Becoming Hirsute and Bad Pictures of Tennis

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on December 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, the last few days have been a weird circus of nearly surreal events. I’ll tell you a little about it as I go along.

First, I’ll tell you a story about a family dealing with an all too familiar tragedy, a child with a serious health problem. This came to my attention when my son sent me an email about the Brand family. Hans tells the story better than I could:

Thought you might get a kick out of the attached. Some friends of mine at church, the Brand family, have a son, Caleb, who has leukemia. On sort of a spur of the moment thing, I announced to my co-workers that for $50 a month donated to MacKids (the MacMaster Children’s Hospital Foundation) on his behalf (it’s where he is receiving treatment) I would allow my hair to grow uncut until the money stopped coming, and for another $50 a month I’d do the same for the beard. Apparently my co-workers want to work with a guy who looks like a crazy homeless person, because $400 in donations later I now find myself committed to at least six months of no hair cuts and two months of beard growth, and I expect that more money will be ponied up when the expiry date for the beard arrives.

I decided to try to take a photo of myself every morning as long as the money is flowing, so that I could have a record of it. The attached is the result so far.

And here is the animated image: (I could not figure out how to prevent its constant repetition, so don’t stare at it too long.)

Hans Messersmith becoming hirsuit

Those of you who do not know my son will not appreciate the humour. Hans is as stable and dependable as the Rock of Gibraltar. There has been nary a hint of bother from him since he was born. He does, however, break occasionally into the mode of spontaneous goofiness, usually in a good cause. While being exceedingly proper, he exhibits a profound suspicion of up-tight propriety. This foray into the wacky world of on-the-edge symbiosis of in your face humour and sober consideration of  social responsibility is just what I have always expected of him. I like to think that he got just the right mix of genes from his parents.

If you would like to read more try The Brand Family blog.

My depression has worsened, something which I expect is probably temporary. The whole seemingly endless mood is clearly reaction depression and I’m sure that it will remain variable. I know this, because the worse things get, the worse I feel. To lighten things up a bit I went to the Madang Country Club last evening to watch the tennis semi-finals. I know nearly all of the people on the teams. Some of them have been close friends for decades. I had intentions of taking some great action shots. I failed miserably. So, I’ll take great pleasure in showing you some really bad images of rather good tennis players and tell you where I went wrong. Here is Trevor Hattersley serving (no comment):

If you look carefully you can see the yellow tennis ball blasting its way off the racket. You’ll find it by following the trunk of the coconut tree.

I’ve pledged myself to avoid anti-depressants if I possibly can. I will get though this, given time. When I work my way up to full, healthy functionality I don’t want to find myself dependent on pills to keep me level. That would mean that I have simply replaced one problem with another.

While there are several reasons for my current setback, some of them I cannot discuss, because it would be an infringement on the privacy of others. I’ll leave that alone and simply say that we’ve had yet another fresh onslaught in the area of health. If you need to know, you already do. If you are the praying kind, our little mob of survivors could certainly use some non-specific petitions for our welfare.

My photographic problem was twofold. Neither had a solution. First, there was not enough light. Then there was the problem of a relatively inexpensive camera. If you care to spend enough, light is not a problem. You will undoubtedly note that the pictures are motion blurred:

That is a motion-blurred Pancal Michon dodging a sizzling return.

If you have enough bread for a full-frame sensor camera (a few thousand bucks), you’ll get a huge area to catch the photons. ISO numbers can run up into the thousands. The most I can squeeze out of my Canon G11 is about 800. With the light level which I had, that worked out to a shutter speed of about 1/40 of a second. That’s way too slow to stop tennis action.

Have a look at the extreme motion blur in this shot of Trevor. The image is useful only for illustrating how not to do it:

In that image we have the double curse of motion of the subject and motion of the camera itself, which shows up most clearly in the streaked surface of the court.

An extremely annoying beast having to do with the sale of my house back in Indiana  popped up its gnarly head today. Do to a miss-addressed email presenting me with an important document which I had to sign and return as an original, I had to do some serious juggling. It seems that the rest of the world has these magical things called, Over-Night and Two Day delivery options. Well, that is just not going to happen from Papua New Guinea. If you are flying your own body by commercial air from Madang to Indianapolis it takes the better part of three days. That’s with good connections.

So, at the last minute, as I was getting ready to go to DHL and spend a small fortune in the hope that the document would arrive before the closing date, I remembered that a friend was flying to the USA today and I had already given her one document to mail for me when she arrives so that it would get there on time. I don’t know what corner my brain was hiding it, but there wasn’t much light there. I do have some hope now that the closing will go off as planned and I will start out 2011 with one less piece of excess baggage.

What do you do with a totally useless image?  Turn it into art:

Massaging it with the Photoshop Poster Edges filter makes it slightly less nauseous.

I know that my responses to unfavourable developments seem to be over-reactions. I get comments, sometimes a little hurtful. I know that I’ve always been a drama queen. It’s in my blood. There is absolutely nothing I can do about that and I’ve learned to live with it. But I have  had a grand piano dropped on my head from a great height. I expect to be ultra-sensitive and more than a little paranoid. I think that I have some reason to be so. The sequence of events over the last few months is simply too outrageous to allow me to be calm and collected.

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Leapin’ Lizards!

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on June 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m glad you asked. I’ll tell you when I love life the most. It’s actually two times. I’ll let you guess when it’s not. No, I’ll tell you. It’s not when I’m making money or doing something “important” or “supporting a cause” or “being responsible”. All those things are good to some extent or another.

One of the times during which life settles over me as a fine, cool mist of euphoria is when I’m sitting quietly with my woman, enjoying the sweetness of nearly a half-century of friendship, affection. and passion. The other time when I feel very close to heaven is when I am with beloved mates who share my lust for life and welcome both the benefits and burdens of true friendship. I am blessed beyond comprehension with an abundance these moments.

My supply of words is running short today. I planned to make this my “Sunday” post so that I would not have a hole in my calendar. So much for dedication and self-discipline. So there’s a hole. I’ll flagellate myself later.

Right now I want to show you lovely Marleen and her dolphins:

Of course, they are not really Marleen’s dolphins. Nobody should own dolphins. However, Marleen had the best seat in the house as we travelled up to Blueblood on Mike and Di Cassell’s Felmara  on Sunday.

Now for a simple question:  What do you get when you take a bunch of clowns out to a floatie thing and give them a tennis ball? Well, you get Leapin’ Lizards:Here is Eddie “The Dancin’ Fool” with a picture-perfect catch. Richard Jones seems to be saying “What the . . .  How dare  you!”

Did you realise that if you Google “Leapin’ Lizards” (with the quotes) you will be about 368,000 hits. There’s a message in that somewhere.

Not to be outdone, Rich came on with a beautiful grab which ended in a spectacular splash:

Rich is one of the most physically competitive friends I have ever known. He has bicycled insanely, triathloned, climbed Mt. Wilhelm  and dived every chance he gets all despite having a great leaky hole in his heart. No, I mean his actual heart. No wonder he is so skinny. You do not want to get into a game of Twister with him. He will beat your socks off.

And, if you need incontrovertible evidence that man descended from the apes, you need look no further:I rest my case:

The next act was our scary local Frenchman, Pascal Michon, A.K.A. “The Prince of Pursuit”:Here Pascal is throwing down the gauntlet. “Bring it on!”, he challenges.

There followed what I think was a near miss, but there was so much water being displaced that I couldn’t see whether he actually caught it or not:At least it was a valiant effort, worthy of the flag.

The next attempt was evidently successful. Please note that the ball was firmly in his hands before his toes left the platform. The only way he could have surpassed this accomplishment would have been if he had managed to get back on the platform before ditching in the drink. Now that  would have been something:Rich is making his way back to the beach after exhausting his supply of red wine.

We have taken to calling Pascal “The Flying Frenchman” in honour of Clément Ader, Pascal’s countryman who was the first man to construct and pilot a powered aircraft in 1890. It reached a height of 20cm, and flew uncontrolled approximately 50m. Here is a picture of Clément Ader:

Don’t you see the resemblance?

After a flaming postprandial of Black Sambuca, we made our way back to town. I like this nice pensive shot of Brioni sitting on the stern of Felmara:Never a cross word was spoken. What a day!

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A Feather for the Captain’s Hat

Posted in Under the Sea on March 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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The steam from the Saturday dive at Magic Passage has just about run cool, so tomorrow I’ll have to invent something different with which to annoy you. It shouldn’t be difficult, as that’s one of my genuine talents.

Speaking of annoying, we had a bit of a fracas at the office yesterday. Our outside IT consultant, Mark, who has been wonderfully helpful to me as I’ve been rolling out a completely new network, inadvertently left a desktop computer system unit in his vehicle. We heard frantic cries from our receptionist, Ruth, that someone had stolen the computer from Mark’s car. A couple of people out in the street were pointing in a general direction, so Mark and I gave chase. I’m sixty-six, but fit, so I hotfooted it around following peoples’ pointings until I ended up with someone who said that the thieves gone to the bus stop near the market. Mark was on his cell phone and talking to bystanders, so he had to catch up with me.

Some people waiting for vehicles at the stop had seen the boys carrying the computer and told us what bus they had taken. Mark’s call to the cops actually got some attention and they soon gave chase. We never got the afternoon’s work finished, but at least Mark found out where the computer went. Now all that remains is to “extract” it from the thief.

I won’t make an example of Papua New Guinea, since the same thing happens everywhere. However, I will ask why so many people witnessed what was obviously a crime and did absolutely nothing to thwart it? If I had seen kids breaking into a car and filching the contents I would have done something,  though I’m not sure what. It would depend on the situation.

In fairness, I should mention that some people came to the office door immediately to tell us that the computer had grown legs.

And now, for something completely different:That’s a nice little reef scene in which I was hoping to get a nice image of the anemonefish. Just as I was taking the shot, an Angelfish swam past. I can’t identify it, but it is certainly very pretty.

Later, I was attracted to this very nice, neat round Acropora hyacinthus  coral with a pretty little reef scene behind it:There were many feather stars waving around in the fairly strong current, so I decided to snap a few.

These are all Comantheria briareus,  as near as I can tell. The taxonomy is a little confusing and many species can be identified only by counting the arms, something which I am not going to do:The arms are extremely sticky, being like Velcro. They will stick to anything, your hand, your wetsuit, fins, camera, etc. The arms tear off when they stick, so we try to be very careful when moving around them. It’s far too easy damage a feather star by simply brushing against it.

Here’s an nice shot showing how they attach themselves to the bottom by grabbing on with their “feet”:There are many subtle colours, even within the same species.Okay, that’s the feather bit. How about the Captain’s Hat?

I’m not a guy to shy away from beauty, wherever I find it. Anyone who is a regular reader will know that. I found a bit of beauty on Sanguma  on Saturday when Jennifer Miller was modeling her new hat. Jenn is usually found in the company of my good friend Richard Jones who, along with our mutual mate, Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, have purchased Sanguma  from our other mutual buddy, Trevor Hattersley:I think the Captain’s Hat is donned in celebration of the recent purchase. I don’t really care, because Jenn needs no further adornment. She’s a lovely lady and a dear friend to all of us motley expatriate crew.

So, congratulations to Captain Jenn and shipmates Rich and Pascal. May you catch many large fish and share the occasional nice filet of Spanish Mackerel with your poor, non-fishing dive buddy.

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A Steamy Jungle and Guests Steven Goodheart & Pascal Michon

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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I have an image of my own today, but I’d first like to show you some images of friends who have responded to my pleas for treasure.

The first two come from Facebook friend and regular correspondent on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  Steven Goodheart of Berkeley, California. Steven is a science writer. Since he was formerly an editor for a large textbook publisher, he has a vast storehouse of information concerning where to find what, something that has already helped me to provide more interesting and accurate information.

The first shot really grabs me. I’d call the composition excellent. It makes good use of the Rule of Thirds. The smaller, gnarly tree and its shadow pierce the space and take it over like Atilla the Hun:

Berkeley Nature Walk by Steven GoodheartThat one is a calendar shot if I ever saw one. Some images remind me of others. This one recalls an image that I showed you from Central Park in New York City.

Stepping from grandeur to minutia, here is a huge mob of my favourite insect, the Lady Bug:Lady Bugs by Steven Goodheart

I have no idea why Lady Bugs do this. Steven said it was immediately following a heavy rain. Thanks, Steven, for these shots. Keep them coming. I’ve shown you some Lady Bugs here and here.

My friend and dive buddy, Dr. Pascal Michon (our naughty resident Frenchman) sent me an image of this very nice little project he did for his nephew who was inquiring of his uncle about Hermit Crabs. It was clever of Pascal to use the images from my journal:

Bernard L'ermite by Pascal Michon

I can’t read much of it, but it tickles me, nonetheless. People often ask me about using my images. If you look at the bottom of the journal you will see that everything is covered by a Creative Commons copyright. The terms of the copyright allow free use of any text or images as long as you state clearly that it came from me. I prefer my attribution to be my email address, but my name will suffice. The only restriction is that, if you want to use it in any way that could be considered commercial, you have to ask my permission. I usually don’t ask for payment, but I always ask for the end product, for instance, a book, t-shirt, URL of a website and so forth.

I was disappointed by this image when I first saw it on the screen. It wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. So, I spent a half hour or so ‘artifying’ it:

Steamy Jungle and Ship

I’m calling it Steamy Jungle and Ship.

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Terrible Tuesday

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The situation in the IT department has not appreciably improved. Another layer of wires and discarded packaging has been added to the floor and my sensitivity to clutter has become numbed to the point where I can walk across it barefoot (my normal office footwear) without noticing.

I did have one minor success yesterday. I needed to test a lot of gizmos to see what works and what doesn’t. Treading back and forth across the shop to access a testing case with minimal guts to make it run seemed excessive. I decided to make an “accessible” computer test rig next to my regular computer so that I can reach it from my chair.

The question was how to do it without creating a fire hazard. My solution:  bolt a computer to the wall:

My "bolted to the wall" computer

I unpacked a new motherboard, CPU and memory. The motherboard has inbuilt video, so that simplified matters. I screwed the motherboard to the wall and hooked up the power supply. I fetched a new SATA hard disk drive and a SATA DVD reader/writer which I stuck to the desk with double sided tape. I made a little frame for the hard disk drive and screwed it to the desk. After plugging everything in it came up to the BIOS level on the first try. I plugged in a netork cable, loaded Widows 7 on it and everything came up like a new garden in the spring.

I like it so well (it’s faster than my regular computer) that I think I’ll give the old one away.

Well, that is about the maximum amount of space that I’m willing to devote to computers today, since I’m up to here  with them.

So, how about a nice juicy bug on a pretty yellow flower?  This little guy was chomping away as if he hadn’t eaten for weeks. I you look carefully, you’ll see another smaller insect sticking his head out from behind one of the petals (at the bottom) to see when his turn is due:

Bug on a yellow flower

The shot above is a nice example of a serendipitous conjunction between lens physics and art. The backgound is, of course, very blurred, since the subject is so close and the lens cannot focus on both near and far objects simultaneously (a depth of field thing). However, in this case, the background has become a circus of psychedelic colours and patterns – a very pleasant side effect.

On the way to the office a couple of days ago, as I was motoring along Coronation Drive, the sunrise lured me out of the car for this shot:

Sunrise with one Flying Fox

If you exaimine the far upper left corner you will see one lonely Flying Fox.

Since I’m switched on full-auto in random mode, I’ll lock and load one diver:

Pascal Michon in the background

That’s my buddy Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, drifting obliviously toward the anchor rope of Faded Glory  while I snap his photograph. It’s a nice example of how you can use flash for dramatic effect. My preference is usally for available light. In this case, however, the shot would not have been nearly so interesting.

I’ve got time for a couple of images that I got recently up at Bludblood. This one shows a land crab hole and the balls of sand that they pile up next to the opening:

Land crab hole at Blueblood

The balls of sand are sometimes amazingly round and stacked much more neatly than you see here. I don’t get it. It seems like a terrific waste of energy to me. Why should a crab squander energy making these neat balls of mud and stacking them all in the same place?

This last shot is nothing special, but I do like the colours. I was sitting close to the barbie at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago and started aimlessly catching images of the fire. This one came out pretty nice.

Fire in the barbie at Blueblood

And with that, I’ll leave you. I’m getting out of this mess at the office for the evening. I’m going to drink an SP Export Lager, smoke an Antonio y Cleopatra dark wrap cigar (the cheapest that I can find), read a little and pet my dog Sheba.

And forget about computers for a while.

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Barracuda Point Peculiarities

Posted in Under the Sea on September 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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We had a very nice dive on Barracuda Point on Saturday. It’s near Pig Island  only a few Minutes from Madang. This is the sight at the east end of the point at only about ten metres:

Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello)

That is a nearly solid wall of Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello)  mixed in with a few Big-eye Trevally and one lonely Red Emperor.  You can see some more barracuda images here and here.

Down deep at about forty metres I got this shot of a strange red coral that I’ve seen before, but can’t identify. I’m assuming that it’s a coral. It is extremely red – about the only red thing that you can see at that depth, since most red light has been scattered by the sea water – and hard as glass:

Strange red coral?

The extreme hardness of the thing is surprising, because it looks as if it is very soft, like flower petals. The first time I touched one (not supposed to do that anyway) I got a little green blood leaking out of my finger – blood looks green underwater if you are deep enough.

I found this favourite of our starfish (Choriaster granulatus)  much deeper than it would normally be. I don’t know what it was doing way down there. They are usually not found below about 25 metres:

Starfish (Choriaster granulatus)

Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, is forever finding stuff on the bottom. He once found a Hewlett-Packard calculator on the reef. This time it was an old mask that had been there for quite a while:

Pascal Michon

Barracuda Point is surrounded by beautiful Sea Fan clusters. This one a a species of Melithaea:

Sea Fan (Melithaea sp.)

This is a Barrel Sponge growing under a ledge. I’ve seen this several times before. They are always very pale instead of rich brown, the normal colour. At first I thought that it was just the lack of light that causes the paleness, but now I think that this may be a species that is not (according to my references) supposed to be in PNG waters. It should be around the Philippine Islands.  I think that it is Xestospongia testudinaria,  as if anybody cares:

Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria)

At the bottom of the image, you can see a small Cleaner Wrasse swimming past. It’s a little blurred because of the long exposure time.

Back up in the shallows again there was a mob of Big-eye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)  there to greet us:

Big-eye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)

You can see more Big-eyes here and here.

I’ll have a few more shots of the dive in a day or two. I’m still getting caught up from our drive up to the highlands. My hands are nearly back to normal now. After ten hours of gripping a wildly vibrating steering wheel, it takes me a couple of days to get over the numbness.

My brain feels a little numb too. Must have been the altitude.

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More Magic from Magic Passage

Posted in Under the Sea on August 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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It was a beautiful morning on Saturday with calm seas, something that we’ve not seen lately. This, along with an incoming tide, gave us a chance to dive Magic Passage,  which we have not visited for some time.

As soon as we reached the bottom at about 25 metres, we saw a Black-Blotched Stingray (Taeniura meyeni):

Black-Blotched Stingray (Taeniura meyeni)

It’s been a while since I saw one of these. I was so surprised, since I did not see it immediately (it was behind me), that I had time only for a couple of quick shots before it zipped away. The shot is very poor because of motion blur, but interesting nonetheless.

As we worked our way down toward the mouth of the passage I ran across this beautiful starfish about the size of a dinner plate:

Starfish at the bottom of Magic Passage

This is probably the most common species of starfish around Madang.

Here is a nice shot of Amanda Watson and Pascal Michon moving down the south wall of the passage:

Amanda Watson and Pascal Michon at Magic Passage

A small school of barracuda were pointing into the current. One lonely Midnight Snapper was hiding among them:

Barracuda at Magic Passage

As soon as I got up close enough behind them to be an annoyance, they wheeled around to avoid me and gave me the opportunity for this very nice shot:

The barracuda avoiding me

Down closer to the mouth of the passage a large mob of eels were waving in the current snapping up goodies floating past:

Eels at Magic Passage

This is the best eel shot that I’ve yet managed. They are usually quick to pull back down in their holes as soon as you approach. I don’t know why they let me come so close to them on this occasion.

If you’ve followed our dives before, you already know that the sub-adult Silver Sweetlips is my favourite fish:

Sub-adult Silver Sweetlips at Magic Passage

That is not just because it is a very pretty critter. It is a photographer’s dream fish. They are so calm and placid and unafraid.

They remind me of my human friends. The tropics will do that to you.

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