Arizona Colorfest – The G11’s Last Gasp

Posted in Arizona Images on August 15th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’ve been painfully aware lately that I’ve outgrown my G11. I would still recommend it to any amateur who wants top image quality in a small, weapons-grade package. Truly, they are as tough as nails. I’ve often (possibly too often) said that it’s the only camera I know of which you could wield to bludgeon an assailant unconscious and then take his picture. My G10 was once stolen from me on the street in Madang. When a cop accidentally caught the mugger the felon threw my camera on the pavement hard enough to dent the metal casing. I was amazed that the tough little beast still worked perfectly. Anyway, I’ve gotten a good run from the G series. I’ve had a G9, a G10 and a G11.

However, events in my life are going to require me to present a more professional image, if you will excuse the pun. It’s sad to say that photographers are sometimes judged by their gear. It’s one case in which size does matter. I’ve often been gently scorned when I show up for a shoot with my dinky G11. No matter that the images are great. Most shots do not require anything more sophisicated. My theory was that if I could take 90% of the images I want with a $500 camera, then a $5000 camera to get the last 10% made no sense at all. Well, I’m not about to spend $5000 for a camera, but I certainly need to take a step up.

Today I ordered a Canon 5d Mk II with appropriate lenses and accessories. It’s a lot of camera for the money. I’ve drooled over several of them in camera stores until the clerks take them away for a wipe-down. It’s suitably massive and professional looking and sports a humongous twenty-one megapixel sensor. It has astounding low light level capabilities. The only thing I did not like about it is that it has no inbuilt flash. I suppose that the pros turn their noses down at such niceties. Photographers can be horrible snobs.

So, since my G11 will shortly be retired to the hermitage of the glove box so that I always have a camera in the car, I had a last fling with it at the Grand Canyon a few days ago. My good friends Ian and Liz Dosser happened to be in the USA for extensive holiday travel. I persuaded them to come for a visit to Sedona. I wanted them to meet Grace, but Grace departed two days early for the impending birth of another grandchild, so I’ll be playing Lonely Guy for three weeks until I join her in St. Louis. Ian and Liz and I visited the Grand Canyon on Friday and the Painted Dessert and Petrified forest on Saturday.

Herre’s a shot of the Grand Hole in the Ground:

I was fiddling with the color of the far rim to try to get some of the blue out. I went too far. It looks like a coal strip mine.

This is more the way it actually looks. Here Ian and Liz are standing out on the edge of a rock which hangs right out over the canyon. I reckon it is several hundred feet to the nearest rocks below. When you walk out on this rock you can not help getting a strong feeling of vertigo. When I approached the edge all I could say was, “Whoa!”:

I can sit in the door of a helicopter all day with my feet hanging out in space and enjoy myself immensely. I don’t understand what the difference is. When I get out there close to the edge I freeze up.

There are plenty of safer places to enjoy the view. There were several ravens riding the updrafts near the rim. They seldom needed to flap their wings:

I wish I could do that. I sometimes dream about it.

This is known as the most dangerous beast of the canyon. It’s a Grand Canyon Squirrel (Rock Squirrel) – Spermophilus variegatus:

They bite for the fun of it and carry several nasty diseases. I watched this one run right over a man who was sitting on the ledge. The critter did not even slow down. I can imagine someone being so startled that they might fall off the edge. I wonder if that has ever happened?

Back at home Ian and I drove down to Red Rock Crossing to catch the afternoon wine light reflecting off of Cathedral Rock. It’s a famous photographic location. There were three or four guys there with probably twenty thousand dollars worth of camera gear each. I almost asked Ian if he’d like to help to rob them, but he’s an ex copper. I did not think the idea would go down well with him. Anyway, these guys had Nikons and Pentax gear. I’m a Canon man. These two shots are High Dynamic Range compositions consisting of five frames with exposure running from way dark to way light. It’s the only way you can capture the range of brightnesses in these scenes:

This is going to be a favorite place for shooting. It is only down the street from the house.

Here was the scene down at the crossing itself, where the old road went through Oak Creek:

When I get my new 5D I’m going to try for a “silky water” shot here.

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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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Scuttling the Doilon

Posted in At Sea, Under the Sea on August 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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In 1994, after a hapless life along the north coast, the ageing cargo vessel Doilon  met destiny noisily. Many Madang residents made the short passage to Kranket Island to view the spectacle. As the blasting experts set charges in her engine room, a flotilla of little boats bobbed around her and then scurried away like water striders as dire warnings were shouted across the water. The countdown proceeded: Five, four, three, two, one . . . ka-BOOM! Brilliant towers of water on either side of her stern gushed to four or five times the height of her bridge. Within thirty seconds, she disappeared beneath the blue waters as the announcement of her passing still echoed off the mountains. Among the spectators, we divers felt particularly privileged to be present at a rebirth that would mark the beginning of a new relationship for the old lady. No longer would she roam the sea. She would now be nurtured by it. Her transformation into a splendid garden would be observed by her former masters:

The Doilon being scuttled - 1994 - Kranket Island, Madang, Papua New Guinea

That was the opening paragraph for an article titled The Reincarnation of the Doilon  that I wrote for Niugini Blue magazine.  I won’t bore you with the rest of the text, but I will show you some of the images from the article.

First, I have to tell you a funny story. My old dive buddy Ian Dosser and I went out to check how the marine life was getting along on the fairly young wreck. I was down near the bottom of the hull. I looked around and did not see Ian. Then I looked up. What I saw is in the inset at the upper left of this image:

My dive buddy Ian Dosser shown up in the corner meeting the Giant Grouper

That’s Ian just as he turned around and saw the massive Giant Grouper about a metre away from him. I watched a huge glob of bubbles emit from Ian, but he didn’t back away (he’s a tough copper, you don’t want to mess around with him).  Still, the huge fish must have outweighed him at least five to one. You can imagine that we toasted that big grouper with a few cold ones.

Here is a composite image of the location of the wreck:

The location of the Doilon wreck

And here is a side-scanning sonar image that I got from Faded Glory  with my Humminbird sonar:

A side-scanning sonar image captured from Faded Glory of the Doilon wreck

There is a huge array of marine life growing on the Doilon.  It has only been down about fifteen years, but everything grows very rapidly in these very warm, rich waters. It’s often like swimming in a tepid bowl of soup. The visibility is not usually terrific, but there is plenty to see. Here is some winch equipment near the bow:

Winch gear near the bow of the Doilon

The Doilon is a favourite night dive. It lies in fairly protected water and is easy to find. At night, it is crawling with exotic critters seldom seen in the daytime. Here is a Leopard Cowrie on the prowl with its mantle extended over its shell:

Cowrie shell with mantle exposed shot on a night dive on the Doilon

And here are two Chromodoris  nudibranchs doing the tango:

A couple of Chromodoris species nudibranchs found on a night dive on the Doilon

If you dive the Doilon,  please remember to go around to Kranket lagoon and find Thomas to grease his palm. The Krankets get cranky if you don’t pay them. You might find yourself dodging stones.

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Melbourne’s Finest

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on October 25th, 2008 by MadDog
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Yesterday I offered to you three images from my visit to Melbourne last year. Today I’ll slap you with four more. We’ll start out where we left off – with the train:

Mirror Worlds

The shot above would be nothing at all without the dark arrow piercing the scene. It intrudes. It menaces. Yet, contained within the unknown blackness there is a mirror world. This was another frame that I nearly deleted.

It always pays to stop and pay attention. You may have forgotten why you took a photo a year ago. Or, you may have had no clear intention. Still yet, your mind may not have been telling you all there was to say about the scene at the time – your subconscious takes command of your hands and your finger lingers over the shutter button until the moment is right. And – you wonder why.

The message of the image eluded me until I stepped away from the computer to do something across the room. I turned around and saw it from a distance – without the details that I had been concerned about getting just right. The message was clear – Mirror Worlds separated by a gulf of darkness. Duh! Why did it take me so long?

The next one is more fun. I know some cities in which you wouldn’t point your camera at a cop. The least you might expect is a caution. These fellows were having none of that. As our merry troupe passed we waved and I snapped:

Melbourne’s Finest

No deep meanings here that I can see. Sometimes it’s just for fun. The mood becomes the message instead of the other way around. As Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

But, my, oh my, this next one is loaded. I don’t remember what this big skull image was all about. I often wander aimlessly without knowing what I’m looking at.

There are several things that amuse me about this shot, aside from the obvious:

Fair Way - At All Times

First, there is the question of the message of the skull. Let’s set that aside because I don’t know – aimless wandering, remember? Nevertheless, it is what it is.

Click it to enlarge so that you can see the details. Now you can read the sign from which this image gets its title; Fair Way – At All Times. A bit of irony? Maybe.

Look at the young woman. She’s way off to the side of the frame and facing away from the skull as if she is poised to escape. Yet she seems nonchalant. Or, possibly she’s blissfully unaware of what’s behind her. Or maybe that she’s seen it, but she . . .

Hey, wait a minute! Find your own meaning in the image – if, indeed, there is one for you. Why am I showing you this stuff, anyway?

I should shut up and just give you the pictures.

Well, I have one more from beautiful Melbourne. Ian Dosser was a best mate (and still is) when he was here in Madang with AUSAID as an Advisor to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. I’m proud to count him as a dear friend. Truth is, I miss him – especially his humour and good-heartedness. If I were ever in trouble with the fuzz, this is the guy who I’d want to cuff me:

Good buddy Ian Dosser

This one’s for you, Ian. Give Liz a hug for me.

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