Guest Artist – Lindsay Smith – The Eyes of Oz

Posted in Guest Shots on July 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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If the land described in L. Frank Baum‘s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had an Artist Emeritus that person would have to be someone like Lindsay Smith of  Rocky, in Central Queensland, Australia.

Lindsay’s middle name should be Whimsy. If you look carefully at his seemingly scrawly pieces, you’re missing the point.  Pedantic examination of his work makes as much sense as studying the tiny dots of paint in a pointillist masterpiece. You have to stand back and put it all together.

To illustrate, I give you what I’m titling Guntabag Elder  based on a photo which appeared here in A Curious Collection:

It’s a marvelous feeling to have a talented artist derive from your own work magic which you never discovered for yourself.

Here’s a Facebook Profile shot of Lindsay:

It’s not so much in the sense of “Oz” being a colloquialism for Australia that I make the literary analogy. Lindsay is quintessentially Aussie, no doubt. It shows always in his work. There’s continuous tension between subtle sophistication and coarse outback imagery. Polish and saddle sores. Big Smoke lounges and dunnies. All this, coming from a native Kiwi (New Zealander), only nuances the palette of his deceptively simple art.

Did I mention whimsy? Here’s Lindsay’s view of himself:

I like the “metahat” the hat of hat, the recursive hat. He is his shadow.

Lindsay has a very interesting “Statement”, along with many other beautiful images at ARTslant, which you can peruse at your pleasure.

Most of Lindsay’s work is sketches on photo-derived backgrounds. I haven’t figured out his techniques yet, but when I do, you can be sure that I’m going to try to give him a little competition:

The sketching, however, hmmm . . .   I’m never going to be able to conjure that kind of magic. Look at that butterfly. It’s ethereal.

Here’s another example of an obvious photo background. I think that is Magic Passage  down there from an image which I got while taking photos for Sir Peter Barter in his helicopter:

I wish we had pelicans here. They are one of my favourite birds. Sadly, I seldom get to see them. God was in very good humour when he designed the pelican.

I don’t know if this it a real Sheila or the Sheila of Aussie slang, but she is pretty nonetheless and Lindsay has proved it:

In fact, Lindsay has a finely calibrated eye for women. In the gallery below you will see some very tasteful nude studies. If you don’t want to see them, then don’t click on the thumbnails. This is art, folks. It’s not soft porn.

Lindsay gave me this bit of bio:

Lindsay Smith – sketched from childhood. Took formal drawing & painting classes recently & found that I had ‘the knack.’ Was a teacher in Nuigini in 1975/6. Also taught in NZ, Australia & Singapore. Interests include family, playing piano, Taijiquan & travel.

Succinct, I’d say.

And, since Lindsay has found the time to capture my craggy old puss with his deft strokes and I never get tired of looking at myself, here’s one he did of me and a “Mystery Friend”. Some of you will recognise her instantly:

I just love to tease.

Since I need to see myself one more time, here is Lindsay’s interpretation, one of many, by the way, of my web persona derived from a picture taken by Eunie nearly twenty years ago:

It’s such a pleasure to bring this to you.

Lindsay, live long and prosper.


Grass and Water

Posted in Under the Sea on July 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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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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The Sun Rose This Morning

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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When I roused from my nightly coma this morning, I was strangely refreshed and ready to get on with it. “No more whining!” I sternly admonished myself. “Whinging is for the losers!” Yeah, that’s what I was saying to me. And then, I went into the bathroom to brush my still gorgeous teeth – tobacco stained to a rich, mellow yellow. And, to my sudden disgust, my brand-new tooth brush, for the second day in a row, deposited a dislodged bristle way back between the exact two molars where it had shed a similarly wayward shred on the previous day. Did I mention that it happened two days in a row?

So, out come the tweezers to poke around and try to grab the end of the offending nylon torture device and extract it with much contorting of face and popping of elbow joints. Finally dislodged and held glistening with drool in from of my stern glare, the blue strand mocked me.

Well, when something like that happens what can one do but scream into the mirror? It does absolutely no good, but it makes one feel much better.

And then, my mind went blank. Not the Fiji blank – the other kind. The kind of blank that comes to a writer who is mentally unprepared to write. I’m sick of fish for a day or so. I don’t have a single idea in my head, at least nothing that I can release upon unsuspecting readers as If I had crowbarred open Pandora’s Big Box and strewn the contents all over your screen.

So, I got my trusty G11 and went outside into the near dark to wait to see if the Muse would show up.

She did, after a while:

She gave me a somewhat anemic sunrise with some strangely fringed crepuscular rays.

I looked up toward the heavens, imploring for more. What do you know? (That’s a rhetorical question. You don’t have to answer it.) I was given a tiny, fingernail moon to play with:

“Well, that’s better.”, said I.

And then, along came a canoe. I could write a song about this image. It screams for a voice such as Don Ho’s backed by Hawaiian guitars and the soft swish of hula skirts:Okay, I’m on a roll now. Work with me here.

I feel a crescendo coming on.

Not to be teased by a fickle moment, I bravely captured a quasi-glorious Panorama of Sunrise With Canoe:

You may have to click to enlarge the canoe. It’s over on the left. I yelled at the guy to come closer, but when he saw it was just the crazy old white man who lives over on the poor side of the harbour, he just laughed at me. The fact that I was in my underwear probably didn’t help much.

But, then . . . BUT, THEN . . . (come on, feel  it!)  The early Air Niugini flight brought meaning and spirit to the morning shoot. With landing lights glaring as brightly as Satan’s eyes, she banked in over Dallman Passage  and courageously plunged toward the general vicinity of the runway:

I was breathless to see if the bird, which you can see over on the left side of the image, if you click to enlarge, would be ingested into an engine. Not that I wanted  it to happen, of course. Of course not.

I am but an observer. It’s my job. Let others achieve. I have never wanted to achieve anything except to stay married to the same woman for as long as she can tolerate me. I shall observe and comment. That’s what little people do. An old friend of mine cracked me up yesterday when he said he was going to write his autobiography. He said the title was going to be, Life at the Top of the Bell Curve.  I laughed hysterically. Maybe a little too  hysterically. Then I got him him back.

I said that my autobiography was going to be titled, Modest Expectations.

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A SCUBA Diving Bee?

Posted in Under the Sea on July 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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This morning I was out stumbling around in my garden looking for something to shoot. I was nearly ready to give up, not having found anything that I haven’t already snapped a hundred times, when I came across this small bee wearing a SCUBA diver’s mask:

It’s only Tuesday and I’m already running out of material. When I start pulling your chain about diving bees, you can tell that I am desperate. Yeah, I know that it’s silly, but look at its eyes. I have never seen a bee, or any other insect, with eyes such as this. They are huge. They also have an unusual shape, which I suspect give it an enormous field of vision. This makes me think that it is possibly an insectivorous bee. A bee which hunts on the wing would need exceptional vision. It also does not resemble the standard, flower-visiting bee. I watched it for some time. It was showing no interest in all of the flowers around it. In fact, it gave the distinct impression of a hunter lying in ambush.

UPDATE: Faithful reader and friend Alison Raynor has already nailed down the identification of this bee. It seems that I coulnd’t have been more wrong. Oh, wel. It’s not the first time:

Blue-banded bees (Amegilla cingulata) are native to Australia, but also occur naturally in Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Indonesia and Malaysia. Unlike other bee species, blue-banded bees are solitary insects. They typically build nests in sandstone, mud or the mortar-gaps in the brickwork of houses.

Blue-banded bees specialise in an unusual sort of flower pollination called ‘buzz pollination’. Normally flowers release pollen passively, but some species are specially designed to be pollinated by ‘buzz pollinators’ that grab onto the flowers and vibrate them quickly to release the pollen.

Okay, the bee doesn’t dive, but I do. I ran through some more frames from our dive at The Eel Garden last Saturday and found a few which may amuse, if not amaze you.

Though this will probably mean little to you, I can testify that this is an unusual image. This Sea Cucumber (Thelenota anax)  does not belong on this bumpy coral. It is a creature which gobbles up sand by the bucket, runs it through its innards, sifting out the digestible bits, and then excretes the sand out of its other end:

Why it is wandering around up here on this coral shelf, metres away from its feeding ground, I have no idea.

The lower fish, whiskering around in the sand, is a Goatfish, specifically a Parupeneus forsskali:

They feed by bulldozing around in the sand, throwing up big clouds of “dust” and using their whiskers to find food. The other fish is a Redbreasted Wrasse (Cheilinus fasciatus),  a fish which usually stays far enough away to be difficult to shoot. It is not unusual to find other fish hanging around where a goatfish is feeding. They often stir up items which do not interest them, but other fish find tasty.

This is a Longnose Butterflyfish (Forcipiger flavissimus):

It’s not a particularly good shot, but my excuse is, as usual, they try to stay at a distance. How they calculate the distance at which it becomes nearly impossible to shoot them, I don’t know. They must know more about cameras than I do.

This is a reather handsome Soldierfish named Myripistis amaena.  His friends call him Misty. He has a gender identity problem. That’s why he wears the butch outfit:

Chain mail is very “in” at the bars where he hangs.

You are undoubtedly tired of the Phyllidia varicosa  nudibranch. Well, you may as well get used to it, because it is one of our more common varieties and I haven’t got the absolutely perfect image on one yet:

I’ll let you know when I do.

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The Old Catamaran

Posted in Under the Sea on July 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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You have read of many dives here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  near Pig Island  at a spot we call The Eel Garden.  It is probably our most popular dive for several reasons. It is close, only a few minutes from Madang. It is also usually sheltered from waves, so that it is comfortable for those staying on the boat. It is an easy dive and has a variety of habitats from sandy bottom to outer reef. Last, but not least, it has a wreck . . . of sorts.

We’ll get to the underwater shots after I show you our orange lilies, from a slightly different angle, glowing in the morning sun:

After you cross over a huge wall of coral from the sandy bottom of The Eel Garden, you come upon a curious wreck which appears to be an old barge made of two slender hulls, making it, boatwise, a catamaran:

This is how they appear as you approach them from the bow end.

In between the hulls is a tangle of strange structures which may once have held the hulls together:

In this area is a wild menagerie of life. It would be easy to spend an hour between the hulls cataloguing the crazy tangle of coexisting critters.

During this dive there was a Bluefin Trevally (Carnanx melampygus)  bustling around us. They are extremely difficult to photograph, because they never stop darting around:

As you can see, the shot above was “spoiled”. As the fish darted past me, I spun around and grabbed a snap shot. I expected it to be motion-blurred. What I did not expect is that, after minimal massaging with Photoshop, it turned out to be an interesting bit of art. It certainly conveys the sense of motion.

Here is another shot of the tangled mess between the hulls:

You can see a diver’s bubbles behind the lattice.

This shot is from farther toward the stern. You can see that I was moving toward the back end of the hulls. As the sunlight angle changes and the distance decreases, the coral at the left of the shot above changes to a deeper, warmer tone, since there is less sea water between it and the camera:

If you click to enlarge and look at the extreme left of the image, you can barely make out the image of a diver’s fins as he moves off to the left. You can also make out his bubbles trailing above and behind him.

Most of these shots were taken with the iris stopped down to ƒ/8 to increase the depth of field. Yes, some more “Deep Focus” shots. I’ve found a whole new way to bore you.

My next project is a gigantic model train layout with tiny towns and miniscule pine trees. I will explain every detail of this to you when it’s finished.

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Sharp and Smooth

Posted in Under the Sea on July 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Weekdays come and go. My last work week consisted of exactly one day – Friday. Wouldn’t it be nice if Friday was the only work day? You could go to work in the morning knowing that when you clock in you are beginning your week and when you clock out, it’s the weekend again. Pay might be a problem, however. I’m working on a plan to live without money. If I get it worked out, I’ll let you know.

And following my one-day work week came Glorious Dive Day! I had nobody going out on Faded Glory  this week, so I skipped all of that boat loading and unloading and just went out with Richard Jones on Sanguma.  I have to admit, I really like getting picked up at my front door. It’s quite a treat compared to my usual Saturday routine.

The dive was quite nice. The Eel Garden was putting on a fine show. I got some very nice underwater shots. However, as it sometimes happens, my favourite shot of the day has nothing to do with fish. Ush is one of my favourite photographic subjects, at least when she is not too shy. I kept seeing wonderful reflections in her cheeky red sunglasses. A little coaxing got her into the mood to pose for me:

When I first saw the result on my computer screen I was not overjoyed. Though Ush gave me just what I wanted, my exposure skills were not up to snuff. It took me the better part of an hour to massage the image into what my original vision demanded. I wanted the sharpness of the sunglasses and the reflections, but I needed Ush’s skin to be as soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Well, it pretty much is in reality, but cameras are harsh to skin, as we all know. I’m happy with the finished product. It’s the most fun I’ve gotten from a single image for quite a while.

Now this one . . . this one is a mistake. It was so bad that I nearly deleted it. However, I sometimes like to play the photographic savior and redeem otherwise worthless frames:

The Soldierfish was swimming away, it was too distant, and the light was all wrong. On top of that, I had my flash turned on, which threw off the colour balance. I know! I’ll call it “Art’.

Richard Jones came over to me with a rock and seemed quite excited about it. It took me a moment to realise that on that rock was a nudibranch which I had never seen before. Of course, I took its picture. It’s a Phyllidia ocellata:

I have to say that it is probably the most humorously patterned nudibranch which I have seen. Some nudis are ethereal in their beauty. This one is wearing a clown suit.

I should know the name of this Planaria, more commonly called a flatworm. I got this shot standing on my head, because it was under a ledge. I’ve turned it right-side-up for you:

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m not going to look it up. Somebody out there help me. It’s very common here.

I’ll finish up with a couple of “Deep Focus” reef scenes. As several readers have pointed out, there is nothing special about these high depth of field shots. It’s just a matter of setting your camera right and having favourable shooting conditions:

However, I have noted that few underwater photographers actually do it. It seems as if nearly everybody either shoots macro shots of little things or big, gaudy scenes shot with super-wide angle lenses and multiple flashes.

I don’t see many shots such as these which use a cheap camera and a normal lens stopped down to achieve maximum depth of field:

I find them pleasing, because when I seen them I can honestly say, “That’s just the way it looked to me.”

Someday, that is going to come in very handy for me.

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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the So-so

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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I enjoyed my time with Eunie in Nadi, Fiji, despite the scary, but amusing bout with what now has been provisionally diagnosed as TGA or Transient Global Amnesia. It’s a pretty weird medical “incident” which has no explanation and little or no lasting effects. My good friend, Dr. John “Tinpis” Mackerel  (tinpis means “canned fish” in Tok Pisin) said that he had seen one case, in progress, no less, and the symptoms were a perfect match. He mentioned that the symptoms are pretty dramatic, as my terribly frightened wife, Eunie, noticed, but recovery is nearly always without lasting effects. The incidence in the over 50 population in the USA is about 5.2 per 100,000, so it’s common enough to be believable. I’ll put this diagnosis in the “Good” category. If I have any further problems, I’ll get a full neurological exam when I go to Oz in October.

The sunrise this Saturday morning, which is Dive Day for us, goes in the “So-so” category:

Pretty, but uninspiring.

Here is a “Good” one. I went back through my images of Roz Savage’s arrival in Madang and found this very nice shot of Roz looking back over her shoulder with a big smile on her face:

Gave me quite a lift to see this one. Going to Fiji meant that I didn’t get to see Roz for the rest of here stay here in Madang, but she plans to return for a couple of days and will, we hope, be staying here at Casa MadDog.

Now for some “Bad” and “Ugly”.

This NASA photo of a significant ash plume on 28 June does not bode well for the North Coast of PNG.

We need to keep an eye on that. Manam Island is a troublemaker.

Here is a shot of Manam which I got a few years ago:

I also have a post on the Manam Island volcano which shows smoke puffing out and three bit of volcanic rock which I retrieved from the ocean bottom near the island.

This shot could go into the “Bad” or “Ugly” category. I don’t have a lot to say about it, except I’m glad that I didn’t have to go into it:

I just think that it’s an interesting image.

The “Ugly” and “Bad” overlap in these last two images:

Pretty colours, eh?

What you may not realise is that this is fuel oil from a ship which dumped a huge quantity of it right into Madang Harbour in front of my house:

I wish that I could say that this was an isolated incident. However it is all too common.

Nobody has the power to stop it, I guess.

I certainly don’t.

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