Guest Shooter – Jo Noble – Handy With a Camera

Posted in Guest Shots on March 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Being a born narcissist and a photographer, I should have a few more images of myself, eh? I just never got into it. It seems creepy to me. Beside that, when I do try it, I usually hate the result. Maybe I should practice a little. The swing-around screen on my new Canon G11 should come in handy.

Having Jo Noble along on my last trip out to the Balek Wildlife Reserve was a treat in more ways than one. Some motorcycle passengers can drive a rider crazy – always moving around, fighting the balance, leaning the wrong way. Jo is as steady as a rock, even when she’s waving her camera around taking very cute shots like this one:There are several shots in this post that remind me of  The Lowman Loop – Boise, Idaho – A Motorcycle Ride to Heaven.

Jo also goes out with us on Saturdays on Faded Glory.  She got this shot of me which I like very much:I call it The Thousand-Year-Old Man.  You could use this as an illustration in a book about Neanderthals.

Jo swings her camera around with her eyes. I like that in a photographer. It’s all about recording your vision of the world. Here’s a beautiful snap of Four-Mile Market:Nice composition.

She also has the capacity to aggravate me. I chased this dragonfly around until I was panting. She walked up to it and clicked:Okay, we’ve established that she can do macros and she’s not nearly as scary as I am.

When she turned her sword on me, I wasn’t convinced that the shot would be much good because of the backlighting. I almost chastised her for a technical boo-boo:

I’m glad that I didn’t. I would have embarrassed myself. It turned out to be a shot with a lot of visual appeal. Technical rules do not necessarily a good photo make. (That’s Yoda-speak. Speaking like Yoda, practicing, I am.)

Jo also digs “the moment”. This is what is missing in a lot of snapshots. Here the picture tells the story:When we saw that mud, we both decided that mud-wrestling was not on for today. She got the perfect moment in the turn-around, including my left foot off the ground as I wrestled the hog in a tight arc, nearly falling over.

Being a convenient moment, I sneaked off to the grass to . . . uh . . . you know. Jo caught me coming back looking all goofy and,  if I might say, macho and  she caught herself in the mirror and  the mud hole that had changed our plans:Bit of genius there, I’d say. I would never have thought of setting up such a complicated shot. She had it all lined up and was standing there waiting for me to step onto my mark.

What would a motorcycle ride be without a shot of yourself in the reflection off of your friend’s helmet:It would demonstrate a lack of imagination, I’d say. Jo didn’t fail the test.

Next time you take a friend for a ride on your Harley, choose one with a camera and smart eyes.

Thanks, Jo Noble, for a super Guest Shoot.

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Harley Madness – The Ride to Balek

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on February 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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After a week of being sick with sinusitis and bronchitis and not having time to take off of work to heal, I was ready yesterday to cut loose for an afternoon. Having a boss who is particularly in tune with my needs (my wife of 45 years, Eunice) gave me the privilege of saying, “I’m going for a Harley ride this afternoon, to which she responded, “Get out of here!” Long-term monogamy has its advantages.

My dear wife was likewise approving of my riding companion, Jo Noble, who had been . . . ah . . . shipwrecked here in Madang for several months. Jo is the Steward (I think that is the correct term) on a large yacht which is here in Madang awaiting major repairs before traveling on to where it is that large yachts go. I’m sure that I’ll never know. Jo is the very nice young lady you met on our trip to Nob Nob for the post Lightning Down a few days ago. Here she is fooling around with the Harley on the road out to the mountains on the way to the Ramu Valley:

The road this far is “improved”, which means there are fewer giant potholes and the gravel is not so loose that you risk a rash at every corner.

We took a couple of breaks for photos. Here Jo tries to remember how ‘left’ and ‘right’ are somehow magically reversed as she attempts to photograph herself in the rear-view mirror of the Harley:

I didn’t ask to see the resulting image.

Our plan was to cross this river ford and ride for a few kilometres up into the beautiful mountains. However, when we looked at the deep mud at the ford, we decided not to spoil the day by wallowing in the muck with the Hog:

So, we turned around and headed back to town to the Balek Wildlife Reserve, using our noses to guide us to the famous “Stinky River”.

For this shot, Jo asked if I thought that she looked “too silly”. Little did she realise that she was asking the wrong person. Silly is a way of life for me. I’ve made a career of it. I think she looks just fine:

One wants to visit Balek in the morning hours. In the afternoon the giant limestone cliffs from which the spring emerges block out the light and make photography a challenge.

I did manage one nice shot of Jo in the cave with only the natural light coming in. The colours on the rocks in the cave are psychedelic:

On my last trip to Balek, I had forgotten about the giant eels. This time we managed to coax one out. This was the best shot that I could get:fdsa
There are several that live in the river, along with some fairly large turtles.

At the village, we got the classic “Baby in a bilum” shot:

Babies are normally hung in string bags from trees for their naps.

I hate to do a post without a weird critter shot, so here it is:

This giant millipede seemed to be curled up for a nap in the sun.

Back safely at the office, we coaxed Eunie out to take our picture with the Harley:

I needed a fun day. Sometimes we all do.

I got one!

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Stinky River – The Balek Wildlife Sanctuary

Posted in Mixed Nuts on January 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday we took a break from diving with our friends from Belgium, Anita, Wouter and Anita’s dad, Jos. We drove  out the road to Lae and the highlands until the pavement ran out, about fifty kliks out of Madang. Along the way, we stopped at a small park which I have not visited for about twenty years.

The Balek Wildlife Sanctuary is the home of what we call The Stinky River. It is a sulphur spring which bubbles out of a cave in the huge limestone escarpment along which the road runs to the Gol Gol River. Here is a shot of the cave entrance and the emerging stinky river:

If you find the smell of rotten eggs unbearable, you had better stay away. Hydrogen sulfide permeates the air. The colour of the emerging water, however, is quite startling. It is an unearthly blue colour. I’d guess that it’s loaded with copper compounds.

Here is the place, not far inside the cave, where the spring emerges:The white stuff is some kind of algae or bacteria that grows on the rocks in long, hairlike strands. The small river that is formed by a confluence of springs contains what appear to me to be some variety of trout. How they manage to survive here is beyond me.

UPDATE: I think that I may have found the organism in the Balek springs. Thanks to my Facebook friend, Len Zell for the tip about sulfur-based metabolisms which shot me off in the right direction. Another mate, Justin Friend, also sent one of his science guys out there to have a look and he came back with the same conclusion – sulfur. I Googled around until I stumbled onto Thiothrix,  which is a filamentous sulfur-oxidizing Gammaproteobacterium. It lives in sulfur springs and sewerage pipes, among other places. As soon as Pascal Michon returns from France, we’ll take a specimen over to Divine Word University and get it under a microscope. Hopefully, I’ll have images soon. Stay tuned.

The “wildlife” in Balek Wildlife Sanctuary needs to be taken with a grain of salt. There are many claims extant on the web for a variety of critters. The only wildlife that we saw, aside from a rather ferocious looking spider, were these two young Hornbills which are the “babies” of this nice old man. With wings clipped to prevent escape, They could fly short distances, but obviously preferred to stay close to their papa:

I’ve observed that many Papua New Guineans treat animals roughly with no consideration of pain and suffering. This is not surprising nor objectionable for people who traditionally have considered anything that moves as a potential meal. This old fellow (probably about my age) treated these young Hornbills as if they were his grandchildren.

The Papuan Hornbill is a stunningly beautiful creature. The adults have a crest along the top of the beak:The eyelashes amaze me. In adults they are very long and delicate. They are very inquisitive and often act like unruly children. There was once a resident Hornbill at a local hotel. Its favourite pastime was to harass the hotel guests. I you had a bag beside your lounge chair at the pool, the pesky bird would hop over (they hop on the ground in a most comical fashion) and remove all of the contents of the bag, often tossing items into the pool. It also thoroughly enjoyed biting toes. As long as you were careful not to allow it to get a toe into the back of its beak, where it could exert bone crunching strength, it was fun, in a creepy sort of way.

The garden is a bit sparse, but does include a magnificent display of Bird of Paradise plants:

There is also a huge pile of rocks in which lies the grave of Robinson Crusoe, so they claim. I find it amusing that they insist that this fictional character is buried here in our lovely Madang.

Other wildlife being scarce, we began to hunt. Wouter found this bizarre spider, about the size of a small coin:The Balek Wildlife Sanctuary is a nice spot to visit while in Madang. There seemed to be some doubt as to the proper entrance fee. I don’t think that they get many visitors. Since there were four of us, I offered K5 each and that was deemed acceptable.

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