The Quintessential Sequential Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on May 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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In the realm of Geekdom, I believe that I have one of the more peculiar obsessions. I enjoy getting up early in the morning, say 05:00, and looking out at the sky. If it looks very black over town, that is a promising portent. If it looks orangish, that means that there are low clouds over the peninsula and the sunrise will probably be a flop. I go and fire up the computer and start the day’s work. At 05:30, I have another look. If I can see any colour, I make my preparations for the morning’s quest for The Quintessential Sequential Sunrise.

The preparations consist of the following, which must be performed in less than ten minutes: (1) get Canon G-11 and attach to cheap tripod, (2) pick the appropriate selection of neutral density and polarising filters from the filter box (3) retrieve a Fanta Orange soda from the bar fridge and slip it into a cozy, (4) grab a folding chair from the overflowing junk room, (5) check to make sure that I have my pants on, (6) stumble outside in the dark with no light (don’t want to ruin my night vision), (7) sit down and wait for the action to begin. It’s not that much different from going to a footie game, except for the part about pants. I’m sure that it’s quite acceptable  to show up at a footie game sans pants.

And, this why all the fuss. Yeah, baby, this is what I’m talkin’ about:That’s the moon up there in the corner. It was so dark at  05:41 that I couldn’t see the controls on the camera; I had to work by feel. Fortunately, I have great hands. The shot above was a fifteen second exposure. This long exposure time has the effect of turning the water into a mirror. The town lights are very bright compared to the sky.

Four minutes later and I have moved to what it becoming my favourite spot. I like the way the trees frame the sky.This is still at fifteen seconds, so the water of the harbour is as shiny as mercury. Do you see the dog in the sky? He’s black and he’s facing toward the left. Or maybe it’s a bull? What’s it doing up there?

At 6:02 the sky is getting much brighter. This is when it gets fast and furious. I now have less than a ten minute window to catch the best of the sunrise:The sun is still well below the horizon, but it is beginning to light up the clouds much brighter. Note that you can barely see the lights of town. The sky is probably several hundred times brighter than it was a few minutes ago.

At 06:06 the sun’s light is being broken up into beams shining between clouds near the visible horizon. This accounts for the radiating pattern of light and dark:This is only four minutes after the previous shot. We are now nearing the end of the show.

Two minutes later, at 06:08, the display it pretty much over:The colours will fade quickly now as the sunrise moves into its second phase when the shiny orb pops above the horizon.

What follows is simultaneously less visually interesting and more difficult for the photographer. As the sun rises, the saturation of the colours will become more washed out by the intensity of the light and the contrast ratio of the brightness surrounding the sun compared to the rest of the scene will overwhelm nealy any camera that an individual human can afford.

I suppose that the very rich might be able to afford such cameras, but I’m sure that they have more profitable things to do with their time. Anyway, they would simply hire someone like to do it for them.

If there are any of the very rich out there reading this (seems unlikely to me), keep in mind that I’m very serious about my art and I work cheap.

If I’ve hooked you on sequential sunrises, you can see more of mine here, here, and here.

That should keep you occupied until the next time the boss comes around to see what you’re up to.


Sunshine and Orchids

Posted in Mixed Nuts on May 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I shall begin with the beginning and end with the end and skip all of the boring stuff in the middle. I’m talking about my work day, of course. I usually awake between 05:00 and 05:30 and try to get the computer turned on and start working before Eunie rises at 06:00 for her breakfast and an hour of reading. I have to keep running to the front door if there is anything interesting developing in the sky to catch the ten minute window for a decent sunrise.

This morning the sky looked chaotic. I was hoping it was not a portent of the day to come:I had a little hurry-up in the house to catch up with Eunie, who was eager to get into town for her aquarobics on a sunny morning.

I did have to pause in the front yard for this image of Kar Kar Island  sticking its dangerous head up over the horizon. I hope this baby never blows:Nothing untoward happened on the way to town, no drunks staggering out in front of the car, nobody throwing rocks at our new Nissan Navara (more to come on that later).

I had to turn off on Coronation Drive for a quick shot over Astrolabe Bay  including Coconut Point:It seems that the sky was out to impress me. It was doing a fairly good job.

Just before the Coastwatchers Monument, I got another blast of beauty:Okay, now I was set for the day. Time to focus on work for a while.

Now I skip over the boring part.

Since Eunie is helping out at the Madang Lodge and Restaurant for a while, we needed to stop there for a while on the way home. I always take advantage of this time to browse on the orchids. They are delicious:

The ones above remind me of the mating displays of some of the birds of paradise. They spread their wings and vibrate their tails. Hey, that just gave me an idea for a new dance craze. “Yeah, baby! Do da Bird o’ Paradise! Spread yo’ wings an’ vibrate yo’ tail!” Never mind. It’s nearly noon. My blood sugar is getting low. I feel dizzy.

This one is called, “Come on, Baby. Let’s do the Twist”:No, that won’t work. Somebody already took that one, Chubby Checker, to be exact.

This is the kind that we would buy for the girls when I was in high-school if we wanted to encourage them to feel generous after the dance:Which was always!  Dweebs and nerds bought wrist corsages for their dates, because they were too shy to pin one on the bosom.

I preferred the full-pinning ceremony.

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Fish Bites Lady

Posted in Under the Sea on May 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Saturday was  a beautiful day on Astrolabe Bay  north of Madang at Wongat Island.  The sun was shining fiercely, the sea was flat and mirrored and the fish were jumpin’ and the cotton was high. Whoops, that’s a little of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess  slipping in there. I must have listened to that operetta a thousand times as a child. The line is from Summertime  sung by Porgy. I can still sing it from memory.

Here are the first couple of verses:

And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

I always loved Gershwin. Rhapsody in Blue  is my very favourite.

Well, I’m rambling already, but it’s Monday morning, so I may as well get an early start on the week.

How about this very cute French Canadian, Genevieve, sitting in the cockpit of the B-25 bomber The Green Dragon:Now, that is a very fetching sight. However, it’s not funny. I’m in the mood for funny.

And funny I give you:Just forward of the starboard wing is an anemone inhabited by a very feisty little group of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii).  That’s not the funny part. Here you can see Genevieve’s darling hand stretched out to play with the cute little fishies. They dart about and brush against your fingertips as if they are enjoying it. Do not believe it. It is a ploy to lure you within range of their teensy-weensy little teeth. A couple of seconds after I took this shot I heard a piercing scream. I looked at Genevieve. She had a startled look on her face and was shaking and rubbing her hand. I knew, of course, what had happened and I began to laugh into my regulator, an experience which itself is comical.

After doing the Bomber, we attempted The Henry Leith  from the beach. It was a mistake. I couldn’t find a 34 metre wreck only about 100 metres off the beach. I will excuse my poor navigation by mentioning that the visibility was less than ten metres. Back up on top of the reef, we spent the rest of a seventy minute dive snapping whatever looked promising, such as this ridiculously orange sponge:

What’s that  all about?

I did manage a nice one of a couple of Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  in an absurdly green anemone:Yes, those are Nemo’s cousins.

Here is a typical coral bomie in the range of depth between one an about seven metres. They are covered with Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):Last Christmas I gave my faithful readers Christmas Tree Worms for Christmas, complete with Christmas presents.

I’m such a cheapskate.

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Bomber Beauties

Posted in Under the Sea on May 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Wehn we arrived near Wongat Island  on Saturday morning to dive The Green Dragon, an American B-25 Mitchell bomber which was shot down by Japanese gunners during WWII the sun was bright and the sea was pancake flat. It looked as if we were going to get one of those “Paradise Days”. We weren’t wrong.

After a string of rainy Saturdays, It was quite pleasant to have an entire day of sunshine. When we arrived at The Green Dragon,  lying on the reef at about twenty metres, I immediately began photographing the beautiful scenery, including Genevieve, who peered inside the fuselage through one of the waist gun ports as I photographed her from the opposite side:

This is a favourite gimmick at the bomber. It offers the opportunity to frame a model in an interesting and easy to compose setting. Another favourite is “sitting in the cockpit” which you will see tomorrow.

Here is one of the best shots that I’ve gotten of the dorsal twin 50 calibre machine guns of the B-25. Japanese gunners had to brave these two death-dealers when attacking from above. The one thing which was certain is that the warrior inside this turret was just as determined to live through the experience as the attacker. You can clearly see the devastation to the turret caused by the anti-aircraft fire which downed the war bird. It’s a sombre experience to view this:The whole experience of diving The Green Dragon  is simultaneously beautiful and disturbing. The most common remarks which I hear from first-time divers are those of reflection. One can’t take in the scene without thinking of the circumstances which created this amazing dive site. It is one of the best preserved WWII aircraft left in Papua New Guinean waters.

Inside the fuselage, under an ammunition box, I found these beautiful tubeworms:I can’t identify the species, but no matter, the are lovely just the same.

Another familiar creature, a Pipefish, similarly escapes by ability to identy the species. It is one which I have not seen before:The spots on this one are very nice and worth clicking to see the detail.

The resident Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita)  was in its burrow under starboard wing of The Green Dragon:

I think that this might be the best shot of a Ribbon Eel which I’ve ever snapped. You can see the juvenile colouration here and a couple of more adults here and here.

Stay tuned for more irrelevant nonsense tomorrow. I’m a wellspring of idle amusement.

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Growing New Legs

Posted in Under the Sea on May 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today we went up to Wongat Island to do The Green Dragon B-25 Mitchell bomber and The Henry Leith. The bomber went fine. I got some nice shots which I’ll be showing soon. However, when we went to do The Henry Leith, I brilliantly decided to anchor the boat at the beach so that the ladies could snorkel while Hendrick and I did the wreck. Than meant that I we had to dive off of the beach and I had to remember where the wreck was. I’ve done it many times before, but years ago.

Of course, I couldn’t find it. It’s only twenty metres down, but the water was too dirty so see more than about ten. The bottom where the wreck lies is at twenty metres, so we followed that contour in the area where I thought it was. After fifteen minutes, we gave up and came up to the shallow reef to shoot some pictures. This was my second dive on a big 80 tank. I ended up with 110 minutes. I was using my gills most of the time.

This is a cute little starfish missing only one leg. That’s pretty good by small starfish standards. This one is about five or six centimetres across. I’d say that about half of the starfish that I see are missing at least one leg:I think that it’s a Linckia multifora, but I’m not sure. It doesn’t look quite right.

However, what happens to the leg, if the fish which bit it off doesn’t like the taste? Well, we simply grow a whole new starfish from the leg. Some people call them arms, I call them legs, since we don’t walk on our arms, do we? Here on this severed Linckia multifora leg, you can see four tiny new legs growing out of the severed end:This is a pretty cute trick. Many organisms can do this. Medical researchers are busting their guts trying to find a way to mimic this behaviour in humans. The reason is obvious. Whoever solves the problem first will become the richest person on the planet.

Here is an absolutely lovely young Electric Swallowtail nudibranch (Chelidonura electra): Older specimens develop a lemon yellow edge around the edges.

This particularly nice Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia) caught my eye:It’t quite lovely and I certainly appreciated the pleasure of seeing it.

However, this is my choice of the day for the shot which pleases me most:The little Glass Shrimp (Periclimenes holthuisi) is about as big as your thumbnail. He has several buddies swimming around him.

They are a nightmare to photograph. They are very small and don’t like the camera up close. They never stop moving, hoping around from place to place and waving their little pincers. Flash photography is useless; you have to use available light. Finally, they are nearly invisible in the first place! You can not see their bodies, only the spots.

It’s like playing “connect the dots”.

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Waste Not Wetness

Posted in Mixed Nuts on May 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, all that I can say is TGIF! It has been a vicious week, but I’m stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. The new job blues will undoubtedly revisit me anon, but for now I’ve pounded away at it hard enough so that I can honestly say that I couldn’t have done more if I’d had 36 hour days. At some point, what you can accomplish is left in the hands of others. What I need most is writers. I’m going to be putting our a general call to authors next week for Our Way  and Nuigini Blue  magazines. If you are a writer or a wannabe writer and you don’t get my email, then consider this post an invitation to email me at with your ideas. Both of these magazines are top drawer. I want to contribute to making them the finest publications in the South Pacific Islands. I’m convinced that we can do this, but it’s going to take the talents of many.

Which leads me, of course, right to a stormy morning at Coconut Point:

I just want to get the water theme going.

But first, I want to show you our sad little Pet Cemetery:

There are a couple of very fine dogs and a few cats resting peacefully here. I like to think that they are playing together. Sweet memories and sadness mix as I view this little plot where much beloved companions now lie. I like keeping them close.

A turn to the right and I can see a spray of orchids growing on the trunk of our Flame Tree among a small jungle of Bird of Paradise plants:

I lived nearly half of my life never dreaming that I might have orchids growing in my front yard.

This spider got an overnight drenching. He was frantically rebuilding his web when I snapped this shot:

Busy, busy, busy . . .

When I turned around and looked at Madang across the harbour I saw nothing of interest at first. Then I spied this wilting banana leaf with two drops of water showing me distorted miniatures of the scene:

Encouraged, I kept walking.

It’s fortunate that I did or I would have missed this very lucky shot:

If you click to enlarge you will see a drop of water on the fly’s back.

Here’s my contribution to beauty for today. I didn’t make it. I just took its picture:

So, since I got a SmoothWall Router and Proxy Cache set up today at the office so I can see where all of our bandwidth is going and I captured something beautiful that I can look at whenever I like, I’m calling it a week.

I’m off to home for a beer and a cigar and a read. I’ll give Sheba her afternoon cow bone and scratch her behind her ears. Tomorrow is Dive Day. Whoopee!

Why I Hate Puffers

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on May 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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Even clowns have their down days when they don’t feel like crawling out of the tiny car; they would rather take a nap in the back seat. Mediocre writers have drivel days. Witty people are suddenly witless. Bankers forget how to bank. Soldiers don’t feel like fighting. Belly dancers will not shimmy. Mothers loath their children. Cops simply get tried of chasing bad guys. And I just can’t fill this space. So, rather than faking it as usual, I’ll free associate the lethargy that lays on me like a wet sheepskin.

Maybe somebody out there is crazy enough, stoned enough, has had enough lithium or Thorazine today or is just plain simple enough to be amused by this. It’s 22:30 and I’m trying to stay awake long enough to squeeze some juice out of this sour lemon that has occupied my brain pan.

Okay, here goes:

This is this morning’s utterly depressing sunrise. Colourless, rainy. It made me want to run back inside, rip off my clothes and curl up in a fetal position under three blankets with the air conditioner on full blast:You’ve seen them. You know what I mean. Think of those days when the sky is watery grey, you’re late to work and there’s an inch of ice on your windscreen.

Here’s a close up of the sorry mess:

I’m ashamed to show it.

I’m blaming all of this uncharacteristic lack of enthusiasm on this wretched little puffer. I’m not even going to bother with his taxonomic name, the little coward!Puffers are sorry critters. Being pudgy and awkward, they can’t run very fast, nor are they fierce in the least. So they scamper to safety like a tortoise in molasses. If that fails, they puff themselves up like a sodden paper bag of unflavoured gelatin. It’s really disgusting.

This morning a silly blue ship was escaping the harbour, probably loaded down with Mary Jane, chased by a ridiculous red tug boat:How unspeakably boring.

On the way to work I had to deal with the sodden and cratered streets of Madang:

We’ll soon be competing with Lae for the biggest potholes. We really should tell the town government to take a hike and don’t come back. We’d be better off without them. They whine constantly about promises of money broken by the Big Men, but they don’t have the cajones  to put up a fight.

Seriously, I’m feeling quite chipper. There’s a calm smugness which envelopes me when I simply stop caring. Nihilism has its charms. Read Kurt Vonnegut.

This is some kind of fish:

Goodnight. It’s now 23:15. I’m going to the lounge room for two fingers of single malt and a cheap cigar. I never drink alone. Eunie is asleep in the bedroom. I’m not alone.

Live long and prosper.

If you can find the energy.

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