Fake Art For Sanity’s Sake

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I needed a sanity check. Life has changed so dramatically in the last few weeks that it has left my head spinning. I’m a born nester. I guess it’s my feminine side trying to assert itself. I can handle just about anything if I can get back to my nest every night. Get out to raise a ruckus and create chaos every day and then fly back to the nest and watch it on the news – that’s my idea of the proper life for a man.

Alas, ruckus raising and chaos creation aren’t high on my priority list now and I don’t have any time for those rolly-coaster rides. However, I do have a treasure trove of images and stories saved up. A huge part of it has never been seen before. For today, I chose a few of my favourites from past posts and gave myself the luxury of an hour to pretend to be an artist. It’s one thing that stimulates me without having to leave my temporary desk on a big, round table in front of the couch.

This one is called Buddy.  It is one of several images which I had reproduced in large format for sale. I did manage to sell most of them, but I decided to keep the original of this one, since I like it so much. It’s a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

I ran this one through the Photoshop grinder pretty thoroughly to get the nearly cartoon-like look. The fish is still the focal point, but the filter effects changed the Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  into a fantasy foreground.

You first saw these dolphins in Happy Accidents. I see magic in that original image every time I look at it and it seems all the more special because it was a snap shot taken in a one-second window of opportunity. These are the ones which tickle me – the ones that were gifts:

I decided to try to turn it into a rough watercolour.

Both of the following shots first appeared in The Aquarium in My Front Yard. I’ve put the original references for some of these into links so that you can compare the originals, if you are that hard-up for amusement.

This grumpy little critter is a Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri):

My goal here was A Grumpy Clown,  you know, like Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons.  I think that my have nearly achieved it.

This one from the same post, of a trio of Anthea, I’m titling, Are You Talkin’ to US?

They also seem a little grumpy, though not so tough.

Of the lot, this one I like best. It took the most time to get it right. A click to enlarge it will be more rewarding.:

I’m calling it Refuge.  Maybe that has to do with my mood. It is an evening view across the harbour from our house in Madang. I don’t know when I will see it again.

Eunie is better now that she began taking the powerful anti-inflammatory which she mistakenly stopped the day after the ERCP. I am going to have to monitor her medications – yet another something which I’ve never had to do before.

I’m learning a lot of new stuff. None of which I ever wanted to know. If you’re going to win at poker, you have to learn to play the cards.

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Guest Shooter Lindsey Butler – A Fresh Face

Posted in Guest Shots on August 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers will know that there is a lot going on in our lives that is not easy to deal with. At the end of this post, I’ll give the latest news concerning Eunie’s health situation. In the meantime, it’s important to focus on positive thoughts and action. For me, aside from dealing with the immediate situation, I need to use the spare moments that I can find to keep Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  what it has come to be. A diversion and source of amusement and freshness for myself and our readers.

A friend, Sue Fletcher, suggested that I might have a look at the photographic work of her granddaughter, Lindsey Butler. What a pleasant suggestion that turned out to be! I am very much interested in the work of young photographers. Many tend to be less interested in the technology and more focused on the imagery. To me, this is the very essence of photography. It is the image which speaks.

I asked Lindsey Butler to send to me a selection of photographs which she felt most defined style. I’m not going to comment on them. Lindsay has done an excellent job of doing so.

So, without further chatter from me, let’s have a look at a Fresh Face in photography.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I was taking a road trip through Brady, Texas and passed a beautiful railroad track in the middle of the country. It was drizzling, about to rain and I didn’t want my camera to get wet so I was in a hurry and set the camera on the track. When I looked through the lens I saw my dog, so I set my self-timer and walked up to him. Never thought I would have captured such a neat image!

This is part of a barbed wire fence in San Angelo, Texas. If you have ever been to Texas, you should know how much barbed wire exists in this state. It really captured a pretty West Texas day. And being a West Texan made this photo special to me. I love the rust, and the open fields behind. I felt it really captured the freedom and openness of West Texas.

A little girl playing in her playhouse. I love this picture because it portrays the innocence of children. Today people forget to stop and appreciate life, everything moves so fast. I want to capture life as a piece of art, something you can treasure for years.

The fourth is one of my very favorites. I feel like I am more talented at capturing beautiful moments in life, and less at posing people into awkward positions. She is two-years-old and children are impossible to keep still at that age, so I just asked them to play and I would see what I could get. I was so happy to get the chance to photograph these two and the love and happiness they share. She is such a beautiful little girl!

The fifth one, is also a favorite. Babies are so full of joy and smiles really are contagious. Every time I look at this picture I smile. Babies can sometimes be a challenge to photograph when they are awake because they jump and move so quickly. I think the trick is to catch them when they are happy and learn a couple of tricks to make them giggle. Luckily I have always had a way with babies and this one in particular is my niece!

Angles! Angles! Angles! When I am taking pictures I always try to think outside the box and get in places I know I will get a good view. I will lay on the ground, stand on a car, or be two or three inches from a clients face. I think that is how you get good photographs. Otherwise, anyone could be a photographer. The trick is having an eye for it.

The last one I attached is of a father and son. While I mainly try to take more natural pictures I think it is important as a photographer to be able to get any type of picture. Again, I try to think outside of the box and get different kinds of posing ideas rather than the kind you took in school for the yearbook. Photographs should capture the person’s soul, personality, and character.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Well, that was certainly refreshing. Good for you, Lindsey. I’m glad that Sue suggested that I have a look at your work. I’m very happy to show your lovely images to our readers.

On to the news – there isn’t any. We are awaiting here in Cairns, meetings with two oncologists. We will have no real direction until sometime next week. The waiting game is on.

Stay tuned.

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With a Little Help From Our Friends

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, as much as I find it discouraging, it is proving impossible for me to do daily posts. This is very irksome for me, as writing provides some down time and a bit of escape. I am hoping that once we settle down to some kind of routine, I will be able to set a time during the day when I can concentrate on my journal. I need it. Many enjoy reading it. I don’t want its character to change. I need something stable in my life right now.

On Saturday night, we enjoyed the company of friends at the home of Tony and Lorraine Collins in Cairns. Recent developments with Eunie’s health have placed us in Cairns for the unforeseeable future.

Here is the happy gang at the dinner table:

Eunie is on the close end of the table next to the empty spot. I was standing on a chair to take the shot. Tony’s magnificent BBQ skills were in top form. I had some Rosemary Lamb that was ethereal.

Max provided the major entertainment for the evening with his incredible Celestron computer guided telescope:It took a while to get it set up. As you can see, it is thirsty work.

After viewing some fantastic images of the terminator line on the moon on his laptop screen, we retired back to the table to view and devour The Amazing Cake:

I’ve seen cakes like that in shop windows. I had no idea that they were actually meant to be eaten. It seems somehow wrong, like using a Rolls Royce to haul your junk to the landfill.

After decimating The Amazing Cake, the moon had retired and Max went looking for “other things”:

The best that he could come up with was a Woolworth’s sign many kilometres away which filled the entire screen with the big, red letters, “Wool”.

We are still waiting for more information. An oncologist from Brisbane is coming to Cairns on Thursday. We are expecting to see him then or the next day. The biopsy reports should be back by then. We are hoping that he will be prepared to recommend a course of treatment at that time. It looks most likely now that we will be in Australian for an extended period of time.

We desperately need to get our visas changed to Medical or we will need to leave the country in 90 days and return – a needless expense. We are hoping our credit cards will carry us until the insurance company begins to reimburse us for all of the medical costs, which have reached nearly A$10,000 already. We have to pay up front and wait until the insurance company pays us back.

I desperately wish I had good news, but we just have to play the cards as they are dealt.

I am astounded at the sheer mass of readers who have left comments, sent emails, or contacted me on Facebook (CrazyByChoice). I have always written about the relationship between me and Eunie and it appears that a lot of people other than me have come to love her also.

Peace to you, my friends.

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Two Helicopters

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers will have noted my absence on occasion for the last few days and suspected the reason for it. It’s very hard for me to know what to write at this time which will keep the spirit and character of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  alive and providing the same kind of distraction from the vagaries of life which it has provided for me and many readers. However, I can’t stray far from what it has grown to be. The tag line probably says it best. A Daily Journal of a Permanent Resident of Paradise.  If I abandon the true concept of a journal and simply keep it light and full of lots of pretty pictures, the occasional minor complaint about life in general,  a healthy dose of outrageous opinion and some hopefully funny stories, I could probably enjoy a continuation of the growing readership and nothing much would change.

There are a couple of problems with that. First, it would be a sham. Second, I couldn’t pull it off.

Unfortunately, there is no real paradise here on earth, no matter how much we may wish it. Life can transport us along the sweet path for decades and then take a sudden turn. Only fools believe otherwise. I chose my title and images carefully today, though the reason may not be obvious until you’ve read the rest of this.

Less than two weeks ago, I was out taking shots in a Heli Niugini helicopter, enjoying the scenery and the free ride. I knew that Eunie was sick and we would likely have to go to Cairns to have her checked out, but our hopes were high that it would involve some minor surgery of some sort, probably removal of the gall bladder, at most, and that would be that:

Now, as I sit in front of the hospital alone, gathering my thoughts and watching a medevac helicopter spooling up for a run for someone probably far less fortunate than us, the irony does not excape me. Life can change in the blink of an eye. The situation today is very much different and the hopes have changed radically. There is a high likelihood that there is something very wrong inside my beloved woman. We have no biopsy reports yet, so there is no certainty either way. However, we’ve been told to plan for chemotherapy, probably combined with radiotherapy:

Until we know, there is always hope that what seems very nasty may not be as bad as it looks. Even so, because of the nature of the “mass” it is going to change life for us.

So, what of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi?  Well, I am hoping that I can find the strength and wisdom to let it continue to be what is has been for nearly three years now. For me it has been a creative outlet which has given me a new kind of discipline and provided me with a sort of confessional booth in which I can let my thoughts, opinions and feelings drift through the curtain and come back to me filtered through the minds and hearts of others through comments, Facebook and emails. For my readers, most of whom I have never met, but have nevertheless come to cherish as friends – even confidants of a sort – it has provided amusements and distractions which come from off the beaten path. I want to continue that relationship with my readers and enjoy the pleasure that it has given me. I have no intention of leaving those treasures behind as we follow this new path which is being laid out, brick by brick, before us.

I have no idea what the future will be. All I know is that it is going to be very much different from that which I envisioned a month ago. However, our situation – that of life-changing swirls in the current which carrys us along – is not different from that potentially facing anyone reading my words at this moment nor, in fact, anyone on the planet.

Eunie and I have been friends, partners, lovers and soul mates for nearly half a century. This gives us the strength of lions.

This is the hand which we have been dealt. We will play it together.

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The Helicopter Money Shot

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on August 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes being one of the few serious photographers in town can be beneficial in unusual ways. Let’s back up a few days before we came to Cairns to take care of Eunie’s health problem. I got a call from Heli Niugini management and my friend Monty Armstrong asking if I could go out for a ride to take some promotional shots for them. I didn’t even have to think about it. It’s a no-brainer. A free helicopter ride over Paradise? What kind of an idiot would turn that down?

While I was waiting for them to prepare the two Bell Jet Rangers which would be required for the mission, I caught some of the technical guys installing a new transmission in a Huey. Nothing gets off the ground without these fellows’ careful scrutiny:

You’re looking right down the business end of the engine where that big round pipe is.

While cruising around, I got this great shot of our house:That’s Faded Glory  there at the dock.

Here is a very nice shot of Coronation Drive, the golf course and the island chain reaching up the coast. We do nearly all of our dives in the area covered by this shot:

You can barely see the Coastwatchers Monumtent at the distant end of the golf course just where Dallman Passage  starts.

In case you can’t see it in the shot above, here is a pretty close-up of it:

To the left is the Coastwatcher Hotel, known by locals as “Coasties”, of course.

I was happy with a free ride for taking the photos, but the particular view needed – The Money Shot – was of a Heli Niugini machine placed just so in the frame with a nice tropical paradise scene in the background. This proved to be the one:

It’s going on a two metre long billboard along with promotional text and the company logo.

I was happy to provide this service in exchange for the rare opportunity to get some great shots of my own, which I will be showing over the next week or so.

Naturally, the uncertainty concerning the cause underlying Eunie’s illness has us in a delicate psychological condition. Personally, if given free reign and no responsibility, I’d hide under the covers and sleep. This is not going to do any good for either of us.

So, for the first time since I started Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  it is therapy for me. I hope it doesn’t get too weird.

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The Haircut Tradition

Posted in Humor, On Tthe Road on August 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Got to get back into some semblance of a routine. I want to sleep when I know that I would be better off doing something else – anything else. I recognise this symptom, along with a few others. It’s reactive depression creeping up on me. It will cripple me if I let it. Fortunately, learning coping skills, years of therapy (on and off) and some decent drugs has pretty much rid me of this curse.

So, on this rather gloomy morning in Cairns, I decided to get up and start writing. The nice thing about social networking over the web is that you don’t have to get dressed to do it. Here is gloomy Cairns this morning:

It was raining a few minutes earlier. The clouds have receded, leaving a very clear atmosphere behind.

Here is another shot using a different panoramic stitching technique:

I can’t decide which I like best.

Today, Eunie decided that I needed a trim. If left to me, I would probably never bother to cut my hair. I’ve always hated the whole haircut thing. To me it is not unlike shaving. I view shaving as an unnatural act. Hey, taking a sharp object and scraping the hair from your body – what is that? It’s freaky, man – against nature. When a scene comes on the TV showing someone shaving I have to look away. It spikes up the forest of hair on my arms – makes me shiver. That horrible scraping sound reminds me of fingernails on a blackboard.

Getting a haircut feels pretty much the same to me. I feel for poor Samson in the Bible. He was okay until somebody messed with his hair. I have this ridiculous urge to ask the barber, “Please, be gentle.”

Fortunately, we were directed by a kindly pedestrian to the professional centre of Barber Science in Queensland, Andrew’s Barber Shop:

Operated by the father-and-son barber team Andrew and Demitrios Stylianou, this business is all business. If you want to look like you’re wearing a $5,000 hairpiece over a billiard ball, try elsewhere. If you want a man’s haircut, youve found the right address.

When I arrived, I was looking a mite shaggy – not Cave Man yet, but getting there:

As you can tell, I wasn’t exactly relishing the experience.

Then something magical happened. Demitrios laid on his best barber chatter and began bobbing and weaving around like Muhammad Ali floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee:

Honestly, I have never seen a barber so animated by his profession. They usually stand there like morticians tending to a little trim to tidy up the deceased. Just watching Demitrios’ passionate attack on my unruly locks was worth the very modest price.

First time I can ever remember enjoying a haircut. Andrew and Demitrios Stylianou, Live Long and Prosper!

Eunie is yellow and will remain that way until we get the problem sorted. I have to admit that I’m jealous of the super fine dope she is getting. I remember years ago when I had a particularly horrible surgery which is widely considered just about as painful as it gets. I’ll spare you the description. They were giving us what we patients called “happy pills”. Honestly, I did not want to leave the hospital. I begged them to let me stay “just a few more weeks”. If Eunie is feeling that good now, then I say God Bless the Pills!

We go in the morning to see another doctor who is a friend of a friend and just wants to know what’s happening. Then, in the afternoon, we see the anesthesiologist who will put Eunie into dreamland on Thursday while the surgeon has a look. We hope to have a pretty good idea of the problem and the treatment by the end of the week.

Down Time

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m finding it difficult to post daily here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  Not much is happening in our lives that is not of a very personal nature. It occurred to me today that now is not the time to slack off. Aside from casual readers and those who enjoy our pretty pictures, many friends and family members visit here to find out what we are up to.

Well, if you’ve been reading lately, you know that life is pretty much on hold until we find out and take care of Eunie’s health problem. We have been as healthy as horses for decades, with only the occasional bout of malaria or an infection here or there. Very few of us are lucky enough to live a long and healthy life and suddenly drop dead.

It is worse, of course, for the ill one. Few people enjoy suffering and Eunie has been through a lot of pain for the last couple of months. The uncertainty inherent in living in a place with limited medical facilities doesn’t help. Illness is also rough on loved ones and friends. Being a natural-born worrier, it has been particularly taxing on me. The truth is, I would happily trade places with Eunie. Sadly, that’s not possible.

So, Eunie takes care of herself, I take care of her, she takes care of me and we both take care of the strains of illness that affect us as a partnership.

What I did not realize until a comple of days ago was that I was showing a few cracks in my composure. I needed to take care of myself. I needed some down time. I’m no good to Eunie if I fall to pieces.

So, yesterday, I tended to my needs for a while:

For me, this is usually a simple exercise. All that is required is a quiet place in pleasant surroundings, a beer, a cheap cigar and an engaging book sufficiently exciting enough to shut out the worries for a couple of hours. Above you see me with my “not too bad for a sixty-six year old dude” legs propped up on the table getting some down time.

Notice the very classy apartment. Well, you can’t see much of it, but I will tell you that it is quite nice. It is a gift from dear friends in Madang. We also have the use of a car from other friends. Someday, I am going to acknowledge all of the wonderful friends and co-workers who have made it possible to get Eunie to Cairns and settle us in for whatever is in store. Right now, the list is still growing and I don’t want to leave anyone out. I do not know what my frame of mind would be right now if I had to think about housing and transportation expenses in addition to all of the other costs of relocating for an unplanned and enforced “vacation”.

Sweet Lorraine had it all set up for us to attend a showing of award-winning marine movies and still photos:

Eunie wasn’t quite up to it, but Lorraine knew what she was doing when she urged me to come.

I feel a strange smugness when I look at expensive gear which I’ll never be able to afford. I think about how much money people blow on this kind of gear and I tell myself that my images are just as good as theirs. These “sour grapes” ploys help get us through life, eh? How much money have I saved by not  buying the biggest and best? I don’t know, because I’ve already spent it on other things:

When I see someone driving a big, expensive car that guzzles petrol like it will last forever, all I can think is, “What a dope!” It makes me feel better.

Here is the ticket to the show:

Don’t ask me why I showed it to you. I collect tickets. I have tickets from Vienna subways, Rolling Stones concerts, and oh, so many more esoteric venues. I even have the little bracelet from the hospital when I had my appendix removed in 1990.

Well, I’m running out of steam.

Here is my darling Eunie getting some down time. I am so happy that she is painless for the first time in more than two months. They are giving her some really good dope that makes her a little loopy for a couple of hours after she takes it.

Then she has a nice nap when she comes down.

God bless her. My woman.