Dive Day – A Little Surprise!

Posted in Under the Sea on June 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Saturday morning weather looked promising. It appears as if the dry season is arriving on time this year. This will be a great relief to the many people who depend on their gardens for their main food supply. I was feeling quite happy as I prepared Faded Glory  for departure.

I arrived at the Madang Resort Hotel wharf where we meet and rent air tanks for our little dive club from Sir Peter Barter’s dive shop, a generosity which allows us to go diving every week. Most of us could not afford to do that otherwise. As friends appeared, I noticed a strange look on some of the faces. They seemed to be looking over my shoulder as I was leaning over tending to some gear. When I turned around I did a double-take of movie quality. Grinning down at me was Roz Savage, who seemingly had not had enough of Mother Ocean. It was very pleasant to have her along and allow her to be simply “one of the mob”.

The lighting was all wrong for this cute shot of Geneviève Tremblay:

It looks as if she is about to be eaten by the big sea slug in the foreground. It was only about a half-metre long.

A week or so ago, Geneviève took this shot of me checking our anchor line. I don’t often get any decent pictures of myself. This miffs me a bit, because I never tire of looking at myself:Geneviève did a nice job of composing the shot, so all I had to do was Photoshop my love handles down to  less grotesque dimensions. One wants to look as good an one might. The emphasis is on might.  The amusement of exercise escapes me. I simply try to eat as little as possible.

I used up a fair bit of air chasing these Bigeye Trevally (Carnax sexfasciatus)  up and down over Planet Rock:

I was very lucky to catch the bubbles of a diver in the background.

Another treat was this Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  which allowed me to snap several shots before it tired of the game and rocketed off with a puff of ink:

Any day when you get a cuttlefish shot is a good day.

I like this one of the little fish hiding right next to the gaping jaws of a Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus):

Possibly they know that this is probably the safest place for them. If you stand behind a bully who ignores you, you are unlikely to be bothered by anybody else.

Though we were trying to allow Roz to enjoy not being the centre of attention for a few hours, I could not resist this shot as were were coming up the anchor line to Faded Glory  after our dive:

I can’t imagine a more perfect day.

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The Half-Eaten Gumdrop

Posted in Under the Sea on April 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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Once again, I find myself in the middle of the evening trying to catch up with the day. How did I hustle so much and accomplish nothing that I can call progress? It seems to be becoming a way of life. How thought provoking. The harder I work the less I accomplish. I spent half the day putting little tags on wires so that I can tell where they go. I’m drowning in wires! Throw me a life-preserver. No, wait. That’s a mixed metaphor. I’m strangled by wires! Throw me a hatchet.

This Bannerfish exasperated me from the moment I met it. First, I couldn’t get close enough for a shot. I had to chase it, something which I usually avoid, since it usually simply burns up oxygen. Then, when I finally set up a successful ambush, it sped away so fast that all I could manage was a quick panning shot. I’m surprised that it turned out so nice:More consternation arose when I tried to identify it. After a search through my pitiful collection of references I spent a few fruitless minutes with Google Images. No luck. Phooey!

UPDATE: Thanks to my old pal Tris  for jabbing me in the ribs to point out the the fish is not a Bannerfish at all, but a Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus).  Thanks for “helping” me, Tris.

The Bigeye Trevally (Carnax sexfasciatus)  at Barracuda Point  on Saturday were splendid. You don’t really have to chase them. You simply swim closer and closer as they whirl around.  This shot was snapped at less than two metres:I soon have to back off to slow my breathing. I let them meander around me for a minute or so and then join the procession again.

The problem with Trevally is that they are so blasted shiny! It’s very difficult, with a small-sensor camera such as my Camon G11, to get enough dynamic range to capture the dark and mid-range tones without blowing out the whites:Still, I’m happy with these shots. Even after chasing them, I still got two dives and over 100 minutes off of an 80 cubic foot tank. My gills are working just fine.

Here is a not too wonderful shot of some Midnight Snappers (Macolor macularis):The interesting bit is that we have adults and a couple of teenagers. The juveniles are black and white with spots and bands. You can still see a trace of the juvenile colouration and pattern on the two teens in the middle.

This is a perfectly normal Pyllidia varicosa  nudibranch:Vaguely amusing, eh? They are easy to photograph, so I tend to show you a lot of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re getting bored.

Okay, how about this one which has had a chunk bitten out by a predator:It’s the Half-Eaten Gumdrop mentioned in the title.

Many nudis remind me of some kind of fancy candy and, strangely enough, take me back to Vienna. The Austrians go for the fancy candy. There are shops which sell nothing else.

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So, So Blue

Posted in Under the Sea on February 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, now I’m only two days behind. No thanks to TELIKOM. For some reason known only to God and the local manager, I got a call this morning from a guy in the business department. He seemed to want to sell me a PABX system to fix my problem. I asked him if it had any copper lines going to the exchange. He didn’t know. I asked him if he knew anything about the USB wireless adapters that were announced for sale in April and still don’t work. He said he didn’t know. I asked him if he knew anything at all. He said he wasn’t sure. I think the local manager is trying to avoid me. Every time I call, he has “gone to pick up his kids at school” (funny thing for a manager to be doing in the middle of the day) or, “just stepped out”, or “in a team meeting”. Hah! Since his office is only a few steps from mine, that makes it a little easier for me. I can station one of my spies in the parking lot and he can inform me by walkie-talkie when the guy comes to his office. My means are many and nefarious.

I will not let this matter rest.

Never mind. I’m soon going to set up a wireless link between our big radio tower at our office and my house. I’ll have a fast 24/7 connection for absolutely nothing! I’m going to take my two TELIKOM handsets and throw them into the ocean where they will do the fish more good that they have ever done me. I’ll set up some Skype phones in the bedroom, lounge and our new J&E Enterprises Limited office and say “Goodbye and thanks for all the fish!” to TELIKOM forever. How glorious it will be to see the day when none of my communications have to pass through a single piece of TELIKOM’s crummy gear. Digicell will do me nicely for a portable. TELIKOM’s cell service doesn’t work half the time anyway.

I should possibly apologise to my readers who do not live in PNG and therefore do not understand the agony of trying to get simple phone service. My good mate Trevor Hattersley’s phone has not worked for five months. Most people simply give up and buy a cell phone. In fact, I believe that is exactly what TELIKOM wants. They want to abandon huge sections of copper cable that are so old that they can’t support even voice service. This leaves outlying small businesses stranded with no phones. Imagine owning a hotel (Such as Jais Aben) if your phones do not work half of the time. Yet TELIKOM offers no business alternative.

Okay, okay, enough for today. The pictures aren’t that great today either.

Today’s music is Pink Floyd’s Pigs on the Wing  from the ethereal Animals  album of 1977. It’s strangely in tune with my mood today. I also like Dogs  from the same album. Some of the lyrics bring tears to my crusty old eyes for their timeless poignancy. The guitar riffs are stunning.

Do you have to deal with people who think like this?

And after a while, you can work on points for style.
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake,
A certain look in the eye and an easy smile.
You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to,
So that when they turn their backs on you,
You’ll get the chance to put the knife in.

Sure, we all do. Sadly, some aspire  to that philosophy.

Never Mind. My task is only to show pretty pictures.

Here’s a little mob of Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)   who, happily, never have to make a phone call: Lucky little critters, eh? You’ll probably have to click to enlarge them.

This is one of the prettiest Feather Star images that I’ve managed:The lovely Lamprometra  seems to be in a state of grace, all curly and calm.

This is a sort of throw it out and see who likes it shot. It makes me think of looking down into a particularly nice aquarium at some friend’s house. He must be very good at his hobby:It’s a bunch of small Anthea  of some species that I can’t identify.

Some of you will recognise these Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)  from many other posts here. I shoot them whenever I get the chance:I think “conformists” when I look at this image. I don’t like the feeling. If I stare at it long enough I can see them moving. Must be all the drugs I’ve been taking the last few days.

I usually strive for natural colour. Of course, that’s not what you get from the camera. They usually look more like this:Sometimes blue is what you need.

From Animals,  I leave you with Sheep:

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out,
There may be dogs about
I’ve looked over Jordan, and I have seen
Things are not what they seem.


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Still More Fish – Nearly Caught Up Now

Posted in Under the Sea on August 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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Well, I’m actually writing Tuesday’s post on Tuesday. For the last three days, I’ve been play catch-up, since I had to hustle so much for some magazine articles that I am working on. I’m going to have to get Eunie to start cracking the whip two weeks before deadline times so that I don’t get so messed up again. I’m such a slacker. I never used to wait until the last moment for an assignment. I don’t like working under pressure. I don’t know what’s gone wrong in the last year or so. I seem to always be hurrying the last few days before a deadline and I don’t like that. I try not to let it affect the quality of my work, but I think that I’m really kidding myself about that.

Anyway, here’s a strange critter that could spoil your day much more than a missed deadline. In fact, if you were seriously stung by the spines on his dorsal fins, you could be dead,  not just late:


It’s one of the many varieties of Scorpionfish that live in our waters. Here’s another one:


From the front, it is very difficult to see the eyes. Try enlarging the image by clicking it and comparing it to the previous image.You might be surprised where you find the eyes in this image. The “monkey head” figure, is just a fluke of camouflage and the dark depressions where you might think to find the eyes is just a trick of the light and shadows.

The Dwarf Hawkfish, though only half as long as your finger, is so full of colour that it looks as if it were wearing a clown suit:

Dwarf Hawkfish

We have quite a variety of hawkfish here. I should mention that the SEARCH box on the sidebar of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  works quite well. Just enter “hawkfish” into the box and press <ENTER>.  You’ll see all of the posts in which the word appears.

Here is another shot that you may have seen before. I got this one at Planet Rock, I believe. It is a school of mixed Pickhandle Barracuda and Bigeye Trevally:

Pickhandle Barracuda and Bigeye Trevally

They tend to swim around in giant circles, so, if you get inside the circle, you can snap away happily for quite a while without having to chase them.

This is one of my best nudibranch shots. It is also one of our most colourful nudibranchs. The word means “naked lung”. You can see the breathing organs at the right side – the tail end:


Last, but certainly not least, is the Netfin Grouper. This fish seems somehow dignified to me, as if it were the undersea version of a banker or stock broker in a pin-striped suit. Whoops, maybe I did a little faux pas  there. Putting the word dignified in the same sentence with bankers and stock brokers these days might rub some people the wrong way. Oh well, it’s not for me to decide. I put my money under the mattress these days. I lose less that way:

Netfin Grouper

We’ll have to see if tomorrow something else pops into my head beside fish. I certainly hope so and that I have time to write about it.

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Ah, Sweet Saturday

Posted in Under the Sea on February 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The weather the last few weeks has been miserable, at least by Madang Standards. I don’t think that there has been a single day without rain. It has also been very cold. You have to remember, of course, that is tropical cold, not regular cold. When the mercury drops below 24°C (75°F), we call it cold.

However, this Saturday was sunny as reasonably warm. We went to Magic Passage. The surface conditions looked good – little current and clear water. Down at the bottom at about 3o metres, though, it was milky. The current was running sluggishly outward, carrying the foggy-looking water from the anchorage out to sea.

I did manage some interesting shots which I’ll give to you in a gallery without a lot of comment for a change:

The Bigeye Trevally shot is interesting. It was so murky at the bottom that there was virtually no colour. I decided to take advantage of this instead of moaning about it. So, I made the shot monochrome.

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Ocean Patterns

Posted in Under the Sea on January 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve always been fascinated by the infinite variety and complexity of natural pattens. I reckon that nowhere else on the planet are these patterns more striking and varied than in the ocean.

Sometimes the more mobile of the inhabitants can form patterns. These patterns are less rigidly organized and regular. They change from moment to moment. Here Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) hover in a cloud over plate coral:

A cloud of Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) hangs over plate coral

Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) form a solid mass of fish. This creates a mesmerizing pattern that looks artificial:

A solid mass of Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)

The spots on a giant clam mimic a leopard:

Giant Clam pretends it's a leopard

Extended coral polyps feed on passing yummy bits. The flower-like polyps extend starlike, gather food, and then clench like a fist to “swallow” the meal every two or three seconds:

Coral polyps feeding in the ocean current

Being less mobile, the stone-like skeletons of coral serve up more visual feasts. Here you can see that the plates under the growing edge of this coral are so thin that sunlight passes through and casts a golden glow:

Sunlight glows through thin coral walls

The familiar Brain Coral presents a treacherous maze:

Brain Coral - not as yukky as it sounds

Algae growing upon and within the coral can look like tree-lined streets between twisty rows of apartment blocks:

Twisty, tree-lined avenues on coral

A bumpy coral head doesn’t disrupt the persistent labyrinth:

The maze goes right over the hills on this coral

Evenly spaced alien vehicles travel along canyons on a strange planet:

Alien vehicles navigating twisty roads on coral

Holding with the alien theme, I wonder how many UFOlogists would swear that this photograph must show the skin of a visitor from another world:

Close-up of the skin of a reptilian alien discovered in my garden in Madang, Papua New Guinea

Some patterns are so strange that no appropriate title comes to mind:

Weird coral pattern that defies description

I snapped all of the coral pattern images above in a single thirty-minute dive. There were many more patterns, but I selected only a few, since there’s a time limit for staring at these things.

If you want to get trippy at work, download the larger versions of these images and use them for screensavers or desktop backgrounds.

It can make your head go funny.

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Trevally Fever

Posted in Items for Purchase, Under the Sea on December 21st, 2008 by MadDog
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At Planet Rock on Saturday, the Trevally were mobbing all around. The one that we often see in large groups is the Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus).

Here is a small group of Bigeyes:

Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) in a mob

One thing that I enjoy about the Bigeyes is that you can get very close to them with no worry that they will scatter. They seem not to mind:

Up close and personal - Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)

Another kind of Trevally, the Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus), is quite another fish entirely for the photographer. They love to dart around divers. They seem curious, but are probably simply hoping that these odd creatures will somehow produce a feed. They are nearly impossible to capture through the lens. This was a snap-shot:

Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus)

The composition is not what I’d normally like, but it does convey the sense that they are constantly on the move.

Here’s another shot of the Bigeye Trevally: 

"Bigeyes" a fine art numbered series print available from me.

The image above is one of a series that I have produced of 40 x 80 cm (16 x 32 inch) numbered prints using Epson archival paper and inks.* There are only four prints of each image. Each is numbered and signed by me. I’m selling them for K300 each. As with all original numbered series art, there will be no more of these produced in the same format once the series is sold out:

Next week, I’ll post a gallery of the entire series. Anyone interested in purchasing one of these prints can contact me by email.

*The thumbnail links to an image that is purposefully degraded so that it can’t be printed large without looking terrible. I do this to protect those who have purchase prints from me. The originals are full of rich detail.

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