Care for a Little Wine With Your Fish?

Posted in Under the Sea on February 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Four days of drugging myself unmercifully have relieved me of most of the symptoms of what seemed, at first, to be a bad cold. Not so. Feeling much worse each day, I eventually went for the Cipro. One day later, I was nearly human again. On Saturday, I felt well enough for a little dive at Pig Island  on top of the reef. Despite poor lighting, I got some nice pictures.

TELIKOM, having “fixed” my phone for exactly two hours until the dial tone disappeared once again, forced me to drive to the office this morning to access the web. Not a bad thing, since I got this lovely shot of the Finisterre Mountains from the balcony of the Coastwatchers Motel restaurant:So, what’s this about wine? Well, I saw some Sea Grapes (Caulerpa racemosa)  on my dive and hacked them into the title of the post, that’s all:It’s a kind of sea weed, so I wouldn’t expect a fine vintage from them. I’m not even sure of the species name. The info on the web is a little confusing.

The beautiful little Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)  is always fun to shoot, that is, if you can get them to stay still long enough:They tend to flit from perch to perch about every five seconds as long as you are close to them. Fortunately, that is enough time to grab focus and click.

Here’s one that you haven’t seen here before, because they usually hide so well that you can see only their bright blue eyes. They are Split-Banded Cardinalfish (Apogon compressus):The water was nice and clear at Pig Island,  but the light was poor, since there was an overcast. Still, I managed a pretty reef scene in which I can identify about a dozen different species:These Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus)  are exasperating. It’s almost impossible to get a side-on shot of one. They always try to keep their tails toward you:I suppose that that is a good escape technique, since it presents the smallest visible area for a predator to lock in on.

You’ve seen the Arc Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)  here many times, but you’ll have to see another one now, since I never get tired of shooting them:I’m sure that there are prettier fish in the sea.

However, for today, this one will have to take the winner’s place.

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The Arc-Eye Hawkfish and a Weird Sponge

Posted in Under the Sea on October 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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I pushed the shutter button about a hundred times on Saturday’s dive at Magic Passage. Yesterday, I showed you some shots that took some major work to come alive. Today, it will be a mixed bag, some that came out of the camera requiring little work and some that required a gentle massage.

One thing that I like to do it to get what we call “specimen” shots. These are images that show the characteristics of the species in as much detail as possible and capture the natural colours. If you are looking a good fish reference book, you’ll see the fish exactly as it appears when it’s right in front of your eyes at, say ten metres, where I got the next two shots. I like to do specimen shots, because it tests all my skills at once. It has to show the fish clearly for identification purposes. It has to display the natural colours. Moreover, hopefully, it will be aesthetically pleasing.

Once in a great while, everything works out just right and it’s as easy as falling off a log to get a good specimen shot. This time I was very lucky and got two nice images from different angles of the same individual under the same conditions. Meet the Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus):

Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)

I am very fond of all of the Hawkfishes. We have several species here and they are all very lovely little creatures. I tend to take an anthropocentric view of the “why” of all of the wonderous beauty of nature. It’s that way because I’m here to appreciate it. It’s philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but it satisfies my pragmatic approach to deep thinking.

Here’s the second shot from the front. Isn’t it a splendid critter? If you were a Hawkfish of the opposite gender, you’d fall in love instantly:

Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)

If you haven’t had enough Hawkfishes, you can see more here, here, here, here and here.

Now we go from something strangely pretty to something pretty strange. Believe it or not, this is a metre wide sponge. That’s not huge as sponges go. Some barrel sponges are much larger. This is an overhead shot. All those holes are there so the colonial organisms that make up the sponge can feed and breathe:


Here is what it looks like from the side. This is a rather large specimen, being a little over thirty centemetres high:


I don’t do a lot of diver shots, because I’m usually so busy trying to get that perfect image of some critter that I don’t yet have in my collection. I do like this shot of Amanda and Greg finning along above the edge of the passage:

Greg and Amanda

Here’s a shot of Monty Armstrong getting ready to reboard Faded Glory  after the dive.

Monty Armstrong

I’ve lost a huge percentage of the former diver mob that used to come out on Saturday. There seems to be little interest in diving in Madang these days. I hope that’s not a trend that will continue. Otherwise, I’ll be doing a lot of solo dives on Saturdays.

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The Aquarium in My Front Yard

Posted in Under the Sea on November 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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With my dive count now over two thousand, it’s amazing to me that all but possibly a hundred have been within a ten minute boat ride from our dock. This must surely make me one of the luckiest divers on the planet.
Since I’m feeling so lucky today, let me show you some of the lucky shots that I got this morning with Tris, Tracey and Pascal.

I’ve seen this fish around many times, but have only today been able to get a photo of one. I can identify most local fishes generically, if not specifically, but I haven’t bothered to look this one up yet. I usually don’t bother to learn a lot about a certain species until I have a photo of it that I can label with it’s taxonomic name. I usually go by common names, as do most divers:

Mystery FishFor now, I will call it “The Mystery Fish.”

This toothy little horror is Clark’s Anemonefish. The teeth are real and they do hurt when they bite. What’s more, they like to bite:

Clark's Anemonefish

Here’s another anemonefish that is not so feisty. This is the Pink Anemonefish. The interesting feature of this show is the oral disk of the anemone at the centre of all the tentacles. This is, of course, where the anemone puts its food for digestion. I fed an anemone half a banana once. (Yes, divers get bored.) It seems that they will eat just about anything. It took about fifteen minutes for it to ‘swallow’ the banana. I didn’t wait around to see if it coughed it back up:

Pink Anemonefish and Magnificent Anemone

The other interesting thing about oral disk is that it is where many of the anemonefish sleep.

Here’s some beautiful yellow anthea of some kind frolicking around in the coral:


Everybody recognises this mean looking fellow. It is, of course, the giant moray eel:

Giant Moray Eel

This particular fellow was being very uncooperative. Every time I tried to get close enough for a shot, he’d pull his head back into his hidey hole. They are usually not so shy. In fact, the situation is usually the exact opposite – staying far enough away so as not to scare yourself into soiling your wetsuit.

We’ll end up with two cute and harmless cousins – members of the hawkfish family.

This is the Arc-Eyed Hawkfish. Explaining the name would be superfluous:

Arc-Eyed Hawkfish

And, this grumpy but passive little guy is the Freckled Hawkfish:

Freckled Hawkfish

Again, the origin of the common name is obvious.

I’ve sometimes been asked why I capitalize all of the fish names. There’s some controversy over capitalization of fish names. I won’t get into that boring academic fussiness. I will just say that it’s common courtesy to capitalize proper names.

I ask myself if I was a fish, how would I introduce myself – how would it be written as a conversational snippet?

Maybe something like this:

I’d walk up to a table in a fashionable restaurant where seated is a ravishing woman. I’d take her hand, bow slightly, and say, “Hawkfish, Freckled Hawkfish.”

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More Fun at Magic Passage

Posted in Under the Sea on October 11th, 2008 by MadDog
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Today we went to Magic Passage for our Saturday morning dive. There was a fairly strong incoming current and the water was very warm.

Here is Tracey, Albert, and Anna heading out to the mouth of the passage:

Tracey and friends

At about twenty metres, Albert was frantically pointing under a ledge. I had to stand on my head to get a shot. It’s two spot-fin lionfish lurking next to a bright orange sponge. I was, of course seeing all this upside-down. I inverted the photo so as not to give you vertigo:

Spotfin lionfish

When we returned to the boat, I found out that he was actually trying to show me a painted lobster. Oh well . . .

Back up on top of the reef I spotted this arc-eyed hawkfish. It’s one of less common hawkfish in these waters:

Arc-eyed hawkfish

After our dive we went over to Pig Island for some snorkelling and sun. There were thousands of small fish swimming all around. We threw some bits of bread in the water and they gathered around us. Karen was mesmerized by them. I like this shot of “aquarium swimming”:

Karen in the aqarium

Even after all the diving that I’ve done, I still enjoy snorkelling as well. You don’t have to be concerned about a lot of gear and it is wonderfully relaxing, especially when the water feels like a warm bath.

I may as well show you this morning’s sunrise while I’m at it:

Just another sunrise in Paradise

Just another day in Paradise.

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Hawkfishes – Little Jewels of the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on March 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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It’s Saturday morning, so I’m off for a dive. I don’t have much time for composition, so I’ll just show you some pictures. (with apologies to those who have seen them a hundred times already)

I like the Hawkfishes. Unlike some other families, there’s not an ugly one in the bunch. (Click on a picture to see a bigger version.)

This is the Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus). The common name comes from the arc-shaped marking over the eyes.

Arc Eye Hawkfish

Here’s a Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri). They start out as youngsters with just a few freckles and get more and more as they age (hmmm . . . that seems to be the way my old body is turning out)

Freckled Hawkfish

Ah yes, the rare (except on the Henry Leith) Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). Anybody want to venture a guess where it got it’s name. I’d be tempted to call it the Jimmy Durante Hawkfish, but nobody under 60 would get the connection. Richard Jones took this picture with my camera.

Longnosed Hawkfish

Here’s the Pixy Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus). The name just makes me giggle.  Imagine a pixy hawk – let alone a pixy hawk fish. What a mish-mash of words.

Pixy Hawkfish

And, as so often happens when you think you know what you are looking at, along comes a fish you thought you knew, but it’s a completely different color. This is the Red Variation of the Pixy Hawkfish.

Pixy Hawkfish (red variation)

Okay, that’s enough for today. I hear thunder in the distance, so the dive may be off . . . nevermind.

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