Saturday Diving – A Row of Boats

Posted in Under the Sea on March 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sunday dawned clear and bright. Just what I needed to lift my spirits when I realised that my sinus infection (oh, I’m sure  you want to hear about that) has come back with a vengeance. I may possibly have insulted it during my very pleasant dive yesterday at Magic Passage.  Actually, I’m not telling the truth. The part that is not  true is that this is actually Monday’s sunrise:Could be Egypt, eh?

Conditions at Magic Passage  couldn’t have been much better. There was a manageable current flowing in from Astrolabe Bay,  making the water nice and clear. I usually get into the water first, to get out of everyone’s way and check to make sure that I’ve anchored where I think  I anchored. I got this shot from about seven metres below Faded Glory  and Sanguma,  which we had parked alongside each other:

Funny thing – coincidence strikes. The Beatles song Come Together  is playing with a heavy bass bias here in the IT Dungeon as I write. (In case you’re wondering, I was thinking of the boats coming together over the reef.)

He roller-coaster he got early warning
He got muddy water he one mojo filter
He say “One and one and one is three”
Got to be good-looking ’cause he’s so hard to see
Come together right now over me

I think that it is one song that nearly every person of my age who was brought up in The Western World (whatever that is) can probably sing along with without mumbling too many of the words. It always seemed like nonsense to me – nonsense ambiguous enough to mean anything you like. I give you the examples of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky  or James Taylors’ American Pie.  Still, the pitiless call of reason leads me to conclude that the song must  be about the members of the band. Four musicians, four verses, lots of obscure references – it’s not Rocket Science. If you’ve nothing better to do and you want to enrich your mind with some spaced-out references from the 60’s you might check here and here if you’re feeling clueless. The first link seems plausible. The second feels more like stoner-speak.

Errr . . . drifting away there. Back to the dive. One of the first things that I encountered was this lovely little anemone which I am embarrassed to say that I can’t identify accompanied by two juvenile Clark’s Anemonefish (Apmphiprion clarkii):My finger is for scale, not for food. However, while snorkeling at The Eel Garden  later I was demonstrating how the larger cousins of these youngsters would play with your fingers and occasionally nip at them. One of the larger specimens of A. clarkii  bit viciously three times. Each time it would grab a bit of my skin in its jaws and shake its body furiously before letting go. Since I was out of breath anyway and needed to surface, I decided to end the demonstration.

This morning I felt a distracting itch on my hand and discovered a bite mark left by the little terror:Don’t let anybody tell you that Nemo is not dangerous.

In the clear incoming water, the beautiful Anthea were glowing like neon lights:We were blessed by a bit of sunlight on Saturday, the first we’ve seen in some weeks. The weather here has been dismal, at least by Paradise standards.

Richard Jones led the little expedition, though he was possibly a little miffed when I was uncooperative and lazy at the beginning of the dive. He got even later by mugging me:However, I shall have the last laugh. He complained a few days ago about me getting his “bald head” into the picture – his words, not mine. I would call him “partially bald”. My response is, “How could I miss it?”

Later on, a band of Cassells showed up in Felmara.  This array of fishing lures caught my eye:The Cassell Floating Fishing Party motored off after a while and left us to enjoy the lowering sun.

Just another Saturday in Paradise.

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Still at The Eel Garden – Can’t Get Enough of It

Posted in Under the Sea on March 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ll keep the babble at a minimum today, as my brain is running on empty and I’m moving at molecular speed though I have my mental pedal to the metal. In case you’re interested in the gory details, my sinuses are expanding exponentially and will soon be causing grey matter to ooze out my ears. It makes it even harder than usual to think. Oh, I can still think about a lot of things, – no worries there. The problem is that none of them are useful.

This does not bode well, as I have a very important appointment tomorrow, the outcome of which will have a huge effect on the next few years of  our lives. I’m sincerely hoping for a clear brain in the morning, if not clear sinus cavities.

I see that I’ve already exceeded my babble limit, so I’ll get right to this cute little Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) guarding his host with due diligence:We used to see a lot of this species, but lately they seem to be getting more scarce. This always worries me when I note changes in species distribution. I don’t have enough technical knowledge to know if it’s important or not and I’ve had no luck, so far, in interesting any marine researchers to return to Madang, which used to be one of the main playgrounds for such eggheads.

Yesterday, if my memory is working correctly (no guarantees) I showed you another of these corals of the Galaxea genus:They are particularly beautiful and incredibly detailed. This one is the Galaxea fascicularis. It’s worth clicking on to see the detail of the polyps.

This shot is a bit of a double treat. The kicker is that I found it right under the bow of Faded Glory. We anchored in the sand, but the boat drifted a little over the top of the reef. I caught this just as I was returning to the boat. It’s a pair of seldom-seen Skunk Anemonefish (Amphiprion akallopisos) lurking in a similarly rare and beautiful Merten’s Anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii):Quite a nice surprise at the end of a painful dive.

Going back a couple of days, I showed you this same Nudibranch (Phyllidia varicosa) shot with natural light. As I was going through the images from that day I noticed that I had also taken flash exposures of it. For the first time in a long while, for a macro shot, I think that I prefer this flash shot to the natural light exposure:I think that the explanation is that the light was poor and I had to do a lot of fiddling with noise and a bit of motion blur to get the shot by natural light. This one has much more realistic detail. I didn’t even bother to give it a bath to remove all of the little bits of ocean gook that usually cover everything.

Here’s another fish that you saw recently as a part of a pair. I found this side-on shot of a Split-Banded Cardinalfish (Apogon compressus) which I had previously rejected because I thought that it was over exposed:As it finally turned out, it is not a bad specimen shot, except that the intense blue of the eye is lost. Someday I’ll get the perfect shot of this fish.

Okay, I’m falling out of my chair now. I think I’ll go home and go to bed. I have computers to work on, but my brain is rebooting every time I think of that. It’s taking much longer to come back on line.

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As I See the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on January 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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After yesterday’s marathon post concerning the dumbing-down of science I seem to be at a temporary loss for words. Those who tire of my bombast but enjoy the pretty pictures will sigh in relief. I’m also running three days behind, so I’m using my Time Machine to fake it, as usual. My aparent sloth is not as it seems. I wanted to do a post on Saturday. Unfortunatley, TELIKOM’s so-called “repairs” of my telephone line lasted less than a week, so I never made it online and did not have time to go to the office. Then, on Sunday, my intent was once again to catch up. Unfortunately, our car wouldn’t start . . . yet another headache. Are you tired of my whining. Okay, I don’t blame you. I’ll proceed briefly.

As regular readers will know, I like showing you what I see as nearly as possible the way that I see it. Sometimes “BLUE” is the only way to describe it:The above is a view of the bottom of Magic Passage from about half-way down the slope at about 15 metres on a good visibility day.

Down at the bottom, we were suddenly surrounded by a school of curious Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus):
These characters actually seem to enjoy swimming around divers. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. They commonly swim within a metre of us, their big eyes rolling around like Al Jolson singing Mammy.

These are not particularly good pictures, but that’s okay for today. Not every shot I get swells my head. Some are simply reflections of my experiences that recall moments of pleasure. Here Anita plays with a little mob of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):The cheeky little devils like to nip fingers. I prefer to get my nips bare-handed, but gloves are safer for the diver and for the fish. Who knows what nasty germs lurk on our skin which we may never notice, but would be deadly so some innocent creature just looking for a good time.

You’ve seen many Hawkfish here. However, we don’t always see them in profile, posing as if for a presidential protrait. Here a little Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitchthys falco)  is caught from above:He is not unaware. You can clearly see that he has one eye cranked up to keep me in view.

You’ve also seen the Bluestreak Goby (Valenciennea strigata)  here before.I like this shot because it’s realistic – warts and all. You can see sticks, leaves and other detrius strewn about. Reefs are not neat places, especially close to a river outlet.

This shot also has a nice, natural feel. I assure you , this is exactly what I saw:At The Eel Garden, near Pig Island,  there is a huge anmemone patch full of these Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion malanopus).  The depth is only about four or five metres there, so snorkelers can see this scene with ease.

Back tomorrow with more fish while I catch up with myself. I hope my car is fixed today. Otherwise, I may swim to work tomorrow.

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The Big Blue Finger

Posted in Under the Sea on December 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m sitting here wondering what to say while I listen to some very cool East London Jazz from Seal, which dates my taste in music somewhere in the Early Bronze Age. Later I’m going to do some Steely Dan, maybe Babylon Sisters.  So, I’m all moody and overworked and and I had a bad night walking around in the dark at a friend’s house with a big rock in each hand while attending to an armed robbery. More about that later. So, right now I’m in the frame of mind to give the world The Big Blue Finger!

And (brace yourself)  here it is:

Blue Starfish - Linckia laevigata

Regular readers will recognise one of God’s funnier jokes:  the wonderfully whimsical Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata).  Actually not all of them are blue. Most are a sort of dull green or yellowish brown colour. I can never help laughing when I see one. I think to myself, “Yeah, I can dig it.”

Since my mood is wandering, let’s look ahead to our next Pagan-Turned-Christian holiday by absorbing the lemony wonderfulness of these Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):Christmas Tree Worms - Spirobranchus giganteusThese are among the amazing tiny creatures that I never tire of seeing. It’s fun to see how close you can get to them before pop back into their holes and disappear.

Since I have a few live coral keepers out there who watch this space for mouth-watering samples of what they could be playing with, if they only had a big enough tank, here’s a nice little coral community:Coral CommunityI’m no expert, for pity’s sake, but I think that I can see seven different species of coral in this area which would measure about one square metre.

Here’s one of the better shots that I have managed of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):Clark's Anemonefish - Amphiprion clarkiiIt’s not much good as a specimen shot, because you can hardly see the second white bar which is an identifying feature of this fish, as is the white bar in front of the yellow caudal fin. What you can  see, however are its tiny, razor sharp teeth (and they do  bite!), the clear cornea of his right eye, and a lot of detail in the front white band, which is very difficult to capture, because of the huge difference in brightness between the black and the white. Click to get a larger image.

Now, since I”m not feeling quite so grumpy as before, I shall show you a grumpy fish:Coral Grouper - Cephalopholis miniataThis Coral Grouper (Cephalopholis miniatafdsa)  clearly did not care to be bothered.

That’s pretty much the way I feel today. Eunie has gone to Port Moresby to do battle with the Department of Immigration and Naturalisation concerning her Permanent Residency. I can hardly think about anything else. I told her to not return to Madang until she had it in hand (as if I could order her around . . . makes me giggle just to think of it). I told her very sternly.

She gave me that smile. You know, the one that Mona Lisa did so well.

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Underwater Eye Candy – the Canon G10 Again

Posted in Under the Sea on July 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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The fun just keeps on rolling with the new Canon G10 and it’s buddy, the WP-DC28 underwater housing. Certain types of shots seem to come out better, and I’m at a loss to find a technical explanation. All I can say is, “It just works.”

Here’s an example:

Sea Squirts (Oxycorynia fascicularis)

The above are a kind of Sea Squirt, specifically, Oxycorynia fascicularis,  as if you care. I’m sure that somebody cares, but he or she is probably not reading this. In the past, when I’d try photographing these, the green sea squirts would come out very flat looking and lifeless and no amount of post-processing with Photoshop would revive them. Now they seem more lifelike. I’ve had this same problem with certain flowers which are very monochromatic – one colour, and very saturated. The only thing that I can imagine is that the G10 has more dynamic range for each colour in the middle range of luminosity.

This starfish (Fromia milleporella)  is a good example:

Starfish (Fromia milleporella)

The gradations in the red shade spectrum are much more discernible than I’ve been able to get before.

Okay, enough technobabble. It’s probably just magic, anyway. Here is another example. The polyps on this solitary coral (Heliofungia actiniformis)  are much clearer and more three dimensional than I’ve been able to achieve before:

Solitary coral polyps (Heliofungia actiniformis)

Clicking any of the above will give more detail. I wish I could provide higher resolution shots for you to view. My standard size is 1600 pixels maximum dimension, but when I have to compress the files to get them down to around 200K a lot of detail is swallowed up by the JPG compression, so the enlarged versions don’t look nearly as good as my originals. If you ever want high-res versions, just email me and I’ll put them up or make them available to you.  Maybe someday, I’ll start a high-res page where I can put my best shots.

This is an example of a shot where no amount of camera foolery will improve the view:

Decorated Goby [possible] (Istigobius decoratus)

It is, I think, a Decorated Goby (Istigobius decoratus).  There are more Goby species than just about any other fish. My book only has about 200, a fraction of the total number. You can’t do anything to make it more visible because it’s supposed to be nearly invisible.  Taking shots of highly camouflaged critters is always a losing proposition.

Getting back to easy, reliable shots, the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)  never disappoints:

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

The shot above, taken with flash, required almost no post-processing. It was a little on the green side, so I corrected for that and cleaned up the backscatter from the flash. Other than that, it is pretty much the way in came from the camera.

This shot of a Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)  on the attack is a different story:

Clark's Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)

The water was full of particulate matter, which I had to clean up. It was also very aqua coloured instead of blue. That’s probably a problem with white balance. Since I’m shooting in the RAW mode, I don’t have any. That’s why it’s a problem. In this case, there was quite a bit of work to do on the colours. You can see some fakey traces of it in the fins of the fish.

It’s not perfect, but It makes me grin anyway.

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Another Perfect Saturday – The Canon G10 Comes Through

Posted in Under the Sea on July 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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For the first time in months, I bungled this weekend and did not muster enough attitude go get off of my bum and go into the office to do posts over the weekend. This is bad. I’ve made a pact with myself to post every day. If I’m going to do this, I need to do it right. Anyway, I’m cheating slightly on Monday morning by doing three posts and back dating them so my calendar isn’t messed up. Most people won’t notice, because I’d be shocked if anybody actually checked this site every day – I’d be worried about mental health issues or saying, “Get a life!”

Nevertheless, Saturday was a huge success photographically, aside from the happy fact that there were thirteen people on the boat! Faded Glory  was groaning under the weight of the party, which went on all afternoon.

The new Canon G10 was performing miraculously. I can’t believe how good this camera is. I’m getting shots that were not possible before. I’ll show you a few today and some more “tomorrow” when I fake Sunday’s post.

I’m soothed wonderfully by the subtle colours in this image which shows the polyps of the coral Anthelia glauca:

Coral Polyps
The next one is a Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion calrkii)  in front of a Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor):

Clark's Anemonefish
I’m getting textures and colours from the new camera that it’s predecessor could not capture. The improvement between the G9 and the G10 is amazing.

Here is another shot of Clark’s Anemonefish. I got a very good one last week, but this one is even better. If you click to enlarge, you can actually see the lateral line, which, on this fish, is not normally visible even with the naked eye, let alone through a camera lens. I’m so pleased that I want to dance:Clark's Anemonefish
Actually, it doesn’t take much to get me dancing anyway. Here is another shot of a Bulb Anemone at the Eel Garden near Pig Island where we did our dives on Saturday. This one just blows me away:
Bulb Anemone

I don’t know what it takes to make you giggle, but for me, this does it. I’ve been dreaming of shots like this for years – planning them out in my head – how I would do them, what the lighting needed to be. The shot above used available light at 25 metres on an overcast day with murky water above. I don’t know what more you can ask of a camera.

This is a shot of an uncommon anemone – at least I think  it’s an anemone. It is also a very stingy, sticky one. You do not want to brush against these:
Anemone
Each one is about 50mm in diameter. I’m going to have to do some checking on this one. It may not be an anemone at all. It would be unusual to find a group of the placed so regularly. It may be a kind of coral with huge polyps. Next time I go to the Eel Garden, I’ll have to disturb it a little to see what is underneath.

Stay tuned.

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Underwater Variety Pack

Posted in Under the Sea on March 31st, 2009 by MadDog
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I spent the day wrestling a herd of piggish computers in the mud-hole of DHCP and DNS problems. It’s fixed now, but I feel all stinky from the smell of fear (you IT guys know what I’m talking about – when nobody at the office smiles at you UNTIL YOU MAKE IT WORK AGAIN).  Please, somebody, anybody . . . take my job!

So, I’ll relax for a few minutes and show you some fishy stuff.

There are lots of pretty starfish. But, there are few large pretty starfish. This is one of them. Behold Choriaster granulatus:

Starfish (Choriaster granulatus)

The specimen above was about 25cm across.

This blue giant is a Hump Headed Parrotfish (Bulbometopon muricatum):

Hump Headed Parrotfish (Bulbometopon muricatum)

It’s very difficult to get close to them. This was an exceedingly lucky shot. I swam as fast as I could to get close to it quickly as it glided along slowly. Suddenly, it turned, possibly to get a better look at me. I snapped. The big blue fellow hustled away down the slope and was out of sight in a couple of seconds. They eat coral. We sometimes see big groups (up to maybe 20) swimming around chomping on the hard coral. The front of the head is very bony and the teeth are like giant concrete dentures.

This floppy thing is a Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica). It has become detached by the surge of the waves on the top of the reef. It’s not a problem for the creature. When the waves settle down, it will spread out and reattach itself. If you click to enlarge you can see the little sucker thingies on the underside that fix themselves to the rocks. There are two Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) living in this anemone. I’ve featured many kinds of Anemonefish here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)

Finally, we have this shy horror, the Giant Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus).

Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus)

I love to see the look on a diver’s face when he first sees one of these. It’s really too funny for words.

So, I won’t try.

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