Grass and Water

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I was standing out in the front yard this morning watching the sun rise up steadily, much too bright for good sunrise shots, and I looked down at my feet. The warm wine light of the fat, yellow orb was casting a very curious glow on the vegetation and shallow harbour water inches in front of my toes. I started to think about it. I took a picture.

It’s a very ordinary image. Yet, the familiarity of my surroundings give me context to extract much more from it than might be apparent to you:

The brown, twisty gnarls are the roots of my coconut trees. They are presently the only thing saving my front yard from melting into the rising waters of Madang Harbour.  The local sea level has risen at least twenty centimetres since we moved into our house twenty years ago. No, this isn’t global warming. It’s a local tectonic phenomena. We are on one end of a small plate which is tipping. Our end is going down. The gnarly roots speak to me.

The area at the edge of the water is almost daily flooded by boat wakes. The constant salting causes great stress to the grass at the edge of our lawn. The fresh grass shoots are vigorous and bright green.

All around me I can hear the splashing of fish. At this time of the morning predators are coming into water only ankle-deep and driving prey up toward the shore. I remind myself of the small life and death struggles taking place within a couple of metres from where I stand.

How much can you pack into an image.? I guess it depends on who is looking at it and what associations they can make.

Well, enough of the early morning moodiness. Have a look at this delightfully curly Feather Star (Comaster multifidus):

I didn’t think much of this shot when I first saw it on the screen. The composition is not so bad, but the varying distances from the flash left me with some spots far too bright and others too dark. It took a bit of fiddling, but I finally reckoned it was good enough to show.

I love Sea Squirts of all kinds. One could easily make a career of cataloging the varieties within a half hour boat ride from my house. I don’t know how you could make a living doing that, but it would be fun. These are Atriolum robustum:

I got some nice depth of field on this shot and the colour balance is spot-on. You are seeing exactly what I saw.

These are the same Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)  on the same plate coral which I showed to you a few days ago in Sharp and Smooth:

It’s just another frame from the same series. I like the depth in this one, though the general composition is not as good as the shot in the earlier post.

You’ve seen this exact Skunk Anemonefish (Amphiprion akallopisos)  before. I’m going to keep shooting him until I have him nailed down:

One might think that it would become boring doing hundreds (over 2,000 now) of dives in only a couple of dozen locations. I think it depends on what you expect from diving. For me it’s about being with friends, feeling the stress melt away when I slip into Mother Ocean, and photography. You don’t need to spend a lot of money travelling from place to palce like a well-heeled gypsy to get these pleasures. I’m happy to stay at home and squeeze the lemons.

Here’s two more of the Usual Suspects, Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

I had some fun playing with the colours in this shot. I can see some areas which are distinctly fake. However, I decided to take some liberties with Mother Nature.

I just don’t want Eunie to catch me. Shhhhhh . . .

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7 Responses to “Grass and Water”

  1. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Jan, your opening is some damn fine nature writing, and I’m a connoisseur of the genre. It was both personal, and universal, it had the specific and the big picture—the reference to the tectonic plates. It wasn’t just “moody.” It was deep and good. I hope you’ll let yourself “muse” like that more often. You have something to share and something worth listening to. I bet our mutual friend George Jisho would agree.

    The images after this are amazing, especially in terms of the colors and composition and, as you noted, good depth of field. Some real beauties here. Thanks for sharing.


  2. MadDog Says:

    Thanks, Steve, for that encouragement. It’s all the more potent coming from someone who knows what he is talking about.

    I write mostly for magazines. This is rewarding in many ways, but it throttles back my creative urges. The journal is my space to let myself go when I can find the time to do it thoughtfully, with purpose and uninhibited by worry about my audience. Nobody pays for it. Therefore, I can say, “Take it or leave it.” Ultimately, I have only myself to satisfy. It’s very narcissistic.

    Beware! I’m soon going to unleash some poetry which has slept bit against bit in mouldy corners of various hard disks for decades.

    Let’s see how George reacts to that! I fully expect an eruption of mirth.

  3. Steve Goodheart Says:

    MadDog, unleash!! 🙂

    I wanted to add/clarify my comment about specific/general, and why it was so effective: you started out with what was right at your feet, and the humble grass and the roots of your beloved bamboo tree. Solid, grounded, very visual, even without the image. And then, the unexpected: this rise in sea level is because we are, in fact, sinking, due to tectonic subduction. Suddenly, the reader sees what you are seeing from a whole new, wider, deeper spot—this guy, musing as he looks at the roots and grass and the rising sea level is part of an amazing planet, and all things are interconnected.

    This is what all good nature writers do–they put you there, and they bring in insight, personal and scientific that transports the reader to a new level of insight and wonder. And that’s one of the reasons this piece of writing really soared. You don’t have to be a “scientist” to do this, just a lover and observer of nature, who reads and learns what he/she can from the scientists and brings that to bear on his vision of the world. Anyway, my two bits.

    I know what you mean about writing for magazines, and those restrictions. Similar in textbook writing. On our blogs we can soar, and just writer for ourselves, with an eye on our beloved readers hearts and minds.

  4. MadDog Says:

    Actually, Steve, I got a good laugh from this. It makes me seem so deep. I couldn’t do the math, so my hopes of being a scientist were dashed, something which I remember that we have in common. Seriously, I was just too lazy to study it. It was boring. I’ve never been a fan of hard work.

    My technique is pretty elementary and unsophisticated. I just look at something long enough to allow a few sketchy thoughts to develop and then sit down and connect them all together, sometimes tenuously. Having read science all my life helps. As you say, one doesn’t have to be a certified scientist to understand science. In fact, if we all understood the scientific method and its implications the world would be a safer, richer place.

    People who do research are not Gods. They have their biases and special interests. They have bosses who expect the “right” conclusions. In the past few years we’ve seen many examples of corruption in science. This saddens, but does not surprise me. It weakens the concept that we should trust people who are trained to provide solutions for our problems.

    If only I were as profound a thinker as you seem to think I am. You have once again proven that I should just send the pretty pictures to you, babble a few words about them, and then twist your arm to write the post.

    By the way, they are coconut trees.

  5. Steve Goodheart Says:

    MadDog, you are way too modest about what you do and who you are. But, I still see you, without making you into more or less than you are, which can’t be hidden in what you do. Just keep doing it, my friend.

    Yes, coconut trees! 🙂

    And still looking forward to some poems…..

  6. MadDog Says:

    Steve, feigning modesty is one of my favourite tactics. It makes me seem so sincere.

  7. Steve Goodheart Says:

    I think it’s a “guy” thing. We all do it. 🙂