology. Maybe they should feed a few of their theoretical scientists to us. That would give them an incentive to come up with a fix.

Here I have used my soon to be patented MadDog Alien Disclosing Anti-Cloaking Ray Dispenser on this Flathead (a close cousin of the Coneheads, in case you were wondering) to display it in its fully disgusting not-like-me-at-all splendor:I should warn you not to stare into its eyes too long, especially if you click the image to enlarge it. I recently heard of a teenager who did that. It was horrible. He stopped cutting school, quit smoking pot, finished all of accumulation of 1,600 hours of his court mandated community service and stopped saying, “Whatever.” If these things have that kind of power they could take over any time they darn well please.

So, as I always play the safe side and don’t look for trouble where it doesn’t sound like fun, I’m publicly communicating my good intentions to any and all aliens, above or below the Dihydrogen Monoxide interface:

I’m using the same creepy hand signal that the Cuttlefish and Mister Spock use. You thought it was Hollywood, eh? Sucker!

Sheesh, I look like I’ve been raised from the dead. Call me Lazarus. You like my Lieutenant Dangle shorts? I cut the pockets off so people wouldn’t think I was a cast member of Reno 911.  That’s a genuine Harley Davidson belt buckle, by the way, given to me by Trevor Hattersley and Karen Simmons for some event, my birthday or Christmas or something. I can’t remember. I have to keep saying this, because I once attributed the gift to someone else and I’m still grovelling for forgiveness. Ooooh, I’m digressing severely.

Anyway, to all you aliens out there:  I’m a nice peaceable guy. You don’t get in my face, I won’t get in yours. My motto is live and let live or whatever it is you do.

In short:  Live Long and Prosper.

I’ll try to do the same.

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Planet Rock – Move Along People, Nothing To See Here

Posted in Under the Sea on March 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I may as well continue feeding you a steady diet of fish for a couple of more days, at least until I run out of images from our dive on Planet Rock  yesterday. Richard Jones, (A. K. A. “Eagle Eyes”) has been spotting for me. It’s like having an experienced tracker along on a safari. We’re not shooting big game, but I bet Rich could spot a lion’s ears peeking above the savanna grass at 200 metres.

Here’s Rich doing his thing:Not a single nook or cranny escapes his attention.

However, while Rich is poking around looking for treasure, I’m usually takin’ in the scene, man. When you first start diving you’re looking for the big, flashy stuff. After the shine wears off you can begin to appreciate the simple beauty of a starfish:It looks as if it’s strolling along the bottom, which, in fact, it is – though very slowly. I admire the starfish’s lack of urgency. When you pass, there’s always a little whisper, “Hey, man. Stay cool.”

You look for the odd juxtapositions. There’s no shortage of them. Here two species of Solitary Coral seem to be cuddling:Nobody told them that it’s wrong. It’s blissful ignorance. Life is simple in the sea. You only have three things to think about. You eat. You reproduce. You are eventually eaten or otherwise return to Mama Ocean’s storehouse of building materials.

You can never swim far without encountering a bit of magic. Here little jewels of amber hover over a plate coral.They are Reticulated Dascyllus,  but that matters not a bit when the magic overcomes you. Everything is alive and a part of the whole. Identity merges into the gestalt.  Are the Dascullus Reticulatus  and the coral inseparable – needful of one another? Technically, no. However, the sense that you get is that it is all meant to fit together just as it is. Everything is copacetic.

Here and there passes a Unicorn . . . no, not really. Nevertheless, what it is is no less magical:A Trumpetfish hurries to escape the camera. It’s no less a beautiful mystery if you call it Aulostomus chinensis.  The background blurs and the camera strains to follow the motion. The photographer feels a part of the daily life of the reef. I think of the Don Knotts movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.  I feel somehow more peaceful and accepted as a fish. I move like a fish, through a three dimensional world. My breathing slows and my body relaxes. I’m in the sea. I’m of  the sea. I am home.

And she rewards me for my admiration, respect and love. She sparkles for me:The sweet Anthea  gather round me and frolic. I join their dance and music rushes through me.

We must protect our mother. If she dies, we shall all perish with her.

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Planet Rock – When Is Close Enough Too Close?

Posted in Under the Sea on March 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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Feeling much better after a week of taking a gut wrenching (you know what I mean) antibiotic, I found that I could pop my ears on Saturday morning. So, I took a 12-hour Sudafed at about 09:00, reckoning that I would be flopping on my back in the water at about 11:00. Jo Noble and I motored out in Faded Glory  along with Richard Jones and Jenn Miller riding in their boat Sanguma.

We arrived to find a metre of Gol Gol River  water clouding our vision of the top of the reef, along with a medium current and a long, rolling swell – not good omens. Only Richard and I were diving, so we quickly sized up the conditions and decided to go for it. I still wasn’t feeling as strong as I might, but we decided before going in that we would come back up immediately if it wasn’t any fun.

We’ve been diving lately with Rich as my “spotter” and me manning the Canon G11 camera. Today we once again proved to be a successful hunting team, gathering several trophies. I’ll have more over the next few days.

The question that came up several times on this dive is, “When is close enough for a really good shot a little bit too close for comfort?” First, I should mention that I’m a natural-born coward. Bravado is not my forte, I’m adverse to pain and my inclinations are less toward masochism and more toward narcissism. Therefore, I tend to be careful. I want to be doing this when I’m 90.

Still, one wants to get the shots that make people say, “Wow!” Sometimes you have to discomfort yourself a mite to do that. This shot of a Giant Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus)  was like snapping a cute little pussycat:My lens was a good 15cm from his jaws and he wasn’t looking perturbed at all. If I tried to move closer, he just slithered back into his hidey-hole. A self-regulating safety situation for the both of us.

This younger individual was in no mood for fooling around:A soon as I crept up on it I got the, “Are you ready to deal with this?” attitude. I backed off a bit to let it get used to my intrusion and then came in for a second visit.

This time I got the, “You better get outta my face, man!” posture:Truthfully, though I never wear gloves, the most serious injury I might sustain from a Moray of this size is some very nasty lacerations and a scratched up camera. Nevertheless, I decided that this was close enough. I didn’t want to turn the poor critter into a man-eater. We don’t encourage our Morays to develop a taste for people.

We do have many dangerous critters in these waters. However, hardly any of them are aggressive, unless you physically molest them, which I take great pains not  to do.

An example is the whole family of Sorpionfishes. You’ve seen many of the varieties here. This one is the Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis):You may have to look hard to find the fish. They are masters of camouflage. Therein lies the rub. Though they would never actually attack, they intensely dislike being molested. There are a series of highly venomous spines along the dorsal fine and other places on different species. Any one of these spines can envenome you in a way that you are guaranteed to find not only extremely painful, but possibly fatal, though that is a rarity.

The main danger is, of course, is that you may inadvertently come into contact with one before you even see it. A couple of weeks ago I was about to lay my hand on a rock to steady myself for a shot when the “rock” moved. I felt pretty stupid to realise the unpleasantness which I had just escaped.

Here’s a closer shot. This is about as close as you want to get:Of course, it’s not going to “attack”, but in its haste to get away, I could get punctured.

You’ll probably have to examine this shot closely to find the Octopus:You can easily pick out the breathing tubes. One of its  eyes is the reddish object just below the branchy stuff hanging down to the left of centre.

Of course, an octopus has absolutely no interest in attacking a human, at least not one of this size. It was simply hiding from us. Richard saw it moving across the bottom. As soon as it spotted him, the critter holed-up.

I was on a dive in Hawaii once when our dive leader stuck his hand in a hole, wrestled around a bit, and pulled out an octopus with a arm spread of about a metre.

I assure you that I would never  do that.

I can’t be a very nice experience for the octopus.

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