Bees, Bugs, Buddha Beach

Posted in Arizona Images, Photography Tricks on June 7th, 2012 by MadDog
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One year and a week ago I arrived in Sedona for a visit. I’m still here. It’s going to be a very long visit. It makes my head spin to think that I’ve been here for a year. It seems impossible.

I’ve been enjoying the delights of my new Canon EF 100mm ƒ2.8 L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro Lens. A few days ago I hiked along the highway leading from Sedona to The Village of Oak Creek where we live. When the new highway was built the county agreed to plant high desert wildflowers along the way as a part of the deal for funds. Though we have had a very dry spring, it is still beautiful. We’ve had no rain since the last snow melted. Yellow flowers predominate this time of year and bees were busy everywhere:On the side of our house I saw the latest alien to vacate its flying saucer and to take up residence in Sedona:

It’s easy to see this as some sort of machine.

I found this incredibly tiny grasshopper, about 4mm long, crawling around on my Sweet Basil. It was very adept at avoiding my camera lens. I finally had to coax it out onto the pavement to get a shot:

While hiking down Oak Creek from Red Rock Crossing with Jo Noble, our visitor from England, we came upon a man who suggested we follow the trail for another mile to a place called Buddha Beach. There is a middling-sized pool there and a long sandy beach. Just inside the scrubby forest there is a large area of rounded river rocks. Visitors there have erected thousand of small stone cairns. The image below is a compilation of about eighty shots processed with Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) and uploaded to Microsoft Photosynth:

I’ve heard some complaints that such activities ruin the natural beauty of the area. I think that’s a little picky. The next time Oak Creek floods, if we ever get any rain, these will all be put back into their proper places.

On the way I saw this tiny blue flower sticking up from the earth with no leaves of any kind, just the stem. It was about the size of a pencil eraser:I think I see the empty shell of some insect hanging from the lower petal.

Okay, things are getting pretty random now. Here is a Madang sunrise that will soon be printed out on a seven by two foot canvas to be mounted in the corner of our bathroom over the Jacuzzi. I’ll put up a picture of it when I get it hung. Gracie has art all over the house, so I’m presently consigned to hanging my work in the bathroom:I’ll have to make a point of offering  the “master” bathroom to visitors when they are of a mind to refresh themselves.

Wandering further afield, I’ll show you a picture from our visit to Glendale Glitters, a mid-winter festival held in Glendale, Arizona each year. What you see here is only a small portion of a large park set alight. I can’t even imagine putting up all of those bulbs. They are electronically controlled so that the light patterns change and move about on the trees:Finally, I’ll show you Jo’s nice legs, which she, quite unreasonably, says that she hates. I don’t get it:She was standing on some rocks in Oak Creek in her cute runners and her Air New Zealand freebie socks. I had to lay down on my side on the creek bank to get this shot of her with a few cairns in the background. I used the Oil Paint filter in Photoshop CS6 to give the image some interesting twisty-ness. It’s becoming my favorite. It’s easily the most versatile and amusing one-click artistic enhancement filter in Photoshop. Its combination of sliders offer a cornucopia of effects varying from subtle to goofy.

We’re off to Dallas tomorrow for a week of conferences and integration with the Media Arts Team who are my coworkers in my new job. I’ve been working on an assignment for a few weeks. It’s time to get the bugs out and produce the first project of my fresh start.

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Fishy Shorts

Posted in At Sea on March 8th, 2012 by MadDog
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Having ignored the month of February here at MPBM, I’m considering all of the reasons why I no longer post regularly. Certainly my life could hardly be more different from the days when I was driven to post daily. Probably the main reason for my relative silence is that I simply do not have the two or three hours a day of leisure time it takes for me to prepare a post which satisfies me. Whatever the reasons, I don’t see the situation changing soon. Possibly someday, when I’m “retired”, I might find the time to revive a regular schedule.

Last week I spent some time organizing hundreds of video clips scattered here and yonder on a stack of hard disk drives. I was looking for clips which showed Eunie. I’m shocked by how little I have of her on video. Why didn’t I shoot more? Anyway, I did fool around for a couple of hours working up some short practice movies of fish. I’m preparing music, stills and video clips for an AV background for our upcoming wedding ceremony on April 1st. I need the practice.

This one, Reef Cruising, is a typical scene on the reefs in the Coral Triangle:

While it’s not National Geographic quality, it shows what can be done with clips from a simple camera (my Canon G11) and inexpensive movie making software. I used Cyberlink Power Director 10. It’s easy to use, much easier than the much more powerful but pricey Adobe Premier.

Here is a little clip of one of my favorite fish, the Reticulated Dascyllus (Dacsyllus reticulatus):

These tiny beauties hover over plate corals and dive quickly between the branches when frightened.

Here is a mob of pretty little Anthea dancing around a coral head:

If the bubbling noise bugs you, skip on to the last clip or turn the sound down. I was surprised by the very slow rate of my breathing. I hadn’t realized I was so calm and relaxed.

One of the most interesting creatures in this watery world is also one of the smaller, (Spirobranchus giganteus), the Christmas Tree Worm:

As you can see, they retract instantly into their tubes when disturbed.

This clip features the handsome Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii), a very common critter in tropical waters around the globe.

My last effort is the most pleasing to me. This clip features a large school Vlaming’s Unicornfish (Naso vlamingii):

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize the a little music would improve the viewability so much. It does make a big difference.

You’ll note that the last clip is not on YouTube. I’ve not been happy with the changes in YouTube since Google snatched it up. Vimeo seems more friendly to video producers. I will be doing a lot of video in the future. I want a publishing service which reduces my work load and delivers a more professional look to my viewers.

But first I have to upgrade my skills so that I can produce something which looks professional. It is not as easy as I thought.

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A Final Stroll Through My Garden

Posted in My Garden on December 25th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’ve been keeping a low public profile since I left Sedona on a snowy day in early December. After a couple of nights of layover time in Brisbane I arrived in rainy Madang and began to trudge through the seemingly endless list of tasks which will allow me to exit my home town of thirty years. I was planning to take some pictures of the inside of my house before I left, but I watited too long. It is now in a sorry state. I have to avert my eyes from the bare walls, empty shelves and vacant bookcases. It is not the home I once thought. I discovered late in life that home is not a place or a house. The old expression seems trite – home is where the heart is – but it is profoundly true.

My garden is still a cheery place. I’ve enjoyed several quiet walks there, accompanied by my trusty old Canon G10. I sold my G11 and its underwater housing. I was going to sell the G10 and housing also, but I think I’ll keep it. I seriously doubt if I’ll ever dive again, but it’s possible. The G10 will make a great camera for Grace. She wants something that will let her grow. It’s a perfect camera for an enthusiastic amateur. I can’t see much sense in letting it set on a shelf while spending the money on a new G12. For most shots the difference in the images is undetectable.

You won’t be able to tell much about cameras from these shots. They all have been heavily Photoshopped for “artistic” purposes. This hibiscus has been smoothed, despeckled, outlined, enlarged, shrunk, posterized and massaged in other ways until it bears little resemblance to a photograph:

And the spider in this shot has been stretched, sharpened and colorized within an inch of its life:

The colors in this shot are nothing like the original photo, but the grasshopper looks exactly as it does in my head:

I wanted a grasshopper which might take up residence behind the looking glass.

These jasmine flowers smell so sweet as to make the head spin. They affect me much the same as orange blossoms:

I remember driving once through an orange grove with Eunie and getting so light-headed from the intensity of the aroma that I had to ask her to drive.

This night-blooming jasmine has much the same effect on me. After nine in the evening stepping out my front door is a mind-bending experience:

Visceral experiences are common here in the belly of the tropics. Redundant as that might be linguistically, the metaphor holds true. I find the high desert austere in comparison. That is not a measure of value, but an observation upon which I need to reflect so that I may learn to appreciate it and discover its secrets. When I arrived in Madang I was a gawker. I could not appreciate it properly because I had so little knowledge. As I gain knowledge of my new environment I will come to love and appreciate it as much as I ever have loved and appreciated Madang.

Lush . . . the word which comes to mind so often. Bathed in perfume and perspiration – I’m enjoying being wet again – I stand in simple awe of the outrageous palette displayed by humble vegetation:

A little super-virgin olive oil with a dash of balsamic . . . voila! A tasty and festive salad. I wonder what coleus tastes like?

I am having little trouble bidding goodbye to most things in Madang. Friends are the hardest . . . Some things I won’t miss:  melting roads with potholes so deep that you have to turn your lights on, power outages that are timed by Satan himself, phones that work when you don’t need them . . . the list goes on. I’ll live without my boat. I can survive quite happily in the absence of the verdant landscape. Diving gave me decades of fun and learning, but I will find other pleasant pursuits. I think that when I look back over a few years to catalog the things I miss the few pages will be occupied with simple notations of things I thought of as uniquly mine. My smart, pretty dog, Sheba, my lovely house, my orchids in my garden:

The funny thing about this is that you can’t really own any of these things. The way things are going today I sometimes wonder if we can own anything. Maybe some of us are beginning to realize that is it just so much stuff. It’s not the actual stuff that is of value. The value lies in the feelings we get from thinking that we own it and it is ours. It’s my stuff. It’s your stuff.  It’s good stuff . . .

Ah, well, since it’s only the feelings and memories that get the endorphins flowing freely, juicing me up nicely and making me jingle like a pocket full of silver dollars, I’m going to develop a philosophy of Gratification by Means of Virtual Ownership.

I’m going to start with a virtual spin in my new virtual Corvette on the virtually smooth North Coast Road.

See you later . . .

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When is a Photograph not a Photograph?

Posted in Photography Tricks on July 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I was out on Faded Glory  on Saturday, I brought along my Olympus SP590UZ superzoom camera. I love the long telephoto shots, even though the lens is, of course, not very sharp. What can you expect from a US$450 camera that claims a 26x optical zoom. Since nothing I shoot ends up being printed any larger that what will fit on a magazine page, it doesn’t worry me too much and I don’t need to worry about messing up a US$3,000 camera or having it stolen. I treat them as throw aways.

Sometimes, though, one wishes that the lens were a little sharper or the sensor a little less noisy. And then, sometimes, one simply botches the job. On Saturday, for instance, I had a setting wrong on the camera which caused the images to be much less than I’d hoped. For those who care I’ll mention that I had the camera set to aperture priority mode and the f stop was a 8.0. This caused two problems. First, as the lens closes down its sharpness decreases. Second, as there is less light at f 8.0, the sensitivity of the sensor is increased automatically causing it to get noisier. The result was grainy images that weren’t very sharp at all. That’s about as bad as it gets.

Still, there were some interesting images under all that blurriness and grain. I decided to finagle the snaps with Photoshop to see if I could get some visually appealing images out of the mess.

Is it photography?  Or, is it art? I’d say neither. They are derivations  of photographic images. I had a huge palette of colours and image manipulation tools available to me. I chose to use only the least obtrusive ones to save the images. Let’s see what came out of the experiment.

Here’s a shot of Kar Kar Island  looking positively ominous. It should, since it’s one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes:

Kar Kar Island as art

This is a shot from Tab Anchorage  of part of Madang town with a ship anchored next to Kranket Island:

A ship with Madang in the background and the Finisterre Mountains in the distance

If you click to enlarge any of these images you will see that they have been severely mauled by Photoshop filters and image controls. They are no longer strictly speaking, photographs. This is the Finisterre Mountains  as seen from Tab Anchorage:

A panorama of the Finisterre Mountains as art

This shot is spoiled because I needed just a tiny bit more space between the canoe paddle and the left edge. It’s taking the Rule of Thirds too far:

Canoe art

On the way back home, I stopped for this shot of the blazing sun reflecting off of the water of Madang Harbour  near the airport:

The afternoon sun near the Airport in Madang

I combined the shots above with others that I massaged in this little gallery:

I’ve reduced the sizes on the gallery shots so that they will fit more comfortably on most screens.

I guess my photography lesson for today is, if you’ve got an onion, make onion soup. Or, never delete an image unless it has nothing to say.

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Lake Madang – More Shame for the So-Called Managers

Posted in Opinions on July 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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The only thing that we need to do in Madang to remind ourselves that the town has had no effective management for decades is to wait for rain. Lately, since the dry season seems to have been eaten by global warming, we don’t have long to wait. In fact, though the grass should be getting a little brown by now, we’ve had no hint of a dry here.

If I look out the front door of my office after a moderate rain, this is what I see:

Lake Madang - Decades of mismanagement, corruption, and laziness

What you can’t see, for all the water, is the 40cm deep holes in the road that have made it nearly impassable.

Here’s what causes it:

Water, water and no way to the sea

The large ditch full of water is not supposed to be full of water. It is supposed to drain into the ocean. The outlets to the sea are plugged up by sediment and who knows what else, so the water has no place to go when it rains. This situation has been exactly the same for at least 15 years.

For pity’s sake, how long does it take to fix a problem like this. It is the same with roads (falling to pieces day by day), sanitation (no garbage collection now for weeks) and every other area of infrastructure that you can think of.

Every time it rains our town management is shamed

The problem is no longer one of inconvenience. In back of our office building (the cream-coloured building in the middle image) the septic system is backing up and overflowing because of the extremely high ground water level.

As of Monday, every manager who will not speak to me or fails to return my calls will be named here every time he does it. A lot of people in Madang are sick of seeing out beautiful town dissolve in a putrid bath of corruption, mismanagement and simple laziness.

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How Did We Get Here from There?

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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If you take a look at the page called “How do I use this?” in the sidebar, you will note that Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  is no longer anything like what I originally planned. In a couple of months, we’ll be coming up on the second birthday of the journal. Though my original intent was to post two or three times a week using mostly news items that I would receive from the community, I can’t say that I’m disappointed by the way the journal has developed into a personal soap-box for my unabashed egotism and boundless desperation for attention. Possibly this is because, as a child, I was nearly invisible.

I do still get the occasional item of news or special interest from friends and community members. I wish it were more, but, if I’m going to make a living in the future writing, then I have to write. The daily journal format provides me with the forum. You, gentle reader, provide the audience.

I’ll give you an example of how far we’ve travelled. I got an email this morning from good buddy Rich Jones. An old friend of his sent him photos of his sons with a home learning project based on images from Madang – Ples Bilong Mi:

Home learning project based on images from Madang - Ples Bilong Mi

Note the chocolate-smeared faces. I know that lots of people have security issues, so I’m not giving names or even the country of residence here. I just hope these kids get a kick of seeing their mugs on the internet.

Home learning project - complete with chocolate covered faces

I’m always amazed at the number of people who contact me for permission to use images from the journal. If you check my copyright info in the footer, you will see that permission is not even required for non-commercial use. You just have to make sure my name is given as the source, preferably in the form of the URL of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

I’ve given permission to several textbook publishers and other commercial interests for images. I’ve never asked for any money. All that I have asked for is a copy of the book or a link to the project. I have yet to receive a single book, but many of the writers of web sites have returned the link to me so that I can see how my material is being used.

I recently had my first 1,000 page hit day. That means that over one thousand pages in the journal were visited on that day. In the image below the biggest red dots represent hits by more than 1,000 visitors. The period covered is September 2008 to July 2009. It shows about 22,000 visitors:

Who are all these people?

What does all this mean? Furthermore, why should you care?  Answering the second question first, I can’t imagine why you should care. I have a few steady readers who would undoubtedly notice if Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  simply went away. However, the vast majority of visitors hit the site, read a few items, and then (probably) never come back. This doesn’t bother me. Fully one-third of all visitors are directed to me by search engines. For instance, if you were looking for information about the Spinecheek Anemonefish on the north coast of Papua New Guinea, you might enter into a Google search, “Premnas biaculeatus madang”. If you did so the first Google hit on the page would be Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

The answer to the second question is a bit more obvious. The only meaning that I can find is that I get to keep on doing it and a few people might enjoy reading it.

That’s enough for me. Not everything has to be important or meaningful. Sometimes we just want to have fun.

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Game Fishing Association of PNG National Titles 2009

Posted in At Sea on April 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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The 34th Annual Game Fishing Association of Papua New Guinea National Titles is off and running this morning. Here is a shot of boats lined up at the Madang Game Fishing Club:
Sport fishing boats at the Madang Game Fishing Club
I ripped the shot above from the web site of Game Fishing Association of PNG. I don’t think that they will mind, since I’ve been asked to be the photographer for the Madang GFA for the next week.

The boats are tricked out beautifully. Here are the rods and reels on two boats:

A fortune in fishing rods and reels
I can’t help looking at the image above (the rods and reels)  and comparing it to my entire income for a year. It’s not even close. I’ll let you guess which is the winner. No, I’m not jealous – not much, anyway. Seriously though, people work hard here and take big risks. They deserve to blow a wad of cash on the things they enjoy. It’s necessary to one’s well-being in a place like this.

Just to show you how cheery I am this morning, here is what sunrise looked like in front of my house this morning. I predict calm seas and scattered rain showers for the first day of fishing. (Please don’t quote me.)

Sunrise greets the first morning of fishing

I’ll be back tomorrow with photos of the catch of the day.

In case you are wondering:  Tag And Release is the name of the game for our fishermen. In general, unless a fish is fatally injured or clearly a possible record (or somebody wants to cook and eat it), then nearly all fish are tagged with a special marker that helps to collect data for research and released back into the sea.

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