As Ready As I’ll Get

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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Tomorrow morning at 07:20 I’ll board a flight for one of the most important journeys of my life. That is, I’ll board the flight if Air Niugini is feeling like letting me do so. One never plans  a flight on Air Niugini. It is more like a gamble. You bet that the aeroplane will be there and it will leave reasonably close to the time you need to leave for your connection and nothing else mysterious will happen to prevent your arrival. It’s wise to have a backup plan or, more accurately, a backup hope. Anyway, I’ll be there at 06:00 to see if I’ll be arriving in Brisbane tomorrow afternoon or not.

In the meantime, while you are waiting anxiously for my next report, I’ll soothe you with some random images from recent forays into the heart of Paradise. Here is what I usually refer to as Purple Snow. It is, of course, not snow at all but the shed flowers of a lau lau  or Malay Apple tree:

Friend Anne-Marie told me at first that the genus is Eugenia.  Then she started Googling and came up with the genus name Sygygium,  which, by the way, I find impossible to pronounce.  For most plants, she pulls the fancy names out of some deep recess in her fertile mind. If she is unsure, she will not let it go until she has exhausted Google. Apparently, Sygygium  is the favoured name now. Taxonomist are an unruly lot. They are forever changing their minds and arguing, presumably in Latin. You can see more Purple Snow here.

This is some kind of bug. It’s pretty, but you have to watch out for these. Some of them stink so bad they will make your head spin. I stopped sniffing them a long time ago. Believe me, you don’t want to know:

I think this is a non-smelly variety, but I did not check it.

Here are some little yellow flowers at the Tourist Centre. The sun was shining through a picket fence, making an interesting pattern of light across the frame.

Enough said. Let it speak for itself.

A rather boring hibiscus:

The images will get better when I begin my journey.

At least this one is not something you see every day. These are ferocious ants on a Heliconia  flower.

Even if the ants aren’t very interesting, the flower is. It’s one of the stranger ones. The common name is Lobster Claw. I don’t have to explain why, eh?

This is a little baby goat up at Nob Nob. It was so cute that I wanted to take it home. I doubt that my dog, Sheba, would get along with it.

Anyway, it would eat all of my flowers.

It’s about time to wrap this up. I probably won’t be posting for a few days. It will take time to get set up in Gympie. I had to pack four times. I packed everything three days ago and then decided that I needed a bit more stuff. I removed everything from a smaller black bag and put it into the big red bag you see here.

Then the red bag wasn’t full. So, I decided to fit everything into the black bag (not the one you see here – that’s my backpack). Well, it was a tight fit, so I jumped up and down on it until it seemed ok. Then I broke the zipper while trying to get it closed. Scratch that bag; it is now junk. Okay, now I had to put everything back into the red bag, which was still not full. I rummaged through my clothing to see what else I might need. I found some more warm clothes and stuffed them in. It came up to 19.48 kilograms, just short of my 20 kilo limit.

I guess that I’m as ready as I’m going to get. I have probably forgotten a dozen important things, but I can’t imagine that there are fatal flaws in my planning and execution. If all goes well I will be motoring with Val from Brisbane to her home in Gympie by this time tomorrow.

I’ve done everything I can. From now on it’s up to the mercy of God and Air Niugini. I know that I can count on God. I’m not so sure about Air Niugini.

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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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Oddities for You

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on May 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yes, it’s Saturday again and I’ll soon be loading up Faded Glory  to go out for a dive. But first, I have a few odds and ends from the last week to show to you. Morning time is about the only really peaceful respite which I have. I like to get out in the yard with my Canon G-11 for a while to see what photographic opportunities may present themselves.

A magenta sunrise with a passing canoe:

An Air Niugini jet coming in for landing at Madang airport:

I’m still too sleepy to come up with any witty comments about that. I hope that someday we have a decent airline to serve the needs of the people of Papua New Guinea. Air Niugini is just about the worst example of small country government-owned airlines. It’s inefficient, packed with dead wood, far, far too expensive and its routings are disasterous. Current politics won’t allow the proper solution – sell it off and allow some real competition. Of course, the Grand Chief doesn’t need to worry about all this. He has his own jet. So, when you go the the hospital and they tell you that they have no medicine, you can at least be happy that the big man is riding in comfort.

This is a moderately cool shot of the twin Browning M2 50 calibre machine guns on the dorsal turret of The Green Dragon  B-25 Bomber at Wongat Island:

Note metal that is still shiny after being submerged for nearly seventy years.

This is the biggest Sailors Eyeball (Valonia ventricosa)  that I have ever seen. It is the size of my fist:

As I’ve mentioned before, it is the largest single-celled organism on the planet. It is a kind of blue-green algae.

As time is growing short, I’ll leave you with this image of a ship which we saw on the way through the anchorage:

My only comment about this ship is that when we saw it, we all started laughing at once. I’ll leave it to you as a little puzzle. (Hint: try adding a vowel.)

See you tomorrow.

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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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Wings, Logs, and a Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts on June 29th, 2009 by MadDog
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This morning, Kar Kar Island  was all moody and sombre in the pinkish dawn light. I went back into the house to get my Olympus SP590-UZ to get a long telephoto shot of the big volcano. I came back out and climbed up on the roof of our truck to get a little more of the mountain sticking up above the trees on Kerosene Island.  As I was framing a shot, I heard the morning Air Niugini flight coming in from the east. I waited until it was directly over Kar Kar Island  and voila!

The morning Air Niugini Flight coming in over Kar Kar Island

That was surprise shot number one for today.

This next one interests me because it’s an example of an image that turned out to be more than I thought it would be:

Pacific Blue flight taking me home to Madang from Brisbane

As I was leaving Brisbane on the Pacific Blue / Airlines PNG flight to Port Moresby, I did a couple of quick snaps out the window. I don’t know what method airlines use to determine who the serious amateur photographers are and consistently seat them directly over the wing, but I hate it. So, noting my seat position, I had already decided that the flight was a dead loss, photographically. However, when I looked at the image above, it started talking to me. So, I fiddled with it for a while until I was happy with it. It is one of those images that adds up to more than the sum of its details.

This one speaks for itself:

Really smart move; selling your birthright for a bowl of soup - LOGS FOR SALE!

I suppose that somebody out there (probably someone who is making money from it) will blab on about “sustainable logging.” Would you like to try to convince me?  Have a go. I don’t mind sticking my neck out to make a prediction. At some point in the future, unless drastic cultural and societal changes occur in this country, all profitable timber will have been removed and the people once inhabiting those lands will be destitute. Why? Simple. These logs will continue to increase in value decade by decade until the pressure to sell them is too tempting to resist. It will be impossible to control. Is it possible to avoid this catastrophe? I’d say yes, but only if there is a sea change in attitude. Selling one’s birthright for a cup of soup is a long human tradition.

Okay, enough complaining. This is not a particularly colourful sunrise, but I love its symmetry:

Dark Sunrise Panorama

That’s about it for today.  Thanks to all the people who emailed, commented and left notes on my Facebook account congratulating us on our 45th wedding anniversary. I only wish I had another 45 years with her.

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Nearly Deleted

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on April 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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Some of greatest enjoyment that I get from working with images comes from the minutes that I work on an image that I was just about to delete. As my finger hovers over the DELETE key, I make a final judgement. I’m a merciful kind of guy, possibly too much so. Today I’ll show you some recent images that I nearly deleted. Each had a tragic flaw that I had to somehow overcome. Some attempts were more successful than others.

I’ll start with the worst failure. I simply could not delete this image taken from the top of Nob Nob Mountain. It faintly shows the Finisterre Mountains at the right and an Air Niugini jet taking off from Madang on the left. But the colours were impossible. So, I pretend that it’s grey and rainy in the distance. It doesn’t work for me:

Madang Town, Astrolabe Bay, and the Finisterre Range

Points = zero.

This one, taken from a different position is a bit better. You can see Madang, the rugged mountains in the foreground, and the Finisterre Range again on the right:

Astrolabe Bay and the Finisterre Range as seen from Nob Nob Mountain

A few points, maybe. At least it doesn’t look too fake.

This one is looking North-east from the top of Nob Nob Mountain. This image pleases me more. It looks natural and the sun is playing beautifully with the water way out on Astrolabe Bay:

Looking up the North Coast from Nob Nob Mountain

The next one nearly got the chop because I didn’t think that the house would be visible enough to tell the story. It was taken at max zoom on my Canon G-9, which it nothing to talk about. It’s a little wimpy. The house was about three kilometres away. Still (if you click to enlarge) the image does tell the story of rural life in Papua New Guinea. A surprising percentage of the population lives in just such relatively isolated places:

A typical rural house in Papua New Guinea

I didn’t like the strong shadows in the next one, though the image was too endearing to delete. A few minutes of adjusting brightness and saturation in selected areas of the image pulls the eye away from the dark blob of the woman’s shirt and allows the mind’s focus to shift to the child, the bright clothing and the chuckling stream:

Wash Day at a village at Nob NobThe image above makes good use of the Rule of Thirds. As it turns out, it’s my favourite of the bunch.

The last image seemed hopeless. The area around the house was nearly blacked out. I pulled it up with the Photoshop Shadows/Highlight filter, but that usually gives the image a strange flat look if you overdo it. So, I decided to turn it into art instead of a photo:

A village house at Nob Nob

Judicious application of the Stroked Edges filter allowed for the salvation of this image. It will never hang in a museum, but it’s art, nevertheless.

At least, according to the MadDog definition.

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The Last Fish

Posted in At Sea, Photography Tricks on April 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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The Game Fishing Association of Papua New Guinea 2009 Titles are over now. I enjoyed going over the The Madang Club each evening to take photos for the Madang Game Fishing Club, but I am, as are not a few others, breathing a sigh of relief that it’s all over for another four years. They rotate the host club of the Titles around so that nobody has to host it more than once every four years.

The last image that I want to show you from the competition is this beautiful sailfish. I have never seen one in the water. I’ve been told that the colours are so fantastic that they appear unreal – as if it were some kind of incredible neon sign. Immediately upon being removed from the water, the colours begin to fade as the fish dies. It’s sad:

A beautiful sailfish
I should say that it is sad for the fish. Obviously the fishermen are happy with their catch. We have lived off the sea from the time the first human walked for the first time to a beach, picked up a bivalve, smashed it open, and found something tasty inside.

On to other matters.

If you are a regular reader you know that I am a sky freak. Just about any place on earth you can stand in one place, practising a little patience, and you will be rewarded by the sky with relief from boredom. The sky is a forever movie. It’s never the same scene twice.  Here is a stormy morning in Madang. About fifteen minutes later it was bucketing down rain:

Stormy morning panorama in Madang, Papua New Guinea

The image above is a stitch-up of five exposures and covers a viewing angle of about 160°. It is ridiculously simple to take these panoramic shots. Most new digital cameras have a special mode to help you line them up. There are a variety of programs, some of them free, that will stitch the individual images together smoothly so that it appears that the image was captured with one exposure. The advantage is, of course, that it is the only way that you can get such a wide field of view in one image. For instance, have a look at these panoramic shots of Prague and Budapest. You may want to click on the panoramas to feel the full effect.

I categorise this next one under “happy accidents.” If you are a photographer, you will recognise that it is a very long exposure. The primary clue is the appearance of the water. Long exposures give the water that “fuzzy mirror” look. This was a fifteen second exposure. The long exposure cancels out all the little sparkles from many, many wave reflections and blends them all together so that they appear smooth, while fixed features on the land remain sharp:

Long exposure sunrise with Air Niugini plane on approach

The shot above would be unremarkable except for the rumble that I heard immediately after I pushed the shutter release. At that point I noticed the Air Niugini flight coming in on its crosswind leg and getting ready for its turn to approach the runway on my left. If you click to enlarge you will see the tracks left by the lights of the plane and the little blips where the strobes were firing.

Here is another fifteen second exposure that I grabbed earlier on the same morning. I’m tossing it in just because I like the magenta tones and the stars around the lights. You get these star patterns when you have the iris of your camera nearly closed. I had stopped mine down to f8 and added a neutral density filter so that I could get the long exposure time at 80 ISO. Sorry about all the geeky details, but some out there might be interested.

Magenta Sunrise

In olden times, any serious photographer would include all of the information about an exposure in the details of the image. The information would include the camera make an model, the lens used, the opening of the lens (the f  stop), the shutter speed, the maker and type of film, the speed of film, the type developer and other chemicals used to process the film, the type of projector used to print the exposure, the lens of the projector, the f stop and time of the exposure, the type of paper used, its speed, chemicals used to develop the print, any tiltage, burning or dodging used in the exposure, and probably a half dozen other items that I’ve forgotten.

All that was before digital. It’s much easier now.

I leave you today with an interpretation. Taking photographs is only half the fun. Improving Mother Nature’s handiwork is the other bit. Here is my interpretation of a sunrise panorama that I captured last week:

A blazing sunriseI call it Heaven’s Gate.

Pretty corny, eh?

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