A Model Model

Posted in Under the Sea on May 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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I have been feeling very anxious and incompetent for the last month. I was having a difficult time understanding the cause of my feelings. This, of course, simply made matters worse. As I’ve mentioned. I’ve taken on another job aside from my duties in the IT Dungeon. I’m now the editor of two quarterly magazines. It has finally dawned on me what the cause is of my distress. I haven’t had a new job for thirty years. Studies have shown that starting a new job is one of the top stress generators. I had forgotten the feelings of inadequacy, loss of control, uncertainty and raw fear that accompany a new job. I’ve been an author for a long time. However I’ve never been an editor. The job seemed simple when I took it on. It is only now that I’m into it that I realise how little I know about what I’m doing. Wish me well as I struggle to get myself oriented. I’m on a three month probation, so I don’t have much time to prove myself. It’s sink or swim time. Keeping this job and doing well at it so that I have a future in the industry is an essential tactic in our survival strategy as churches will undoubtedly continue to abandon us as we age.

However, today’s sunrise cheered me up:Nice sunrises are getting more and more frequent.

On Saturday we did a dive at The Eel Garden  near Pig Island.  The weather was horrible. We immediately ran into rain and it rained nearly the whole day. Only in the last hour did we get a little sun. Underwater, however, it was beautiful:

A beautiful lady is always a welcome addition to nature’s own. Above is Genevieve and a Magnificent Anemone with Clown Anemonefish or “Nemo” fish.

Here is another one of Genevieve with a Feather Star:

Taking inexperienced divers into my care and teaching them how to enjoy safe diving while learning the mysteries under the ocean is one of the more pleasant parts of my life. Genevieve comes to us with few dives and had not dived for about a year. I expected the jitters and problems on the dive. I was surprised that she was as cool as a cucumber, stayed close to me and interpreted my instructions perfectly. Being an excellent swimmer, she also moves through the water gracefully.

I trapped these Scarlet Soldierfish (Myripistis pralinia)  in a little cave: I had to laugh into my regulator as they darted around crazily as their teeny-weeny brains tried to figure out what to do.

We found the big patch of anemone’s near the island and it was full of  Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):I’m sure that this one believed that I couldn’t see him. The will often try to position themselves in the anemone so that only the eye is exposed so that they can keep it on you. I think that they don’t realise the their noses are fully visible.

I’ll finish up with a critter that is probably beginning to bore you.:Yes, it’s the nudibranch, Notodoris minor  again. I’ve found where they are living and I’m to keep on taking pictures of them as long as they are there. It’s a moderately rare species, so I want to “collect” as many as I can. Each image is like a trophy to me.

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A Once In a Lifetime Shot

Posted in Under the Sea on March 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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The weekend got off to a perfect start this morning when I crossed the terminal wires on my boat battery and blew the voltage regulator on my engine. I had to cancel the day for five divers standing on the dock waiting for me. I hope the remainder of their weekend went better than mine. Fortunately, Richard Jones is in town, so I went out on his boat, Sanguma  along with Jenn, Jo and Ush.

I have lots of other news about the weekend, some good, some not so. I’m sitting at the office on Sunday afternoon writing this because the power to the security camera pole where my wireless connection makes its hop to my house has been out all weekend and, of course, my wonderful TELIKOM phone lines won’t carry data today because there were a few drops of rain last night.

I could keep on complaining for hours, but I don’t have the time. Too bad. It’s my favourite hobby.

One of the bright spots of the weekend is in this image:If you’re not a diver, you might not think that it’s such a big deal. Believe me, it is.  The shot above was taken by available light at about eighteen metres at The Eel Garden  at Pig Island.

What you’re looking at is two giant Notodoris minor  nudibranchs engaged in a super slow motion mating act. (UPDATE: Frank Peeters points out that this is actually one N. Minor.  His explanation is perfect; I can’t argue with it. See our comments below. I’m only slightly deflated.) The reason I’m showing you three nearly identical images of the same scene are partly technical and partly because I’m so dumbfounded by my luck that I can’t stop inserting the images in this post. It’s one thing to see a Notodoris minor.  I’ve found a spot at The Eel Garden  where I can usually find one if I take the time to look. It’s another thing to find two of them together. However, I have never before, and very likely never will again catch two of them in the act of laying and fertilising eggs. The shot above was lit by the flash on my camera.

Needless to say, I grabbed many, many exposures of the pair. I did not want to risk something going wrong. I tried several different camera settings. I made up this image in Photoshop which, though it seems faded compared to the others, shows the fine structures in high detail and really gives a more accurate idea of the shape of the things:The image above is over twice the pixel dimensions that I usually put in the journal. I normally limit resolution to 1600 pixels. This makes them load faster if you want to click to enlarge. It also protects me a little from those who steal images from the web and foist them off as their own. Yes, it has happened to me. My copyright (see the bottom of the page) allows free non-commercial use of any of my images without seeking permission as long as you simply attach my name to the image or (preferably) include a link to Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  That’s fairly small payment for the work that I put into presenting my best work on this site. I’ve found plenty of my images on other web sites with no attribution. I’m not sure why someone would do that, but it doesn’t make me particularly happy. Anyway, if you want to see some amazing details of the egg-laying nudis, click on the image above and be ready to download about a half of a megabyte.

I also thought that you might be interested to see the old wrecked catamaran river barge which is right beside the place where I find the Notodoris minor:That image is a stitch-up of seven separate frames. It covers about 160°.

Since we’re doing a lot of yellow today, I’ll throw in this snap-shot of a Latticed Butterflyfish (Chaetodon rafflesi):I’d rather that the other one had gotten out of the way a little sooner. This image was the result of a ten minute chase. Butterflyfish are very frustrating.

I’ll have more weekend adventures later. They include a very nice party, a car theft by a drunk, a house invasion and possible rape (we don’t know yet) and probably some other things that I’ve already suppressed deep in my memory vault.

I’ll also have some nice shots of my peeps.*

* I’m destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it. -Naz

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Massive Rainbow Heralds More Fishy Things

Posted in Under the Sea on February 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Let’s start out this morning with something that we don’t see every day. If you’re a regular reader, you know that our house faces east and looks out across Madang Harbour. If condition are just right, as the sun is lowering in the west and it is raining over Madang Town on the peninsula, we might get a bit of a rainbow. A few afternoons ago we got a spectacular double rainbow. I was too slow to get the camera going, so I missed it. Wouldn’t you know, a few days later, we got another good one. Fortunately I was just getting out of the car and had my camera with me. I ran out to the back of Faded Glory and grabbed this five frame series which I stitched together in Photoshop to make a rainbow panorama:I’m a bit surprised that I got no red in the rainbow. It is usually pretty strong. Maybe someone out there can explain it.

I have some more shots from our dives on Saturday at Pig Island where we hunted the Eel Garden and Barracuda Point. The Eel Garden is a favourite place to stalk the Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis):It’s not fair to use terms like “ugly” for such a creature. They probably look fine to each other. In fact, this is probably the Steve McQueen of scorpionfishes.

If I’m making less sense than usual today, I’m blaming it on my horrible cold. I feel as if my head is stuffed full of cotton and I can’t concentrate on anything. I should be at home in bed, but I’ve finally coerced the TELIKOM technicians to do a bit error rate test on my line to my house so that I may get back an Internet connection. Unfortunately, they have no vehicles on the road. The manager mentioned something about registration, so my guess is that someone either forgot to register them or the cheque bounced. Either is equally likely – or both.

Anyway, the Barracuda Point dive was equally productive. Here is a lovely mob of Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello) cruising past me:Something is terribly wrong with these barracuda. They are supposed to be ferocious predators. Many attacks on humans are reported. Our barracuda, however , seem to be uncannily tame. I regularly swim up to them an stick my camera withing inches of them. The don’t seem to mind at all. If I get too close, they simply make a bump in the line to accommodate me. If I get closer still, they break the line and join up elsewhere. It’s a breathtaking experience.

A week wouldn’t be complete without some nudis. We’ve been finding many of them recently after a long period during which we hardly saw any at all. This Phyllidiella pustulosa is one of our most common varieties:I realise that I’m showing you a lot of them. I hope you’re not getting bored. We’re all nudibranch geeks here. My speciality is not in identifying them, but rather taking the most perfect images that I possibly can. I want to eventually come up with an identification guide for all of the species in the area. As there are hundreds, I’m afraid that I’m in a race with the Grim Reaper to complete the project.

Another that I’ve been trying to get The Definitive Image of is the Notodoris minor:Put “notodoris” in the search box to see how I’m doing. I’m not sure these shots are better than the last batch.

I certainly have more anatomical detail in these images, but I’m not as happy with the molding of the body surfaces:Since I’m still having to catch up on my posts and I have an impending battle with TELIKOM today, I’ll sign off and wish you a good day.

Please don’t get too close to your screen. I wouldn’t want you to catch this cold.

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Heart of the Hunter – Part 2

Posted in Under the Sea on November 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday, I dumped a bunch of images on your screen that I’m preparing for an article for Niugini Blue  magazine. The title will be Heart of the Hunter. Look back at my post from yesterday to read all of my blather about that.

Today, we’ll just look at some of the rest of the images that I’m submitting.

You’ve seen the Spotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris guttata)  here before. I’ve even managed to get shots showing the commensal shrimp that lives in the same burrow. I spent about fifteen minutes sneaking up on this scene to get the fish along with two  of the  shrimps Alpheus ochrostriatus:

Spotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris guttata) with shrimps Alpheus ochrostriatusThe timing here is very tricky. I could see that there were two shrimps living with the fish in the burrow, but it took a lot of patience to wait until both of them came out at once, pushing sand in front of them as if they were tiny bulldozers. The Spotted Shrimpgoby appeared previously here and here. If you get too close or make a sudden move, they all pop back in the hole in a flash.

Stalking relatively immobile critters is easier.  You’ve seen this nudibranch (Notodoris minor)  here before several times (put notodoris in the search box):

Nudibranch (Notodoris minor)In this shot, I think I’ve finally figured out how to get the subtle bumps and curves of the body of the beastie to show clearly. The thing is so bright and so monochromatic that you can’t really see this much detail with the naked eye. It’s an interesting example of how a photographic image can show you details that you can’t see with your eyes. Underwater, this critter looks pretty much like a blob of bright yellow with black stripes. It’s very hard to make out any detail.

I shot this image of the Spotted Porcelain Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculata)  a couple of years ago with my previous UW camera, an Olympus C8080:

Spotted Porcelain Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculata)Though there a lot of variables that I can’t account for, it’s still interesting to compare the Olympus shot with this one of the same species shot last week with my current outfit, a Canon G10:

Spotted Porcelain Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculata)As I said, there are too many variables to make a direct comparison, but it certainly looks as if I’ve lost nothing in the change.

This shot of a Spotted Garden Eel (Heteroconger hassi)  is one that I must admit makes me feel almost like a pro:

Spotted Garden Eel (Heteroconger hassi)

It’s not so much that it’s technically perfect – it isn’t. However, if you understand the behaviour of these eels, you will appreciate how difficult it is to get a good, clear close-up. The garden eel is usually found in mobs sticking up out of the sand. That’s all well and good – and quite pretty. However, when you approach them, they all pull back down into their holes; it’s their best defense. To get this close to one requires Job-like patience and a full tank of air. I cheated a little by easing a bit of telephoto into my lens, something which is normally useless underwater, since there is always too much stuff floating around.  I also had to do an enlargement trick (the multiple 110% enlargement method, in case you’re a Photoshop fan) to get the image big enough to crop out the middle and still have good detail. I’d guess that the front of my camera was about a half-metre from the eel.

Look, he’s winking at me.

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The Dreaded Sticky Thong and Other Curiosities

Posted in Under the Sea on October 24th, 2009 by MadDog
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Before we get to the thong (no,  not that  kind) I’ll show you a few other odd critters that live in my front yard.

This peculiar thing is commonly known as a Cushion Star, or as my Grandmother told me, a Sea Pincushion. If you’re on less familiar terms with the critter, you may call it Mr. Culcita novaeguineae:

Cushion Star or Sea Pincushion (Culcita novaeguineae)

I doubt that they are aware if you get the gender right, so it won’t much matter. They reproduce both sexually and asexually, so such distinctions probably seem silly to them.

I admit with some shame that it nearly impossible to resist the urge once in a great while to pick up one of these football sized legless starfish and give it a toss at your dive buddy. I’m certain that this activity is much opposed by “Amalgamated Cushion Stars Committee Against Humans Playing Football With Us”, a loose confederation of local Cushion Star bowling clubs. How they manage to bowl with no arms is beyond me. Anyway, here’s a side shot:

Cushion Star or Sea Pincushion (Culcita novaeguineae)

They are squishy in a very strange way. If you poke it, it feels hard at first, almost stone-like. However, if you nudge gently and continuously, your finger will begin to make a dent that continues to deepen until you begin to feel very guilty and pull your finger away. Then, slowly, the dent will become more and more shallow until it is gone.

You’ve seen Notodoris Minor  before. It is absolute torture to get an image of these things which shows their actual shape. They are so monochromatic that the camera, even your eyes, can’t capture the subtleties of shading that model the contours of the critter. Visually, they look like a vivid yellow blob. It strains the eyes to make out any details. I worked feverishly on these shots to bring out the fine differences of shade in these images to show you bizarre shape of these nudibranchs:

Nudibranch (Notodoris minor)Compare the distinction of detail between the shot above and the shot in this post. I think that I’m finally getting it figured out.

Hard to please today?  Okay, how about two Notodoris Minor ?

Nudibranch (Notodoris minor)

Take that!  However. I think that we may have intruded on a little tête-`a-tête,  so let’s leave them to it.

Finally, I can complete my report to you concerning the stickiest substance know to man, the filamentous cuvierian tubules exuded from the stinky end of the Leopard Sea Cucumber, a kind of bech-de-mere (Bohadschia argus).  I wrote about this before.
The sticky white filaments of Bohadschia argus on a flip-flop

What I didn’t know, on the day a friend accidentally stepped on one (no harm done to the Leopard), that my friend Amanda Watson took a photo of the goo-encrusted flip-flop (or thong, as we call them here).

I managed to get most of it off without covering my fingers. Imagine the stickiest, nasty old chewing gum that has been baking on the sidewalk for a week.

This stuff is worse. Much worse.

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Sunset Dreaming

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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Morning is my second favourite time of day. I’m usually up by about 05:30. The first thing that I do is look out of the front windows of our house to see what’s going on in the sky. The sunrise a few mornings ago displayed itself as a beautifully muted array of pastels. Here’s the wide-angle shot from our front yard:Sunrise in MadangIf you’re wondering about my favourite time of the day, it’s when I sit down in my favourite chair, with my favourite beer, my favourite brand of cheap cigars, a bit of favourite reading material and pet my favourite (only) dog, Sheba. I can feel the stresses of the day evaporating like a cool misty haze around me.

A minute or so later, I got this image with a mid-telephoto setting:Sunrise in Madang

Man, I love those colours. It’s too bad that, here in the tropics, sunrises and sunsets fly past so quickly. In general, they last about ten or fifteen minutes at the most. That’s because the sun (and moon) are rising and falling straight up or down, not at an angle as in temperate zones. You have to get your camera out and be ready. I have missed fantastic sunset shots by being only one minute too late.

Yesterday, I showed you an image of this same Notodoris Minor  Nudibranch. This image was taken at Planet Rock  with flash:Nudibranch (Notodoris minor) at Planet Rock

The one from yesterday was captured by available light at about 30 metres. You can compare the difference.

Here’s our old favourite the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculatus)  also at Planet Rock:

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus) at Planet Rock

I’ve been concentrating very much on getting good specimen shots. I’m trying to get a publisher for a coffee table book called The Fishy Families of Madang.  Anything for a buck.

On the way back from Blueblood last Sunday on Felmara,  Mike Cassell’s boat, I caught our friend Frauke Meeuw dreaming in the sunset light:
Frauke Meeuw dreaming in the sunset

It is redundant to say that happiness is a state of mind.

So, I won’t say it.

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He Got Hair Down To His Knee

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on October 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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The Beatles song, Come Together  has been wafting around in my head this morning. I’ll tell you why in a little while. First I’ll show you an amusing sunrise at our house this morning:Sunrise at our house in Madang, Papua New GuineaI massaged this image rather brutally, because I was trying for something a little surreal. As you can see, the lighting effect on the fore shore is improbable. I’m calling it Ghost Harbour.  I’m pretending it’s sunset, because that makes it creepier.

And now I’ll explain the teaser. Have a look at this critter:

Hermit Crab (Dardanus sp.) at Planet RockIt’s a Hermit Crab, some species of Dardanus;  I can’t tell which. It was as I was working on this image that the spooky Beatles lyrics and tune began to insinuate themselves on my stream of consciousness.

Here come old flattop, he come groov’n up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller
He got hair – down – to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please

Is it any wonder that I’m barely in control? I can still sing this song from memory, beginning to end. I haven’t a clue what it means. To us, at the time, it was just another fab from the Fab Four. Whenever I hear it, even today, I cannot help closing my eyes, tilting my head back, and getting into that pleasantly numb groove. And, of course, singing along in a gravelly nasal baritone.

Okay, enough of that frivolity.

Here is something that you don’t see every day. It’s a nudibranch with the fetchingly obnoxious name of Notodoris Minor.  I don’t know why it’s called minor,  because, by nudibranch standards, it’s huge  – about 7cm for this one:

Nudibranch (Notodoris minor) at Planet Rock

You can see these things from an incredible distance, because they are so bright.

While we’re on yellow, here is a Feather Star (Comantheria schlegeli):

Feather Star (Comantheria schlegeli) at Planet RockThese shots all came from the dive last Saturday at Planet Rock.  I had shots from that dive yesterday and I’ll have more tomorrow.

This is a close up shot of the same Anthea  species that you saw yesterday with Pascal Michon in the background. It’s devilishly difficult to tell which species of Anthea  that you are looking at unless you can get a close-up shot of an individual, a very difficult task. So many of them look very similar that I usually just lump them all together:

Anthea (species ?) at Planet RockSome things I never tire of seeing.

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