Calm Collected Comical Chaos – Grief

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on December 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Grief . . . It’s a funny thing. No, not funny – ha-ha; it’s an odd thing that it is so very common – we all do it sooner or later – but we do it in such extremely different ways. Now, you may be thinking, “Oh no, here we go again.” And, you’re right. Here I go again, but with a twist. Some things we simply have to laugh about, because if we don’t, we get all depressed, bitter and twisted. So, today I’m going to laugh.

Like most Westerners, my concept of grief included things such as plenty of nice deep depression, an acute sense of loss, gobs and gobs of denial, much sniffling and dabbing of eyes and the occasional crying jag. More pronounced but harmful symptoms such as suicidal thoughts and intense anger are common but are usually unseen by those surrounding the griever. That was my idea of grief until I witnessed the aftermath of a death in a Papua New Guinean village.

Wow, you’ve probably never witnessed such scenes – well, maybe in movies. Believe me, movies can’t convey that kind of emotional chaos. You have to see it first-hand. You have to hear it, the wailing which goes on interminably, the drums beating all night. You have to smell it, the stench of animal fat and plant juices smeared on sweaty bodies. I felt embarrassed. The staggering around, the rolling in the dirt, the screaming and shouting, the moans and tears, the trembling, the falling into camp-fires. I kept wanting to shout, “Hey, hold on there. You’re going to hurt yourself!” It was horrible. I didn’t get the point of it. That’s it all right. It seemed pointless to me. And it went on for a couple of days with brief periods of exhaustion.

One might well ask, “What’s funny about that?” Well, nothing, I admit. Until it happens to you. It’s taken me a few days to calm down enough to look back on it to see the irony of my experience. Before Tuesday morning it all seemed a tiny bit fake to me – like a public demonstration of sadness and loss which is Politically Correct. If one doesn’t participate it is considered callous and uncaring. Proper respect must be paid.

I kept a pretty stiff upper lip through the two memorial services, grieving in the Western way, hunched, sobbing occasionally, gratefully accepting the ministrations of lady friends on each side holding a hand or draping a comforting arm around my shoulders. It was very proper and convincing. I was certainly convinced at the time. However, in the end it was strangely uncompelling, unfulfilling, unmoving and a whole lot of other un-somethings which I can’t seem to get from my brain to the keyboard. I will not take a thing from those experiences. I won’t spoil them by lessening their importance. Those ceremonies were not for me. They were for Eunie. However they did not come anywhere near satisfying my need to grieve for her. There’s another un – unsatisfied.

Many people warned me. “It hasn’t hit you yet.” Now I get it. I learned all about it in one morning. I don’t know how to rank it alongside other powerful experiences in my life. It was absolutely unique. It wasn’t much fun, but I am so glad that it happened.

Because I’m feeling calmer now and I want to run with that, here is a nice peaceful reef scene with my favourite starfish, the highly improbable Linckia laevigata:

The morning did not start well. I called in sick. At some point I sat down at the computer to compose the words for Eunie’s tombstone. Yes, I know that’s been a long time coming, but it’s a logistical problem. You cannot get anything like that made in PNG, at least not what I wanted. I had a mild sense of foreboding, but I told myself sternly (doing that a lot these days), “Hey, you’re a writer. So sit down and write something. It’s not War and Peace.”

So, I sat down to write. Here’s another L. laevigata:

Nothing that I wanted so much came to mind. I desperately needed  to get the job done. Nothing but frustration . . . What a fine time for writer’s block. Suddenly something wild pounced upon me like a wolf ravaging a carcass. It blew me away. I was Pooh Bear on The Blustery Day.

Okay, what I’m going to describe is not pretty. Keep in mind that I’m in a very calm and bemused state of mind right now and I’m standing outside myself looking in. It was a good thing. It was needed. Still, you may not want to read about it. That’s okay. I’m putting these words here because I need to. If nobody  reads them . . . well, that’s okay too.

It went on and on. I couldn’t stop it. Crying isn’t the word for it. It was more like wailing – yeah, wailing and moaning and . . . screaming. I can’t ever remember screaming before in my whole crazy life. How can that happen? How can you get through life without screaming once in a while? Now I get that too. I get screaming. Oh, yeah, baby. I get screaming. We all need to do it more often. It’s very refreshing.

And then there was the staggering around and bumping into things. And yes, the falling down. And the pounding of the fists against anything handy, like a head or the floor or the wall or whatever. And the head banging, now I finally dig that one too – the head banging. I couldn’t stop. I started getting scared.

And then something really silly happened. I started yawning. I have seldom yawned in the last few months. What’s with that? So, between racking sobs I experienced a seemingly endless series of yawns that went way down to my soul, long earnest yawns which sent chills of wacky pleasure flowing from my scalp to my toes. You know the kind of yawns I’m talking about. Where did those come from? They seemed so incongruous, so unseemly, so . . . so stupid!

I managed to get my voice back enough to call the office to say that I wasn’t coming in. I think that I scared my friend on the phone. He offered to come over. Let me catch my breath a moment. Here’s yet another calm blue starfish. Really this blue toy looks as if it’s just plain tired:

If I show enough of these I will put you to sleep. Don’t spill your coffee.

I declined the offer of help because I knew exactly the kind of help I needed. I needed some tough love. some very tough love. I called Trevor. I’m not going to tell you everything that happened while I sat in the living room waiting for Trev to arrive. Some of it is too revealing. Some of it is embarrassing.  I will admit that I did two things which are supposed to be a part of the grieving process, but I had decided to skip, because they seemed so pointless. I asked “Why? Oh, WHY?” and I got extremely angry with God. And yeah, in retrospect, both were pointless. Imagine that – getting all angry at God. It is to laugh. And asking why?  WHY?? What a silly question. Everybody dies. It’s part of the deal. What makes me so special that my wife shouldn’t die? It’s ridiculous. It doesn’t require an explanation.  Because. Just because.  That’s why.

The anger seems very comical. I’m too steeped in Christianity to curse God properly.  The words wouldn’t come. The sentences were too awful to complete. I’m now picturing Homer Simpson with his hand’s around Bart’s neck and Bart’s tongue is sticking out and wiggling frantically and Homer is screaming, “Why, you . . . (sputter, sputter)”. You get the picture. That’s me – angry with God. A dear friend told me that she was very angry with God for a very long time after her husband died. I didn’t get it. Now I do. I got over my anger pretty quickly. I ran out of energy. All of that grinding of the teeth and clenching of the fists wears a fellow down. It takes a lot of effort to stay angry with God.

You don’t need any more details. That is not what this is about. This is about relief.

Here is another of my favourite starfish, a Choriaster granulatus:

I don’t know how they get into these positions. They must practice Yoga. More about that later. You’re going to have a good laugh. (Hee-hee)

Well, by the time Trev arrived I was in a sorry state. I wish he had taken a picture. I’d love to have it. My head was lumpy and my hands hurt. We sat there for a while and he calmed me down. It was some of the finest tough love I have ever received. I was still breaking out in fresh fits for a while. I distinctly remember hitting myself in the face very hard. Funny, I did not realise that it was possible for one to hit oneself in the face so hard. My jaw is still sore. Now I am getting a giggle from that as I think of it. It was like the classic movie scene in which some poor soul is plainly hysterical and gets a good hard slap from a friend who says, “Get control of yourself!” and the slapped person replies, “Thanks, I needed that.”

Well, this story is growing too long, so I’d better wrap it up. I scared the neighbours something awful. When I came back to the house in the evening, after going for some Yoga (yes, I said Yoga), Sisilia and her niece were waiting for me with some food and serious looks on their faces. They are lovely people, my next door neighbours. I invited them into the house and we sat for a while. Though they were shaken and worried about me their attitude changed dramatically when I told them what it was all about. They were very approving and happy for me. It’s the Papua New Guinian way. I was now acting like good person and properly showing my grief for my dead wife. See?  A happy ending.

Now for the real fun.

I have detected a tiny hint of jocular scepticism among certain friends whenever the word Yoga escapes my lips in connection with myself. I’m here to dispel that scoffing attitude. I went for some Yoga to help calm me down. I asked Michaela to take a couple of pictures of me in the less frightening positions.

I have never ascribed to the spiritual accoutrements of Yoga. I don’t get it. However, I have practiced the physical exercises and contortions since I was a child. I’m Pretzel Man. I don’t want to shock you with the more bizarre configurations of my body. You may be having your breakfast doughnut. I just want to demonstrate that I actually do Yoga. I don’t pretend to do Yoga:

Yes, that is me. You might now be saying, “Yeah, well, anybody  can do that.”

Yeah, well, can you do this?

This is also me – doing a head stand or, as I prefer to call it, a Tiger Stand.

If you don’t find that funny then you need an attitude check.

UPDATE: I got this Facebook comment from Justin Friend. It’s so appropriate to this post that I’m including it here.

Reading your blog post today reminded me of several PNG Haus Krais and similar I have been to. One of my first experiences with such things was when I first arrived in the highlands and was in Kerowagi. We had been in the garden for several hours digging up Kaukau and getting other foods for a feast the next day. We were all taking a break and sitting in the shade beside a typical single file village track winding through the gardens. There was maybe 8 of us sitting there telling stories. As we sat it was common every few minutes for someone to pass by on the track only metres away, apart from a general greeting the passing people were essentially politely ignored.

And then all hell broke loose amongst the people I was with, seemingly without a cue or a reason. The women started wailing and almost convulsing, going from sitting on the ground to rolling on the ground flailing their arms, tears flowing immediately. The men were not much better. The noise was intense, the emotion was intense.

I sat dumbfounded. One minute, no 1 second ago we were all laughing and joking, and now all of a sudden the entire party was crying, screaming, rolling around the ground.

And then it stopped. Almost as sudden as it started it stopped. There was the briefest point of composure and then things went straight back the way it was, telling stories, laughing, joking, sitting in the shade after the gardening work.

What the hell had happened. I looked to my soon to be wife for an explanation.

“Did you see those two people who just passed on the track?” she asked. Well no, I didn’t because as soon as the first Aunty started screaming I was focussed on our group.

It turned out that just a day or so before I arrived there a man had died. The “official” mourning period was still in place. The people who had walked past our merry group laughing in the shade were owed the appropriate sign of grief and mourning so they got it.

IT was certainly genuine. The tears were real. The grief was real. But it was so controlled. They turned it on and off like it was the tap supplying fresh water.

It was very powerful and I see and hear it still in my mind as if it was yesterday I experienced that.

Not exactly where you were coming from in your blog, but still an interesting handle on grief

Hang in there ol’ fella.

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Salty Fun

Posted in Under the Sea on October 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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Last Saturday, my friends and I motored out to Planet Rock  in Astrolabe Bay  for a morning dive. Going out to the rock is always a gamble. It can be a great dive, world class, really, or it can be miserable. Poor visibility caused by runoff from the Golgol River,  strong currents and bumpy water can make the fifteen minute trip out a waste of time. This time, the water was flat and there was no current. A thick layer of very turbid water from the river lay on top, making conditions below dark and greenish. The images required quite a lot of colour correction.

The top of the rock is quite flat, laying about eight metres below mean tide. Here you can see some of us, led by Richard Jones, just slipping down over the side to explore the slope around the edge:You can see Faded Glory’s  anchor resting in the jumble of wave-damaged coral. The life on top of the rock is constantly assaulted by wave action, but regrows very rapidly.

Soon after getting wet, I saw this lovely Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata)  tightly nestled into a crevice:

The light was very dim and greenish. I vacillated between flash and no flash. I much prefer the natural “that’s the way I saw it” colours. I used no flash in the shot above. The colours are natural. However, if the light is too dim, camera settings become a problem. The shutter speed will be so slow that the image will be blurred. In that case, you have to flash.

The result, while being pretty and colourful, does not represent the colours of nature. The spectrum of light from the flash is completely different from light at depths more than a very few metres, because of the absorption and scattering of certain wavelengths by sea water:

I enjoyed the dive much more than any I have done since returning from Australia. I attribute that to my plan to help my brain to rewire itself and find a new normality which allows me to find satisfaction and joy in the everyday activities which formerly spiced my life and gave me a measure of happiness. More about that later.

Because the peculiar lighting seemed to be giving me some opportunities to try some effects that I’ve been thinking about, I jumped in with both feet and produced some high contrast “dark reef” shots:

These are just a couple of the series which I shot. I’ll be showing some more of them later. I do like the effect. I didn’t try to hide the green cast in the shot above. On most of the rest of the images, I subdued it.

Here is another “dark reef” image. This one works nicely for me. I particularly like the way it brings out the globular shape of the coral in the centre:

I got about thirty usable images from Saturday’s dive, so you’ll be staying wet for a while. I also got some very nice shots when I went up at Blueblood on Sunday. I’ll be mixing those in over the next few days.

Which brings me back to “how did it go”? Excuse me while I take a Tuesday dive back into my diary mode.

Dear diary,

Well, this weekend I decided, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” I either need to be proactive to toss off these blankets of depression, self-pity and misery or continue in the current state, which is quite unacceptable. If I stop to examine the situation objectively, I can see that there is no reason for such a pitiful state of mind.

So, my attitude should be that if nothing is hindering me from enjoying the moment, then I should reject negative chatter in my head, which distracts me, pay attention to what is happening, and allow myself to react “normally” – as I once would have.

It’s a little tricky to get it right. I had some false starts which felt like faking. Then, during the dive I forced myself to concentrate on the photography and not let my mind wander. Back on the boat, I paid attention to what was being said and let myself be captured by the pleasant mood of my friends.

Up at Blueblood on Sunday, I engaged in a ruthless game of Pétanque. Late in the afternoon, for the first time in ages, I got into the water with friends and tossed a Frisbee – badly. I laughed out loud. I leapt, I splashed.

I think this might work.

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Light and Shadow – Two Views of Beauty

Posted in Under the Sea on July 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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We had bright prospects on Saturday morning. The sun was shining in a partly cloudy sky and there seemed little chance of rain. However, when we got out into Tab Anchorage  it was clear that the sea was restless. The rolling waves promised an uncomfortable hour for any friends who were not safely under the surface of the water in the blissful calmness of Mother Ocean.

I never saw the ocean until I was twenty-five years old when Eunie and I took our infant son to Panama City, Florida while I was in Advanced Helicopter Training at Ft. Rucker Alabama. I was stunned. It was the first time I had seen a body of water wide enough that I could not see the other side. It had the aspect of infinity. Since then I have learned a curious fact. Practically anybody can get sea sick if conditions are bad enough. It takes a lot to get me sea sick, but I have been truly miserable for hours at a time during very rough passages. Therefore, I am very sensitive to the condition of my passengers. We found ourselves driven by the waves to our favourite calm cove at The Eel Garden near Pig Island  for the third week in a row.

There are a few places where we can dive even though the sea state might drive other boats back to the Madang Club for an early beer. Fortunately, The Eel Garden is a dive which never grows dull. Here Faded Glory’s  anchor and chain rests safely on the sandy bottom while the mottled lighting of the sand indicates the chaotic waves on the surface:

I decided that there were plenty of opportunities for high depth of field shots in these conditions. Here comes “Deep Focus” again.

Within moments of settling to the bottom I was presented with this little tableau. On the bottom is a Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata)  and hovering above is a Bicolor Angelfish (Centropyge bicolor):

Old-time PNG residents who enjoyed diving or snorkeling always called this “The Steamship’s Fish”, because its colours are those of the Steamships Trading Company which was one of the major suppliers of the bits and pieces of our daily lives.

Turning around the other direction, I found one of God’s Little Jokes, a bright, toy-like Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata):

Every single time I see one of these I feel a smile coming to my face. It’s something that simply can’t be stopped. In my head, I’m thinking simultaneously, “Why?” and “Why not?”

Still within the first minutes I came across this pair of Six-Spot Gobies (Valenciennea sexguttata).  This made me particularly happy, since this is only the second time I have photographed this species. The first image was less than I usually hope for. This time I got much better lighting conditions and two  of them:

Double the fun! Please don’t ask me why they are called Six-Spot Gobies when there are clearly seven spots. (We’re counting the blue spots, in case you’re wondering.)

Now we come to the images which really make me smile. Genevieve Tremblay just got some shiny new gear. She was diving with a borrowed set which had some serious deficiencies. There was nothing dangerous about it. It was simply not up to the standards which are comfortable for a new diver. Here she is teasing a Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)  and grinning at me:

How cute is that, eh? The lighting was very nice for this shot. I didn’t need to use flash and the depth was shallow enough that It was easy to get natural skin tones.

This shot taken at about twenty metres on the old catamaran shows an effect that I’m trying to learn. It’s Genevieve again with a Feather Star (Comanthina schlegeli)  in the foreground:

I could have Photoshopped out Genevieve’s hair standing on end, but decided not to. We sometimes look a little odd underwater. It adds to the charm of the image. I have a bunch more of these shots from Saturday which I will show soon.

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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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All the Colours of the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on February 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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This last Saturday was a banner day for photography. My new Canon G11, which you are undoubtedly getting tired of hearing about, was perking along nicely, grabbing shots with much increased dynamic and no noise whatsoever at ISO 80. The ten megapixels that it offers are more than sufficient for the magazine-size shots that I need to do my work. Don’t sniff at ten megapixels. If another camera offers more, but the resulting image is poorer in quality, what good do those extra megapixels do?

Yesterday’s post contained images from this Saturday’s dive also, as will tomorrow’s and the day after. In total, out of about one-hundred exposures, I got thirty-six which I deemed good quality. I’ve never had a two dive day that was more productive. Part of the reason for that was that my old buddy, Richard Jones, was “spotting” for me. He has amazing eyes and can find the smallest critters. Sometimes these are the most interesting. Tomorrow I’ll feature some nudibranchs which Richard found. Your mind will be blown.

But, that’s for tomorrow. Today, we’re doing colours. The dive at Planet Rock  was dark. There was a layer of muddy fresh water from the Gol Gol River  floating over the surface down nearly to the top of the sea mount at about 15 metres. I had to take many shots with flash. Though it is my preference to forgo flash when possible, sometimes it is unavoidable – there’s simply not enough light. In the first two shots, the effects of the flash are not noticeable. It simply acted as a fill light. In the others, the effect is dramatic, though the colours are, to me, artificially bright. They are, however, very pretty.

Green has been my favourite colour since I don’t know when. When I was a small child, it was red. I don’t know when I changed to green. I don’t even know if guys are supposed to have a favourite colour. I don’t talk about it much over the pool table with my mates, though I’m always soothed and mellowed by the green playing field. Maybe that’s why I’m such a lousy shot. Anyway, have a look at this lovely green Coral (Acropora tenuis):Click it to magnify and see the lovely details of the polyps waving in the current. Each little ledge on each tower is an individual animal. It is truly a thing of beauty.

Here’s another Acropora  species with a dramatically different colour:I’m always faintly startled when I run across one of these outlandishly purple corals. They seem somehow out of place. I wonder if a nearby toy store exploded and scattered misshapen shards of bright plastic on the sea bottom.

This shows why we have a pretentious name for the Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica).  You can see a scattering of  Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion akallopisos)  chilling out and having a few beers:What a lovely playground they have.  There are few sights in the sea which are as calming and wondrous as this symphony of colour displaying a commensal relationship between vastly different organisms. Neither can flourish without the other.

Starfish fans will enjoy this lazy looking Linckia laevigata.This is the same species which often appears as a bright blue variation.

This Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)  contains the brightest red pigment of any creature that I have seen in the sea:This is a very young colony. They tend to become less colourful as they grow. Young ones, such as this, can often be seen as tiny crimson torches thirty metres away on a day with good visibility.

I’m a great fan of Feather Stars. This is a particularly nice image of some species of Lamprometra.  They are difficult for me to tell apart. I’ve been watching old episodes of Fawlty Towers  during the fifteen minutes that I can stop working each day. I can’t get out of my mind what Manuel (he’s from Barcelona, you see) says when he misunderstands a command from Basil Fawlty: “Eet ees deefeecult.”You can clearly see the “feet” of the feather star in this shot. If you gently tickle a foot with your fingertip, the creature will wildly thrash its arms around, waving madly. It’s a most comical sight. I’m going to have to shoot a video clip of it some day.

Here is a close up shot of another individual of a Lamprometra  species Feather Star:I didn’t think that the shot would turn out to be much. Now I’m simply blown away by it. Beware. If you stare at it long enough you may feel yourself getting slightly high, that is if you recognise “high”. Click on it to make it bigger and have a look. It’s mesmerising. This is a living thing. How can that be?

I don’t recommend it as a desktop background.

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First Drenching of the Canon G11

Posted in Under the Sea on January 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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I won’t waste your precious time today with a lot of blabber. My own semi-precious “time for myself” is withering as my workload increases while my pay simultaneously shrinks. However, I did have a bit of fun today. I did my first dive with my new Canon G11 in its cozy factory housing.I still have a lot to learn about squeezing this new lemon, but first results have me feeling dreamy and wishing I had time for a mid-week dive.

The current at Magic Passage was raging and I had two divers with me with whom I had no experience, so I didn’t get much chance to shoot. I did get enough frames to tell me that I like what I’m seeing from the G11.

Here is a pretty ordinary shot of a Silver Sweetlips subadult (Diagramma pictum).  You’ve seen these many times here before, and much better images. However, this was a snap shot which I did not even expect to save. With a few minutes work, the G11 image came out acceptable:Here is a mob of what I think are Lunartail Snappers (Lutjanus lunulatus)  finning vigorously against the current. Again, as a snap shot, I’m very happy. The G11 seems to save more images from doom because of its increased dynamic range (the range of colours and shades that it can record accurately under varying conditions) and its lower noise level:Again, I didn’t expect for this image to be usable.

Here’s a sweet shot of a Circular Spadefish  or Batfish (Platax orbicularis)  that really illustrates how the two extra stops of dynamic range allow me to save a nearly impossible image:Where I would have had muddy dark areas and blown out highlights (such as the top of the frame), now I have decent detail in the very dark areas and smooth gradations with colour detail left in the very bright areas – just what I was hoping for.

I never pass up a chance to photograph the ridiculous Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata): When God was a little kid, he left some of his toys scattered around the planet. This is one of them.

Here is a close up shot of this very special toy:The detail is amazing. I’ve lost no ability to capture fine details by dropping from 15 to 10 megapixels. I think a lot of the extra megapixels were wasted because they were too small to gather enough light to put together a decent image. The pixel race is over.

Here is a reader favourite and mine also, the lowly Hermit Crab (Dardanus sp.):This little fellow will soon be receiving a notice from the Neighborhood Association for painting his house such an outrageous colour.

Back tomorrow with more wholesome G11 goodness.

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Starfish Day for Julie

Posted in Under the Sea on January 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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Julie, a Facebook Friend, tells me that she really digs starfish. Because I can use all the friends I can get and Julie never scolds me for attempting a humorous comment on her status changes, I think that her polite hint deserves an appropriate response.

Since I do, despite my geeky aura, appreciate the sentimentality evoked by images of starfish, I’ll set the stage with this mushy shot:

I can hear the murmurings of “Awwwwww . . .” from here. I have no idea who the people were. They simply happened to be standing on the rock while I composed the image. It was a very lucky break.

The truth is, I nearly overstayed my prime time. During an attempt to catch the sailboat out on Astrolabe Bay,  I was nearly inundated by a wave crashing on the rocks:Now that I’ve set the mood in my inimical way, we shall proceed to tickle Julie’s fancy with some yummy starfish.

You know, I’ve seen  this shape before.  There is a logo somewhere, on a product or representing some organization, that is a cartoonish figure of a starfish (two eyes, a mouth, etc.) with the top of the star a little crooked, as if it were wearing a hat which is a bit askew. This Fromia milleporella  reminds me of that:Please keep in mind that this is Annual General Meeting week and I’m sitting here trying to stay interested and not fall asleep. My mind wanders in particularly unusual ways. I keep feeling fluid draining from my sinus cavities. It’s seawater. My wife, Eunie, tells me when to raise my hand to vote on a motion. As you can imagine. I’m a little more distracted than usual.

But wait! Let’s get back to Julie’s starfish. This is one that you’ve seen here many times, the lovely Choriaster granulatus:You may be tiring of seeing this critter, but I’m nowhere near finished taking pictures of it.

Here’s is another which you have seen here many times:I’m sure that everyone out there has seen images of the Mimic Octopus which is able to contort and recolour its body in marvelous ways to appear to be any of several non-octopus critters. However, have you ever seen a Linckia laevigata  mimic a snake? As of now, you have.

It may surprise some that this lump is a starfish:Called a New Guinea Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae),  it appears more like a bumpy, spiky football. In fact, it is supremely tempting to pick it up and attempt to kick it back and forth between divers using the floppy fins.

Of course, we never actually do  that.

Bon appétit,  Juli.

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