Nob Nob and Kar Kar

Posted in Mixed Nuts on January 28th, 2011 by MadDog
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Today’s post title mimics the sound of baby talk. Nob nob kar kar goo goo. Maybe that’s a stretch. I’m going for a little humor today and finding it more difficult than usual. Some days are easier than others. It’s a roller-coaster.

A few persistent and pedantically observant readers may note that my spelling seems inconsistent. For instance, in an earlier sentence I used the word humor. In other posts I have spelled the word as humour. The machine which I am using today has a US English dictionary installed in Firefox, my web browser of choice. I usually use my computer at home or in my office, both of which have Australian English dictionaries. One might ask why.

Okay, since you are so inquisitive, I’ll tell you why. Having lived in Papua New Guinea so long that I can’t remember how to behave anywhere else, I have observed that Australians are laudably picky concerning spelling. I care about spelling only to the extent that I prefer not to appear as if I don’t care. Strangely enough, Americans seem more tolerant of UK/Australian spelling preferences than Australians are of the “Americanisms”. Therefore, I learned early on that, since a great deal of what I write ends up being seen by those who adhere to UK/Australian spelling than the American standards, it is prudent for me to use the Australian forms. It is simply too onerous a task to have to switch from one to another according to who might be the predominant audience. Australians seem to stumble over every Americanised (Americanized, if you are an American) form while Americans simply zip through text littered with Australian forms.

So, in the text of MPBM posts when there are alternate spellings you will usually not see the American forms. I’m not anti-American. I’m just catering to the closest audience and the one which finds the American forms to be a little odd. I’m not saying that Australians are spelling snobs. They are snobs about very few things, certainly no more things than Americans. However, there are some things which can set them afire. One is the American preference placing the letter z  near the end of words for which Australians insist must have an s.  For example, let’s take the word recognise.  To Americans this spelling appears strange, possibly exotic or even wrong. The Amercan form would be recognize. However, most Americans can recognise/recognize the word. They are not outraged by recognise.

Some Australians, however, would be compelled to point out, after careful consideration assisted by a healthy slug of Foster’s Lager, that is American  spelling. This might be accompanied by a slight frown.

So, there we have it. Now I have managed to insult both Australian and American cultures in a few brief paragraphs. If you are not already tired of the subject, you might look at an interesting Wikipedia item on American vs British Spelling Differences. I learned quite a bit from it.

Having dispatched my insults to my homeland and my favourite playground, it’s now time to proceed to the subjects. Last week I had the great blessing of a house guest. Dr. Riley Savage, a young Australian physician, has been in Madang several times working with the local hospital. Each time she was here she went out to dive with us. I invited her to take advantage of the guest rooms that Eunie and I had prepared so that visitors to Madang could economise by staying in a bed and breakfast atmosphere. It was a wonderful treat to have a friendly face for a few days in the big, lonely house.

We could not dive on the day before Riley was to fly back to Australia. This is because it is unwise to have any excess nitrogen in the blood before traveling to a high altitude. It can lead to symptoms of “the bends”. Instead, we went to visit old friends on Nob Nob mountain. Tag Tap took us for a brief bush walk. On our way up to his house we stopped at the Pacific Orientation Course camp to take in the view of Madang, Astrolabe Bay,  the North Coast and Kar Kar Island.  Here is a shot of Kar Kar Island  taken from the ridge upon which sets the huge TELIKOM communications tower:

The air was too hazy for a good shot. I had to massage this one very roughly. Kar Kar Volcano is potentially very dangerous. It is not gentle on our minds. One of the more interesting recent events occurred on the 4th day of December in 2009 when Kar Kar did not  erupt.

Here is a slight telephoto shot. I was attempting to get a better balance of tones. I tried combining multiple exposures including one underexposed, one normal and one overexposed. I then combined them in Photoshop for a single High Dynamic Range image:The resulting image is no improvement, but does have a point of interest. Look at the top of the big towering cumulus cloud (Cumulus congestus)  to the right of the peak. The rate of vertical development at the top of the cloud is so rapid that the two or three seconds between my exposures was long enough for multiple images to develop. Photoshop did a good job of lining up the three hand-held images, but it couldn’t cope with the motion at the top of the cloud. I’m still learning the HDR process. I was disappointed in this shot. I expected to be able to see detail in the brightest area of the cloud. I think the reason is that my underexposed frame was still washed out in the bright part of the cloud. I should have reduced the exposure even more to capture detail in the brightest areas.

While still on the ridge I shot this rather plain flower. It is not a very interesting shot except for the discoloured areas of the petals:

I’ve seen this on many flowers here. Red hibiscus blossoms often have bright blue patches which look a little wilted. It appears to me as if there is a base colour on the petal which is overlaid by another colour. If something happens which disturbs or removes the top layer of pigment the base colour shows through. You can get a hint of this by the general appearance of the petals. There is a hint of blue showing through.

When we started on our bush walk, I was strangely uninterested in shooting. I took only a couple of exposures. Riley was shooting everything, but I failed to get any images from her before she returned to Australia. This line of mushrooms up the side of a rotting tree did catch my eye:

Tag Tap said that they are edible. I’m cautious. I never eat wild mushrooms unless I find them at the market. These looked as if they were safe, but I don’t trust my extremely limited knowledge. Even if they are not poisonous, I might still be taken on a trip for which I’m not prepared.

I was greatly amused by this very elaborate flower. I think is is some kind of Pasiflora:I hope that Anne-Marie sees this and let’s me know what it is. Tag Tap says that it is used to combat fungal skin infections. If one has an itchy patch all that is needed is to find some of these and rub them vigorously on the skin. I had no itches, so I didn’t try it. Pasionfruit and Sugarfruit flowers are very similar in configuration and general appearance to this, but are much larger.

UPDATE: Anne-Marie rescued me with the species name. See her comment.

Getting back to Kar Kar, here are a couple of panoramic stitches of multiple images which include the island. You can see it in the distance at the left end of the large island:

With my equipment and skills images without obvious geometric distortion seem out of reach. I have seen a few, but the requirement for this seem complex to me. The shot above has no troublesome distortions, but it sags a bit in the middle. I ran out of time before I figured out how to correct this. I’m sure that Photoshop provides a method, but I couldn’t find it quickly.

A second series of exposure and a different style of stitching yielded this image:

The water line in this one is straight and most if it looks more realistic. However, the distortion at the right is distracting.

These images are for Rich Jones. Rich asked that the shot include the swinging rope from the Tarzan post. There was a Big Event at Blueblood recently of which I hope to write soon.

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We’re Not Finished With Nob Nob Mountain

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 3rd, 2009 by MadDog
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I didn’t have enough space a few days ago to show the remaining images from my last trip up Nob Nob Mountain. I’m usually the one assigned to haul visitors up there so that they can have a village experience and look down at the beautiful Madang coastline. Let me tell you, aside from the somewhat scary ride, it certainly beats slaving away in the office. It also never fails to feed my camera some tasty treats.

Here is a view to the west from Guntabag, where my old friend Tagtap lives with his family:

View from Nob Nob Mountain showing gardensThe brownish patches are gardens. Slash and burn agriculture is practiced heavily here because it’s the only way the people can feed themselves. Unfortunately, the population pressure will soon make this method unsustainable. Increased incidences of land slides and severe flooding are a direct result of the disturbance of the thin tropical topsoil by agricultural methods and timber cutting.

Here is a very nasty image of the Madang wharf taken with my Olympus SP-590UZ in the hazy afternoon at least five kilometres away at full (26x) optical zoom:View of Madang Wharf from Nob Nob Mountain with Olympus SP-590UZ (original)

Unless you’re a spook looking for secrets, it’s useless as a photograph. Still, why waste pixels:View of Madang Wharf from Nob Nob Mountain with Olympus SP-590UZ (post-Photoshop)

A few minutes with Photoshop gave me a pretty image.

Here is a scary spider:

Spider at Nob Nob Mountain

The wavy background is a corrugated iron water tank, in case you’re wondering. I enjoy photographing spiders. There are so many different species here that I’ll never run out of new ones. Most of them are fairly large, so I can get very detailed images of them with my cheap cameras. I don’t have to spend a fortune on a DSLR and an expensive macro lens.

You would not think that this image would be difficult to get. That is, until you realise that these are African Tulip tree blossoms and they are growing about twenty to thirty metres up on top of the tree. So, how did I get the shot:

Blossoms on African Tulip tree at Nob Nob Mountain

Well, it wasn’t by climbing up in the tree. I’m not averse to risk to get a shot, but I’m not suicidal. I was standing on top of the mountain shooting down at the top of the tree.

There are all sorts of crazy looking plants here. I don’t know what it is about the tropics that gives plants the idea that they don’t have to be green. Whatever it is, I like it:

Colourful leaf at Nob Nog Mountain

What’s with those colours, eh? Personally, I take it that Someone  has quite a sense of humour.

Speaking of colours, have a look at this outrageous rooster:

A colourful rooster at Nob Nob Mountain

If I were a rooster, I’d want to look like that!  This dude shows his lineage back to the Wild Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)  which is believed to be the direct ancestor of all domestic chickens.

I feel a long bush-walk coming on. I lost both of my big toenails as a result of bad-fitting shoes on the last one. This time I’m going barefoot!

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Back to Nob Nob Mountain

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 29th, 2009 by MadDog
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A couple of days ago I had to drive a mob of visitors up Nob Nob Mountain.  It’s not really a bother, except the road is a bit scary. It’s just dirt and tight switchbacks and two-hundred metre drop-offs, so it is really no big deal as far as PNG roads go. Nevertheless, when I’m driving it in a van, it’s not my cup of tea.

The view from Nob Nob is fairly spectacular. You can see the entire coast from way over at Saidor on the other side of Astrolabe Bay  to the southeast up to Sek Island  and further to the north. Here’s a shot from the Pacific Orientation Course camp:

View from Pacific Orientation Course grounds on Nob Nob Mountain

I enjoy having a walkabout with my camera whenever I’m at Nob Nob. I never know what I’m going to discover. I was stopped dead in my tracks by these very trippy pink fungi growing on the side of a rotten log:

Trippy pink fungi on Nob Nob Mountain

One can’t help wondering what a little nibble might do. The possibilities are endless, beginning with a psychedelic journey deep into your navel and probably ending with a quick trip to the morgue. On the other hand, it might be an Alice-like experience. I didn’t look underneath to see if they had little labels attached commanding “Eat me!”

This, as any fool can see, is the underside of a fern leaf. What is interesting here is the size and colour of the sori. In case botany was not your favourite subject, I’ll mention that sori are the clumps of sporangia. Does that help? Okay, okay, they are the naughty bits of the fern by which big ferns make little ferns:

Underside of fern leaf on Nob Nob Mountain showing sori (clumps of sporangia)

The spores from the red spots are released into the air to find a suitable place at which to start all over again.

Here is another kind of fern called a Staghorn. You are looking at about half of it. The rest is hidden higher in the tree. The part that you are looking at is about two metres long:

Staghorn Fern on Nob Nob Mountain

If you look at the flappy looking bits at the top you can see that they are completely covered underneath by a solid mass of sporangia.

Enough of ferns. Have some orchids.

Here are some frosty-white ones:

Frosty White Orchids from Nob Nob Mountain

I don’t know the names of any of these. It’s enough strain on my brain to keep up with fish.

The design of this one seems a little overblown to me. I’m not sure what the point is, but I’m suspicious that it has to do with reproduction:

Funky Yellow Orchid from Nob Nob Mountain

It probably goes something like this:

“Hey you! Bug! Look over here. Yeah, baby, I’m hot! Don’t you want to pollinate me? Come on, big fella; you know you want it.”

Sorry for that.

Anyway, I admit that I’m fascinated by orchids. Look at this clown:

Orange Orchid from Nob Nob Mountain

If I were an orchid I’d want to look like that.

Only moreso.

And yes, I would be sticking my purple and white striped tongue out at you.

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More Nob Nob Mountain Miscellanea

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 7th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today, I have more than enough images to show you of things that caught my eye on my recent visit to Nob Nob Mountain. There’s no particular order or theme here, so be prepared for more than the usual randomness.

Here is a rather amazing shot that I got from the communications tower ridge of the main wharf in Madang.  I’m guessing that the straight line distance is in excess of ten kilometres. I got the shot with the Olympus SP-590UZ at full 26x optical zoom. It points out the good and bad points of the cheap, but impressive zoom lens on the Olympus:

Madang Wharf telephoto shot from Nob Nob Mountain

First, I should point out that it was a very hazy day. That hurt the quality of the image before it ever reached the camera. You can see some vignetting around the corners. The shot is slightly cropped, mostly vertically, so there was even more light fall-off at the corners and edges. Next, you’ll note that the shot is not very sharp. I did a bit of cleaning of noise and sharpening. The original was more blurry and noisy. I also had to increase the saturation of the colours, but that was mostly because of the haze. Still, despite the problems I think that it’s amazing that you can buy a camera for less than US$500 that has a lens equivalent to a 700mm hunk of glass on a 35mm camera. If you’re just shooting snapshots, but you always wanted that super-telephoto effect, you can get it for free on any of the new superzoom cameras. They cost no more than any of the top-of-the-line point and shoot cameras (such as the superb Canon G11) and they give you telephoto shots that will blow your socks off. You can see some other examples of the relative quality of the superzoom shots from the Olympus here, here and here.

Showing the random nature of today’s post, here is the biggest mass of coconuts that I have ever seen on one tree. I’m sure that it is nowhere near a record, but it did amaze me:

Mass of coconuts at Nob Nob Mountain

Many times on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  I have told you about the Flying Fox. It is one of my favourite critters, though if I lived under a roosting tree, I might not feel so happy about them. Anyway, here is a papaya tree showing a nice, ripe papaya that nobody is going to want to eat. It’s half gone and the rest is covered by Flying Fox slobber:

Flying Fox meal of papaya at Nob Nob Mountain

I don’t often think of male and female trees. It’s something that just doesn’t come to mind. So, whenever I see a male papaya tree, I think what probably a lot of women think. Men – they’re so much bother. How many do we actually need, anyway? Here’s a lonely male papaya tree pitifully hoping that some of its pollen will be wafted on the wind to a receptive female:

Male Papaya Tree at Nob Nob Mountain

As you can see, he does nothing useful except to produce flowers. Not a bad job, I guess, if you can get it.

Here’s another interesting plant. It’s the top of a tree fern. Many of you in temperate and cold climates may never have seen one. If you can image a fern as tall as your house with a trunk like a spiny tree, that’s a fairly good description:

Tree Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

Here is another kind of fern called a staghorn fern. They also grow to be huge. I’ve seen a few that were nearly the size of a Volkswagen. This Frangianpi tree is an unusual host. It won’t be long before the weight of the fern causes the tree to come crashing down.

Staghorn Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

Here is a coconut tree groaning under the weight of a staghorn fern. It will eventually grow so big that it will drag the tree down, destroying its host. There is no noticeable intelligence among staghorn ferns. It has that in common with the human race:

Staghorn Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

I think that this is a common house plant over much of the world. I don’t know what it’s called. It reminds me of taro. Whatever it is, it looks as if it has been too near to where the house painters have been working:

Painted leaf at Nob Nob Mountain

We must have a million colours of hibiscus here. This is one that I particularly like:

Hibiscus at Nob Nob Mountain

Finally, back to ferns one more time. There is a kind of vine with blue flowers on it that grows all over the trees around Nob Nob Mountain.  You saw it a couple of days ago on the Tree Monster. I saw this nice fern frond growing where I could get a shot of the blue flowers on the vine in the background:

Fern frond at Nob Nob Mountain

I found it frustrating that I couldn’t get an angle on the frond that showed the lacyness of it the way that I wanted. I tried twisting it around, but it wouldn’t stay. Afraid of damaging it, I left it be and shot it as it was.

It was a good lesson for me for the day – take life as it comes. There’s little that you can change without making things worse.

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A Visit to Nob Nob Mountain

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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A few days ago I had to haul my bosses up to Nob Nob Mountain  for a meeting. This giving me a couple of hours to kill, I took along a couple of cameras. One camera. One hour. What could be fairer?

Here is the view of Madang from the site of the communications tower:

View of Madang from Nob Nob Mountain

Someone has kindly cut down the trees that were blocking the view here for the last few years. It look now more like it did when I first saw it in 1981.

This is the main communications tower on Nob Nob Mountain:

The main communications tower on Nob Nob Mountain

It doesn’t seem as if there is much more room for antennae left. All along the pathway on this ridge there are about a dozen other towers now. None of them were there a couple of years ago.

Here is the view of Nagada Harbour  from a location in the Pacific Orientation Camp:

View of Nagada Harbour from Nob Nob Mountain

The shots above were taken with the Olympus SP-590UZ.

I switched to the Canon G10 for this macro of a very interesting spider:

Colourful Spider

I used to enjoy this location because I could always find preying mantis to shoot. On this occasion, they were all hiding out. I saw none at all.

What I did see is what is obviously a Tree Monster. Locally, we might think of this a masalai  at play. He’s just trying to scare me:

The Tree Monster as it was

He nearly did, too. Here is what it looked like to me in my head:

The Tree Monster as I saw it

Yes, it is a very strange place. Not Nob Nob Mountain;  I mean in my head.

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Nearly Deleted

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on April 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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Some of greatest enjoyment that I get from working with images comes from the minutes that I work on an image that I was just about to delete. As my finger hovers over the DELETE key, I make a final judgement. I’m a merciful kind of guy, possibly too much so. Today I’ll show you some recent images that I nearly deleted. Each had a tragic flaw that I had to somehow overcome. Some attempts were more successful than others.

I’ll start with the worst failure. I simply could not delete this image taken from the top of Nob Nob Mountain. It faintly shows the Finisterre Mountains at the right and an Air Niugini jet taking off from Madang on the left. But the colours were impossible. So, I pretend that it’s grey and rainy in the distance. It doesn’t work for me:

Madang Town, Astrolabe Bay, and the Finisterre Range

Points = zero.

This one, taken from a different position is a bit better. You can see Madang, the rugged mountains in the foreground, and the Finisterre Range again on the right:

Astrolabe Bay and the Finisterre Range as seen from Nob Nob Mountain

A few points, maybe. At least it doesn’t look too fake.

This one is looking North-east from the top of Nob Nob Mountain. This image pleases me more. It looks natural and the sun is playing beautifully with the water way out on Astrolabe Bay:

Looking up the North Coast from Nob Nob Mountain

The next one nearly got the chop because I didn’t think that the house would be visible enough to tell the story. It was taken at max zoom on my Canon G-9, which it nothing to talk about. It’s a little wimpy. The house was about three kilometres away. Still (if you click to enlarge) the image does tell the story of rural life in Papua New Guinea. A surprising percentage of the population lives in just such relatively isolated places:

A typical rural house in Papua New Guinea

I didn’t like the strong shadows in the next one, though the image was too endearing to delete. A few minutes of adjusting brightness and saturation in selected areas of the image pulls the eye away from the dark blob of the woman’s shirt and allows the mind’s focus to shift to the child, the bright clothing and the chuckling stream:

Wash Day at a village at Nob NobThe image above makes good use of the Rule of Thirds. As it turns out, it’s my favourite of the bunch.

The last image seemed hopeless. The area around the house was nearly blacked out. I pulled it up with the Photoshop Shadows/Highlight filter, but that usually gives the image a strange flat look if you overdo it. So, I decided to turn it into art instead of a photo:

A village house at Nob Nob

Judicious application of the Stroked Edges filter allowed for the salvation of this image. It will never hang in a museum, but it’s art, nevertheless.

At least, according to the MadDog definition.

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