More Reef Scenes – For Pity’s Sake, Somebody Stop Me!

Posted in Under the Sea on February 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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Man, I’m just freakin’ out! Good things are popping up like Jack-in-the-boxes all over the place. I’m hoping to be able to make some highly amusing announcements over the next couple of weeks. Eunie and I will have several bits of news that will surprise a lot of people. (No, we’re not  having a baby!)

None of these involve web connectivity, unfortunately, as the MadDog/TELIKOM war continues. Today’s dispatch from the front:  A spy informs me that several major cables, affecting hundreds of customers, are full of water and the equipment used to clear them out is not being employed. This is a problem that can be fixed and someone has simply not fixed it. I talked to the manager this morning and he said that he has instructed the crews to use the equipment to blow the moisture out of all of the cables. We’ll see how that goes. It should improve service for many customers. He also informed me that the long-awaited USB dongles for Internet connections should be available shortly. Let’s see what the definition of “shortly” turns out to be.

Wow, I’m in a good mood today. I’m going to make the most of it. If it doesn’t rain this afternoon I’m going to give myself the PM off and take a Harley ride with a friend. I hope to have some photos tomorrow. I got this schmaltzy picture of the sunrise this morning:I saw a remake of Hair  the other night and the tune of Good Morning Starshine  has been tickling my neurons at odd moments. It was generating extremely strong vibes this morning. So strong, in fact, that I added a fake star to the image above.

Good morning starshine
The earth says hello
You twinkle above us
We twinkle below

Good morning starshine
You lead us along
My love and me as we sing
Our early morning singing song

Gliddy gloop gloopy
Nibby nobby nooby
La la la lo lo
Sabba sibby sabba
Nooby abba dabba
Le le lo lo
Dooby ooby walla
Dooby abba dabba
Early morning singing song

Well, that certainly made me feel better. I hope you know the melody so that you could sing along as I did. It took me several tries to get the words right. It was a pleasant little task, requiring a nimbling of the tongue that I haven’t practiced since my acting classes. (What a waste of time that  was.)

I am presently listening to a lovely female artist by the name of Bebel Gilberto. She was born in America of Brazilian descent. She sings bossa nova as it was born to be sung – very smooth and sensual.

Before I start stinking the place up with more fishy stuff, here’s a nice panorama of Madang across the harbour from my house:I got the shot yesterday afternoon. It’s a stitch-up of nine frames.

First, I’ll show you the cute little chubby nudibranch with the disgusting name (Phyllidiella pustulosa): It’s hustling along at top speed along a white sponge.

Now, here is a coral of the Lobophylia  persuasion:Might make an interesting desktop background or screen saver if you’re in the mood for a little day-tripping.

Ah, and now on to the reef scenes. The two are quite similar, but with amusing differences in detail, showing how, in a few seconds the scene changes:You’ll probably by now recognise the Ornage Finned Anemonefish (Amphiprion chrysopterus):I suppose that I’ve annoyed you sufficiently for today, so I’ll say adios  until tomorrow.

Adios.

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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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Underwater Guest Shooter – KP Perkins

Posted in Under the Sea on February 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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As it’s already after 15:00 today and I’ve not written a word yet, I’ll be mercifully brief. I did break free from the office yesterday afternoon to take KP Perkins for her last dive in Papua New Guinea, at least for the foreseeable future. You may remember this shot of her from another recent post:KP had asked me to give her some basic photography lessons, since her previous experiences had not been very satisfying for her. I took her out to Pig Island  and we dived The Eel Garden. The surface water was horrible. We could barely see our hands in front of our faces. Underneath, is was not so bad.

KP took most of the shots. One of the most difficult things about underwater photography is staying in position for the shot. Most divers are not used to moving their bodies to achieve precision; you just sort of swim through the water like a fish. KP got her introduction to motion blur. Shooting without flash as in this image of a Sea Squirt (Polycarpa aurata),  will quickly show you how shakey your hands are:Macro shots, such as the one above are the most difficult.

Wider field shots such as this river of tiny catfish (Plotosus lineatus) are more forgiving:The common Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)  is good practice, because, as long as you move in slowly, you can get pretty close before it gets fed up and scurries to another location:Still life shots such as these Palm Tree Coral (Calvularia species)  polyps also make easy shots:I took this one. I wanted to show KP how, with good bracing and a two-hand hold, I could get a crisp shot at 1/6 second:The image stabilization in the camera is not supposed to be much good at such slow shutter speeds. However, if you can get braced firmly enough, it yields perfectly good images. The little critter is a Phyllidiella pustulosa  nudibranch sliding downhill as fast as he can.

We switched to flash for a while to give KP a little practice. Here is a terrific shot of a Phyllidia varicosa  nudibranch:I can’t remember looking as bad as this in any photograph. But it’s not KP’s fault:I wish I could think of something funny to say about it.

Here’s a tidy little reef scene with the Palm Tree coral, a Seriatopora hystrix  (the golden one) coral and a couple of little yellow fish which I can’t seem to identify at the moment:KP is a very quick study, as you can see. A couple of hours of Photoshop work after the dive and she already has the beginnings of a respectable portfolio.

This only feeds my desire to to underwater photography courses in the best diving spots on the planet.

Any takers?

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Undersea Bits and Bobs

Posted in Under the Sea on January 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Don’t ask me why, but I think of nudibranchs as the furry little bunny rabbits of the sea. They’re not furry. They don’t breathe air. They have no legs. They do sometimes, however, have what may appear to be ears, but are not. Here’s a little funny-bunny Nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa)  for you:As you may have surmised, I’m a bit mentally frazzled today. I have a tentative job to run someone out to Bag Bag Island  in two days and it has me a bit disconcerted, as I usually have more time to plan a trip like that. It’s only about 120 kliks round trip, including a fudge factor for finding the spot where the guy wants to be, but it’s wild country and if you have problems, you’re in for a long, long stay. There are no regular boat runs out there, so the money is good. I can’t afford to pass it up, but I’m not like the fishermen with big boats who tootle out to Bag Bag on a lark. I’ve got to get my act together tomorrow and be ready to go at 06:00 the next day. I need to get used to this kind of work, because there will be a lot of it in our future.

Here’s another P. pustulosa  (I hate that name – it’s so . . . indelicate) for you:

The one in the shot above is a fairly small specimen. Most of those that we notice are three or four times as large. It was crawling on a bit if stuff that wasn’t attached to anything. That’s why I picked it up to show to you. We don’t normally bother the critters unless there’s sufficient reason and a genuine purpose (the reason being that I wanted to show you the size and the purpose was that picking it up was the most interesting way to do it).

This Nudibranch (Fryeria menindie)  is even less bunny-like, but it does have a couple of yellow ear-like appendages:I could not get myself around to shoot this one sraight from the side without scrunching my face up against the coral, which would have induced an itchy rash oozing stuff that you don’t want to hear about and lasting for weeks. Therefore, its front end and back end are slightly out of focus. These are the travails of an underwater photographer. I like to dwell on the minor irritations of life. I do this so that the big ones can’t take up all of my precious moaning time.

I’m a little puffed up about this image. These Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis)  are difficult to shoot:I managed to fire one off at this fine specimen just as he was attempting to scurry from one completely ineffective hiding position to another. Of course, they can’t really hide. They just like to imagine that they are invisible. All that they require is a few sprigs of sea fan or coral to make them believe that they have disappeared. I can still see them, of course, but the shot is ruined. It’s rare to get a good side shot such as this of one which is not obscured by something.

I include this shot simply because it’s a good example of “what I see when I’m diving”:It’s a little mob of female Purple Anthea (Psudanthias tuka)  hovering over a lovely coral formation which I think is Turbinaria reniformis.  It does make a pretty scene. I got that shot at Barracuda Point.

Returning home on Saturday, I stopped right in front of our house and took this shot to the South showing the big wood chip loading equipment at JANT (Japan and New Guinea Timber). They grind up trees to make paper:That’s the Finisterre Mountains  in the background. You can also see the Lutheran Shipping Engineering Yard on the far shore.

I seem to have nothing witty to wrap it up.

Happy Australia Day.

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Christmas Presents on a Coral Reef

Posted in Under the Sea on December 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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Well, it’s Christmas Day here. Most of the world will not catch up with us for a few hours. In the spirit of the season, I’ve prepared a modest, hastily constructed Christmas present for you. I honestly had something much more elaborate planned, but we all know how plans go this time of year. Just ask all of the people who are lined up for a plane or train. I’m quite happy to be “Home for Christmas” without moving a muscle.

So, to my readers, who have given me so much joy since I started Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  only a little more than two years ago, here is my humble gift to you:

You can no longer say that nobody has ever given you a Spirobranchus giganteus  for Christmas.

And, since I have exactly one Christmas Tree Worm image left, I am going to give it to you for Boxing Day:Now, let’s get on with the party.

Here is a cute little “puppy dog” Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus)  being desperately persued by a Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus)  looking for some fast food:The little cleaner wrasse is in its juvenile phase. It will be much less dramatic as an adult. They swim with a curious curling motion to advertise their services. It always reminds me of a fish dancing to Chubby Checkers singing “Come on Baby. Let’s Do the Twist.”

This Slender Grouper (Anyperodon leucogrammicus)   is a very handsome fish, indeed. They are easily spooked, so you have to sneak up on them while holding your breath:After a minute or so, just as you are dying for good, deep breath, you might get a chance for a shot. I only managed one exposure of this fish. Fortunately, everything worked perfectly. It’s a good specimen shot.

Being right in the middle of nudibranch heaven, it’s not surprising that I run across cute little eye candies such as this on a regular basis.It has the less-than-endearing name of Phyllidiella pustulosa.  Just play with that one for a while. You’ll find it just as revolting as I do.

Finally, as I run out of words and images, I leave you with one of my trusted and favoured themes:Yes, that’s right. Once again I give you Water Drops. I just can’ t stop taking pictures of them.

I am so easily amused. It comes of having a simple mind.

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Nudibranchs – Can’t Get Enough of ‘Em

Posted in Under the Sea on November 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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Saturday at the South end of Leper Island  was a good day for nudibranch hunting. There’s not much challenge to hunting nudibranchs, except to find them in the beginning. Sometimes there are a lot of them and sometimes none. I don’t know where they go. The slide around slower than land snails, so motion capture is not a problem. Most of them, however are teensy-weensy. This Chromodoris geometrica  was about 1.5 cm long:

Nudibranch - Chromodoris geometrica

You have to get your camera lens practically right up against the critter to get a shot like this. That means that, with the Canon G10 rig, you can’t use the flash; it’s blocked by the housing.

I was frankly surprised that these shots came out so pretty. The colours are very accurate and I got enough depth of field to get good focus from edge to edge. Here’s another shot of the little fellow going downhill:

Nudibranch - Chromodoris geometrica

The breathing organ (branch) is the feathery thing at the back. The antlers at the front are, I imagine, sensory organs. I’m very happy with these shots, especially since this is the first time that I’ve seen this species.

Here’s something that you don’t see every day, nudibranch eggs:Nudibranch eggsThe cluster is about as big around as a golf ball. If you click to enlarge you will see that is is very lacy. The individual eggs are stuck together and come out in a ribbon. They are always laid out in a circle or spiral shape.

Here’s another nudi for you. This one is a Phyllidiella pustulosa:Nudibranch - Phyllidiella pustulosa (flash lit)I can’t say that I’m fond of the taxonomic name. Anything that starts with ‘pust’ doesn’t appeal to me. The shot above was taken with the flash turned on. For a flash shot, it’s not too bad, though the colours are just a bit off.

Here’s the same critter with the flash turned off. I like this much better:Nudibranch - Phyllidiella pustulosa (natural light)It is much closer to what I actually saw. To me it appears more natural. I sometimes wonder of non-divers ever notice the difference. I suppose that most people just assume that everything is gaudy-bright the way the popular press shows most underwater images. It’s not really that way.

The clown shot of the day is provided by these cute little Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus):Striped Catfish - Plotosus lineatusThey travel around in schools and usually line up along a front edge of travel while they pick up tasty bits from the bottom. It’s comical to watch them marching on their whiskery little noses. Ones at the front will break away and move to the back so that their buddies can get to the fresh stuff. Or maybe they just need time to chew. I’m not convinced that fish are altruistic.

Here’s an image that I shot a few years ago up at Mililat Passage  of a river of Striped Catfish:A river of Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)
Cool, eh?

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