Random Images for Your Amusement

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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Once again, I’m left dead for a theme. Succumbing to writer’s block is not something to be enjoyed. It’s not part of my game to simply throw out a bunch of images with no comment. However, today the words are getting stuck somewhere. Maybe I can shake a few loose. It’s a sure formula for gibberish.

We’ll start with the standard ‘my house’ sunrise:

Hmmmm . . . That wasn’t so bad. Let’s move along.

This is a bit more interesting. On the way to the office a couple of days ago there was a fellow paddling up the coast in his canoe just off of Coronation Drive:At the far right, on the horizon, you can see the tail end of the Huon Peninsula  and the last of the Finisterre Mountains.  The towering cumulus clouds that you can see below the overcast are probably much more than 100 kilometres in the distance.

Now, here is a shot that I really enjoy. On our way back from Blueblood on Christmas Day, Kar Kar Island  was looking very splendid and mysterious:I caught Mike Cassell’s boat Felmara flying up the coast toward Madang with the island looming in the background about fifty clicks away. It makes a rather dramatic image.

Here is the standard Coconut Point sunrise, which you have seen here many times before:

I’m puzzled by the dark streak in the sky. It was persistent, pronounced and quite straight. We do not see aircraft condensation trails here in the tropics, or at least we rarely see them. I cannot remember seeing one in all the years that I’ve lived in Madang. My guess is that it’s a combination of factors. First, we are not under any heavily travelled routes. Another thing is that the air above us is generally too warm to form lasting condensation trails except at extreme altitudes. My best guess is that the dark line is a shadow of an invisible trail of condensation between the sun and the high layer of clouds.

Hey, it’s just a guess.

Here is something that I don’t think that you’ve seen before on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  – an image of Bag Bag Island:It is further away from Madang than Kar Kar Island  and considerably less mountainous. I had a lot of trouble with the colour of the island itself. It was far too blue. While trying to get it right, I ran out of time. It looks a little odd – like a pile of dust, not like an island.

Finally, here is an image that gives me a chuckle:It’s not a particularly good image; the Orangefinned Anemonefish is out of focus, as is my hand. However it does bring to mind the friendly, feisty anemonefish of The Eel Garden  near Pig Island.  I have done hundreds of dives in this small area and I know every knob of coral and every fish. I do not understand the behaviour of these anemonefish, but it amuses me greatly. They seem to know me!  Yes, I know that is absurd, but there is something  odd going on. At several specific and consistent anemones, the fish will come up and rub against my fingers and nip at them. The nipping I get. Many anemonefishes do this. They are absolutely fearless, as if nipping at a giant predator would drive it away!

These, however, seem to ‘enjoy’ rubbing gently against my fingertips. It’s positively disconcerting. If they weren’t so cute, it would be a little creepy. In the shot above, I was attempting to get a record of the behaviour. As it turns out, it’s easier contemplated than accomplished. You may be amused to see another of the Damselfish family (as are the Anemonefishes) nipping away at my hand.

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Blueblood Birthdays

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 29th, 2009 by MadDog
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There seems to be no way to avoid the continuing embarrassments of birthdays, short of dying. Even then, relatives will be heard saying, “Oh my, you know it’s Uncle Joe’s birthday today. He’d be 109 years old today if he wasn’t dead.” I don’t find this very amusing and I’m changing my will to disinherit any heirs who refuse to sign a blood oath forbidding them from making me sound older that I was when I die. (Something wrong with the verb tenses there, but it seems inscrutable to me at the moment.)

Anyway, Mike Cassell and Nigel Burrows (hope I spelled his name right) were subjected to the birthday torture on Sunday up at Blueblood. Lawrence Manning chipped in to man the axe for the barbie wood:

Lawrence is a lumberjack and he's okay

Never has so much energy been expended for so little firewood. I got so tired from watching him that I took my camera, a cold SP Export Lager, and my usual cheap cigar up the road to snap some nature. My first encounter was with what I lovingly call the Mellow Yellow Plant: *

Mellow Yellow plant

This territory has a penchant for outrageous foliage. It’s a bit of a shock when you come here and discover that a significant portion of the vegetation forgoes the usual froggy green for psychedelic hues not usually seen outside Hollywood studio productions.

Even plants which mature into the more sedate and acceptable shades of the shade tree often sprout improbably tinted new leaves:

New leaves

When mango trees are producing new leaves they often appear to be bright orange from a distance. That’s how you know where to go and pick up the best mangos from the ground in a few months. Watch out for dogs!

Then I came across this absurd thing:

Red flowers

What is it, a joke? It’s the Liberace of flowers, the Elvis of blooms. the Dolly Parton of blossoms.

When I got back to the Blueblood Hilton, the usual suspects were lined up in the water in front of the veranda:

The line up

It sounded like Hotel California.  I could hear The Eagles’ straining falsettos faintly in the back of my head. No, wait. It was Mike cheerily demanding, “Bring me my wine!” The chorus chimes in, “Bring us our wine!”:

The Blueblood mob in a birthday mood

One bottle was rejected as unfit for human consumption; “Vinegar”, Mike announced. I drank it – well, most of it. My taste buds are shot like the shocks on your ’74 Pontiac Firebird that’s up on blocks in your front yard.

Then the “Madang Open Floppy Frisbee Stupid Tricks Championship” commenced. It went on and on. It was the worst Frisbee tossing and catching that I’ve ever witnessed. A herd of turtles could have done better. I do allow that there was something seriously wrong with the Frisbee. It was all floppy.

The floppy Frisbee contest

There was, however, a shining moment. When the others tired of making fools of themselves, Pascal Michon decided to create a more challenging game. On the umpteenth attempt, Nigel managed to get the Floppy Frisbee through the eye of the inner tube as Pascal tossed it into the air.

And then we all went home.

* For the uninformed, the term comes from the 1966 Donovan single Mellow Yellow  which hit #2 on the Billboard chart in 1966. It was a truly groovy sound. It was commonly assumed, at the time, that the song referred to the smoking of dried banana skins as a means to hallucinogenic enlightenment, one of the most thoroughly busted myths of the age. Countless drug starved experimenters stunk up their kitchens preparing for a little day tripping only to find nausea and a throbbing sore throat at the end of that hypothetical rainbow. The other references to Mellow Yellow are even less appropriate for this journal and I shall point you to them only indirectly by means of this link.

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Chaos from the Land of the Unexpected

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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Keeping with the theme of random images from yesterday (it seemed to work), Here is a nice little shot of the mangrove creek up at Blueblood. I came out much better than It expected, which is not unusual when using the Olympus SP-590UZ:
The mangrove creek at BluebloodThis next one looks like a panorama stitch, which would be nearly impossible with this scene. I wanted a very wide angle, so I put the camera down about 3 cm from the water (very carefully) and shot blind, since I could not see the image screen. I took about ten shots like that. This one came out the best. All I had to do then was crop it so that it looks like a panorama. Simple, eh?
Another shot of the Mangrove creek at BluebloodThe Olympus did a terrific job on this one. The sea was quite rough on the way back from Blueblood. I wanted to get the nice colours of the sky, with the dark sea, but I also wanted t get the water splashing up from the bow wake. I decided to try the Night+Portrait setting from the Scenes knob position. It’s meant for shooting pretty lights in the background (with a tripod, most likely, unless you want motion blur) and getting a correct flash exposure on subjects in the foreground. In this shot (the best of ten) I got a good exposure on the sky and water, even while the boat was bucking like a spanked mule, and I also got perfectly exposed and stopped water drops from the wake. Amazing!
Sky, sea, and spray on the way back from BluebloodIt’s too bad that most people don’t seem to read the manuals on these top of the line point and shoot cameras. The will do things that were technically impossible to do only a decade ago.

Here is another shot, though not as good as the last, showing the Night+Portrait mode. I was a little too far from Mike to use the image as it came from the camera, so I had to fiddle with it a bit. Unfortunately, the fiddling is all too obvious:Mike CassellStill, it’s an image that would be difficult to get if you did not have the special settings needed built right into the camera waiting for the touch of a button.

Since I have acquired somehow an obsession with spiders, I’ll throw a couple of the leggy little critters at you. These are both residents of Blueblood. This is Fred: Spider at Blueblood
And this is Ginger showing off by hanging upside-down:
Another Blueblood spiderSpiders. Can’t get enough of them these days. I wonder if it’s a dietary deficiency?

I’ll leave you with my image pick of the week. It’s one of those shots that, when I took it, I didn’t think it was going to be much. Then, as I started to play with it and listen, it began to shout at me. “Hey, look at ME! I should be in National whatchacallit magazine! Gimme a break, man”Yonki dam spillwayHard to ignore pleas such as that. So I fiddled with this shot of the spillway at Yonki Dam with the kids walking home from school. You know what?

I fell in love with it.

Spooky, eh?

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Phoney Fauna

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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It was a magnificent day up at Blueblood on Sunday. The sea was flat, the sky as blue as a cornflower and the sun was shining with all its might. The beer was cold and friends were all in their Blueblood Spirit. I took three cameras with me and a tripod. This created a rich resource for humorous remarks from some who are photographically impaired, but others were interested to see what I was doing. It made no never mind to me, as I was happy with the joking, a cold brew, a cheap cigar and my cameras. The scenery was cooperating beautifully also:

The beach at Blueblood

I had to combine every darkening device that I had (neutral density, crossed polarisers, etc.) to make the exposure long enough to get the “smooth water” shot above. Even with all that, I managed only a two second exposure on the Olympus SP-590 on the tripod. That’s not long enough to get the glassy water effect. Sorry for the technical gobbledygook, but some out there might be interested.

Switching to the Canon G10 braced on the railing, I got this nice three-frame panorama that went together very slickly in Photoshop’s photomerge feature:

Mike Cassell and Pascal Michon fishing at Blueblood

Mike Cassell and Pascal Michon did a little fishing off of the beach. Mike caught a small cod of some kind, but it wasn’t big enough to grease a skillet, so it went back into the sea.

Trevor Hattersley pointed out a butterfly feeding hungrily on the red hibiscus that surround the beach house. I grabbed the Olympus because of its excellent zoom and good image stabilisation. As I was taking the shots I kept thinking that it was a waste of time. I could see that the shutter speed that I was getting was way too slow. I could have used flash, but I hate it. It always spoils the natural colours of outdoor images.

However, when I got the shots up on the screen in Photoshop, I began to see some prospect of turning them into art:

Red hibiscus and butterfly

Taking a technically spoiled shot which otherwise has an interesting subject and good composition and making it into a beautiful image is one of the things that I love best about image programs such as Photoshop. In the shot above, the colours are exciting and surreal. Part of the butterfly is reasonably well focused and suffers not too much motion blur. The primary wings are completely blurred, but you get the impression of them and it lends to the feeling of motion, which was fast and furious. I was very happy with this shot when I was finished.

This one is even better. At first I despaired. Then I noticed that I could actually see a faint image of the butterfly’s primary wings as a sort of blurred shadow. I worked on the rest of the image, over saturating the colours until I got the right fantasy feel and then I darkened the faint outline of the primary wings. Again, I was pleased:

A butterfly on a red hibiscus

I also got a couple of nice shots of the red hibiscus flowers. This is a shot of the back side of a blossom with interesting dark under saturated leaves in the background and a little greenery for contrast:

Red hibiscus from the back

I think that this one is my favourite flower shot of the day. I really like images of sunlight filtering through the petals of flowers. It’s something that I try to capture whenever I can get into position to do it. This blossom was hanging in just the right spot at the right angle and had the right background for sweetening up my day even more:

Red hibiscus with sunlight shining through

What a beautiful place in which I live. Blessings rain down on me every day like a warm summer shower.

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Aimless Idyl Fun at Blueblood

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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We’ve been going up to Blueblood nearly every Sunday since we returned from North America. It’s a regular part of our lives, so it feels good to get back on the beach with friends. Last Sunday morning, the sky promised a beautiful day:
Sunrise on Sunday morning - off to Blueblood at noon.

You can see the coconut tree, or what’s left of it, that was struck by lightning about a year ago and died. While I was away, the rotting tree broke off in a storm and fell on the sun deck of Faded Glory, breaking the railing and bending the edge of the deck down. While unfortunate, and difficult to repair, it could have been a lot worse. If the tree had fallen on the middle of the boat, the canopy and console would have been smashed beyond repair.

Here are a few of our mob in the water. Laura and Eunie are coaxing Mike Cassell to come out and join the party:
Laura and Eunie coax Mike Cassell to come and join the party

I got the shot above with the new Olympus super zoom SP-590UZ. It sure feels good to get long zoom shots like this one without having to fiddle with changing lenses, not to mention carrying all that gear around.

Here’s Mike coming out to join the group at the floating bar (a kid’s toy appropriated for the job at hand):
Mike Casselll joins the big pool party
Meanwhile, Kean has found some starfish:
Keyan finds a couple of starfish
Kids need to be supervised at the beach, because there are dangerous critters nearby.

Up in the little beach house, preparing for a game of Pétanque, everything is copacetic:Everything is cosy in the little beach house at Blueblood

We’re very fortunate to have friends with a beach house. It’s very difficult to find ground near Madang for such activities. In decades past many expatriates rented small plots of beach to build weekend houses. Now the practice is dying out because of land pressure and security problems.

We’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

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Triple Christening at the Beach

Posted in Madang Happenings on March 18th, 2008 by MadDog
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On Sunday, the 16th of March, we had a great family happening up at Blueblood. It seems a small mob of Cassell kids were in need of Christening.  Having the appropriate garb close at hand, Eunice and I trekked up the coast for the festivities.

Here we have (right to left) Daniel Cassell, Godfather to Charlotte Kate Cassell, James Cassell, Godfather to Nina Sue Cassell, William John Cassell, Jaculin Cassell (mother of the children), Charlotte Kate Cassell, Ben Cassell (father of the children), Nina Sue Cassell, and Mary-Jane Cassell, Godmother to Nina Sue Cassell. I’m on the far left.

Tripple Christening at Blueblood

Here’s Eunice and Di Cassell during the Christening. Di is holding her granddaughter, Natasha. Eunice is reading a poem written by Vanessa and Steve Ballard, Godparents to Nina and Charlotte.

Eunice, Di Cassell and Natasha

Here’s the some of the Cassell Clan with me after the Christening.

Cassell Clan and Pastor

I couldn’t pass up this one of Grandpa Mike (Pa) and grandson William.

Pa Mike and William Cassell

The usual mob of suspects were also present.  Here’s Ken McArthur looking so fine as he shows off his magnificent Pig Torture Device. What a clever mechanic. It all depends on an old washing machine motor.

Ken McArthur and his Pig Torture Device

Master Porcine Chef Trevor Hattersley was up at 4:00 AM with Pascal Michon to get the pig feeling nice and toasty warm.

Chef Trevor tending Porky’s firey demise

Our special guest, Porky, was so knackered by the time lunch came around that we decided to let him rest for a while with a good, cheap cigar and a beer.  CHEERS!

Porky Pig relaxing

Eunie and I want to thank Clan Cassell for the honour of participating in this wonderful family celebration of life.

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Bizarre Pétanque Finish

Posted in Sports on March 12th, 2008 by MadDog
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It’s a strange game; Pétanque. We play it after lunch at the beach. It makes me feel so … so … continental. We’ve had, on occasion, six nationalities between the two teams. When the social lubrication has reached its optimal level, out come the boules. We usually play rusty boules versus shiny. But, first comes the lunch. Here’s Mike and Pascal and Rich preparing the victuals.  Mike appears to be supervising. Rich needs a good feed.

Lunch at the beach

As a Yank, I’m allowed no closer than three meters to the barbie. On special occasions I’m allowed to help build the fire.

Hmmm, yes, we were talking about Pétanque. See, we don’t really do it properly. Actually we play Bush Pétanque (nothing to do with George). It’s much more interesting. I threw the jack right up against the back of the beach house and it got caught between some ancient roots. Anyway, after everyone had expended their boules, here’s how they ended up.

Petanque boules huddled together

Isn’t that fascinating? Aren’t you just so happy that you checked my blog today? Otherwise you would never have seen such an amazing sight. Now get back to work before your boss catches you.

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