Aussie Flag Over Bribie Island – Guest Alison Raynor

Posted in Guest Shots on December 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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A few days ago Alison Raynor sent to me some long-promised skydiving shots. Toogoolawah up in Queensland in Australia is an action centre for skydiving. Ali is a great source of beautiful photographs and amusing subjects. She has had some very nice Guest Shots on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. I’m happy to bring you this great story of skydiving in words and images. My thanks to Ali once again for giving me a break from navel diving.

I’ll let Ali tell it:

I took these photos at a Ramblers Display team jump at a Bribie Island community event. Doug Stewart is jumping the Aussie flag and has been doing this as part of the team for about 20 odd years. I think of him as “Fearless Fly.” The huge flag with all its lead-shot weight is packed very carefully into a big bag and clipped to his harness which hangs off his tummy. He lugs it all into the plane along with his parachute rig on his back and after his parachute is open and is flying safely he deploys the flag and weights. Nine out of ten times he lands it on the target in some really “tight spots.” This is one of those tight spots. It’s a postage stamp sized beach with a huge jetty on one side, the Bribie Passage (deep water channel complete with a large flotilla of small ships) on the other and a rock wall with about 500+ people looking onto the beach. There are also giant pine trees. Did I mention the raging SE wind blowing in off the sea? Anyway, these blokes are seasoned old skydiving pro’s with not one dare devil amongst them. These are calculated events. After weighing up all situations and risks the answer is usually . . . “Geronimo!”

The Demo team has jumped into many situations over the years and this was just another day’s work really.

Doug flies a large canopy designed for accuracy rather than speed. It is more manoeuvrable, controllable and much more forgiving on landing.

Dave and Sarge land and wait for Doug and the flag to touch down. Egon, the ground crew rushes to the target to assist Doug on landing.

Doug drifts down. Ahhh, the concentration!

And down . . .

Not yet . . .

And down

The little bit of yellow in the left bottom corner is the edge of the target (not bad accuracy,considering the conditions). The lead shot bag is about to hit the sand and Doug will hit the ground almost simultaneously- note the distance to the ground – it’s all maths for Doug from here really. The bag and harness on the front of Doug is the “flag bag”. He deploys the flag after his parachute is open:

Doug was dragged base over apex while the other two tried to fight their way out from under the billowing flag.

Both Egon and Sarge missed Doug completely as they were enveloped under the flag . . . ha ha!

Sarge is also running to help Doug hand when he lands. It is called “catching” and is also done when tandem jumps are landing in stronger winds. The aim is to grab a steering toggle and pull it out to full length, so as to collapse the canopy and prevent it re-inflating in the strong wind and dragging the pilot, but guess what . . .

Egon fights his way out of the flag and comes to the rescue as Doug digs his knees in to fight being dragged. Meanwhile Sarge is still lost under the flag and Dave is looking and laughing at the circus.

I may have gotten some of the images attached to the wrong captions. I wasn’t quite sure about it. I think that I have the sequence right, but I know little about skydiving. Ali will let me know if I got them mixed up.

Ever since I did my first skydive in Cairns I have wanted to do it again. Since I am going back to Australia again next year, I plan to visit Toogoolawah with my friend Val Jerram who also wants to do some jumps. She has been hang gliding, something which I have not yet done. I was jealous. Now I am even with her. She’s done the hang glide and I’ve jumped out of an airplane. I’m sure that she wants to get ahead of me again in this crazy race.

It’s gonna be fun!

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Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on August 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post won’t be windy. I’m winded. I had no idea that I was going to be so busy and feel as if I’m accomplishing so little. Yesterday evening was our last night with Trevor and Karen, who came down to Cairns to visit us. It was, of course, bittersweet. We left Eunie alone for a while to get pizzas to bring back to the room to eat while we watched a couple of movies.

Naturally, I had my camera with me and there is no such a thing as killing time if you have your camera in your hand. You can divert your attention to creating something, even if it is inconsequential. As I saw the variety of lights on the Esplinade, I got to thinking about lights. Brilliant, eh?

Man’s lights and the lights of nature – both illuminate. Some of man’s lights are beautiful. Think of the streams of glory from a stained glass window or the adrenaline beauty of fireworks. Others are horrid, such as the deadly flash of a thermonuclear bomb. Nature too provides a variety of lights, benign, such as the moon, or nurturing or deadly as chance may be in the sun’s rays:

Some of man’s lights are open to a wide range of artistic interpretation. Here I captured the tail lights of passing cars in a fifteen second exposure with the camera rather shakily balanced on top of a post:
The cars are mere streaks. Most people have blurred into non-existence. As I looked at the image in the preview, the title came to me instantly. Watch Long Enough – Everything Changes.

But some lights are different. They illuminate, but not through the sensations of the eyes. They illuminate the soul.

I positioned myself quite a distance away for this shot, so I think that I can honestly say that it is candid:Trevor and Karen dropped everything that they were doing, blew a bunch of hard-earned cash, and came to be with friends to share our suffering, cheer us up , provide necessary counsel, cry with us, laugh with us and shine some much needed light on the subject of hope. This is not to mention the practical details which Karen helped Eunice with – ones which I am not yet ready to face.

How many friends can you count that would do that?

This is the light of treasure.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wish that I had some news today. Eunie stayed up late last night watching movies and went to bed happy. Her colour seems to be improving – she’s less yellow. Her appetite has also improved. These are good signs for her strength which she is going to need in the future. We have not yet heard from the oncologist about our move to Brisbane, but it is only Tuesday afternoon as I write this. My own condition is fragile and I know that I cannot allow this to continue. I know that I will be better able to cope when we are in Brisbane with our friend Val, because she is a strong, take-charge woman and takes no nonsense from me. I will have to toughen up considerably to keep her from beating me up for being a wimp.

After decades of softening myself, sensitising myself, growing absurdly empathetic and always, always, learning that the more I give the more of what I need that I receive, I find myself now suddenly weak and ineffectual in situations where I need to be forceful and decisive.

It is a puzzlement.

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Crazy Fish – Crazy Bird – Crazy Day

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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Having Trevor and Karen with us this weekend has been a huge blessing. First I’ll show you some of our amusements. The view from the apartment balcony reminds me of home. It’s constantly changing. In the late afternoon the sky is often gaudy with colour:Yes, that is the moon up there. I’m not feeling very chatty and that makes me unhappy, because it is a good diversion to write with the hope of amusing both myself and others. I’m going to start taking a drug tomorrow which I hope will act as a mood elevator and help to allow me to function better. Stay tuned.

I used to fly helicopters. This shot of a Bell Jet Ranger dragging an undecipherable banner below it reminded me of lifting sling loads, something which always made me very nervous:

There is a big cultural art festival on in Cairns now, so the Esplinade is crowded with people.

From our balcony we could see a bizarre parade of exhibits passing down the street. As you can see from the brightness of the lights, it was getting quite dark by the time this crazy fish came swimming along:

We all decided to stay on the balcony to watch the fireworks show. As it turned out, that was not to be. We were somewhere else when the booms began.

Earlier in the day, as Karen, Trevor and I were walking down the street we spotted a bird which none of us had seen before. I got a very nice shot of this Lapwing or Spurwing Plover (Vanellus miles).  I think it qualifies as a fairly crazy looking bird:

I Googled around after Karen found the name of the bird and was quite smug to find not a single image of it that is better than this one. Too bad about the ruffled feathers.

UPDATE: Good buddy Justin friend provided an amusing bit of information about this strange bird:

The Masked Lapwings are not plovers, although for a long time that bird pictured was incorrectly identified as a spurwing plover till …it was moved across to the lapwing family. Most locals still call it a plover, I grew up calling them plovers, but it is indeed the Masked Lapwing.

Thanks for that tidbit, Justin.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Last night we met with our oncologist, Dr. Paul Eliadis. I suppose that the news could have been worse, but it was certainly bad enough. Eunie almost certainly has a rare type of cancer commonly called Bile Duct Cancer. It is not something that you want to have. Nobody wants to hear the word “serious” coming from a doctor’s lips, but that is how he described it. You can Google it, if you like, but I’m going to avoid doing that and take the doctors’ advice day by day. There was immediate talk of treatment options and the doctor got on the phone with a colleague in Brisbane during our extraordinarily late consultation at nine in the evening (explaining why we missed the fireworks) to get the wheels in motion for our relocation to Brisbane.

As I sat there with Eunie, Trevor and Karen in his office, I felt the planet turning under my feet. How I wish it were me instead of her.

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Guest Shooter – Cairns Through Karen Simmons’ Eyes

Posted in Guest Shots on August 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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Today was a good day, because we would be very alone without our friends and two of our best are here with us in a time of need. Yesterday I worked a bit in the afternoon and later in the evening with Karen Simmons, who has a very nice Olympus SP590UZ camera, but wanted to learn how to do some things a little more exciting than snapshots. I was only too happy to oblige.

We started out on the balcony with lessons about shutter speed and aperture, probably the two most important fundamentals one needs to understand about a camera. It’s not rocket science, but they are things which casual shooters are probably not thinking about.

After a while, Karen was understanding it all, but getting restless. We started on the fancy options of her camera. One is a highly tricked-out panorama mode which actually builds the shot inside the camera so that you don’t have to fiddle with it in Photoshop. You just download the finished image onto your computer:That’s a very respectable image of the Cairns Marina from the balcony of the apartment. So far, so good. We’re into the advanced shots already.

Of course, we had to go down into the streets in the evening for the really fun shots, such as this UFO candidate which is actually the blurred lights of a passing car. Once Karen started to use the shutter speed priority setting on the camera to select a very slow shutter and she learned to brace the camera securely, she was able to take shots such as this until the novelty began to wear off:

It doesn’t take long. One thing leads to another.

There is a big festival on in Cairns now. On the Esplinade was a big tent sporting some action. It was good for Karen to have a go a what I would consider nearly impossible shots:

Though just about every condition for a decent shot is missing here, she still managed to grab a decent image of some Torres Straits Islanders performing a traditional dance.

This is my favourite of Karen’s shots for the night. Simply placing the camera on a flat surface for bracing allowed this beautiful low shutter speed image, as long as the girl didn’t move:

Fortunately, she was sitting quite still.

This is another real beauty. The lighting and composition here is very pleasing. Karen was amazed at the shots she was getting with just a little understanding and practice:

She managed to catch the single swimmer playing with the water gushing from the fountain.

Karen wanted to shoot the fountain close up to catch the water spray. I told her that I didn’t think it would be possible with the amount of light available. I was both right and wrong. There was not enough light to freeze the drops, but what she wanted was the impression of the flowing streams:

After fiddling with the camera for a while, she got exactly what she wanted. Frankly, I would not have thought to do this, but it is an excellent image technically and the composition is very interesting.

One thing that people who fancy themselves as good photographers sometimes lose is the crazy spontaneity that sometimes produces a very amusing image. Here is a beautiful example of what I’m talking about.

Again, I would never have thought to try this shot. It’s nearly impossible to get the timing right.

Fortunately for me and you, Karen didn’t know that. My advice is don’t learn too  much. You’ll start thinking like a geek.

Good on ya, Karen.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Tonight we see an oncologist for the first time concerning Eunie’s condition. I can never remember feeling more anxiety in my life. It is the first time that we may have a chance to catch a glimpse of the future. If you know my wife, you very likely already love her. She is simply that kind of person. If you are a thinker, think good vibes in her direction. If you’re a prayer, pray for a merciful verdict this evening.

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Karen’s Most Excellent Adventure

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Our dear friends Trevor Hattersly and Karen Simmons came yesterday to stay with us for the weekend. What a pleasure it is to have them here. I’ll talk more about why at the end of the post.

While I’m at it, I’ll explain my tactic for keeping Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  a pleasant place to visit while still giving information concerning Eunie’s medical condition. I’ll present my usual weirdness in the beginning of each post. Casual readers can, as usual, like it or not, according to their tastes. At the end each post I will give any news concerning Eunie. This seems to be the best way to keep the character of the journal as it has been in the past, while still giving out information which is of concern to some readers.

So, if you’re here for the distraction or frivolity, read as far as you like and then go your happy way. If you’re here for the news, try to wade through my craziness and continue to read to the end.

My assignment yesterday evening was to deliver some terribly technical photographic instruction to Karen, who wanted to be able to use her Olympus SP590UZ camera more creatively. Since I’m not a “press that button and don’t ask questions” kind of guy, it required a nighttime field trip to demonstrate the techniques.

Our first stop was in the hotel lobby to talk about low light, slow shutter speeds and white balance:

I can’t believe how funky my shoes look. Those shoes are not me!  Karen’s pose seems to imply intense concentration. Today, I’ll present the images which I took. Tomorrow, Karen will be our Guest Shooter with the images from her camera.

Our first street expedience was to talk about camera bracing and the use of slow shutter speeds to get interesting motion blur effects. Here I braced my Canon G11 on top of the rear view mirror of a car and waited for Karen to tell me when vehicles were coming so that I could get some blurred tail lights:

The blurring of the cars changes what would be a pretty ordinary image into something a little more dynamic. This was a one second exposure.

Still on the subject of motion blur and slow shutter speeds, we moved over to the ocean side of the Esplinade along the sea wall to catch some Phantom Walkers, also shot at a slow shutter speed with the camera sitting on a sign post:

People who were sitting relatively still are sharply defined. Those who were moving are blurred. It’s not rocket science.

All modern digital cameras have a variety of “Scene” settings. Some of these are very useful, because you can’t easily set the camera up manually to create the same effect. On this one we used the “Night Snapshot” setting on the G11 to get Karen sitting primly by the swimming pool with the fountain in the background:

For this setting the camera needs to be braced or on a tripod to keep the background from blurring. The total exposure time was probably a half second or more, so the camera must be held absolutely still for that period of time. At the end of the exposure, the flash goes off, hopefully properly exposing the foreground. One can get some very interesting shots with this setting.

On our way back to the apartment, we were startled out of our wits by the sudden appearance of two tiny UFOs, which whizzed past us up Aplin Street heading in the direction of the outback:

They were accompanied by weird “wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa” noises that faded away into the warm tropical night leaving behind an ominous silence. We waited in intense anxiety for a second or two and then went upstairs. “I don’t think they noticed us.” was my cautious comment.

The final lesson of the evening was a nice little panorama of Cairns at night, at least the part that we can see from the balcony:

All in all, a very pleasant experience. Karen seemed quite pleased to see what she could do with her camera. There will be more lessons later.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tonight, at the unusual hour of 21:00 we will be seeing a top-notch oncologist at the office of our surgeon. The oncologist operates out of Brisbane at a hospital which specialises in these disorders. Our hope is that he will tell us that Brisbane is our best logistical option. We have excellent support near Brisbane. Trevor and Karen’s presence here this weekend is a genuine blessing. Karen spent the afternoon yesterday investigating on the web information that Eunie needs, but I simply cannot deal with at the moment.

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With a Little Help From Our Friends

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, as much as I find it discouraging, it is proving impossible for me to do daily posts. This is very irksome for me, as writing provides some down time and a bit of escape. I am hoping that once we settle down to some kind of routine, I will be able to set a time during the day when I can concentrate on my journal. I need it. Many enjoy reading it. I don’t want its character to change. I need something stable in my life right now.

On Saturday night, we enjoyed the company of friends at the home of Tony and Lorraine Collins in Cairns. Recent developments with Eunie’s health have placed us in Cairns for the unforeseeable future.

Here is the happy gang at the dinner table:

Eunie is on the close end of the table next to the empty spot. I was standing on a chair to take the shot. Tony’s magnificent BBQ skills were in top form. I had some Rosemary Lamb that was ethereal.

Max provided the major entertainment for the evening with his incredible Celestron computer guided telescope:It took a while to get it set up. As you can see, it is thirsty work.

After viewing some fantastic images of the terminator line on the moon on his laptop screen, we retired back to the table to view and devour The Amazing Cake:

I’ve seen cakes like that in shop windows. I had no idea that they were actually meant to be eaten. It seems somehow wrong, like using a Rolls Royce to haul your junk to the landfill.

After decimating The Amazing Cake, the moon had retired and Max went looking for “other things”:

The best that he could come up with was a Woolworth’s sign many kilometres away which filled the entire screen with the big, red letters, “Wool”.

We are still waiting for more information. An oncologist from Brisbane is coming to Cairns on Thursday. We are expecting to see him then or the next day. The biopsy reports should be back by then. We are hoping that he will be prepared to recommend a course of treatment at that time. It looks most likely now that we will be in Australian for an extended period of time.

We desperately need to get our visas changed to Medical or we will need to leave the country in 90 days and return – a needless expense. We are hoping our credit cards will carry us until the insurance company begins to reimburse us for all of the medical costs, which have reached nearly A$10,000 already. We have to pay up front and wait until the insurance company pays us back.

I desperately wish I had good news, but we just have to play the cards as they are dealt.

I am astounded at the sheer mass of readers who have left comments, sent emails, or contacted me on Facebook (CrazyByChoice). I have always written about the relationship between me and Eunie and it appears that a lot of people other than me have come to love her also.

Peace to you, my friends.

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In Cairns and Stayin’ Alive

Posted in Humor on June 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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The good news is that the plane didn’t crash on either of my flights today. I was not detained by any authorities. I did not have my crouch sniffed by a beagle hound when entering Australia and I had a nice chatty cabbie on the way to the Hides Hotel. In short, none of the plethora of potential disasters eventuated.

Two minor glitches prevent me from taking up the normal amount of your valuable time today. One is this:

The wireless in my room does not work, despite “rebooting the access point” to encourage it. So, I have to work out in the hall. After paying for a room, I am disinclined to do this for long.

Also, I discovered that I do not have the right software to process all of the wonderful images which I took today and was so eager to show to you. I’m downloading the correct software out in the hall as I write this.

I have to get up at 04:00 in the morning to get a cab to the airport so that I can catch a plane to Brisbane. Then I can cool my heels for a while and wait for my flight to Nandi in Fiji.

So far the highlight of the day was an excellent pizza and two beers at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby – highly recommended, but probably not worth a trip to PNG just for that.

Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, by this time tomorrow I shall once again be in the proximity of my woman.

Very close proximity.

UPDATE – My software came in, so I can show you a couple of more shots which may or may not amuse you.

I am fascinated by the security checking process at the Madang Airport Air Niugini Terminal. It consisted today of the single question, “Are you carying anything dangerous in your bag?” I was tempted to say, “Only a camera.” but decided, for once, to keep my mouth shut:

To be fair, I must admit that she did open one zipper and peek in.

However, one may be assured that the floor in the terminal is perfectly safe, as this image clearly proves:

Good night and sweet dreams.

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