Little Fishies

Posted in Under the Sea on June 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

It looked pretty scary outside this morning at about 06:00. I thought the world had caught fire for a moment. Never mind. It was just a big black cloud. It’s Wednesday here – middle of the week day. Ho-hum day. It’s too early in the week to be tired. It’s too late in the week to start any big projects. It’s not close enough to the weekend to begin to slack off. It’s just a work day. I had it in mind to be very productive today. I had nothing on my schedule to take me away from my office and I was determined to see how many of the little nagging projects that I’ve put off I could pummeled into submission before the day ended. I suppose you can imagine how that is going.

However, I did just finish my lunch while I was working on something else (I must vacuum my keyboard crumbs soon) and I’m going to celebrate the successful commencement of digestion by showing you The Big Black Cloud:

There. Isn’t that scary?

The title of this post is Little Fishies.  Here they are:

You know when I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of creating an underwater image? Well, I’ll tell you when. It’s when you look at one of my images and think to yourself, “He faked that! He took that shot through the glass of somebody’s perfectly maintained aquarium.” Yeah, when you get suspicious, I get all puffed up and start bragging about what a great photographer I am. I’m such a glory hound.

Yeah, well, anyway, here’s a very uneven Linckia multifora  starfish. It’s been leg bitten several times:

You know why I keep taking pictures of these and showing them to you until you want to scream, “Stop, STOP! Enough with the starfish amputees!” Well, I’ll tell you why. It is because they make me think of the amazing powers of regeneration which humans possess. No, we can’t regrow limbs – yet. But we can regenerate our emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects by simple acts of will accompanied by hard work and behavioural changes. I have regenerated so many parts of me that I hardly recognise myself. Most of these chopping offs and regrowings have been prompted by the “What a jerk!” response of people with whom I interact. It’s like getting a smart slap in the face and then saying, “Oh, thanks. I needed that.”

Well that’s enough of whatever that was. I love shapes. I think that I must be a very visual person. I know that I’m no longer an olfactory person. I still can’t smell anything, but at least the phatosmia is getting less obnoxious since I started snorting Nasonex. Eunie uses it and I thought, “What the . . . ” I’ll give it a shot – really – two up each nose-hole each day. The smell of smoke is fading.

Hmmm . . . I drifted off-point there – back to shapes:

The Sea Squirt (Didemnum molle)  on the left makes me think of a buffalo (American Bison, to be exact) which has rater gruesomely had it head chopped off. The one on the right evokes vaguely uneasy gurglings in my cerebellum, but doesn’t provide any words to go with them. All I’m getting is visual blub-a-lug-a-blug. There may be something obscene there, but it’s not registering.

Come to think of it, It could  be Carl Malden’s nose, but I can’t be sure.

Mystery Stuff – Possibly a Protopalythoa  species anemone? I think so:

There is are so many things down there to see that it makes me wish that I could live to be a hundred. I think of the line of Shakespeare when Hamlet says to Horatio “There are many things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that are not dreamt of in your philosophy”. Hamlet  (Act I Sc V)*

Both of our beautiful Fishtail Palms (Caryota gigas)  are fruiting again:

This concerns me a bit, because these trees usually die when they have given their all to reproduce.

That seems like such a shame to me. I’d have been dead since 1969.

* Quoting Shakespeare is like using semicolons. All it proves is that you’ve been to college. Pffffft! College is the new high-school. I’m left for dead in the dust again!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Crab Bites Man

Posted in Under the Sea on March 21st, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

When crusty middle-aged reporters sat around in the smoke-filled newspaper office and sent out cub reporters like Jimmy Olsen in the days of Superman to cover stories that were not worth scraping shoe leather on the pavement, there was a phrase that comically described the frustration of a slow-news day. The headline would read: Man Bites Dog.

This feels like a slow-news day to me. Being Sunday, I was preparing myself for a day of relative rest. I counted on my new wireless Internet connection to allow me to sit in the comfort of my office/bedroom and annoy you. Sometime I feel like The Cheap Detective. If I had a proper desk, there would be a bottle of rot-gut whiskey in bottom drawer. A black fedora would sit rakishly on my head and I’d have a Smith & Wesson .38 Police Special tucked under my arm in a well-worn shoulder holster. The door would open and a gorgeous dame would saunter in on four inch stilettos wearing a fire-engine red dress. She’d give the the once-over and purr, “I need a man with steel in his backbone.” I’d say, “Have a seat, beautiful.” . . .

Well, see, that’s what happens when your best plans run awry. Of course,  PNG Power cut the power. Of course,  the generator at the office failed to start automatically. Of course,  that meant that I couldn’t get on line and, of course,  that meant that I had to drive into town to start the generator and fire up the network again. That’s half of the day shot. There will be no nap. Having eliminated TELIKOM from my life, PNG Power is my new enemy. They are now collecting their money up-front with the new Isi Pe  (That’s Easy-Pay” in English) meters and they still can’t get it in mind that one of the functions of a power supplier is to supply more-or-less continuous  power. They should call those meters Easy-Rip-Off.

No wonder my mind is wandering.

On Saturday I had a boat load of friends, but I was the only diver. Never mind. I like solo dives. I can spend as long as I want fiddling with my camera to get The Perfect Shot without worrying that somebody else is urgently wanting to move on.

Okay, let’s get to the crab. There’s got to be a crab in here somewhere. I was diving off the beach at Wongat Island  trying to get shots in the surging, sand-filled water. That means getting close to the subject. I was going for a shot of a scorpionfish and I had my hand loosely draped over a little knob of coral. Something tickled my thumb. Then something bit my thumb. Hard!Look at the evil grin on the face of this little crab. “Nyyaaaa, think you’re a big tough guy, eh?  I’ll make you cry like a little girl!” You wouldn’t think that that tiny little pincer could sting so much.

Here is the little bommie where the gritty little guy lives. You can see Faded Glory’s  anchor in the distance on the sloping sandy bottom:Stay clear if you value your skin.

At the south end of the beach there is a field strewn with Mushroom Coral, sometimes called Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites):This was in only about eight metres of water.

At about the same depth I ran across this charming family scene:

The big one is probably a male. I can guarantee that he was once a female. That’s just the way it is with these anemonefish.

I also found Nemo hiding out in an anemone. (Amphiprion percula):Okay, I can feel the nap coming on now. I gotta get through this.

So, I’ll dazzle you with this Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia):It’s a cheap shot, I know.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

More Eel Garden Goodies

Posted in Under the Sea on March 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Well, it’s official now. I’m as sick as a dog. I went over to see our beloved Dr. John Mackerel (A . K. A. Tinpis ). He shoved around and pounded on my face, causing considerable pain. Then he put his stethoscope, fresh from the freezer, against my back while I pumped as much air as I could manage in and out of my chest. “Well, that’s horrible.” he pronounced. Tinpis  has a charming bedside manner, but he cares  about us. We know it and it counts. I don’t remember the mumbo-jumbo syndrome name, but it basically means that my entire airway system from behind my eyes to the bottom of my lungs has been Pearl Harboured by some very nasty bugs. I actually don’t feel as bad today as I did yesterday, but I’m toppling over more often, since my balance mechanism is basically shot.

Never mind. I have a week of something reasurringly named Augmentin Duo which I shall dutifully down twice a day until I’m back to fighting strength.

We’ve had a sunrise draught lately. This is the best one that I can come up with for the last week:Still, not bad for this season.

This is the thoroughly exasperating little Black-Spotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus).  I say exasperating because it is the Carlos the Jackal  of fish – it never wants to have its picture taken:I caught this one just as it was diving for cover.

I don’t know why more underwater photographers don’t grab more images of coral. This Galaxea astreata  is a stunning little beauty:Measuring only about 50cm wide it packs a staggering array of colours and detail into a very small package. I put this image up at 2,000 pixels wide, so you might want to try it as a screen saver or background. It has plenty of detail.

I’ve been seeing some very nice Feather Stars lately. Usually, they’re not all that interesting and they are also difficult to photograph, because something is lost in the translation – I can’t really explain it. However this Comanthina schlegeli  turned out very pretty with the plate coral as a background:I find it amusing that they are sometimes waving their arms around madly and other times seem to be napping.

The Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)  is always a beautiful subject for photography. They come in many different colours and the anemonefish which inhabit them prefer a colour which matches their own, to some degree. You can’t see any anemonefish in this shot, just some female Purple Anthea and a couple of different Damselfishes:The shot above was exposed with the natural light from the surface. I prefer this lighting, because it more accurately reflects what I saw.

Here is the same specimen shot with the flash turned on. There are some advantages:You can see the brilliant colour of the underside of the anemone and the way the anemone is attached to the underlying coral.

I’m going to have to see how long it takes me to recover from this illness. It’s very dangerous to dive with severely blocked sinus cavities, not to mention painful. Some divers have suffered severe hearing loss from diving with even a simple cold. I’m known as the “old lady” of diving in Madang, since I insist on following the rules (at least as long as it doesn’t affect my  diving). I’ll be careful.

I want to be doing this when I’m 90.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blurry Fish and Barrel Sponges

Posted in Under the Sea on February 6th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Sometime I like amuse myself by going back through my accumulation of thousands of underwater images to find the ones which I first rejected as real.  Usually this rejection has to do with some technical fault such as bad focus (usually an image-killer), impossibly filthy water (sometimes fixable by laboriously removing the spots) or motion blur. Of the faults, motion blur is the easiest to turn into art. It sometimes generates a very interesting image. Here is a Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides)  which I tried to capture with a shap shot at Magic Passage:

The attempt, as you can see, failed miserably. Both the fish and the background are blurred. Nevertheless, a tiny, nagging tickle in the back of my skull kept mumbling, “Play with it, idiot.” I always pay attention to these messages from my id. As you can see, with a little work, the wasted pixels redeem themselves. A mistake becomes art. I don’t know if I’d want to hang it on the wall, but it provided me with a few minutes of not  thinking about computer networks. That’s a blessing.

Here is another one that I saved from the bit dumpster. The Silver Sweetlips (Diagramma pictum),  one of my favourites, hangs out in mobs at Magic Passage. You can find many more images of them here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi by putting “pictum” in the search box. Is is a very beautiful fish:You can see in the shot above that the background is relatively unblurred (relatively, as I say) but the fish was moving quite smartly. This transforms the beautiful yellow spots of the sub-adult into concentric yellow arcs which give the image the impression of some kind of weird, mustardy fingerprint. Fingerprint? Okay, let me reboot . . . nope, still reminds me of a fingerprint. What can I say?

At any rate, a strange piece of chintzy art is better than wasted pixels. I might actually hang this one. No, wait. I’m far too lazy.

Here’s a shot of the Silver Sweetlips sub-adults hanging in the current. These are very chilled-out fish:

They gang up like sulky teenagers on the corner by the liquor store, waiting for some sucker to buy them a bottle. I’m sure that if there were an equivalent of Mary Jane for fish, this mob would be toking up.

I did mention something about Barrel Sponges.

Here are two Barrel Sponges (Xestospongia testudinaria)  at Magic Passage, right in the area of the highest currents:
When Barrel Sponges get really big, they are very heavy and present a huge surface area upon which a strong current can push. It’s not surprising that they occasionally get knocked over. Here you can see one that is hanging on and one that has been toppled. Not to worry, the severely tilded sponge can continue to grow. When knocked down like this, the sponge continues to try to grow up towards the light, so some of the ones which have been over on their side for a long time have very peculiar shapes.

I’ll wrap up with this anemone with one little anemonefish guarding it:
I have one hour left to load the boat and get to the pick-up point for our regular Saturday dive. I’m outta here.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Bearded Fish and Some New Features

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 15th, 2009 by MadDog
No Gravatar

I’ll start with the geeky, boring stuff. I’ve added two new features and made one other change to Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  The new features are not obvious until you look for them.

First, I’ve added what’s called Related Posts.  You won’t see them when you come in the “front door” by using our main address, for instance, if you have us bookmarked. However, if you come in on a “single post” link, such as you might do from a search engine result or from a Facebook link or a dozen other ways, you will see HOME at the top of the sidebar and, if you go down to the bottom of the post, you will see a selection of posts that directly relate to the content of the post you are currently reading. This is handy for me and for you. I don’t have to constantly think of posts related to the current subject that might also interest you and you can easily find other posts that have similar content.

If you arrived from a bookmark to Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  you are on the “front door” (all recent posts) page. You will see no HOME in yellow at the top of the sidebar. If  you want to see posts related to the one you are reading, all you have to do is click on the title of the post  and you will be taken to the “single page” version of that post. At the bottom, you’ll find the related posts. I did it this way because the “front door” page would become impossibly long if each post also included related posts.

The other thing that I’ve added is a gizmo that allows you to be notified by email whenever a comment is left on a post on which you have commented. This is a great way to keep discussions going. You don’t have to go back to a post to see if anyone has replied to your comment.

When you leave a comment by clicking on the “Comments” link at the bottom of a post (and I encourage you whole-heartedly to do so), you will see a new little checkbox just below the “Submit Comment” click target. It says, “Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.” That’s exactly what will happen, supposing that you have given your real email address. (It’s surprising how many nasty comments that I get which have bogus email addresses. I don’t approve them for display. I just delete them.) You will know when I or someone else replies to your comment and if anybody else chimes in. Thanks, Robert of Trupela Tok  for suggesting this feature.

Finally, in response to regular readers with slow connections, I’ve reduced the number of posts shown on the “front door” page to seven down from fifteen. This should make the loading time less irksome. If you think that you’ve missed something (tragic, I know), you can always use the “Previous Entries” link at the bottom of the page.

Okay, let’s get to some images.

Here is a rather poor shot that I got at Planet Rock  last Saturday. As long as you keep it small, it doesn’t look too bad. There was a lot of particulate matter in the water, so the blue is lumpy and speckled. It would have taken hours to clean it up and it still wouldn’t have been publishable. Still, here in the journal, it’s pretty and interesting:

Swarming Anthea with a diver in the distance

The diver is Dr. Pascal Michon of Divine Word University. The fish are some species of Anthea. 

Here is a fish that I have been trying to capture for a long time. It is a kind of Grouper and has the unusual name of the Spotted Soapfish (Pogonoperca punctata).  Aside from it’s unusual name, note that it has a beard:

Spotted Soapfish (Pogonoperca punctata) at Planet Rock

No, I don’t know what the beard is for. They are quite shy and usually hide under coral ledges where it is hard to see them. My dive buddy Albert Serra Pou spotted this one.

I was curious about the common name – soapfish ??  I found this on SaltCorner.com:  “As with all soapfish, if stressed, it may release a toxic substance (grammistin) from the skin that could kill itself and all tankmates. Prevent any stressful conditions in the tank!” I gues that explains it.

Here is a dramatic image of the incridible flourescent Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  at about 23 metres on the east side of Planet Rock:

Incredibly red Bulb Anemone at Planet Rock

You have seen it before here. I admit to dramaticising the colours . . . mmmm, slightly. For art’s sake, you understand.

This prickly looking thingie is a Feather Star or, more properly a Crinoid. I think that it’s a Comantheria briareus,  but it’s pretty hard to tell. The colours of Feather Stars are somewhat variable and sometimes you have to count the “arms” and look at the “feet” to tell which species you are looking at. Since touching them causes a lot of damage (the arms stick to you and pull away from the animal), it’s not worth hurting them to determine which species it is:

Feather Star (Comantheria briareus)

Last, but my trophy kill of the day, is a Checkerboard Wrasse (Halichoeres hortulanus):

Checkerboard Wrasse [intermediate phase] (Halichoeres hortulanus)

As with many fish, many Wrasses go through two or more phases of life during which they display dramatically different colours and body details. This individual in in the Intermediate Phase, between baby and adult. Like most teenagers, this fish believes that being seen in fashionable clothes is the key issue.

By the way, this is one of the best specimin shots that I’ve ever been lucky enough to snap. What you see is what you get.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hodgepodge

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on August 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
No Gravatar

If you Google define: hodgepodge one of the definitions that you’ll find is “a motley assortment of things”. That’s what you’re getting today. By the way, I’ve found that a lot of people don’t know that you can play with Google in that way. If you start your Google search with “define:” (without the quotes) and follow it with a word, it’s the quickest way to get a definition of the word. There will always be a selection of definitions from several sources. Here is a link to a Google page containing many special search features.

Enough of that – on with the hodgepodge.

We had another of those clear-sky sunrises this morning. It was distinctly unexciting. There were only a few strange, wave-like clouds in the north-west:

Ho-hum sunrise

If I remember my meteorology rightly from my piloting days, these high-altitude wavy clouds indicate huge turbulence. I wouldn’t want to fly through that.

I did manage to get another nice shot at my neighbour’s haus win. As with the last one like this, you can see the Flying Foxes over Madang Town:

Flying Fox Sunrise

They come in from the bush every morning by the thousands. It’s easy to hear their screeching across the harbour.

I haven’t been diving much lately. I’m suffering through a severe shortage of dive buddies. I don’t know how I’m going to fix that. If I don’t come up with some new divers soon, the Saturday morning dive will be a thing of the past. A couple of weeks ago I got this shot of the “Ice Cream Cone” coral in Kranket lagoon:Ice Cream Cone Coral at Kranket Island

And this Sailor’s Eyeball, the largest single-celled organism on the planet. This one was about the size of a golf ball. The entire organism is a single algae cell:

Sailor's Eyeball - the largest single-celled organism in the planet

Yesterday, I found this beautiful purple anemone on the big reef just west of Kranket Island:

A beautiful purple anemone

There was a bit of surge on top of the reef. The tentacles were waving like Medusa’s hair.

Speaking of surge, we’ve had some very rough seas lately as our belated dry season seems to finally have arrived just about in time for it to be over. Over on Coronation Drive, some boys were surfing on the waves:

Kids surfing on Coronation Drive

They were getting excellent runs on little rectangles of plywood. Some boys were getting runs of nearly a hundred metres.

Tags: , , , ,

Still Hungry? Have Some More Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on August 8th, 2009 by MadDog
No Gravatar

I’m still catching up with myself on posts, since I was out of commission for three days hammering away on Photoshop for two magazine articles. I finished about forty images, so I will have some left over for probably one more article. I just have to think about what to write about. That’s always the hard part. The images are easy and fun, as long as you don’t hit it for more than about twelve hours at a time. If you do, you get a terrible headache and then you have to drink some beer. Being a free-lancer is a hard life. You get to have fun for twelve solid hours and then drink some beer. I don’t know how I can stand the pressure.

I showed you this Bulb Anemone some time ago. I never was satisfied that I captured the extraordinary colours that I saw with my eyes. Sometimes the combination of the sensor technology in the cameras and the way Photoshop interacts with the images does not reproduce the colours as they were seen. That’s where the work comes in. I worked for about an hour on this one, just to get the colours right. I’ve never seen another anemone this colour. The whole field of them look ghostly white from above. I think that they are sick:

An ethereal Bulb Anemone

It’s very pretty, even if it doesn’t look real. That’s the way I saw it.

While we’re on things that most people never see, have a look at the head of this Crocodile Fish. I’m too lazy at the moment to look these critters up in my fish book, but someday I will come back and add the taxonomic names and put them in as tags. That gets me a lot of hits on the site from people who are looking for images of specific creatures:

Crocodilefish

Have a nice dream about that one tonight.

Coral Trout – Coral Cod – these are local names and not to be trusted for identification. They are pretty, anyway:

Coral Trout or Coral Cod - as you please

And, YES, this fish is actually as red as the image makes it look. If you get the sun on it at the right angle, it’ looks like a plastic toy:

A truly drastic Coral Cod

You have to click to enlarge to see the bright blue spots on the skin. The Coral Cod above was shot under the wing of the B-25 bomber at Wongat Island. Part of the reason that it looks so bright is that I had to use flash to get the shot. I really prefer to work with natural light, but sometimes there is just not enough of it.

Time for one more shot. This is not a great cuttlefish shot, but it’s the best one that I have, so far. They are actually pretty easy to photograph, since they are so curious and tend to hang around until somebody scares it and it disappears with a puff of black ink left in its wake:

Cuttlefish

It seem as if I’ve missed more cuttlefish shots than just about any other critter. Either I don’t have my camera, or somebody else sees one and doesn’t let me know. I just hate it when I get back on the boat and somebody says, “Did you see the fantastic __________ ? (Fill in the blank). I just smile and reach for a cigar.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,