Disastrous Monday

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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If you take a quick look at the image below, you’ll have a general idea of why my comments will be brief this Monday morning. It’s enough to say that it was “one thing leads to another” without getting into the gory details. Piles of wire on the floor are always a bad sign. A blank screen at the left of the server farm is even worse:

My disastrous office

So, to salve my aching pride concerning my care of duty, let me show you some bats. The Flying Foxes are fiendishly difficult to photograph. The are really quite black and are usually backlit by a bright sky or confusing foliage which is also more reflective than the bats themselves. So, what you usually get is black blobs with no detail.

I’m happy to demonstrate that I’m getting a little better at doing it. This was taken from street level with the Olympus SP-590UZ on the “Bird Watching” scene setting. I also turned on the backlight compensator thingie. A few minutes with Photoshop and a little cropping for the sake of composition and voila . . . actually visible Flying Foxes:

Flying Foxes

They have been nuts about this tree for a few weeks. Now I can see why. It is full of little red fruits of some kind. You can see them better if you click to enlarge. The bat on the far right is looking straight at me.

On Saturday afternoon, we went out to Kranket Island  after our dive. I got this shot of Miriam swimming. She is a powerful swimmer. I like this shot not because it is worth anything technically, but is does convey a nice sense of action:

Miriam swimming in Kranket Lagoon

There was other water play going on in the opposite direction:

Kids playing at Kranket Island

Twenty eight years ago my son was playing in these same trees.

I seem to have gotten into a habit of leaving my favourite shot until last. Here’s it for the day. I got this shot several months ago up at Blueblood. It’s a long telephoto from the Olympus and it took a bit of work to clean it up:

Boys in a canoe at Blueblood

As long as I look at this and don’t turn my head around to see the mess that I have to deal with . . .

Hey, I’m as happy as a clam.

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Two Bunnies in a Canoe and Other Curiosities

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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Once again, it’s time to ramble aimlessly through a few images that have caught my eye, but don’t seem to say enough to provoke a gush of prose from me. Just as well. The pictures tell the stories better than I can.

Our next door neighbour got a couple of bunnies some time ago. I think they were dreaming of raising the delicious little furry ones for an occasional treat, but somehow ended up with two males. Though they are useless for producing more bunnies, they are cute. Lately they have been lounging in the hot afternoons in the shade of an old canoe which is turned up on its side:

Two bunnies in a canoe

These bunnies are incredibly docile. I have little experience with rabbits that did not involve putting a bullet through them. Hey, we were hungry. These guys are exceedingly cute. When you hold one, you can feel its heart going thumpity- thump.

Under the heading of strange phenomena, we have this large red flower that popped up in our yard one day, seemingly from nowhere. Juli, our haus meri,   is forever finding interesting plants and bringing them home. She never mentions it, so we never know what to expect. I don’t remember seeing this one anywhere else, but then I haven’t been everywhere, have I?

Strange red flower that appeared from nowhere

The multiple-blossom bloom is about the size of a grapefruit and spectacularly red. The vegetation appears to make it some kind of lily. I’m far too lazy to search for it. If you know what it is, please leave a comment.

Sticking with vegetation, here’s an unremarkable image that somehow gets under my skin:

Three leaves

Tropical plants often produce leaves that change colour radically as they mature. Someday, I’ll have to get a shot of a mango tree when the new leaves are coming out. They are bright red. There are lovely bright green bushes that grow across the front of our yard next to the water (see the leaves in the next image). When the new leaves come out, they are a lovely yellowish-orange colour. I shot these three this morning by the light of the rising sun.

When I had the image above adjusted to my liking, I still wasn’t happy with it. It seemed too . . . clinical, as it it were a specimen shot. I tried a few things to juice it up, but nothing was working. Then I thought of an old darkroom technique called vignetting. It simply means to fade the edges either darker or lighter. In the old days, if we wanted to do it, we’d make a mask to hold over the photographic paper as it was being exposed. Holding the mask a few inches above the paper and waving it around caused areas of the paper to receive more or less light, according to the shape of the mask. Photoshop provides an easy way to vignette an image. In this case it worked a treat. It is a much more dramatic image with the darkened edges to frame the subject.

The last shot is a bit of a puzzle. I have not changed the angle. The water drops are underneath  the leaf. How they got there, I do not know:

Water drops underneath a leaf

I can only speculate that water falling on the leaf below splashed up and stuck to the bottom of the leaf. You can plainly see that the drops are much puffier than usual, because the force of gravity is pulling them away from the leaf instead of pulling them onto it. They are also drooping a little, since the leaf is not horizontal.

Two thoughts are competing in my head for attention. One has something to do with smelling the roses. That works for me, but a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut is nudging in also. He said, “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

The centre is boring.

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Sun Comes Up – Divers Go Down

Posted in Under the Sea on March 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I get up early on a Saturday morning and it looks like this:

Sunrise in my front yard - Canoe and birdsI feel as if the world is grinning at me. I grin back.

Here’s some images from a recent Saturday Dive.

If the name on your Birth Certificate was Plagiotremus rhinorrhynchos, I’d feel empathy for you. If you can imagine the sad story of a boy growing up in a very tough neighbourhood with the name of Jan Messersmith, maybe you could appreciate my empathy. I still have scars on my knuckles to attest to the agony. I’ve never forgiven my mother for it. It’s even worse for this little fellow. His nickname is Bluestripped Fangblenny. No wonder that he’s hiding in a hole:

Bluestriped Fangblenny (Plagiotremus rhinorrhynchos)I’ve shown Blennies on Madang – Ples Bilong Mihere, here, here, and here.

I made it worse for myself when I reached the age of sixty. I decided enough is enough. I’m old enough to decide what I want to be called. So I changed the pronunciation of my given name. Instead of the much-maligned Jan (rhyming with can) I decided I wanted to be called Jan (rhyming with yon – as in “By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes”). As you can imagine, this caused much consternation and no little laughter among my friends. I felt like a clown. I still do. I don’t mind. Speaking of clowns, here’s a Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)I showed you another Clown Anemonefish here.

While we’re on Anemonefish, let’s have a couple of more. Try these Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):

Clark's Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)I have no idea who Clark is. I can only assume it is not Clark Kent. He doesn’t seem the type to have a fish named for him. However, his alter-ego might be proud to have an Amphiprion supermanii.

Hmmm . . . I appear to be drifting. I’m like a teensy-weensy tectonic plate drifting on a molten globe of magmatic thought. I’d better get out of here.

But, before I leave for the day, I’ll show you my favourite of the day. Here’s the darling, shiny, all-too-brilliant Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus): (you can find another Spinecheek here.)Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)Would that I were so handsome, but ça ne fait rien.

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Boat Tricks

Posted in Photography Tricks on December 6th, 2008 by MadDog
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This has nothing to do with boats as such. But, it does have to do with lifesaving. It’s about saving the life of a photo that you shot because you wanted to capture the moment. We used to call them “Kodak Moments.”

Sadly, when you see the photo on your computer screen, you sigh and your finger hovers over the delete key.

Hold that finger!

Instead of watching the tube, Google “photoshop lessons” to find a technique that interests you. There’s all kinds of stuff out there – things you wouldn’t imagine. Take a half hour to master the technique. It will now be in your “Bag of Tricks” for you to pull out whenever lifesaving is required.

Actually, you don’t even need lessons. I’ve sat down with many people for an hour just going through the “Filter” menu. After seeing the effects of the different filters, anybody can use them by just fiddling with the slide controls.

Yesterday evening there were a lot of people out on the water in front of my house. Though the light was awful, I killed a few minutes shooting innocent bystanders – a favourite hobby of mine. The cops don’t mind, since my gun isn’t loaded with bullets.

Here’s a perfectly horrible shot of my next-door neighbour arriving home in his canoe. It’s dull and lifeless because of the poor light. It could be spruced up into something for the album, but why not go for the full glamour treatment. Take it to the beauty shop:

Bad shot of my neighbor in his canoe

Fifteen minutes with Photoshop and we have an artsy-fartsy watercolour rendition that, while it’s not exactly wall material, would be quite at home in your portfolio of your “special shots” that you pull out when company comes. They’re so much more interesting than baby pictures:

My neighbor in living colour

Just keep the Rule of Thirds in mind.

Here’s another wretched exposure:

A bad shot at a boatload of people

And here’s the same exposure after the same beauty treatment:

Beautified boatload

Really, this stuff is so simple you could teach your dog to do it.

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Lucky Canoe

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 22nd, 2008 by MadDog
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I used to love to sleep in on weekends. It doesn’t appeal to me much now. I wake up early on Saturday and think, “Hey, I don’t have to go to work today; I can write instead.” So, from 5:30 or 6:00 until about 9:30 I can take time to look over my folder of “potential blog photos” (about 250 now, and counting) to see what inspiration the Muse may lend me.

This particular Saturday morning delivered a smidgeon of serendipity in the form of a sleepy fellow paddling lethargically in the brassy glow of the rising sun:

Lucky Canoe in the brassy glow of the rising sun

Sometimes I’m so focused on the camera and the lining up of the panorama shots (this is four exposures stitched together) that I forget to note what else might be going on. However, this time I did notice the canoe coming and I got the timing very close. I was missing just a bit of the trailing edge of the canoe wake. I had to clone that in, but it doesn’t look too faked. I’m going to try to sell this one to Our Way as a cover shot. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

Sheba was out in the yard following me around and whining. She was longing desperately for her breakfast. I wanted to get a good shot of her in the warm glow of the sunrise. She’s such a mongrel – like me. She’s part Doberman and part Rottweiler with a healthy dose of German Shepherd tossed in at the last moment for good measure. She is a pup of Greg O’Keefe’s bitch and was owned briefly by Swami Monty and Meri, his luscious consort.

Here I was commanding “STAY!” about every five seconds while she fretted, “Why doesn’t the stupid biped feed me?” One can easily see the concerned expression on her pretty face:

Hungry Sheba

I try to avoid taking hundreds of photos of Sheba and then forcing innocent captives to look at them. They are like baby photos. “Oh, here’s Junior spiting up, and here he is making kaka in the back yard, and, Oh look, here he is holding the dog by its ears. Doesn’t he remind you of Lyndon Johnson?” You have to be an aging Yank to get that reference.

This next shot seems a little out of place. As I looked through frames that I liked and had spent some time to make them just so, this one evoked some pleasant memories of Miss Rankin and all the good times we’ve enjoyed on her decks and under her hull. Here’s Carol seeming pensive as she watched the sunset on our way out of Tab Anchorage:

Carol Dover

So, that’s my Saturday so far.

I hope my readers like the new look of the site. I’ll get the URL problems settled down eventually and hope I haven’t lost too many of you along the way. I’ll also clean up the messiness in the sidebar and fix the garish colours of the fonts.

For those of you with eyes like mine, I’m also going to increase the size of the body text and make it brighter so that it’s more easily readable. Generally speaking, I hate the black background sites because of the readability problem. But I can’t give it up now that I’ve seen how much better the photos look.

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Madang Potpourri

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on November 10th, 2008 by MadDog
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Lacking any coherent plan for writing today, I’ll bombard you with a wet, wet collection of miscellanea from Madang.

When the sun slithers down western sky in the afternoon, the opposite side of the harbour takes on a winelight glow that is very pleasing:

Canoe panorama

The lady in the canoe was a bit of an accident. I started this three-frame panorama at the left, not noticing that she was coming past the front of our dock. Surprised, I snapped the middle shot anyway and then the final one to the right. I lost a bit of the wake from her canoe because it had dissipated by the time that I snapped.

This is a long telephoto shot of Madang with the Finisterre mountains in the background. I was going to delete it because it’s a little blurry:

Madang from Tab Anchorage

Not every image has to be perfect. It’s just a goal.

I have shown you Little Pig Island before. Here’s another long telephoto shot with the Finisterre range in the background:

Little Pig Island against the Finnesterre Mountains

Again, not as sharp as I’d like, but interesting in an arty way.

This is a shot from some years ago of multiple fuzzy flying saucers hovering over Kar Kar Island. Insofar as I’m aware there were no encounters of the third kind or abductions:

Lenticular clouds over Kar Kar Island

If you would like to see some other (better) photos of lenticular clouds, try here, here, here, and here.

I was looking back over my off-shore shots of the Coastwatcher’s Monument. I think that I have found a better one than I showed to you before:

Another shot of the Coastwatcher’s Monument in Madang

This one is going on one of the postcards that I’m designing. I had hoped to have them out by Christmas time, but that’s not looking likely. I’ll be writing a post on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi when they are on sale in the shops and hotels.

Finally, I’d like to show you a view from our front yard when the chip ship is leaving:

The chip ship

It’s big! There is a wood-chipping factory right next door to us. When the mountain gets too high, they send in a huge ship to haul the chips off to make boxes.

So much for the trees.

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