The Army Museum and Other Curiosities

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on April 20th, 2011 by MadDog
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I can hardly take in the fact that I have only three days left in Honolulu. As I’ve said already, it has been strange and disturbing to be here without Eunie, but I realise that these intensely unhappy feelings are going to be with me for a long time and I need to learn to deal with them. More distressing yet are the seemingly unending series of meetings, appearances and presentations I must take care of in order to properly discharge my responsibilities to my supporters. These were once obligations which Eunie and I attended to with confidence. Now it is the loneliest thing in the world for me.

Still, there have been some distractions which I have enjoyed. I had decided to go to the Army Museum, forgetting that Eunie and I had been there many years ago. I had a couple of false starts finding it. People kept giving me instructions like, “It’s right down there.”, pointing in some vague direction or, “Keep going until you’re almost to the water and look for the flags.”, indicating generally in the direction of the Pacific Ocean. Having finally found it I immediately recognised that I’d been there before and the inevitable weird feeling that there was something very important missing flooded over me. I toughed it out and went through the museum. You can cover the whole thing easily in an hour.

There are many well designed displays chock full of goodies for war buffs. Here is a nicely done display of all of the Japanese war planes which participated in the attack on Pearl Harbour:

The models were very beautifully constructed down to the finest details. All of them had tail numbers of planes which were in the attack and most gave the pilot’s name.

Here is a display of a period photo of Waikiki beach with a replica of one of the many machine-gun nests which were placed there in preparation for the expected invasion:

I tried in vain to find any other images of these defenses on the web – no luck.

No history of Hawaii’s role in World War II could be complete without the story of the 442nd. The motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was “Go for Broke.” It was composed of Japanese-American men, mostly from Hawaii. The tale is powerful and it is well told in the museum. These men proved their loyalty without doubt during their bloody battles with the German Army in Europe. They were one of the most successful and highly decorated units of the war. The price for this was paid in flesh. The casualty rate for the unit was extremely high.

I saw a couple of flame-thrower demonstrations when I was in the National Guard. My general impression was that I wanted nothing to do with them:

My opinion hasn’t changed at all after seeing this display once again.

I have done some wandering in other places. Here is a carefully composed image of what I not-so-jokingly call The Hundred-Million Dollar Mile:

Such naked displays of wealth can be found in countless breezy ports around the world. Honolulu hasn’t the glitz and sophisticated, snobbish class of the Euopean leisure nests, but it holds its head up when it comes to flamboyant spending.

I ducked my head inside the outer door of this establishment and eyed with great amusement the intimidating iron gate hidden just out of view of the aimless wandered. The stern warning, “MEMBERS ONLY” was enough to turn me away:

Ah, well, the Yacht Clubs in Lae and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea are much more welcoming, if not so ostentatious. The Madang Club, along with the Madang Game Fishing Association is a very friendly place where visitors are gladly welcomed. Maybe the principle here is that the farther away you get from the big money, the more hospitable the atmosphere becomes.

More in line with the common man’s reach and taste is this sort of yacht, the classic Hawaiian outrigger racing canoes:

This shot was taken on a Sunday morning. As you can see, it is a very popular sport.

I got all arty while composing this shot. It was a little tricky, because I was working against the rhythm of the small groups of canoes racing for the finish line. I wanted to capture the contrast of the small canoes, steeped in Hawaiian history, the glamorous yachts in the mid-distance and the cold, blank-faced buildings in the background. The image as it came from my camera was speechless. All of the elements were there, but the hues and light levels were all wrong:

It might surprise you that I spent more than an hour working on the image. The sky was all blotchy, pale white, so I made it blue. The buildings had an unnatural cyan cast and seemed very flat. I sharpened them, and the masts, warmed up the hue and boosted the contrast. It took a while to get just the look I wanted.  Moving down, the larger boats behind the canoes and the dock were deeply shadowed on the sides, so I brightened them up and removed a bluish cast which made them look strange. Finally, the canoes required a lot of work to make them look the way I wanted. It’s still a very ordinary photo, but it now speaks to me much more clearly. Except for the cost of a modest camera every three or four years, this hobby costs me nothing but time, which I count better spent than staring at a television set.

As my final gasp of artistic expression for the day, I’ll present Buildings and Sky:

Simplicity appeals to me, mainly because my life seems to be far more complicated than it needs to be. I looked up at these buildings against the dark blue sky and listened. Little observations, sounding much like me speaking to myself, began to whisper. . . See the faint cirrus streak connecting the tops of the buildings? See the stark contrast? See all those angled lines, some strong and some faint, barely observable? See the strong black columns intruding? See the reddish glow of the sunlight reflected from the coppery windows. The width and height of this image exactly match the Golden Ratio, which is supposed to be a most pleasing shape to the human eye. The buildings follow the Rule of Thirds.

It’s fun to see how much information can be crammed into such a simple picture.

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Your Thursday Morning Dog’s Breakfast

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes befuddlement settles deep into my cranium and all I can manage is a little walk around the yard and a scrounge through old images to find a scattering of thoughts and images to exercise my chosen writer’s discipline and fill some space. Each day I leave something here and take something away. The beauty of it is what I need please only me. The down-side is that if I find my own efforts unpleasing, I have nothing to show for my efforts but dissatisfaction. So, I muddle through.

But first, a sunrise:

My creative writing professor at uni was a hard taskmistress. We had to write 1,000 words every day in a jornal. It didn’t matter what it was about and it wasn’t graded. However we had to turn it in for checking each week and then we got it back to continue on. Most weeks I would review what I had written and a familiar phrase would pop into my mind, “What a dog’s breakfast!”

An unappealing mixture of many things… a hodgepodge… a disorganised mess… but probably still usable (or consumable in the case of food.) From the idea that a dog will eat anything and feeding it a mixture of whatever is on hand. (Unappealing because only the dog finds its breakfast appealing… if you see or smell the dog food in the morning, as you’re feeding the dog, it may well turn your stomach.)

“Those contractors didn’t do very good work and they made a real dog’s breakfast of that job.”

Not that I insinuate that my readers are canine. No. I simply mean that there are good days and bad.

So, off we go into visual pandemonium.

Let’s add a canoe to the sunrise:

This was a very mediocre shot right out of the camera. I had to jazz it up a bit. I decided to make it nearly monochrome and take advantage of the brilliant red-orange tugboats across the harbour to complement the colours of the sunrise.

It looks as if warm colours are going to be the theme today. Here is a nice red hibiscus right outside our front door:

The brown mass to the left is the trunk of one of our Fishtail Palm trees.

Speaking of which, they are fruiting continuously now. In this shot I am standing directly underneath the oldest inflorescence, pointing my G11 straight up. You are looking into the bottom of it from about six metres away:

I am amazed how long it takes for the fruit to ripen. This inflorescence developed in October of 2008. You can find an image of it here.

Over the last three months, fruit has been dropping from this inflorescence. They are bright red to maroon in colour and average about five or six centimetres in diameter:Our haus meri, Juli, tells me that they are “not for humans” but some birds eat them. Of course, I had to try one. They are intensely sweet and fig-like. I tried only a small amount. After a few seconds you get a chili-like burning sensation on the tongue wherever the fruit was in contact. The strong sweetness lingers, but I take the burning as a warning. I decided that I had experimented enough. The seeds are one or two shiny black kernels which are so hard that you have to crack them with a hammer. Inside the thick shell is a nut-like core which is also very sweet.

In the garden this morning I found a spider who was willing to pose for a while. I got one very nice shot of it:

If you click the image to enlarge it you will see a water drop attached to its abdomen.

I felt like saying, “Shake it off, dude.”

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Dubious Art

Posted in Photography Tricks on July 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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Having been simultaneously inspired, challenged and somewhat chagrined by my post a couple of day ago on the sublimely eccentric and sophisticatedly earthy art of Lindsay Smith, I decided to blow away an entire morning when I should have been doing something else, namely making some money, creating. If that sentence is not complex and grammatically dimwitted enough for you, then hang around for a while and I will probably come up with something even more opaque.

Every shot in this post is a radical modification of an image which has been sitting among tens of thousands for years, some for decades. Every one except this one: For some inexplicable reason, as I wandered aimlessly around in our front yard this morning, I became mesmerised by the left headlamp of our new Nissan Navara. It is our first new car in nearly twelve years, so we are still somewhat excited about it. It’s the cheap kind with wind-up windows and no electronic gee-gaws such as central locking. You don’t want that kind of stuff here. If it breaks, it stays broke.

When I got the image up in Photoshop, I began to see its possibilities. How bizarre could I possibly make an ordinary automobile headlamp appear? I began to think of the way it might be portrayed in some stylised automotive catalogue. What I wanted was how it might look on acid or some similarly perception distorting substance. Because it has now become art, I have titled it Headlamp of our new Nissan Navara.  I am such a wordsmith.

This one is derived from an old shot and is titled Woman in Canoe on Astrolabe Bay:

Again, with the clever titles. It get worse. Hang around. Some of these you may need to click to enlarge to get the full impact of my efforts to bamboozle you.

Yeah, now this one is a oldie. I entered this one in an art show a long time ago and actually sold a one-off original print for K200. I think that it was the first image that I ever mane any money from:

It’s title is Sunset Watercolour II.  Catchy, eh?

Back in the days of burning rubber, a fine mist of vapourised castor oil in the air, hot tarmac and icy Chablis we called the driver’s compartment of a sports car The Cockpit. It was so very, very English. Here is the arted-up cockpit of our 1973 Triumph Spitfire 1500 which sits immaculately restored and carefully wrapped in a garage in Indianapolis, Indiana waiting for someone to make me a reasonable offer for a car which is rapidly approaching the priceless category. Would you like to buy it?

I mean the car, not the picture, which is titled Spitfire Cockpit.  I wonder how many disappointing Google hits I’ll get on this one.

The dashboard or fascia, as we called it back then, is Brazilian Rosewood, handcrafted over a period of several days by none other than me. Hah, you thought all I can do is take pictures and spew drivel, eh? I got the shot on our first digital camera, a one-point-something megapixel Minolta of some kind. I’m sure that it’s moudlering away in a drawer somewhere.

These are our orange lilies, which will be familiar, if not boring, to regular readers. They are decked out here for a night at the disco:

That’s the Photoshop Poster Edges filter, if you’re interested. It’s one of my favourites. The title is Edgy Orange Lilies.  Better?

Here is an old shot of the fabulous Australian harmonicist and singer Harper at a performance years ago at The Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis, Indiana:

The title is, a little obviously, Harper.  I got the shot from a stairway above the back room venue in the area of the building which used to be a brothel. It is the oldest continuously operating tavern in the State of Indiana and now operates one of the best blues clubs it has ever been my pleasure to patronise. I always hit it a couple of times whenever I’m in Indy.  The cover charge is cheap. The food and drink is also blue-collar priced and surprisingly delicious. The amazing thing about the place is that it has three venues for bands in the same building. If you don’t like one, you can pick up and move to another. The only problem is that it is sometimes packed. It used to be a mob hangout. There are several spots where there are bullet holes in the walls.

Just to show you how civilised and cultured I am, here is a plate of fruit at a vineyard near Vienna. It’s been given the artsy treatment also:It is delightfully and playfully titled Vienna Vineyard Fruit.  I sincerely hope to get back to Vienna someday. It’s one of my favourite cities. Summertime is splendid. I don’t even want to think about winter there. It would be as bad as Indianapolis, from whence I escaped. The shot above has been “posterised” a bit to give it a more painterly look. Posterisation is simply a fancy term for reducing the available colours in an image.

If none of that is quirky enough for you, then I shall deliver the coup de grâce.

This is my left bicep, at the healthy diameter which it once was at the time I was getting my Dancing Dolphins  tattoo, which you see here partially completed:

I decided . . . no, I fell upon the idea of doing it in monochrome . . . okay, duochrome.

Okay, that’s enough nonsense for one day. I’m getting dizzy.

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Smoke – Phantosmia

Posted in Mixed Nuts on May 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have some nice sunrise shots for you today, some a little out of the ordinary, and I am going to whine a little. There’s nothing like whining to a large audience to make one feel better. First, a sunrise. When I first started processing this one, I wondered what happened to the trees on the other side of the harbour. Then I remembered that there was a line of towering cumulus way off on the horizon. It took a little bit of fiddling to separate them from the black shadows of the town:

Two months ago today I wrote about losing my sense of smell, a condition called anosmia. I’d love to report that it has come back, because I miss smelling Eunie’s perfume in the morning. It has  come back, sort of. But the way it has come back is not useful at all. My anosmia has now transmogrified into its grimmer cousin, phantosmia, smelling things which don’t exist.

Let me pep this up with another sunrise. This one is the widest panorama which I have ever done, I think. It was seventeen exposures. The original file is 27,000 pixels wide. I’ve put this one up on the server at 4,000 pixels, so it might be amusing to click on it:

Phantosmia is characterised by olfactory hallucinations, involving smelling odors that are not derived from any physical stimulus. In my case, from my first moment of consciousness in the morning until I fall asleep at night, I smell smoke.

It would not be so bad if it were the aroma of a comfy forest campfire or a yummy barbecue. I only wish. No, it is a nasty trash-fire, a refuse dump set aflame. It’s not nice at all. And, it is strong. If you were caught in a breeze wafting this odor to you, you would move away smartly.

Here is my neighour’s haus win  (a little thatched roof with a platform under it) in the morning sun:

You can see Sheba, our mutt, over at the right.

As you can imagine, this is not only unpleasant and inconvenient, but it could be hazardous as well. If I smell smoke all of the time, how can I detect a fire which might endanger me? Moreover, I can smell nothing but  smoke. Got a gas leak, don’t count on me to warn you. We’ll all blow up if you wait for me to offer, “Hey, I smell gas.”

Here’s one of my “lucky” shots. It would be a pretty ordinary shot of Kar Kar Island  volcano in the sunrise if it were not for the two canoes:

I was using a fairly low shutter speed here, so there is a bit of motion blur in the arms of the canoeists.

The prognosis for any kind of anosmia isn’t particularly encouraging. There are many treatments suggested on the web, but none promise consistent or significant improvement. Most information indicates that, if there is no improvement within a year, the condition is probably permanent. I’m not looking forward to smelling smoke the rest of my life.

Here is another version of the super-wide sunrise above:

I’m going to try to see an ear, nose and throat doctor while I’m in Australia later this year to see what he has to say. From what I’ve read, the fact that I’m smelling something  now may indicate that my normal sense of smell may return. There may be some re-wiring going on and it’s simply not worked out yet.

Of all of the health problems that I might  have at my age, I suppose that I should be grateful that smelling smoke is the worst of them.

Hey, do you smell smoke?

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Oddities for You

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on May 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yes, it’s Saturday again and I’ll soon be loading up Faded Glory  to go out for a dive. But first, I have a few odds and ends from the last week to show to you. Morning time is about the only really peaceful respite which I have. I like to get out in the yard with my Canon G-11 for a while to see what photographic opportunities may present themselves.

A magenta sunrise with a passing canoe:

An Air Niugini jet coming in for landing at Madang airport:

I’m still too sleepy to come up with any witty comments about that. I hope that someday we have a decent airline to serve the needs of the people of Papua New Guinea. Air Niugini is just about the worst example of small country government-owned airlines. It’s inefficient, packed with dead wood, far, far too expensive and its routings are disasterous. Current politics won’t allow the proper solution – sell it off and allow some real competition. Of course, the Grand Chief doesn’t need to worry about all this. He has his own jet. So, when you go the the hospital and they tell you that they have no medicine, you can at least be happy that the big man is riding in comfort.

This is a moderately cool shot of the twin Browning M2 50 calibre machine guns on the dorsal turret of The Green Dragon  B-25 Bomber at Wongat Island:

Note metal that is still shiny after being submerged for nearly seventy years.

This is the biggest Sailors Eyeball (Valonia ventricosa)  that I have ever seen. It is the size of my fist:

As I’ve mentioned before, it is the largest single-celled organism on the planet. It is a kind of blue-green algae.

As time is growing short, I’ll leave you with this image of a ship which we saw on the way through the anchorage:

My only comment about this ship is that when we saw it, we all started laughing at once. I’ll leave it to you as a little puzzle. (Hint: try adding a vowel.)

See you tomorrow.

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The Sunrise Canoe

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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The weather in the mornings is very mixed up now. Most mornings are still grey and lifeless. The change of seasons from wet to dry is going to be very welcome. This morning a big storm over the Huon Peninsula was battling the rising sun for control of the sky. It was fun to watch the fracas from a distance:On calm mornings the water of the harbour makes a beautiful reflecting pond.

I heard a little commotion to my left. Usually all that I hear in the morning is the sound of fish jumping. My neighbours were getting into their canoe to paddle over to town:I asked them if they would make a little detour so that I could get a shot of them back lit by the rising sun.

At the risk of boring you, I’ll insert a little photographic note here. If you look at the two images you can see that the colours have been massaged differently. One of the pleasures of modern-day digital photography is that, if you don’t like what your camera (or nature, for that matter) gave you, you can easily change it. If you don’t like red roses, make them yellow or even blue. For the first shot, I liked the overall warmth of the tones more or less as they came from the camera, with only a huge gob of saturation to punch them up. However, when I got to the canoe shot, it just didn’t sing to me. The artificial addition of the blue to the water gave me just what I was after – creating a vignette around the canoe.

Okay, now let’s get wet. I have a mix of the unusual and the common today.

Though this is a common enough critter, many people have never seen one. That is unless you are a regular visitor here, in which case you may be yawning now. It is a kind of Sea Squirt (Polycarpa aurata):

Aside from the ridiculous colours and peculiar shape, it does indeed squirt. If you get too close to it, it puffs water out and closes its two openings. Here you can see them all puckered up, locking out anything that might come inside for a nibble of its innards.

I’ve also shown Solitary Corals (Fungia fungites)  here many times. This one had a particularly outrageous purple edge:I devoted a few precious minutes to Googling, but I can’t find the cause of the purple discolouration. It is not species related, since it occurs randomly in individuals. Of two lying side-by-side, one may have purple and the other white or brown edges.

You’ve also seen the famous Sailor’s Eyeball (Valonia ventricosa)  here before:It is basically a huge single-cell green algae. It is sometimes refered to as a seaweed. When I Googled the taxonomic name I was amazed at the amount of scientific interest in this golf-ball sized cell. Here’s an example:

The degradation of microfibrils from Valonia ventricosa  by cellulase has been studied. As a result of enzymatic attack the elementary fibrils making up the microfibrils tended to separate and the ends of the microfibrils became oblique or pointed. The terminal planes made angles of 60 … 66°, 33°, or 20 … 25° with the microfibril axis. These planes are assumed to correspond to the 41 , 43 and 45 planes of the cellulose lattice and it is suggested that they are planes along which it is progressively more difficult for hydrolysis to proceed. On the basis of these considerations a suggestion has been proposed to explain the form of erosion cavities formed by soft-rot fungi described by previous workers in wood fibres and tracheids.

Please, if you understand that, would you explain it to me? I get the gist of it, but details make my head go funny.

Moving on to something more connectable to our familiar world we have three Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)  playing tag:This is one of the rare shots in which I was able to capture the amazing blue glow that is often seen in the white bars. It is a very weird thing to observe. I think that it is not true pigmentation, but rather some strange sort of refraction, similar to the colours of some butterfly wings and bird feathers.

On the other hand, they are simply very , very pretty.

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Esmeralda – The Canoe Girl

Posted in Mixed Nuts on April 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have many amusing images from our two dives on Saturday, but I also have a few shots that I’ve left in the “unused” folder that are nagging me. So, I’ll dish them out today. I worked from 07:00 to 19:00 yesterday, Sunday, and never got a post out – too busy with other stuff. So, today I’m using my time machine to cheat. The post date says it was sent out on Sunday, but it lies, or rather I do. It’s now Monday morning here.

Now that that meaningless trivia is disposed of, let’s have a look at my next-door neighbor, Sisilia’s sweet daughter Esmeralda in her big canoe:I was out in the garden shooting anything that moved and much that doesn’t when Esperalda got into her canoe. I asked if she was going for a ride. She said she was going to visit her uncle. After a minute, she came back, saying that she’d forgotten something. That’s when I snapped this shot. She’s a lovely young lady. I think that her mom is very proud of her. We are very fortunate to live in a compound that is full of very nice people. We are the only “Europeans” there.

I haven’t said much about our Fishtail Palms lately, but they are growing splendidly. They have fruited several times. Here’s a shot of a half-mature and a brand-new . . . thinking of the word . . . inflorescence:

I think that the species is Caryota gigas,  but I’m not positive. There is another possibility. I’ve written before about our Fishtail Palms here, here, here, and here.

This is the first inflorescence, which I showed as it first came out way back in August of 2008. I’m amazed how long it takes for the fruit to mature:

The fruits eventually turns a deep purple, almost black and falls to the ground. They are about the size of a very small apricot. They taste like an extremely sweet hot chili. It is a very strange, but not unpleasant flavour. Local folk say they are “not for people”, but I tasted one anyway. I’ve never seen any birds eating them either, which surprises me.

Since I’m rambling today, I’ll show you the new hops for my wireless link to the Internet sattelite dish at our office:I discovered too late that the power to the security camera pole was not reliable (you’d think it would be – security and all). The power at the supermarket, however, is probably the most reliable source in town, since all that refrigeration equipment must be kept running. I haven’t had an interruption since we moved the links.

I’ll finish up with a couple of gratuitous flower shots. This one is some kind of Bird of Paradise plant. They are so prolific that we have to chop them back regularly:Honestly, they grow like weeds.

This one is here simply because I think it deserves the space:Anything which strives to be that pretty deserves a little attention.

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