Look Through My Kaleidoscope

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Before I get started showing you the ten rather odd images for today, I’ll tell you what prompted my thinking about looking through things. Since I returned from Australia, I’ve been suffering from a variety of physical and mental ailments, most of which have never been problems before. One of them is paranoia. I’m not feeling weirded out by this, considering the number of very bad things which have happened recently in my life. It seems obvious that one might rightly feel a bit of paranoia under such circumstances.

For example:  I can see well enough to navigate around the house without my glasses, but I would not dare to drive and reading is impossible. I was certain that I had my last pair of glasses tucked safely away somewhere as a backup in case I lost my current pair. “Somewhere” is the catch word. I suppose that whether one might consider this to be a “very bad thing” depends on one’s personal evaluation, but all that I can say is that I simply could not stop thinking about it. After ever more frantic searches, I cannot find them. At least a hundred times the thought popped into my head, “Just ask Eunie.” Well, that’s not gonna happen. It makes my heart pound whenever my mind slips like that. It feels like running full tilt into a brick wall.

Anyway, I pictured losing my glasses and having to ask someone to fly with me to Australia for a new pair of prescription specs. It did not occur to me that there might be a simpler solution. Then I met Dr. John up at Blueblood last week. I discovered that he is an Optometrist with the Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand here in Madang. He told me that they could fit me with standard, ready-made glasses which should work well. I got an eye exam at the Fred Hollows Clinic yesterday. I walked out with three pairs of nice glasses. One pair is for distance, driving, boating, and so forth. A second pair is for computer work. It works best at arm’s length. The third pair is for close-up work or reading.

So, I now no longer need to fear losing my glasses. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll go back and get two additional sets of specs. I’ll leave one at the office and stash the other in a safe (and remembered) place in the house. My total investment will be about K180 (roughly US$60.00). Now I have one less fear on the list. It was small, but it was nagging. I was forever laying my glasses down and forgetting where they were. Eunie would always find them for me.

This episode left me thinking, “Just how stupid am I?”

Okay, having disposed of that item and reminding myself that other difficulties may also have simple solutions, if I can only discover them, let’s proceed with the gaggle of weird images for today.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by kaleidoscopes. I could spend an unreasonable amount of time staring through my grandmother’s very fancy dream maker. It sent my mind on mini-trips to strange and wonderful places. I’ve seen many computer generated multi-mirror images. Most of them do not please me much. I did get a little inspired by the work of Kathleen Farago May in her guest shot on MPBM, though the images lacked real-world components. I Googled for Photoshop plugins designed to create kaleidoscope images and got lucky on the first try with the Mehdi Kaleidoscope Plugin, which is free. I was immediately hooked. Here is a very amusing view of a Juvenile Oriental Sweetlips:

The presence of recognisable real-world images makes the kaleidoscope idea work for me.

Here is another featuring a Butterflyfish:

I wanted more.

Okay, it’s getting even better with this Yellowmargin Triggerfish:

I really like the background pattern in this one. It makes the Triggerfish leap off the screen.

From the same post as the one above, we have Jo Noble free diving:

The centre is quite abstract. As the eye moves out it suddenly encounters the lovely, graceful form of the diver.

A little more abstract, but still realistic is the Green Coral image from just a few days ago:

I have to admit that not much was gained from kaleidoscoping this one. I like the original image better.

This one is maybe my favourite of the bunch. The starfish pops out from the seemingly abstract background:

That one if from Saturday at the Office.

I call this one Hands Across the Water. It’s a kaleidoscopic view of a cartoon treatment of my friend, Carol Dover:

This effect is a little strange. It makes me a bit dizzy.

Here is another one which can make your head spin. When doing human forms you have to watch out for “creepy” artefacts:

The face effects in this one are interesting, but the strange blobs which came along for the ride are a little disturbing.

This one of Ush playing with a shell is less creepy, but even more head-spin inducing:

Kaleidoscoping faces is obviously a little tricky.

What about whole people? My initial experiments didn’t yield much that was pretty, except for the one of Jo Noble. I decided to keep trying. Reducing the number of mirrors seems to be the trick. Here is a much modified image of Jenn Miller floating languidly in the sea at Pig Island:

All of these were surprisingly easy to create and the process doesn’t take much time. I did discover that not every image makes a good kaleidoscope pattern. It seems to work best if the subject is clearly defined against the background. Otherwise, it gets all jumbled up.

You can take it a step further and create purely abstract patterns very easily, but the original image is lost in the multiple reflections very quickly, if you are not careful.

It’s fun to have a new toy. Especially if it was free.

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Leper Island – No Lepers – Never Were

Posted in Under the Sea on February 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I already went into the whole thing of Leper Island  never having had any lepers on it. If you want to read the quasi-amusing details, you can find them here. On Saturday, we first dived Planet Rock  (more about that tomorrow) and then the southern tip of Leper Island.  I had only about 70 BAR of air left in my tank, but that was enough for forty minutes of bimbling around on top of the reef snapping anything that moves and some that don’t.

For instance, here’s the familiar (to regular readers) female Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata):

The female looks just like the male, minus the big black bulls-eye behind the eyes.

I’m just nusto about spirals. They are everywhere in nature. This coral (Acropora clathrata)  often makes pretty spiral shaped shelves with frilly coloured edges:I’d like to have a coffee table with one of these cast in acrylic plastic. No, cancel that. I’d have to kill about a million coral polyps.

There were some beautiful sand waves on top of the reef. The water above was quite bumpy. There was a lot of chop and some slow rollers coming over the top. This makes the sand pile up in lovely symmetrical waves. It also makes photography difficult, as sand is flying everywhere and you are being dragged around like a two year old child kicking and screaming through the supermarket because mom won’t let you have that 90% sugar breakfast cereal that makes you think that you’re Superman:Never mind. If you eat enough of that stuff you’ll soon be on crack cocaine.

Despite the thorough trashing, I was able to get a couple of nice three frame reef panoramas. The Canon G11 makes this a snap. There is even a stitching feature in the software that comes with the camera so that you can do the job without Photoshop:Much as I hate to brag, I have to mention that one of my previous reef panoramas will soon be on display at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium as a 7 by 2 metre background for one of their displays.

I didn’t think that it was that good. However, after I spent a few hours working on it, making it about 24,000 pixels wide and working the colours over until it made me go mmmmm, I sent it off to them and they liked it. Here’s another one:Now, if I could just get someone to actually pay me  to do this stuff . . .

These last two shots make me feel like the King of the Sea. This is a rarely seen juvenile Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus orientalis):During over 2,000 dives, I’ve only seen one maybe three or four times. They are very cautious. Being only about as long as your pinkie and as conspicuous as a fire engine red 1959 Cadillac, they are understandably secretive.

They usually try to hide under ledges. They never stay still. They swim ceaselessly in a tarty, twirly, Chubby Checkers kind of “Come on Baby, Let’s Do the Twist” dance which doesn’t at all help them to avoid predators. I don’t see where they get the energy, let alone how they  stay alive:I have to mention that I would never have gotten these shots to look as good if they had come from the Canon G10 instead of my new G11. The increase in the dynamic range allowed be to capture both the deep, deep brown and the dazzling whites without losing all detail.

I’m the proverbial happy camper. Except my camp is underwater.

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More Underwater Critters

Posted in Under the Sea on January 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, the charter to Bag Bag Island  is off. There have been several small craft lost at sea in Astrolabe Bay  over the last few days. There’s a fierce nor’easter blowing and the chop is reported to be up to three metres. I’m poor and wild, but I’m not completely insane. The money was good, but the risk too great. As soon as I told my good friend Trevor Hattersley about the charter he called me back several times to talk me out of it. That is what good mates do. Thanks, Trev.

So, I find myself presently incomeless, but safe and dry.

Therefore, let me attempt to entertain you for a few minutes with some miscellaneous pretty pictures and some verbal rambling. This Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)  is not the stuff of of raw excitement, but it’s interesting to speculate how something that looks like this is actually alive:I’m reminded of the old Star Trek  episode in which the rocks were sentient, albeit slow movers.

After a few thousand dives and more time underwater than most people spend at church in a lifetime, you get to the point at which you can make educated guesses. Here’s a shot of a motion-blurred Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus orientalis)  and terror-frozen Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides):I knew how this shot would play out. The Many-Spotted Sweetlips will freeze for a while when it spots you. It will try to hide by pretending not to be there. “Look at me. HAH! Can’t see me, can you?” Then, as it slowly sinks in that it’s being observed, it will begin to swim away, usually without too much fuss. The Oriental Sweetlips, however, is easily panicked and makes haste to use the nearest escape route. I could see around a corner that the two fish were slowly finning in the sluggish current side-by-side. As soon as I popped my head up over the top of the coral bomie, the spotted fish froze for a moment and the Oriental Sweetlips headed for the door – thus the blurry fish image.

You’ve seen these fat slugs before. It may not sound politically correct to call them that, but that’s exactly what they are, so it’s okay:It’s a Sea Cucumber (Thelenota ananas),  a particularly pink one. They are usually more brownish. Possibly it has a fever.

Sometimes I need to show you a really bad image just so that you can see that underwater photography is a crap shoot. This is a Blacktip Shrimpgoby (Cryptocentrus polyophthalmus),  a fish which I seldom see:I knew the shot would be awful, because the fish was back in a hole and I couldn’t get close. Nevertheless, it’s the only image that I have of this species. I’m not bursting with pride.

This, however, is a nice little reef scene with a couple of male Purple Anthea (Pseudanthias tuka):When I saw these two, they were engaged in a little ritualised sparring. I snapped the shot as they were returning to their corners for a time-out. That’s why they are swimming away from each other.

Here is a perfectly beautiful image of a nudibranch that I still  can’t identify:I’m going to have to invest some money in a better nudi book.

You’ve seen these Divaricate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  here several times. I’ve mistakenly called them Diverticulate Tree Corals elsewhere. Gonna have to fix that:The one above is particularly nice. Good, symmetrical shape, rich colour; I like it.

Enough of the fishy stuff. Let me show you two UFOs that I caught on camera the other day. Actually there may be three, a big green one with an orange one riding on its back and a purple one up higher:

I yelled at them, but nobody came down to visit. If there were aliens aboard, they must be a snooty lot.

Of course, all that is wishful thinking. The coloured blobs are obviously lens flares caused by internal reflections within the optics of the bright orb of the sun.

Someday I’ll show you my real  UFO shots. They’ll blow you away!

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Images That Were Nearly Discarded – Bad Fish

Posted in Photography Tricks, Under the Sea on October 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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If you are a long-time reader, you know that I am loath to throw an image away. If I go to all the trouble to get out on the boat, put on all that gear (which is becomming steadily more burdensome year-by-by-year), and fin around for an hour or so snapping pictures of anything that moves and much that doesn’t, then I reckon that even a less than technically acceptable shot deserves a few minutes to see if it can be revived.

I give a poor, but promising image ten minutes. If it still doesn’t amuse me, then I let it go back into the black hole of the tens of thousands of images that I’ll probably never touch again. Here’s a good example. These are Pickhandle Barracuds (Sphyraena qenie)  at about thirty metres on the bottom of Magic Passage:

Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena genie)

The water was fairly clear, but it was dark there, so I had to make up much of the colour from memory. Since I hate the flashy thing, the deeper I go, the more I have to make up. It ends up being less a photograph and more a funky bit of art.

Here is a mob of Spotted Garden Eels (Heteroconger hassi)  at about thirty-five metres, right at the mouth of the passage. It’s nearly monochrome, but you do get the impression of the wavy critters swaying in the current nabbing tasty bits as they float past:

Spotted Garden Eels (Heteroconger hassi)

You probably know by now that the sub-adult Silver Sweetlips (Diagramma pictum)  is one of my favourites. They were born to pose. I sanpped this shot as a throw-away, because the current was quite strong and I was kicking like a mad man to reach the mouth of the passage. When I looked at the shot on the computer, my compassion overflowed and I spent a while massaging it. That seems to have breathed some life back into it:

Silver Sweetlips [sub-adult] (Diagramma pictum)

While we’re on Sweetlips, I’ll toss out a couple of others. This is the Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus),  a sub-adult. The adults have many more horizontal bands much closer together. It would be a perfectly good shot, if I hadn’t amputated part of its tail:

Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus)

I did seriously consider skipping this next one, because it was so horrible that I didn’t think I could make anything of it. This is a bit rarer type of Sweetlips in these parts and it’s difficult to get close to them. I did this at full telephoto on the Canon G10 and it shows the woes of being too far away underwater. The UW photographer’s mantra is, “The closer, the better.” This one is a Diagonal-Banded Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus lineatus).  They are very handsome fish. Too bad this is the best shot of one that I’ve yet managed:

Diagonal-Banded Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus lineatus)

Another surprisingly difficult fish to make into digital bits for your camera is the Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis):

Trumpetfish - (Aulostomus chinensis)

This also was a snap-shot. The Trumpet fish is, I’m certain, psychic. I don’t believe for a nanosecond in human psychics – please, don’t get me started. But the Trumpetfish knows when you are just about to push the shutter release and moves, qhite gracefully (grinning, I’m sure) just out of range. The only way you can get a clean shot is to see one in the distance, get behind some blob of coral or rock, sneak up close and then pop up like a tank-killer helicopter and kick loose a round.

It seldom works. Oh, I forgot to mention that you have to hold your breath while you’re doing all that.

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Today at a Reef Near You

Posted in Under the Sea on March 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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Just inside the reef at the Western tip of Pig Island there is a spot that few choose to dive. There is a lot of sandy bottom and the visibility is usually not much to write home about. It is, however, chock full of unusual critters.

For instance:  This is a juvenile Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus). It is rarely seen and looks nothing like the adult:
Juvenile Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus)I didn’t have a good image of the adult form here at the office, so I ripped this from the web (travelimages.com photo by W. Allgöwer) so that you can see what it will look like when it grows up:

Adult Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus) - [from travelimage.com]

Regarding the image above, I should mention that the bluish stripes are actually white.

The area abounds with anemones, many with unusual characteristics. Here is a variety of Leather Anemone (Heteractis crispa)  with unusual blue tips on the tentacles:

Anemone (Heteractis crispa)

The visibility cleared up a bit here and there. I was lucky to get this shot of Bluestripe Snappers (Lutjanus kasmira)  with the flash turned on. It took me a while to clean up the backscatter, but it was worth the effort:

Bluestripe Snapper (Lutjanus kasmira)

There are many small Bulb Anemones (Entacmaea quadricolor)  here and a large percentage of them are homes to Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

The large individual above appeard a dusky red colour to my eyes. It had much darker than normal pigmentation. This is probably because the individual anemone is also heavily pigmented. Many Anemonefish take on shades that help them to blend in with their host amenome. The flash made the fish here appear much brighter than they appeared to the naked eye.

I can’t seem to stop shooting lizardfish. At least I’m not using a shotgun. This is the very common Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus):

Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)

It always amuses me how fierce that they look when you get a good shot head-on and close-up. The nose here is a little blurry, but I’m still happy with it.

Sometimes the smallest things are the most amazing. This Blue Lipped Coral Oyster (Pedum spondyloideum)  is only about 40mm wide, but the colours are spectacular:

Blue Lipped Coral Oyster (Pedum spondyloideum)

Stay tuned for more fishy features on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

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