Hanging Out the Door

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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I am now officially so far behind that I will never catch up. Yesterday had a three hour chunk removed from my plans when I went out on Sir Peter Barter’s Robertson R-44 helicopter and spent a literally hair raising period of time hanging out of the door. I’ve always had a sort of fetish about sitting in the open door of a helicopter with my feet hanging over the side. It’s so close to the edge, right where I like to walk. I spent many hours sitting in the open door of a Hotel model Huey when I wasn’t piloting.

At one point I let the wind get under my headphones. That was a mistake. In a flash they were clunking against the rear window on the end of the cord. I reeled them in and mumbled, “That’s not good.” into the microphone. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Though the trip put me further behind in my work schedule, I got 480 images for the grist mill of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

Those will dribble in as they fit with the plans of my wandering Muse. Today I’ll show you this pretty shot of the far north end of Madang with Kranket, Leper, Little Pig and Pig Islands  stretching up the coast:I have a few rather sensitive images also – things that some folks hereabout, I’ll let you guess who, might not want you to see. I’ll just have to see if my waning testosterone level allows me to display them.

In the meantime, let’s go to the fish market:This should be starting to look familiar by now, since I’ve shown it many times. It’s the wonderful fluorescent Magnificent Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  hosting Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus)  at Planet Rock.  Put “spinecheek” in the search box to see plenty of these wonderful fish.

Since I’m feeling a little frayed around the edges – up until 01:30 last night and had just one too many glasses of red, I’ll tickle myself back out of my temporary coma with some brightly coloured feathers:That one was a Comanthina schlegeli.  I can’t find species names for most of them. It has a lot to do with counting legs and arms. Since the creatures are so incredibly delicate and stick to you like super glue, I don’t care to destroy them just to figure out what the Latin name is. Let the guys in the white lab coats take care of that.

Here’s a very pretty one which I can’t identify:It’s curled up very neatly.

This is the feather star equivalent of The Mall:

Everybody wants to go to “The Mall”, especially in small towns. “Oh, let’s go to the city to The Mall!” The kiddies shriek, “The Mall, The Mall. Oh, yes! Take us to The Mall!” Personally, I don’t get it. I avoid the places like the plague unless I need something which I can’t purhase somewhere else. The main problem is that I nearly always get lost and end up wandering from door to door looking out into the parking lot to see if I can remember if it’s the one where I left my car. I once took a cab to a mall, just to avoid that trauma. I experience a mild form of panic when this happens. I worry that I may have had a mini-stroke. It’s hard to know what to do. Go to the security goofs and admit that I can’t find my car? I’d nearly rather slit my wrists in the central fountain and go out with a bang. They could  decide that I might be a danger to myself or some unspecified “others” and bang me up in the slammer while The Suits figure out what to do with me.

Oh, sorry, I’m running on again. The brakes went completely out on our truck today. The timing was unfortunate, as I was blasting up Modilon Road at about 80 kliks per with my hair on fire. It’s such  a weird feeling when you shove that pedal and it just glides all the way to the floor with as much resistance as I could offer to Raquel Welch. With some fancy clutching and shifting I managed to get it creeping back to the office. They towed it away an hour ago. I had just put the “For Sale” signs out yesterday. If figures.

Alright, enough! Have a look at this:

Dig that hair, man. It looks as if Kate and the Feather Star are in a fierce competition. “Hah! My hair’s bigger than yours!”

Okay, I’m finished now. You can go back to work.

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Photgraphing the Photographer

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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ANZAC Day has past now, and I’m into the work week with a fury. Well, a flutter, anyway. I’m so far behind that some things are simply getting put into the If I Ever Get Around To It tray. My situation report this morning will be terse, but I do have some nice snaps for your amusement.

I’ll begin by showing you my distressingly flabby triceps. As I was shooting a very nice sunset on Trevor Hattersley’s Lyin’ Dog,  I kept noticing flashes coming from behind me. I took little notice, since everybody was ohhhing  and ahhhhing  at the pretty colours. I assumed it was someone who did not know enough to turn their flash off. Little did I suspect that I was the subject and the cameraman knew exactly what he was doing. Witness the work of Lt. Colonel Simon Watts:Thanks for sending that along, Simon. It will help me to get back to hitting the weights a couple of times a day.

Once in a great while, I get a shot that drops my jaw. So much is up to luck. You can do it perfectly ten times and only one will be good. A hundred times and maybe you’ll say, “Oh, that’s really nice.” Give it a thousand times and you might get something like this:When the colours are so ethereal that it looks fake . . . no, painterly,  then I feel as if I’ve been somehow blessed. It is, of course, a Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus).  There are presently two of them living in a Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  with incredible pigmentation at Planet Rock.  I’ve been shooting this same anemone for at least fifteen years. I visit it every time I dive at Planet Rock.  I’ve shown it to hundreds of divers. It’ my  anemone. I’ve made it the most famous Anemone in Madang, so it owes me.

Bulb Anemones, like some other anemones, can display an almost unreal range of colours as you can see from the one in this post.

This is what happens when you stack beauty on beauty. Kate and I were the only divers on Saturday, so we had Planet Rock  all to ourselves. Here a lazy Blue Plastic Toy Starfish (Linckia laevigata)  lounges atop an ancient coral bomie wearing a feather star for a cap while Kate provides the real eye candy:

Lots of blue there.

Since I’ve gotten started with blue, we’ll just keep that theme. Here’s an unfortunately motion-blurred shot of a Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)  in a Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica):The tentacles of this anemone were absurdly blue. I don’t think that I’ve seen one this bright, though there are several other colours which reach this level of saturation. Witness the wonderful green-tentacled Magnificent Anemone here.

What this shot lacks in quality, it makes up for in blueness. It’s a school of Fusiliers of some kind racing past me:We like to say that diving in Madang is very much the same as diving in a huge aquarium. We seldom have to deal with fussy weather or big seas. The water is not always crystalline, but the quantity and the wonderful nearness  of the sea life makes up for the less than perfect visibility.

Not even Paradise is perfect. We don’t care. It’s close enough for us.

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The Beauty and the Beast

Posted in Under the Sea on April 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Saturday dawned bright and sunny, but I was too late for a sunrise. I slept in until nearly 07:00. By the time I got up, there was no time to do a post, so I’m catching up today. It’s worth the wait, because I got some splendid shots during the day. We had a few adventures.

Jo Noble has mentioned to me a couple of times how she loves to free dive down and swim through the divers’ bubbles. It’s fun, it tickles and it’s a visual treat. The bubbles sometimes form mushroom shapes as big as your hand. If you stick your finger in the “bell” shape at the top, it explodes into a hundred tiny bubbles in a circle.

So, we decided that I’d go down after Monty and Kate got into the water  and shoot Jo swimming through the bubbles. It was a very good idea. Look at this beautiful shot:It might not be the most elegant pose in the history of underwater figure photography, but I like the animal power of it. Jo is going for the bubbles, pure and simple. She’s chasing them with all her might.

This one is a bit more dreamy. It reminds me a a reverse rainstorm:Jo is an aquatic beauty caught in an up-pour of air drops. I struggled to get some good skin tones out of this one, but the data was simply not there.

The next pose is much more sleek and lovely, but still portrays the power of the dive. If you’ve never free dived, you might not realise how much effort and skill it takes to get turned over and kick your way down, especially into salt water. It’s not as easy as it looks. Those of you who free dive will probably remember, as I do, the difficulty of learning to do it gracefully. If it’s done right, you see the swimmers bottom for a moment as she flips heels over head, the legs shoot straight up out of the water to gain weight above the water line and that weight propels the diver downwards and she reaches for a big double armful of water to pull herself downward.

Here Jo shows the technique perfectly:Isn’t that beautiful? How lucky to be there with a camera!

Since I’m now doing two dives on Saturdays we decided to have a little fun on the second one. I’m such a cheapskate that I rent only one tank. If I get an 80 (that’s a big one) I can get nearly two hours of dive time from it. Monty says I have gills. He may be right.

Anyway, on the second dive we decided to play the tropical divers’ equivalent of Russian Roulette, “Tease the Triggerfish”. Regular readers have seen triggerfish here before. Triggerfish are about the size of a football. In fact the Latin name is derived from the word for “ball shape”.

Here are two Yellowmargin Triggerfish (Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus)  guarding a nesting cone, the big, funnel shaped area in the sand with the rubbish in the centre:Though they are not currently mating, they come back regularly to these areas to check things out. On Saturday there were about ten of them patrolling the area.

The plan was that Monty would take pictures of me trying to get close-ups without getting bitten. The have teeth. Oh, my do they have teeth, teeth like a Pit Bull and a temperament to match. I had the thickest wet suit and the most experience with a camera, so it was my duty to get up-close and personal with the little devils. Did I mention that they bite? I’ve seen chunks taken out of divers’ fins by these critters.

As it turned out, Monty and Kate were distracted by some anemonefish and weren’t of much use to me:

The did get into the fray pretty quickly, as the triggerfish were getting very agitated and were darting about everywhere. They like to get about five or six metres away from you, square off, lower their head and make a charge, waggling like crazy and visibly accelerating directly at you. At that point you begin to ponder in earnest if they are going to break off the attack or not.

The attack profile is particulary terrifying for a male diver. The demons seem to favour a mid body target which makes it appear as if they are going directly for the, ah . . . how to put this delicately . . . the groin area.

Some of you have seen this before:I got so tired of describing the two most dangerous triggerfish to divers on my boat so that I could tell them to get behind me that I had them tattooed on my back.

Now, I can hear the mumbling out there, so don’t act like you’re not sceptical. Non-divers are naturally suspicious of the tall tales, since hardly ever comes back with so much as a scratch.

I did get one very lucky shot just before I nearly soiled my wetsuit:

Did I mention the headlong charges? Did I mention the teeth? This beast was travelling about thirty KPH when I snapped this shot, just before he flicked aside with an audible SNAP.

We call this fun.

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