The Helicopter Money Shot

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on August 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes being one of the few serious photographers in town can be beneficial in unusual ways. Let’s back up a few days before we came to Cairns to take care of Eunie’s health problem. I got a call from Heli Niugini management and my friend Monty Armstrong asking if I could go out for a ride to take some promotional shots for them. I didn’t even have to think about it. It’s a no-brainer. A free helicopter ride over Paradise? What kind of an idiot would turn that down?

While I was waiting for them to prepare the two Bell Jet Rangers which would be required for the mission, I caught some of the technical guys installing a new transmission in a Huey. Nothing gets off the ground without these fellows’ careful scrutiny:

You’re looking right down the business end of the engine where that big round pipe is.

While cruising around, I got this great shot of our house:That’s Faded Glory  there at the dock.

Here is a very nice shot of Coronation Drive, the golf course and the island chain reaching up the coast. We do nearly all of our dives in the area covered by this shot:

You can barely see the Coastwatchers Monumtent at the distant end of the golf course just where Dallman Passage  starts.

In case you can’t see it in the shot above, here is a pretty close-up of it:

To the left is the Coastwatcher Hotel, known by locals as “Coasties”, of course.

I was happy with a free ride for taking the photos, but the particular view needed – The Money Shot – was of a Heli Niugini machine placed just so in the frame with a nice tropical paradise scene in the background. This proved to be the one:

It’s going on a two metre long billboard along with promotional text and the company logo.

I was happy to provide this service in exchange for the rare opportunity to get some great shots of my own, which I will be showing over the next week or so.

Naturally, the uncertainty concerning the cause underlying Eunie’s illness has us in a delicate psychological condition. Personally, if given free reign and no responsibility, I’d hide under the covers and sleep. This is not going to do any good for either of us.

So, for the first time since I started Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  it is therapy for me. I hope it doesn’t get too weird.

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Reflections

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes I just want to write, to let it flow. One of the things that has to be taken into account when one keeps such a personal disclosure of one’s life open to every Tom, Dick and Harry on the web is that not everybody wants to read the same material. Most of my posts are about things which I feel might be of general interest to a large audience. I try to use the same approach which I would use if I were sitting down to write a magazine article. Foremost in my mind is, “Don’t put them into a deep slumber.” Well, this one might be a slumber number for some, but that’s okay.

I have had some thoughts ruminating in my mind for some time. They have digested now and I’m nourished enough by them to have the chutzpa  to put them forth for judgement.  So, in no particular order, here they are, some Reflections:

The World – This shot is a bridge in Florence. I chose this series of thirteen photos more or less at random because they gave me images upon which to focus. I’m a very visual person. Images help me to put my thoughts in order.  I’ve been blessed by a life situation which has made it possible for me to travel to a great many places. The scenery changes. Some of it is breathtaking, some desolate, even hopeless. What does not change, however, is that most of it is filled with people. The amazing thing about people is that most of them are very much the same. We all have largely the same concerns. Nearly all of us have the same basic values. In every place I have visited I have seen those who were reflections of myself. This is not ego talking here. It is empathy. If all of us are so fundamentally the same, how can there be such strife? As the King said in Anna and the King of Siam,  it is “A puzzlement.”

Me – This could not be a MadDog post without, in some way, featuring MadDog. Everybody knows that “blogging” (BLOG – oh, how I hate that nasty four-letter Anglo-Saxon word) is simply an exercise of ego. At least I’m honest about it. Who am I? I don’t have a clue. All that I can know is that I am the sum of everything I have ever thought, done, or hoped for. There is good and bad there in each category. I think that there are few of us who do not wish to be loved and respected. Yet we sometimes act in ways that do not generate those emotions in those with whom we interact. I like to say that I have no regrets in life. This is a lie that I tell myself. Regrets? I have many. Why do we so often act in ways that are not truly in our own self interest. Possibly it is because we don’t understand what truly is beneficial to that end. I do not believe that human beings are naturally perverse. I believe that we are filled with a capacity for love that we simply cannot comprehend. I believe that we are easily confused by what life seems  to offer. We see the lies as truth and are seduced by them. Maybe we will grow out of this in a few thousand generations.

Friends – If there’s one thing (probably one of the few things) that I’ve really learned about life it is that relationships are all that ultimately matter. Good fortune, the trappings of the material life, health and even life itself come and go in ways that puzzle us. The only things that we can really control are our relationships. We can treasure them, nurture them and make them blossom and flourish. There is nothing else in life over which we have so much control. Therefore, we must be good stewards of them. All else is like grass. (I can’t take credit for that one. It’s a Biblical reference, slightly out of context.)

That’s my good friend Ian Dosser there examining a particularly fine brew. We seldom see each other these days, but friendship knows no distance or time.

Nature – Nature, which was formerly called, in more gentle times, “Natural History”, but has largely been consumed by the word “science” has always been a comfortable subject for me, though I did not have the patience and discipline to do the math. Yes, I’m a failed scientist. How I got through a university degree in Computer Science is a study of minor miracles. Without the constant tutoring of my old friend Daryoush Khalladeh I would have never gotten through the Calculus. I forgot it all as soon as I passed the course. How, as a person of faith, can I find ease and confirmation in science? Well, it’s simple. I believe in a very, very big God. Nothing that I believe has to be true simply because I believe it. Nothing that I disbelieve must be false simply because I can’t swallow it. I’m “seeing through a glass darkly.” Nature, for me is a reflection of something so big, so profound, so otherly, that it can only remind us of how much we don’t know. This is the great adventure, the great quest for truth about our world.

Family – Having been estranged from my parents for decades and having virtually no relationship with my brother, the very notion of family never acquired its proper dimension in my mind. Eunie’s clan became my surrogate family and I was adopted by them. After reconciling with my parents, I began to realise all that I had missed. There’s an old saying, “You can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with your family”. While true, it is not an excuse for cheating yourself out of the benefits of family. I should have tried harder to be tolerant when I felt rejection. I should have been less prideful. I should have taken the lessons I learned from Eunie’s family and applied them to the situation with my own. It’s sad that I did not do better. At the same time, I’m sad that much of the family seemed as dysfunctional as I. So much sadness . . . This is the last image I have of my father.


For nearly half of my life, while I’ve lived in Madang, my friends have been my family. If a group of friends who are geographically isolated from their biological families can get into this mode of thinking, it can be very rewarding. We love and care for each other as a family. The difference is that we chose  each other!

Animals – The relationship which we humans enjoy with animals seems one of the most magical things in life. The interactions with and the emotions I feel concerning my dog, Sheba, are inexplicable. When I’m riding a well-trained horse I feel a shared experience that escapes my ability to describe it. I know that these emotions are well beyond the thinking abilities of dogs or horses. They are simply reacting in ways which are a result of their conditioning. They also have the genetic codes built into them by thousands of generations of breeding to react to us in ways which please us. They really have no choice. Therefore is is our responsibility to be kind to them and respect their nature. In a very real sense they are our  creation. They are human-designed artificial animals. They are, if you will, our children.

Fun – What can I say? What would life be with the simple pleasure of play? Often an image speaks better than I can. Here Is my wife, Eunie, surprising our good friend Trevor Hatterrsley with a turn-around shoulder rub. Trevor is famous for his shoulder rubs. Note the hat. It is the same hat that is featured on my noggin in the side bar. Sometimes we have Silly Hat parties. Everyone is required to bring a silly hat or choose one from our growing collection. Enough said.

Moderation – The older I get, the more I think that excesses of nearly every kind, except those regarding love and kindness, are probably bad for me. We have so many gifts from which to choose. All of the good tangible things in life are available to us fortunate ones who live lives of relative comfort and financial security. Learning to partake of this plenty in ways that do not ultimately reduce the quality of my life has sometimes provided hard lessons for me. Another aspect of this is moderation of thought. My first impulse, upon seeing this image was to speak of the balance between optimism and pessimism – the old “half-empty half-full” quandary. This is yet another aspect of moderation. My attitude concerning how life is treating me needs to be balanced between hope and despair. I spent most of my life swinging wildly between the two. I’m blessed now that the swings are less jarring, less disruptive.

Beauty – Ah, beauty. It is no accident that the word came to mind when my eyes were scanning about 2,000 images while I was considering my thoughts for this post. Karen Simmons is a good friend, a lovely lady and the wife of Trevor Hattersley. I had the pleasure of presiding as the Celebrant at their wedding. It was one of the happiest days of my life. This image, though technically imperfect, is one of my all-time favourites and illustrates one small aspect of my concept of beauty. I can’t possibly explain all of the things that fit into the ideal of beauty for me. Certainly, much of the natural world is beautiful. Humans are beautiful – the human form has been celebrated as a focus of beauty since cave men carved Venus figures from stone. As a believer, it is only natural that I find the human form beautiful. Surely the “image of God” creation is not to be taken literally, but why should not the physical form reflect some tiny hint of the magnificence of the maker?

Home – The concept of home is another which came to me late in life. When I was a child, we lived in a house. When school was over for the day, we came “home”. However, to me the concept was ephemeral. I had no attachment to any particular place. Indianapolis, when I was growing up, was a hideous, coal-stinking, socially desolate place. It was highly segregated and racial tensions simmered always just under the lid. Coming to Madang nearly three decades ago modified my concept of home. I have a genuine attachment to a place. Madang feels like home, smells like home, tastes like home. Home is where my woman is. Home is where my friends are. Home is where my nest is made.

Tolerance – If I could pick one trait to erase from the human character, or at least tone it way down, it would be intolerance. I make no secret of my beliefs as a Christian. However, I don’t shove them down your throat either. It may seem odd that I chose this image of a fat-bellied, smiling Buddha half seen through the window of a Vietnamese restaurant in Honolulu with reflections of a hair salon across the hall to illustrate my premise. My babbling on about the evils of intolerance and the suffering which it causes would be not only pointless, but boring. Look at the world around us. How much grief is caused simply because we can’t stand the idea that somebody else has a different view of life or different opinion about some issue than our own? What if we could simply respect each other and focus on the issues on which we agree? The more we can find in common with each other, the easier it becomes to reason concerning our differences.

Everlasting Love – Yes, kiddies, it does exist. I could not possibly wrap up this pathetically sentimental collection of random thoughts without including this image. Keeping love alive for decades is sometimes hard work. But the payoff . . . Wow! There is simply no way you can appreciate the value of it when you’re starting out. Learning so many skills takes a while. Giving in when you know you are right. Forgiving mistakes that break your heart. Accepting forgiveness when you feel you don’t deserve it. Remembering that kindness and love are living, growing things which need constant nourishment. Learning to share, in the depths of the soul, the joys and  the despairs of your mate. Much of this does not come naturally to the human heart. It is learned behaviour.

To this list I would add a healthy dose of grim determination.  Sometimes the only thing that helps is to remember that a promise is a promise. There is a certain dignity and satisfaction that comes from deciding that you are simply not going to give up. No matter what. Not ever.

And that’s when you know that you are really in love.

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A Curious Collection

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on June 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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Okay, today I’m just winging it. I have no coherent plan, no petty rage to vent, no earth-shattering news, no malicious gossip (no, wait . . . I hate that stuff), and no gonzo wisdom to dispense. I’m reasonably calm, considering the mountainous pile of work which I fear will soon avalanche down upon me and out of which no St. Bernard will come bearing a little keg of Monk-crafted brandy will come to dig me.* I partook of my placebo this morning, consisting of a tiny nibble off of the edge of a 5mg Valium tablet. I know that it’s not enough to affect my body chemistry, it simply lets me feel as if I have some control. I feel like a mouse nibbling on a teeny-weeny chunk of cheese which must last him for a month. The things you do when the mind starts to go . . .

So, I’ll spare you the chatter and show you some images which have lifted me out of the muck a couple of times already this week. We’ll start with a sunrise for which I can credit only God. Sorry folks. Simple physical processes are not up to the task:

Thanks, God. I needed that one.

This is a picture I got a few weeks ago up at Guntabag with my old buddy Tag Tap. He took me to a tiny little house to see this wonderful old man who they say is eighty-three years old:

It is hard for me to keep tears from my eyes when I look at this image of a man who has lived almost literally from the stone age to the space age. How much the world has changed during his lifetime. He would have been born at a time when nearly the entire population of Papua New Guinea lived in areas which had never been mapped and were presumed to be uninhabited. I do not know his name, and If I did, I would not tell you. Names of venerated persons, especially those who are in the twilight zone are often not spoken aloud. A glance or pointing of the chin in his direction is sufficient to indicate the subject of the conversation. He was alert and could speak, offering to shake my hand. However, he was clearly confused concerning why a foriegner would want to come to meet him and take his photograph. I’m going to get a good framed print made of this one and send it up to him.

I can’t get enough of the Finisterre Mountains.  Despite being surrounded by mountains to the west, the Finisterres,  across Astrolabe Bay,  are the only ones which we can see clearly:

I’ll call that one Too Blue.

I’m calling this one Boards Over Water at Blueblood:

The sand from out feet on the deck and the ripples of sand under the water below the deck connected furiously in my medula oblongata. I stared curiously at my hands as they, of their own accord, set the controls on my trusty Canon G11 and framed the shot. I heard a subtle “click” inside my head when the shutter released. It was surreal.

Here is a happy, happy picture:

It is (Rozlings take note) Roz Savage, Genevieve Tremblay, me and Jo Noble in Faded Glory  on our way out to Planet Rock on Saturday. Thanks to pal Meri Armstrong for the snap. Meri was intensely concerned with getting the iconic Madang Coastwatchers Monument in the background. I enlarged my bicep only slightly – honest! And, by the way, I am not “making a donkey” out of Genevieve. I’m giving the Peace Sign.

Which reminds me. I haven’t shown the Faded Glory  Diving Crew t-shirt logo for a long time:

I’m putting it up here because I’m looking for a t-shirt company who can make some up for me. If anybody out there has any ideas, please leave me a comment or send me an email.

Just a couple of more and then you can get back to work before the boss comes around. I love spirals. When you are in the sea you are surrounded by them. Here is one of my favourite spiral shots:

What I like about them is that none of them are perfect. They are only suggestions of what spirals might be if they tried harder, if they cared more about being true to their good nature. They remind me of humans.

So, now that I’ve gone completely silly, I may as well carry on. I saw this bottle on the otherwise pristine reef at Planet Rock:

As you can see, the reef is desperately trying to incorporate it into itself. It is a hopeless task, because the bottle is of a different nature from the reef. The reef lives. The bottle is dead and always has been. The bottle does not belong to the reef and the reef does not want it there. So, the reef hides its shame and restores its beauty by absorbing the foreign bottle into itself.

I’m calling it Message in a Bottle.

* Please note the incredibly clumsy sentence which I crafted to avoid ending it with the prepostiion “out”.

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Rainy Good Friday – Approaching Nothingness

Posted in Photography Tricks on April 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
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I get stubborn sometimes. Today is one of those times. My general attitude is that, if I can’t work reasonably efficiently or too many things are going wrong for mysterious reasons or my stupid mistakes, then I’m not going to work at all. I’ll play instead.

I’m at the office writing this. I hadn’t planned that. I nearly killed myself yesterday up on the roof of the supermarket (see below) trying to get the wireless hop to my house fixed. Here’s a shot of our brave workman Andrew up the pole at the coconut oil refinery removing the wireless units so that we could put them at the supermarket:

Yes, it’s a horrible photograph. The back lighting was so bad that I gave up. It’s the story that counts. Anyway, despite our best efforts, the stinking link still doesn’t work and I don’t know why. We’ll have to find out next Tuesday when Madang comes back to life.

I like spiders because spiders like to pose. This one was posing on our front door:I think that I need to start thinking about giving that front door a little paint. I’ll think about it some more.

As the title implies, it’s raining today, probably all day, from the looks of it. That squashes my hope for going out on Faded Glory  this afternoon, so I took a couple of hours off to play with some images that I got on the way into the office a couple of days ago.

I’m doing fantasies today. This is my fantasy at Coconut Point:I like playing with colours, as you can plainly see. I don’t care if it looks possible. In fact, I like it better if it looks impossible.

Here are some more impossible colours at Machinegun Point:I wonder if the guy sitting there on the rock was seeing the same thing that I see. If he did, he was probably drunk.

If we’re driving around Coronation Drive with a camera, we can’t leave out the Coastwatchers Monument. It too is having a strange day:

I’m working on the “cartoon look”. This one doesn’t quite make it.

But this one, oh yeah, I’m getting there. It looks like a cartoon to me:

I used the Photoshop Poster Edges filter on that one.

I took some shots from the top of the supermarket roof yesterday and stitched them together. I was about ready to faint from the heat, so I didn’t get in everything that I wanted. Then I Zoomified it for your viewing pleasure:
The big black ship on the right is loading up with wood chips to go somewhere in Korea or Japan to make the box that your next fridge will come in. If you zoom in completely to the stern of the ship, you can read its name. At the fare left, you can just barely make out the name Maneba  on the back of a LUSHIP boat at their engineering yard.

Oh, well, maybe your kids can make a clubhouse out of the cardboard box.

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A Starfish Is Born

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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We have, over the last ten years, lost nearly two thirds of the financial support for our work here. That figure is adjusted for inflation. What that means is that if we depended on our remaining supporters alone, we would not be eating. Going into all the reasons that support has been dropped would be a fruitless exercise, so I’ll forgo boring you with that. It would be unfair of me not to mention that we still have financial backers who have shown no sign of abandoning us and our work. Without them, we would have to leave the work which we came here to do. We would, of course, remain in Madang. It is forever our home.

So, we are left more or less to our own devices to maintain an income level that is conducive to staying alive. Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.  In aid of this, we’ve taken on work to increase our income while remaining full-time on our current jobs. We are both a lot busier than the average mid-sixties couple but I reckon, since we handle stress very well, we’ll probably live longer for it.

This requires some rather tricky juggling. We have to find work that we can do at home or during times when we are not required to be at the office. Another thing that we had to do was set up a registered company to do business. It was a complicated process, since we are technically “foreigners”, but we’ve completed it now and our company is duly registered as J & E Enterprises Limited.

Our company logo might amuse you:We wanted a retro look and I think that we got it. The logo is based on an image that you saw in this post.

There is a certain irony in all of this. We had built up a small business in the USA in the late ’70s with the aim of becoming rich. Okay, okay, we knew we were never going to be rich, but private schools for our son were within our reach. As the business became more and more cut-throat, we found day-to-day dealings were becoming ethically impossible to stomach. The whole game was, as they say, going to the dogs. About that time we decided to sell out and get off the planet. That’s how we ended up in Papua New Guinea. It’s as far as we could get without a space ship.

The name of the company which we sold out was J & E Enterprises Incorporated. Therin lies the irony. When we thought about a name for our new company, we grinned at each other and said, “Why not?”

We also wanted to feature the starfish as a symbol of our business enterprises – no particular reason – we just like it. Here’s the front page of our company brochure:

If you would like to see the entire brochure you can find it in a PDF file here: J & E Enterprises Limited It’s a tri-fold design, so you have to imagine the pages in the proper order.

While on the subject of starfishes, I may as well show you one:You’ve seen the Choriaster granulatus  here many times. It’s as cuddly and cute as a starfish can get.

When I think of our company and how it will make it possible for us to continue our core work here, I want to feel good. It’s a good  thing. I don’t need my work to identify me, but making a positive contribution to my society is  important to my self-image.

A starfish will do nicely.

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Oddball Sunrises

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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This morning, deciding that I need a little more adventure in my life (one can never walk too close to the edge – short of falling over, that is), I decided to turn an ordinary sunrise into something possibly a little more interesting.

But first, I want to show you a lovely shot that Lori Witham, our Administrator of Publications, got this morning. It’s been blustery here for a couple of days. That whips up the sea along the coast and makes towering waves where the ocean crashes into the steep cliffs at the shoreline. One of the best spots to view this is near the end of the golf course on Coronation Drive close to the Coastwatchers Monument. And that is exactly where Lori went this morning to catch this very nice shot:

The Coastwatchers Monument by Lori Witham

Thanks, Lori, for letting me put that up for our readers to appreciate. If the shot looks a little fuzzy, that’s not because Lori doesn’t know her way around a camera. The air is full of salt water spray! You may have seen these other posts showing the Coastwatchers Monument here, here, and here.

Now, getting on to the very ordinary sunrise, here it is:

Ordinary Sunrise

It didn’t look even that good when I staggered out onto my veranda this morning. There was a bit of colour, but what caught my eye was the strong lights on top of a ship behind the main wharf across the harbour. The wind was blowing the leaves of my weeping willow tree. I took a shot through the leaves with a fairly long zoom. The slow shutter speed makes a nice motion blur on the leaves while leaving some of the foreground focused and giving a pleasant blurriness to the background. The shot came out much better than I expected. A nice start for the day:

Willow Sunrise

Flying Foxes were returning from their nightly feast in the bush to their roosts in the trees around Madang Town. I caught this lonely one just as he was flying overhead:

Coconut and Flying Fox Sunrise

I wish that I could have gotten him a little bigger, but I very much enjoy shots such as this one with not too much information. For me, less is more. The negative space of the sky converges with the harsh edges of the coconut tree to focus attention on the tiny dot of the Flying Fox. It’s a twist on the Rule of Thirds. The negative space occupies the Rule of Thirds spaces and the subject is smack in the middle of the frame.

Here’s another extremely simple image that tells a nice little story. You might need to click to enlarge to see the Flying Foxes scattered across the sunrise like pepper on a slice of mango:

Flying Fox Sunrise

As the sun crept up higher, it became more difficult to find something worth shooting. The primary colours of the sky were washing out to an uninteresting bluish grey and nothing else was going on. I walked over to my neighbour’s little haus win  and sat on the ground to get this shot:

Haus Win Sunrise

Then I sat there a while longer and wondered if there was any way that the day could get any better.

We’ll see.

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More Sunrises – Are you Getting Tired Yet?

Posted in Mixed Nuts on June 27th, 2009 by MadDog
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This makes two days in a row on sunrises, but these two are worth taking the risk of boring you. As I was driving in this morning wondering what I was going to write about had how I was going to figure out how to do it before I have to go back home and get the boat ready to pick up my Saturday divers, I came around the long way to see what the sunrise was doing. From my house it didn’t look very promising.

I got a pleasant surprise as I approached the Coastwatchers Monument:

The Coastwatchers Monument and the Rising SunI could see that it had promise, but I was too close to the shore. I pulled around the end of the golf course and parked in front of Trevor Hattersley’s house just in time – two minutes later would have been too late. You can see the monument on the left and the sun just coming up over the horizon on the right.

Then I noticed people walking along Coronation Drive. I wondered if I might get phenomenally lucky.

Early morning walker on Coronation Drive new the Coastwatchers Monument

As it turned out, I did. I caught a guy just as he was passing in front of the disk of the rising sun. You can’t really plan this kind of shot.

It’s a gift.

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