More Coral and Flatworms – Ho-hum

Posted in Under the Sea on January 25th, 2011 by MadDog
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A week ago I would have bet against a long delay until my next post. That was before I remembered that I would have a house guest for the week. To further delay me, PNG Power arranged a splendid display of incompetence by switching the power on and off over nearly the entire weekend. My dinky UPS was not up to the task. When It got to the point at which I could not safely shut down my computer before the UPS gave up with a shriek, I decided that I could use a break anyway.

Today I’ll show a few more coral and flatworm images from our dive on the wall at Blueblood.

I looked through my pitifully inadequate marine invertebrates reference book for this coral without success:Likewise, this specimen escaped the attention of my book:I’ve found the web virtually useless for identifying organisms. Give me a big, fat book anytime. Once I have narrowed down the possibilities by leafing through the pages and scanning the images quickly with my calibrated eyeballs, I can pretty quickly determine what it is, or at least that my book doesn’t have it.

Pretty much the same thing applies to flatworms, such as this little beauty:It’s easy to identify which of the items here is the flatworm. It’s flat. In fact, they are so flat that they remind me of the creatures inhabiting a bizarre two-dimensional world which sprang from the mind of the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott in his novel Flatland written in 1884. The work was  a not-so-subtle dig at certain aspects of Victorian society.

And here is a junior Flatlander:

This is an infant version of the previous one. This one was only about five millimeters long. You may note that the image looks a bit grainy. This is because of the digital noise from the sensor. I had very little light here, so I had to push the sensor up to ISO 400. On the Canon G11, this is the threshold at which noise becomes a problem. This was made worse because I had to take only a portion of the frame, since the critter was so small.

Here is another denizen of Flatland:

In this shot you can see the fault with the flash arrangement on the Canon G11 factory underwater housing. If you get too close with a macro shot and need to use the built-in flash you will find that the lens portion of the housing casts a shadow on the lower part of the image. You can see evidence of that here in the blue cast in the bottom portion.

I’ll finish with a couple of more unidentified coral images:

There’s a spiky one.

I don’t know how to describe this one:

A princess castle under the sea? Okay, I’m reaching now.

The headstone for Eunie’s grave should arrive from Australia this week. I’ll be contacting my friend Shane at Lae Builders to find out how quickly he can construct a cement monument suitable to hold the headtone. Taking care of Eunie’s resting place is something which I must see to before I leave for Australia and North America hopefully before the middle of March.

I wish that I could overcome the anxiety which I feel when I think of planning my trip. I know from experience that I will be okay once I get on the plane out of Madang. It’s always the same. However, the planning for this journey is going to be very tricky. I have some very important things to do. My future welfare will depend on the results of my efforts in ways which are new in my life.

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Flatworms and Ice Spikes – Yikes!

Posted in Under the Sea on January 14th, 2011 by MadDog
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I can remember seeing ice spikes before, but I never had an opportunity to capture a photograph of one. A few days ago I opened the freezer door to get some ice and I got a surprise also. One of the cubes was topped by a perfect little ice spike. Here it is:

I’ve read that the purity of the water is a key factor in the formation of ice spikes. My water here at home is all rainwater which is stored in a big cement tank under my front porch. I suppose it is relatively pure, as there would be no dissolved minerals as are found in ground water. The spikes form when the water is freezing. If conditions are just right, they grow in the final stage of cube formation. Since water is one of those rare and peculiar substances which actually expand when freezing instead of contracting, the little bit of water that is finally freezing keeps expanding and the only place it has to go is up.

I’ll show you a few shots from our dive up on the wall at Blue Blood last Sunday. It was Flatworm Day, but I’ll get to them later. While we’re on the subject of strange looking things, here is a Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinosa):

These look like balloons, but they feel like . . . nothing! They are so incredibly delicate that I don’t see how they survive. If you fiddle with the polyps they contract and leave a razor-like skeleton exposed.

Here is one of the many flatworms which we saw. I have never seen so many individuals and so many different species in one place. It’s a little hopeless for me to look up the species name, so I won’t bother:

I’ll be showing images of the other species which we found over the next few days.

This coral shot has a wealth of detail in it. It’s worth a click to see the delicate structure:

I’ve uploaded it at a larger than usual resolution so that it can make a good desktop background.

This is one of the largest colonies of this reddish coral that I have seen:

Finally, I’ll throw in a Flabelina  genus nudibranch. This is one of the better shots that I have of these. They are only about 30 mm long, so it’s difficult to get a really good close up:I don’t know where this depression is going. There seems to be no bottom. At least I’m still mostly functional. I get up and go to work except on days when I’ve notified the office staff that I have something else going on or I have urgent personal things to which I must attend. I socialise, I write. In short, to outward appearances I seem to be relatively normal. Inside smoulders a train wreck. In this heap of rubble the fire is spreading. I’m still rejecting drugs, because I still believe I can manage without and I don’t want to trade what I think is a manageable situation for one which lasts for an indeterminate length of time and may or may not help me. Furthermore, at the end of any treatment, I’d be left with the problem of getting off the drug. This can sometimes cause its own problems.

Even as bad as I feel now, as I look back over the last four months I have to acknowledge that I can mark progress month by month. Some of it is very significant progress. I’m sleeping much more easily and the nightmares have relented. The panics have receded into the dark corners. I sometimes feel those cold fingers reaching out, but they no longer pull me to the floor. Social gatherings have become easier to tolerate and I can sometimes feel good for an entire evening. Suicide no longer seems like an option. That’s a lot of improvement.

My friend Alison Raynor just suggested to me that I should start concentrating on how much I’m going to enjoy my trip to Australia. I think that’s good advice.

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Sharp and Smooth

Posted in Under the Sea on July 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Weekdays come and go. My last work week consisted of exactly one day – Friday. Wouldn’t it be nice if Friday was the only work day? You could go to work in the morning knowing that when you clock in you are beginning your week and when you clock out, it’s the weekend again. Pay might be a problem, however. I’m working on a plan to live without money. If I get it worked out, I’ll let you know.

And following my one-day work week came Glorious Dive Day! I had nobody going out on Faded Glory  this week, so I skipped all of that boat loading and unloading and just went out with Richard Jones on Sanguma.  I have to admit, I really like getting picked up at my front door. It’s quite a treat compared to my usual Saturday routine.

The dive was quite nice. The Eel Garden was putting on a fine show. I got some very nice underwater shots. However, as it sometimes happens, my favourite shot of the day has nothing to do with fish. Ush is one of my favourite photographic subjects, at least when she is not too shy. I kept seeing wonderful reflections in her cheeky red sunglasses. A little coaxing got her into the mood to pose for me:

When I first saw the result on my computer screen I was not overjoyed. Though Ush gave me just what I wanted, my exposure skills were not up to snuff. It took me the better part of an hour to massage the image into what my original vision demanded. I wanted the sharpness of the sunglasses and the reflections, but I needed Ush’s skin to be as soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Well, it pretty much is in reality, but cameras are harsh to skin, as we all know. I’m happy with the finished product. It’s the most fun I’ve gotten from a single image for quite a while.

Now this one . . . this one is a mistake. It was so bad that I nearly deleted it. However, I sometimes like to play the photographic savior and redeem otherwise worthless frames:

The Soldierfish was swimming away, it was too distant, and the light was all wrong. On top of that, I had my flash turned on, which threw off the colour balance. I know! I’ll call it “Art’.

Richard Jones came over to me with a rock and seemed quite excited about it. It took me a moment to realise that on that rock was a nudibranch which I had never seen before. Of course, I took its picture. It’s a Phyllidia ocellata:

I have to say that it is probably the most humorously patterned nudibranch which I have seen. Some nudis are ethereal in their beauty. This one is wearing a clown suit.

I should know the name of this Planaria, more commonly called a flatworm. I got this shot standing on my head, because it was under a ledge. I’ve turned it right-side-up for you:

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m not going to look it up. Somebody out there help me. It’s very common here.

I’ll finish up with a couple of “Deep Focus” reef scenes. As several readers have pointed out, there is nothing special about these high depth of field shots. It’s just a matter of setting your camera right and having favourable shooting conditions:

However, I have noted that few underwater photographers actually do it. It seems as if nearly everybody either shoots macro shots of little things or big, gaudy scenes shot with super-wide angle lenses and multiple flashes.

I don’t see many shots such as these which use a cheap camera and a normal lens stopped down to achieve maximum depth of field:

I find them pleasing, because when I seen them I can honestly say, “That’s just the way it looked to me.”

Someday, that is going to come in very handy for me.

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A Feast for My Camera

Posted in Tattoos, Under the Sea on February 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday, for our regular Saturday morning dive, we motored out to Pig Island  to check out the Eel Garden, one of our favourites.

Along with some ordinary, but nevertheless spectacular critters, we enjoyed some rare treats.

On the long wall that marks the outer side of the Eel Garden, I visited one of my favourite anemones. Its residents are Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus).  One of the pleasures of doing many dives in a small area over many years is that you get to know the fish as your neighbours. This is Mary Jane and her young cohabitant, Mike:
Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)Over on the other side of the wall at the old catamaran wreck, a double cluster of Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinuosa)  was lit very nicely. I took a shot with the light available, eschewing my flash, as is my wont. It’s nicely balanced, not too bright, and the colours are somewhat muted – just exactly the way my eyes saw it:

Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinuosa)

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I prefer shots that I’m able to capture with the light that is presented to me by nature. Sometimes flash is necessary (as in the Spinecheek shot at the top), but I prefer to show you the images that I saw with my naked eyeballs.

To illustrate the difference once again, here is the same shot with the flash turned on:

Bubble Coral (with flash)  - (Plerogyra sinuosa)

It’s more colourful, but it is not  what I saw.

Once in a while, maybe every hundred dives, we get to see something that blows us away. Here’s Albert, one of our Spanish divers, getting a shot of a giant flatworm. He had just gotten this new camera and this was his first dive with it:

Albert shooting the giant flatworm with his new camera

In case you don’t know much about flatworms (planaria), let me tell you that this one is huge. I can’t find it in my identification book, so it must be fairly rare. On the odd chance that anybody out there recognizes it or has a better book than I do, please let me know the species name:

Giant flatworm - Do you know the species?

On the other hand, new species are being discovered at the rate of dozens a year, so we may have  found something that has not yet been described.

Finally, Anna, another of our Spanish divers, has herself a brand-new tattoo:

Anna's new tattoo

And, a lovely one it is. I’m more into the pictorial designs rather than the abstract. However, this one, based on the henna hand designs, is certainly beautiful and very feminine.

Good job, Anna, for choosing wisely. It’s there for life, so I’m happy for you that it’s a good one.

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