Look Through My Kaleidoscope

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Before I get started showing you the ten rather odd images for today, I’ll tell you what prompted my thinking about looking through things. Since I returned from Australia, I’ve been suffering from a variety of physical and mental ailments, most of which have never been problems before. One of them is paranoia. I’m not feeling weirded out by this, considering the number of very bad things which have happened recently in my life. It seems obvious that one might rightly feel a bit of paranoia under such circumstances.

For example:  I can see well enough to navigate around the house without my glasses, but I would not dare to drive and reading is impossible. I was certain that I had my last pair of glasses tucked safely away somewhere as a backup in case I lost my current pair. “Somewhere” is the catch word. I suppose that whether one might consider this to be a “very bad thing” depends on one’s personal evaluation, but all that I can say is that I simply could not stop thinking about it. After ever more frantic searches, I cannot find them. At least a hundred times the thought popped into my head, “Just ask Eunie.” Well, that’s not gonna happen. It makes my heart pound whenever my mind slips like that. It feels like running full tilt into a brick wall.

Anyway, I pictured losing my glasses and having to ask someone to fly with me to Australia for a new pair of prescription specs. It did not occur to me that there might be a simpler solution. Then I met Dr. John up at Blueblood last week. I discovered that he is an Optometrist with the Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand here in Madang. He told me that they could fit me with standard, ready-made glasses which should work well. I got an eye exam at the Fred Hollows Clinic yesterday. I walked out with three pairs of nice glasses. One pair is for distance, driving, boating, and so forth. A second pair is for computer work. It works best at arm’s length. The third pair is for close-up work or reading.

So, I now no longer need to fear losing my glasses. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll go back and get two additional sets of specs. I’ll leave one at the office and stash the other in a safe (and remembered) place in the house. My total investment will be about K180 (roughly US$60.00). Now I have one less fear on the list. It was small, but it was nagging. I was forever laying my glasses down and forgetting where they were. Eunie would always find them for me.

This episode left me thinking, “Just how stupid am I?”

Okay, having disposed of that item and reminding myself that other difficulties may also have simple solutions, if I can only discover them, let’s proceed with the gaggle of weird images for today.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by kaleidoscopes. I could spend an unreasonable amount of time staring through my grandmother’s very fancy dream maker. It sent my mind on mini-trips to strange and wonderful places. I’ve seen many computer generated multi-mirror images. Most of them do not please me much. I did get a little inspired by the work of Kathleen Farago May in her guest shot on MPBM, though the images lacked real-world components. I Googled for Photoshop plugins designed to create kaleidoscope images and got lucky on the first try with the Mehdi Kaleidoscope Plugin, which is free. I was immediately hooked. Here is a very amusing view of a Juvenile Oriental Sweetlips:

The presence of recognisable real-world images makes the kaleidoscope idea work for me.

Here is another featuring a Butterflyfish:

I wanted more.

Okay, it’s getting even better with this Yellowmargin Triggerfish:

I really like the background pattern in this one. It makes the Triggerfish leap off the screen.

From the same post as the one above, we have Jo Noble free diving:

The centre is quite abstract. As the eye moves out it suddenly encounters the lovely, graceful form of the diver.

A little more abstract, but still realistic is the Green Coral image from just a few days ago:

I have to admit that not much was gained from kaleidoscoping this one. I like the original image better.

This one is maybe my favourite of the bunch. The starfish pops out from the seemingly abstract background:

That one if from Saturday at the Office.

I call this one Hands Across the Water. It’s a kaleidoscopic view of a cartoon treatment of my friend, Carol Dover:

This effect is a little strange. It makes me a bit dizzy.

Here is another one which can make your head spin. When doing human forms you have to watch out for “creepy” artefacts:

The face effects in this one are interesting, but the strange blobs which came along for the ride are a little disturbing.

This one of Ush playing with a shell is less creepy, but even more head-spin inducing:

Kaleidoscoping faces is obviously a little tricky.

What about whole people? My initial experiments didn’t yield much that was pretty, except for the one of Jo Noble. I decided to keep trying. Reducing the number of mirrors seems to be the trick. Here is a much modified image of Jenn Miller floating languidly in the sea at Pig Island:

All of these were surprisingly easy to create and the process doesn’t take much time. I did discover that not every image makes a good kaleidoscope pattern. It seems to work best if the subject is clearly defined against the background. Otherwise, it gets all jumbled up.

You can take it a step further and create purely abstract patterns very easily, but the original image is lost in the multiple reflections very quickly, if you are not careful.

It’s fun to have a new toy. Especially if it was free.

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Gympie Sunset

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have been travelling for a couple of days and also fell into a black hole of no web access at my house, so this is the first time I’ve had a chance to post. A lot has happened. It’s time to catch up.

One thing that I was dreading was the memorial service at the Anglican Church in Gympie. I simply did not see how I could get through it. I’m now reminded that the human spirit is usually stronger than the particular human thinks it is. In other words, you can take a lot more than you think you can.

As it turns out, it was absolutely magnificent. I’d love to tell you the names of all who were in attendance, but I think that might be an invasion of privacy. I was frankly surprised at the number and variety of familiar faces I saw there. If any of the attendees are reading this, please accept again my heartfelt thanks for your efforts to be there to remember Eunie and prop me up.

Carol Dover sang Amazing Grace  is her lovely manner with a mid-southern accent and mountains of soul. Tears flowed like a river. The pastor said that he had never heard singing such as that in that place and I can believe it. It was fitting, comforting and magnificent. It was perfect.

Richard Jones delivered a eulogy which made me proud to know him and count him as a friend. Rich had been chosen as the man on the spot. After what he and Jenn had been through – all of us had been through – it was not an easy task nor one to take lightly. We had all read it when he was finished composing. We knew that the truly hard part would be getting through it. His brief pauses to compose himslef during the reading were both understandable and fitting.

As Val took me to a friend’s house to pick up the mail they had collected for her while we were all in Brisbane, I spied this wonderful sunset:

Throughout this ordeal for those who knew Eunie, so many people have been right where I needed them to be. It’s a testament to someone who radiated love and attracted it back to herself. Here is another shot of the sunset:Once again, the next day – signing a new will, going to the dentist – people were there. Nobody said, “Call me if there’s anything I can do.” and then turned away. They just started doing whatever they saw needed to be done. Somebody once told me a story about “The Guy Who Cleaned Shoes”. This fellow would show up at a house in his neighborhood where there was some sort of death-related gathering and ask people to remove their shoes and line them up in the hallway. Then he would get his shoeshine kit out and polish everyone’s shoes. This is the kind of action I’ve been getting.

Val’s lawyer would not let me pay for drawing up a new will with one day’s notice. Rich and Jenn went to the funeral home to pick up Eunie’s ashes for me, saving me the agony. Carol and Amanda sat quietly with me, holding me when I needed it. I want to mention more examples, but hesitate to open private spaces. If you are reading this, you know who you are. I love you for being there.

Here is a picture of Eunie at her desk – right where she belonged – taken not long after she was elected Director of the Pioneer Bible Translators Papua New Guinea Branch:

It may be a couple of days until I am able to post again. I have no web access at my house – something is broken in my wireless link – and I’m dealing with some emotional issues, as you can imagine.

I’ll be back.

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The Mary Valley Heritage Railway

Posted in On Tthe Road on September 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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A Major Distraction:

Now, five days since my dear wife Eunie crossed her final bridge, life is grinding on with a bizarre surrealism that I did not think possible. In fact, none of this is thinkable. Some of you out there will know exactly what I am talking about. The rest will find out soon enough.

Fortunately, my friends, really my propper-uppers, recognise my need for distraction and have continued to drag me out for “walks” and provide me with videos in the evening and valiantly attempted to keep me from brooding at the computer or, worse yet, sitting with the thousand yard stare in my eyes. Meanwhile, I’m putting on as brave a face as I can manage for their sakes and mine too, if the truth be known.

Sunday’s major distraction was the Mary Valley Historic Railway, which under happier circumstances I would have enjoyed more. Here is one of the locomotives and its tender on the turntable at the end of the line:

It is quite a contraption. The whole shebang spins around slowly until it is going back the way it came. Then the locomotive hooks up to the what was the back of the train and pulls it back to Gympie.

I’ll intersperse the misery with the fun stuff as I go along just to keep you informed and on your toes. Today, I have the chores of going to the funeral home to sign yet more papers and pay for Eunie’s cremation, going to the dentist for who knows what and having a new will drawn up. Pardon my sarcasm when I say that I have had better days. I have to remind myself that I’ve had much, much worse.

This is probably the most illustrative image of what the The Valley Rattler  is all about – a nostalgic and amusing, if somewhat rocky ride behind a puffing steam engine across some very beautiful Australian countryside:

I didn’t see any kangaroos.

This is the Club Car. The entire railway is operated by volunteers. It is really quite amazing. When you take into account all of the time and skills required to keep it going it’s hard to fathom the dedication required:

All of the money required is raised through the sale of tickets and charitable events.

Tomorrow I will go back to the funeral home to get Eunie’s ashes. In the morning there will be a memorial service at the Anglican Church. Tomorrow afternoon Rich, Jenn and I will bid farewell to Val and thank her for being a rock for us. We will then drive back to Brisbane and stay overnight. On Wednesday, the three of us will fly back to Madang – yet another thing to simultaneously long for and dread.

And here is a view into the heart of the beast:

There is roughly four hours of travel time which consumes about two tonnes of coal.

Here is a shot of the guy who drives the train. On the day we travelled with him he was celebrating his 80th birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. Engineer:

The next few days are going to be very hectic and disturbing. Every time that I think I’m dragging myself out of deep denial I find myself thinking that it simply can’t be true. It’s a bad dream. I got four hours of sleep last night – the worst night yet. I can’t stop the chatter in my head. Last year’s New Year’s Resolution was to teach myself to turn off negative, unproductive thinking – stop trying to think myself out of insoluble problems. By mid-year, I was largely successful. Now that’s all blown away like the sparks from The Rattler’s boiler.

It may be a couple of days before I get a chance to post again. I’ll be back. Hopefully, I’ll feel like writing something less sombre. We’ll see.

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Planet Rock – When Is Close Enough Too Close?

Posted in Under the Sea on March 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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Feeling much better after a week of taking a gut wrenching (you know what I mean) antibiotic, I found that I could pop my ears on Saturday morning. So, I took a 12-hour Sudafed at about 09:00, reckoning that I would be flopping on my back in the water at about 11:00. Jo Noble and I motored out in Faded Glory  along with Richard Jones and Jenn Miller riding in their boat Sanguma.

We arrived to find a metre of Gol Gol River  water clouding our vision of the top of the reef, along with a medium current and a long, rolling swell – not good omens. Only Richard and I were diving, so we quickly sized up the conditions and decided to go for it. I still wasn’t feeling as strong as I might, but we decided before going in that we would come back up immediately if it wasn’t any fun.

We’ve been diving lately with Rich as my “spotter” and me manning the Canon G11 camera. Today we once again proved to be a successful hunting team, gathering several trophies. I’ll have more over the next few days.

The question that came up several times on this dive is, “When is close enough for a really good shot a little bit too close for comfort?” First, I should mention that I’m a natural-born coward. Bravado is not my forte, I’m adverse to pain and my inclinations are less toward masochism and more toward narcissism. Therefore, I tend to be careful. I want to be doing this when I’m 90.

Still, one wants to get the shots that make people say, “Wow!” Sometimes you have to discomfort yourself a mite to do that. This shot of a Giant Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus)  was like snapping a cute little pussycat:My lens was a good 15cm from his jaws and he wasn’t looking perturbed at all. If I tried to move closer, he just slithered back into his hidey-hole. A self-regulating safety situation for the both of us.

This younger individual was in no mood for fooling around:A soon as I crept up on it I got the, “Are you ready to deal with this?” attitude. I backed off a bit to let it get used to my intrusion and then came in for a second visit.

This time I got the, “You better get outta my face, man!” posture:Truthfully, though I never wear gloves, the most serious injury I might sustain from a Moray of this size is some very nasty lacerations and a scratched up camera. Nevertheless, I decided that this was close enough. I didn’t want to turn the poor critter into a man-eater. We don’t encourage our Morays to develop a taste for people.

We do have many dangerous critters in these waters. However, hardly any of them are aggressive, unless you physically molest them, which I take great pains not  to do.

An example is the whole family of Sorpionfishes. You’ve seen many of the varieties here. This one is the Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis):You may have to look hard to find the fish. They are masters of camouflage. Therein lies the rub. Though they would never actually attack, they intensely dislike being molested. There are a series of highly venomous spines along the dorsal fine and other places on different species. Any one of these spines can envenome you in a way that you are guaranteed to find not only extremely painful, but possibly fatal, though that is a rarity.

The main danger is, of course, is that you may inadvertently come into contact with one before you even see it. A couple of weeks ago I was about to lay my hand on a rock to steady myself for a shot when the “rock” moved. I felt pretty stupid to realise the unpleasantness which I had just escaped.

Here’s a closer shot. This is about as close as you want to get:Of course, it’s not going to “attack”, but in its haste to get away, I could get punctured.

You’ll probably have to examine this shot closely to find the Octopus:You can easily pick out the breathing tubes. One of its  eyes is the reddish object just below the branchy stuff hanging down to the left of centre.

Of course, an octopus has absolutely no interest in attacking a human, at least not one of this size. It was simply hiding from us. Richard saw it moving across the bottom. As soon as it spotted him, the critter holed-up.

I was on a dive in Hawaii once when our dive leader stuck his hand in a hole, wrestled around a bit, and pulled out an octopus with a arm spread of about a metre.

I assure you that I would never  do that.

I can’t be a very nice experience for the octopus.

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