Lights

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on August 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post won’t be windy. I’m winded. I had no idea that I was going to be so busy and feel as if I’m accomplishing so little. Yesterday evening was our last night with Trevor and Karen, who came down to Cairns to visit us. It was, of course, bittersweet. We left Eunie alone for a while to get pizzas to bring back to the room to eat while we watched a couple of movies.

Naturally, I had my camera with me and there is no such a thing as killing time if you have your camera in your hand. You can divert your attention to creating something, even if it is inconsequential. As I saw the variety of lights on the Esplinade, I got to thinking about lights. Brilliant, eh?

Man’s lights and the lights of nature – both illuminate. Some of man’s lights are beautiful. Think of the streams of glory from a stained glass window or the adrenaline beauty of fireworks. Others are horrid, such as the deadly flash of a thermonuclear bomb. Nature too provides a variety of lights, benign, such as the moon, or nurturing or deadly as chance may be in the sun’s rays:

Some of man’s lights are open to a wide range of artistic interpretation. Here I captured the tail lights of passing cars in a fifteen second exposure with the camera rather shakily balanced on top of a post:
The cars are mere streaks. Most people have blurred into non-existence. As I looked at the image in the preview, the title came to me instantly. Watch Long Enough – Everything Changes.

But some lights are different. They illuminate, but not through the sensations of the eyes. They illuminate the soul.

I positioned myself quite a distance away for this shot, so I think that I can honestly say that it is candid:Trevor and Karen dropped everything that they were doing, blew a bunch of hard-earned cash, and came to be with friends to share our suffering, cheer us up , provide necessary counsel, cry with us, laugh with us and shine some much needed light on the subject of hope. This is not to mention the practical details which Karen helped Eunice with – ones which I am not yet ready to face.

How many friends can you count that would do that?

This is the light of treasure.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wish that I had some news today. Eunie stayed up late last night watching movies and went to bed happy. Her colour seems to be improving – she’s less yellow. Her appetite has also improved. These are good signs for her strength which she is going to need in the future. We have not yet heard from the oncologist about our move to Brisbane, but it is only Tuesday afternoon as I write this. My own condition is fragile and I know that I cannot allow this to continue. I know that I will be better able to cope when we are in Brisbane with our friend Val, because she is a strong, take-charge woman and takes no nonsense from me. I will have to toughen up considerably to keep her from beating me up for being a wimp.

After decades of softening myself, sensitising myself, growing absurdly empathetic and always, always, learning that the more I give the more of what I need that I receive, I find myself now suddenly weak and ineffectual in situations where I need to be forceful and decisive.

It is a puzzlement.

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Guest Shooter – Cairns Through Karen Simmons’ Eyes

Posted in Guest Shots on August 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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Today was a good day, because we would be very alone without our friends and two of our best are here with us in a time of need. Yesterday I worked a bit in the afternoon and later in the evening with Karen Simmons, who has a very nice Olympus SP590UZ camera, but wanted to learn how to do some things a little more exciting than snapshots. I was only too happy to oblige.

We started out on the balcony with lessons about shutter speed and aperture, probably the two most important fundamentals one needs to understand about a camera. It’s not rocket science, but they are things which casual shooters are probably not thinking about.

After a while, Karen was understanding it all, but getting restless. We started on the fancy options of her camera. One is a highly tricked-out panorama mode which actually builds the shot inside the camera so that you don’t have to fiddle with it in Photoshop. You just download the finished image onto your computer:That’s a very respectable image of the Cairns Marina from the balcony of the apartment. So far, so good. We’re into the advanced shots already.

Of course, we had to go down into the streets in the evening for the really fun shots, such as this UFO candidate which is actually the blurred lights of a passing car. Once Karen started to use the shutter speed priority setting on the camera to select a very slow shutter and she learned to brace the camera securely, she was able to take shots such as this until the novelty began to wear off:

It doesn’t take long. One thing leads to another.

There is a big festival on in Cairns now. On the Esplinade was a big tent sporting some action. It was good for Karen to have a go a what I would consider nearly impossible shots:

Though just about every condition for a decent shot is missing here, she still managed to grab a decent image of some Torres Straits Islanders performing a traditional dance.

This is my favourite of Karen’s shots for the night. Simply placing the camera on a flat surface for bracing allowed this beautiful low shutter speed image, as long as the girl didn’t move:

Fortunately, she was sitting quite still.

This is another real beauty. The lighting and composition here is very pleasing. Karen was amazed at the shots she was getting with just a little understanding and practice:

She managed to catch the single swimmer playing with the water gushing from the fountain.

Karen wanted to shoot the fountain close up to catch the water spray. I told her that I didn’t think it would be possible with the amount of light available. I was both right and wrong. There was not enough light to freeze the drops, but what she wanted was the impression of the flowing streams:

After fiddling with the camera for a while, she got exactly what she wanted. Frankly, I would not have thought to do this, but it is an excellent image technically and the composition is very interesting.

One thing that people who fancy themselves as good photographers sometimes lose is the crazy spontaneity that sometimes produces a very amusing image. Here is a beautiful example of what I’m talking about.

Again, I would never have thought to try this shot. It’s nearly impossible to get the timing right.

Fortunately for me and you, Karen didn’t know that. My advice is don’t learn too  much. You’ll start thinking like a geek.

Good on ya, Karen.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Tonight we see an oncologist for the first time concerning Eunie’s condition. I can never remember feeling more anxiety in my life. It is the first time that we may have a chance to catch a glimpse of the future. If you know my wife, you very likely already love her. She is simply that kind of person. If you are a thinker, think good vibes in her direction. If you’re a prayer, pray for a merciful verdict this evening.

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Karen’s Most Excellent Adventure

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Our dear friends Trevor Hattersly and Karen Simmons came yesterday to stay with us for the weekend. What a pleasure it is to have them here. I’ll talk more about why at the end of the post.

While I’m at it, I’ll explain my tactic for keeping Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  a pleasant place to visit while still giving information concerning Eunie’s medical condition. I’ll present my usual weirdness in the beginning of each post. Casual readers can, as usual, like it or not, according to their tastes. At the end each post I will give any news concerning Eunie. This seems to be the best way to keep the character of the journal as it has been in the past, while still giving out information which is of concern to some readers.

So, if you’re here for the distraction or frivolity, read as far as you like and then go your happy way. If you’re here for the news, try to wade through my craziness and continue to read to the end.

My assignment yesterday evening was to deliver some terribly technical photographic instruction to Karen, who wanted to be able to use her Olympus SP590UZ camera more creatively. Since I’m not a “press that button and don’t ask questions” kind of guy, it required a nighttime field trip to demonstrate the techniques.

Our first stop was in the hotel lobby to talk about low light, slow shutter speeds and white balance:

I can’t believe how funky my shoes look. Those shoes are not me!  Karen’s pose seems to imply intense concentration. Today, I’ll present the images which I took. Tomorrow, Karen will be our Guest Shooter with the images from her camera.

Our first street expedience was to talk about camera bracing and the use of slow shutter speeds to get interesting motion blur effects. Here I braced my Canon G11 on top of the rear view mirror of a car and waited for Karen to tell me when vehicles were coming so that I could get some blurred tail lights:

The blurring of the cars changes what would be a pretty ordinary image into something a little more dynamic. This was a one second exposure.

Still on the subject of motion blur and slow shutter speeds, we moved over to the ocean side of the Esplinade along the sea wall to catch some Phantom Walkers, also shot at a slow shutter speed with the camera sitting on a sign post:

People who were sitting relatively still are sharply defined. Those who were moving are blurred. It’s not rocket science.

All modern digital cameras have a variety of “Scene” settings. Some of these are very useful, because you can’t easily set the camera up manually to create the same effect. On this one we used the “Night Snapshot” setting on the G11 to get Karen sitting primly by the swimming pool with the fountain in the background:

For this setting the camera needs to be braced or on a tripod to keep the background from blurring. The total exposure time was probably a half second or more, so the camera must be held absolutely still for that period of time. At the end of the exposure, the flash goes off, hopefully properly exposing the foreground. One can get some very interesting shots with this setting.

On our way back to the apartment, we were startled out of our wits by the sudden appearance of two tiny UFOs, which whizzed past us up Aplin Street heading in the direction of the outback:

They were accompanied by weird “wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa” noises that faded away into the warm tropical night leaving behind an ominous silence. We waited in intense anxiety for a second or two and then went upstairs. “I don’t think they noticed us.” was my cautious comment.

The final lesson of the evening was a nice little panorama of Cairns at night, at least the part that we can see from the balcony:

All in all, a very pleasant experience. Karen seemed quite pleased to see what she could do with her camera. There will be more lessons later.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tonight, at the unusual hour of 21:00 we will be seeing a top-notch oncologist at the office of our surgeon. The oncologist operates out of Brisbane at a hospital which specialises in these disorders. Our hope is that he will tell us that Brisbane is our best logistical option. We have excellent support near Brisbane. Trevor and Karen’s presence here this weekend is a genuine blessing. Karen spent the afternoon yesterday investigating on the web information that Eunie needs, but I simply cannot deal with at the moment.

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Funky Art

Posted in Humor on July 29th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday, Trevor Hattersley came around to my office with a flash drive containing some pictures which he and Karen got at The Henley Festival at Henley on Thames in jolly old England. Trev wanted to see if I could fix some exposure problems and generally doll the images up. As usual, I said no worries, as long as I could use them for fish relief on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

But first, let me show you last evening’s sunset:

The glow of the ship’s lights on the right is a nice balance to the fiery cloud tops on the left in the Southern sky.

Apparently one can’t get into The Henley Festival without a coat and tie. I still do own one tie, though I haven’t worn it for at least a decade. It’s one of those skinny ones from the mid ’60s. The colour is a dark, reddish maroon. I could probably still tie a Windsor knot, with a little practice, but where am I going to wear it? I’m saving it for when I die. I want to lie in state in my Lt. Dangle short jeans, a black Harley Davidson t-shirt and my skinny tie around my neck tied with a bit, fat Windsor knot. Anyway, here are Karen and Trevor looking like a fashion model who has brought her sheep dog along to the party:

Trevor will give me some lip over that remark, because my hair is possibly even longer than his. I never thought that Trev really looked like the person that he is until he let his hair grow out and let it go a little wild.

Also at the party was Claire Hodgkinson, who was bridesmaid at Karen and Trevor’s wedding. Trevor told me that the pebble encrusted pony in this shot was going for £200,000 (or maybe it was £20,000, I’m not sure). That’s a lot of bread for something that’s going to end up in the attic gathering dust after a couple of decades:

The festival include an incredible variety of entertainments. There are bands and famous solo artists of all sorts, artworks scattered about, fashion contests and fireworks, to mention just a few distractions.

Since whimsy is my thing, I am particularly attracted to this Wire Woman. However, I don’t care much for the chair:

The problem is that she takes up too much space. Unless you had a house the size of Bill Gates’, where would you put her? It’s not like you can hang her on the wall. I suppose that you could create a conversation nook where friends could sit around with you and make witty, unkind remarks about her as if she weren’t there. One thing that you would definitely want to do is to keep her well clear of electrical outlets.

The entire event came within a hair’s breadth of a tragic end when poor Trev, wine glass in hand, was viciously attacked by this Stainless Steel Horse:

Fortunately, Trev had had the presence of mind to shake his head violently and roar. The horse mistook him for a lion in disguise and fled the scene. I’d love to go to The Henley Festival some day to soak up some culture. But I’d have to borrow some clothes.

To knock this one off and get to work, I’ll finish up with this ultra-funky image conglomerated by our Guest Shot artist Lindsay Smith:

It’s a bizarre amalgamation of a bit of my own Dubious Art (a headlamp of our Nissan Navara) with a sketch of me in my Cherokee braids, Space Cowboys sunglasses and black fedora hat.

I don’t know what to make of it. It’s a little scary.

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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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Jesus Racing and More Coral

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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All of my friends here in Madang know that I am a Christian believer and they know that I make my living, or some of it anyway, working in a Christian mission that translates the Bible into the local languages. And, they all know that I don’t shove that in their faces. Most of them are simply not interested. I discuss matters of belief only when someone raises the topic. Therefore, “in your face” evangelism and pushy tactics make me uncomfortable. I don’t think that it’s nice and I don’t think that it’s effective.

So, I was disconcerted when my good friends Trevor Hattersley and Karen Simmons, whom I recently joined in wedlock, passed to me these images which they snapped on the highway during a pleasant visit to Oz. This is something that you don’t see every day:When I first saw JesusRacing, I rolled my eyes.

And then I remembered the days of my youth when I spent many Sunday mornings with my Austin-Healey Sprite at the local abandoned air strip with the Sports Car Club of America crowd enjoying the smell of burning rubber and castor oil (yes we put castor oil in the crankcases – weird, eh?). There was a very active and successful racer who held interdenominational church services every week on the circuit for those who cared to come. Many people attended who were obviously not part of the churchy crowd, but simply enjoyed the company of fellow racers and didn’t mind the religious falderal.

I asked him once if it bothered him that he never went to church on Sundays. He said something like, “I like racing the way Jesus liked parties.” Puzzled, I asked him to elucidate. He said, “Well, Jesus performed his first miracle by turning the water into wine at a wedding party.” The conversation went on and I soon had a rather different view than I previously held.The web site is interesting, primarily because there’s an honesty there which you often don’t see in “promotional” evangelism. For instance, Andrew “Fishtail” Fisher explains the difficulties of financing the expensive sport of motor racing while excluding commercial sponsorship. “Confusion of the message” is the problem, as he puts it.

I’m odly ambiguous about this. On one hand, it makes me squirm a little. Maybe a little too flash, eh? On the other hand if you can plaster ads for laundry detergent all over a top NASCAR bullet to sell your soap to women, why not write Jesus in bright red letters on your car if that is your message? Some will laugh and scoff. But, isn’t that slightly hypocritical? Which is the more profound message, soap or Jesus? Even if you think that they are both equally inane, my question is the same, “Then what’s your problem?”

As soon as I get over this sinus infection and I’m off the “antibiotic of last resort” I’m going to hoist a brew to the folks at JesusRacing. Or maybe a glass of red would be more appropriate.

Thanks, Trevor and Karen.

What would Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  be without something that smells like fish? I shall now deliver.

Here’s another something that you don’t see every day. It’s Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinuosa):And yes, it does look exactly like bubbles. Under the bubbles are ridges that are as sharp as razors. I won’t say that I popped a bubble once to see how tough it was and got cut. No, I won’t say that. It would make me seem even more stupid than I am. The yellowish fingery looking stuff in the image above is Lobed Leather Coral, a species of Lobophytum.

This coral is a nasty customer. I’m talking about the gooey looking mass of macaroni like blobs in the centre. The things on the left are sponges. The coral is Euphyllia glabrescens:The operative word here is “ouch”. I once made the tragic mistake of draging my arm across a mass of this stuff while lining up for a shot. I had no wetsuit on that day. I will not  do that  again.

I call this stuff “underwater napalm”. It is very sticky and wherever it touches your skin it feels as if you’ve been sprayed with molten steel:What’s worse is that if your try to scrape it off the pain simply gets worse and the stuff spread like it’s alive. Well, it is  alive, for pity’s sake and it’s going to get even with you for disturbing its peace. It even looks evil. It reminds me of a heap of tiny ears.

Okay, I’m out of words now. I’ll be here tomorrow again to say Hello to you and spout the same old gibberish.

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Happy Birthday, Karen – Waiting for the Tsunami

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on February 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Birthdays are terrific excuses for a party up at Blueblood. In fact, we need no excuse at all. Since there are now facilities for sleeping over, Eunie and I went up on Saturday afternoon for a small party to celebrate Karen Simmons birthday. Since I am still sick as a dog and didn’t feel much like partying hard, I fooled around with my Canon G11 camera to see how far I could stretch it. It proved to be fairly flexible.

For instance, here’s a passable shot taken of the party makers around the picnic table by candle light only:

I think that I shot this at ISO 1600 and it took a 1/4 second exposure. I had to give the “hold still” warning, but the shot did turn out nicely. I should mention that I had the camera mounted on a tripod, as with all of the rest of these shots. I like the shot. It has just the right mood and the lighting is very realistic. Not bad for a camera that sells for a little over US$400.

This shot might fool you, at first. It looks like a poor-quality image from a cell phone. However, if you consider that it was exposed only by the light of a full moon shining through clouds, it takes on a whole new aspect:

I shot it from the balcony overhanging the first floor (second floor for Yanks – the ground floor is called the ground floor by Australians – the next one up is the first floor). Believe it or not, this image was taken at ISO 80 for fifteen seconds. Therefore, it had practically no noise and was more or less perfect as it came from the camera. The long exposure accounts for the glassy water.

Here’s another one take from the beach level: You can clearly see Kar Kar Island  in the distance:

Since the giant earthquake in Chile was on everybody’s mind and we had no idea when or if a giant tsunami would engulf us, the party had a bit of a fatalistic flavour to it. “Wonder when it will get here?” “How big do you reckon it might be?” were popular topics of conversation.

Here is a similar shot taken after we lit the bonfire. You can see the firelight illuminating the sterns of Lying Dog  and Sanguma,  which were, here at about midnight, already beached by the low tide:

I noted a crazy thing which I had never even considered as I was shooting these long exposures. The night sky is not  black as it appears to our eyes. It is just as blue as it is in the day time, but it is very, very dark, so our eyes can’t see it. Below a certain light level, everything is just shades of grey to our eyes, even though colour still remains in the scene. It’s because our colour light receptors drop out of the data stream once the light level is low enough. They just don’t respond.

This shot is amusing, but I reckoned that I could do better:

Though the sparks are interesting (I had Rich Jones poking the fire to make more), the flames were badly overexposed and I lost all the detail.

This one turned out much better:

Moving away from the fire improved the shot. It’s a long exposure, so the flames are blurry, but the image is much more pleasing;

I couldn’t end this without showing you this lovely shot of Jenn Miller taken only by moonlight and the flames of the dwindling bonfire:

It’s not perfect, because it’s very difficult to hold perfectly still for four seconds, but it clicks for me. I’m very happy with it.

The tsunami never arrived. This is just as well, as we had no plans to go anywhere.

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