Crazy Colours

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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I need to redecorate this place, refurbish it. It’s in danger of getting boring. I’m getting tired of theme posts and the same ol’ same ol’. We need more variety and humour, like in the old days. A breath of fresh air will be . . . uh, . . . refreshing. I haven’t yet thought about how I might get some variety back into Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  I’ll have to cogitate on that for a while.

Still, I do know what triggered my thinking about change. It’s not what you might suspect. It has to do with moving my wallet from my back pocket to my front pocket.

Yesterday, at the town market, I was the victim of an attempted robbery. It’s not as dramatic as is sounds. It is, however, becoming a far too common event in Madang. No matter how much we love the place, we have to accept that even Paradise is not immune to any and every kind of decay. The decay of security, feeling safe in one’s living space, has been shocking.

As I was leaving the gate of the market, I felt a disturbance in my personal aura space. Then I experienced an abrupt violation of my very personal physical space as clumsy fingers attempted to sneak into the back pocket of my ancient Levi Strauss 501 cut-offs. Fortunately, there were plenty of people around (not that that helps much). So, when the first try failed, there was no violent second go at the wallet. That’s when things get nasty. The clumsy thief beat a hasty retreat back into the market followed by my nasty comments regarding his personal hygiene.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I returned to my car and sat there for a minute of quiet gratitude that I did not have to replace my various driver’s licenses, identification and credit cards. As I sat there I decided it was time, disregarding comfort, to move my wallet permanently from my back pocket to the front.

Reading back over that, I realise two things. First, I realise how little sense it makes. Then, I realise how difficult it is to connect an attempted mugging to my sudden need to spice up MPBM. As you may have gathered, I’m making this up as I go.

Now that I have wasted this much of your time, you may as well stick around a little longer for the main course of blather.

As I was looking for some amusing images from about forty that I have lined up for posts, I was struggling to find some that fit together in any interesting way – some way that I haven’t already worked to death. A few stuck out like sore thumbs. Some greens, reds and magenta hues began shouting in unison, me, me, me, me. Well, how can you ignore that? So, mixing them up a little (shaken, not stirred), I begin with Green Coral Imperfection:

There is some interesting detail in this shot. You might want to click to enlarge it. I particularly like the one structure which sticks up above all of the rest. It becomes that place which the eyes simply can’t stay away from. The rest becomes a negative space which all the more directs the eyes back to that single difference, that imperfection.

Switching from green to red, here is an image of the embers left from lunch at Blueblood last Sunday afternoon:

I confess to a childish fascination with fire. Given some spare time and an opportunity, I can sit by a fire much the same as a ten-year-old boy, poking sticks and throwing objects into the flames just to see what happens. These visceral reactions to fire seem primordial. As a natural phenomenon, I imagine that fire is at once the most useful and the most dangerous of the processes that humans have been able to harness. Possibly that is why it holds such sway over our emotions. Fire is possibly the most comforting and the most terrifying force of nature.

When I saw this fern at Blueblood, standing alone on its dead tree fern pedestal, the afternoon sun was lighting it up like a neon sign:

It looks to me like a huge green flower.

Mixing the colours up a little, we have here a Magnificent Anemone hosting two Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion):

It’s a delicious combination.

Finally, let me show you this lovely magenta-stained Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites).  These are also known as Mushroom Coral:

I wish that I knew what causes this colour. I’ve not been able to find a reference for it. Behind it and in front are three other species of coral. The white and green blobs to the left and below are a species of sea squirt.

The muse seems strangely mute this night. I have promised myself that I am going to try to avoid laying down on the bed this evening until I’m ready to go to sleep. I’ve been reading about bad sleep habits lately, in hopes of finding something which will help me. Lounging in the evening in the bed in which you sleep is reckoned to be a very bad habit. That’s a tough one for me to fix. I’ll have to think about moving some things around. I hate that. I like for things to stay the way they are. I’m going to have to get used to change.

So, it seems that what I ended up with here is yet another theme post.

Oh, well.

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Nudibranch Eggs for Breakfast

Posted in Under the Sea on May 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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How I keep getting so far behind, I don’t understand. I’m doing yesterday’s post on Sunday morning, it’s almost 08:00 and I haven’t done today’s post yet. I have at least one magazine article that I must write today and I have another one to edit. How did I get so busy? I didn’t plan to be working this hard at 66. Maybe it’s a good thing. I don’t have time to get sick. If a doctor told me that I had a fatal disease, I’d simply have to tell him that I don’t have time to die.

There was a rather strange sunrise yesterday:I can’t decide if I like it or not. It’s almost too  moody.

One of the stars today is our little buddy, the Notodoris minor  nudibranch:I’ve been showing quite a few of these lately. I’m having fun photographing an uncommon species. I’ve found a spot where they are hanging around for a while. I’m fascinated by them, but know very little as was recently pointed out by reader Frank Peeters who explained that, in a previous post, I was seeing double.

Less than a metre away, we found this ribbon of eggs:This makes five or six times recently when we’ve found eggs in this area.

I’m rushing through the post today, so you’ll be spared my usual meandering. We’ll get right on to this Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima)  which was lounging directly under Faded Glory  at The Eel Garden  where we were diving:

Giant Clams are very common here. Unfortunately, many people harvest them from the reefs. I was once at Alotau where there were racks metre-wide shells which were being sold as pig feeders. Disgusting!

These are Diagonal Banded Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus lineatus).  They are difficult to photograph in the usual not-so-clear waters around Madang. They stay just far enough away to be hazy:

This is easily the best shot that I’ve managed of them. It doesn’t look like much here in the thumbnail. Click on it to get he larger image. It’s quite nice.

This shot is my pick of the day. It’s a little Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion akallopisos)  who appears to be chewing on an anemone tentacle:This one also deserves a click to enlarge. The little fish looks as if it is fretting. “Oooo, who are you? You big bad thing! Stop blowing bubbles at me and go away.”

Sorry, I got a little carried away.

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All the Colours of the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on February 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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This last Saturday was a banner day for photography. My new Canon G11, which you are undoubtedly getting tired of hearing about, was perking along nicely, grabbing shots with much increased dynamic and no noise whatsoever at ISO 80. The ten megapixels that it offers are more than sufficient for the magazine-size shots that I need to do my work. Don’t sniff at ten megapixels. If another camera offers more, but the resulting image is poorer in quality, what good do those extra megapixels do?

Yesterday’s post contained images from this Saturday’s dive also, as will tomorrow’s and the day after. In total, out of about one-hundred exposures, I got thirty-six which I deemed good quality. I’ve never had a two dive day that was more productive. Part of the reason for that was that my old buddy, Richard Jones, was “spotting” for me. He has amazing eyes and can find the smallest critters. Sometimes these are the most interesting. Tomorrow I’ll feature some nudibranchs which Richard found. Your mind will be blown.

But, that’s for tomorrow. Today, we’re doing colours. The dive at Planet Rock  was dark. There was a layer of muddy fresh water from the Gol Gol River  floating over the surface down nearly to the top of the sea mount at about 15 metres. I had to take many shots with flash. Though it is my preference to forgo flash when possible, sometimes it is unavoidable – there’s simply not enough light. In the first two shots, the effects of the flash are not noticeable. It simply acted as a fill light. In the others, the effect is dramatic, though the colours are, to me, artificially bright. They are, however, very pretty.

Green has been my favourite colour since I don’t know when. When I was a small child, it was red. I don’t know when I changed to green. I don’t even know if guys are supposed to have a favourite colour. I don’t talk about it much over the pool table with my mates, though I’m always soothed and mellowed by the green playing field. Maybe that’s why I’m such a lousy shot. Anyway, have a look at this lovely green Coral (Acropora tenuis):Click it to magnify and see the lovely details of the polyps waving in the current. Each little ledge on each tower is an individual animal. It is truly a thing of beauty.

Here’s another Acropora  species with a dramatically different colour:I’m always faintly startled when I run across one of these outlandishly purple corals. They seem somehow out of place. I wonder if a nearby toy store exploded and scattered misshapen shards of bright plastic on the sea bottom.

This shows why we have a pretentious name for the Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica).  You can see a scattering of  Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion akallopisos)  chilling out and having a few beers:What a lovely playground they have.  There are few sights in the sea which are as calming and wondrous as this symphony of colour displaying a commensal relationship between vastly different organisms. Neither can flourish without the other.

Starfish fans will enjoy this lazy looking Linckia laevigata.This is the same species which often appears as a bright blue variation.

This Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)  contains the brightest red pigment of any creature that I have seen in the sea:This is a very young colony. They tend to become less colourful as they grow. Young ones, such as this, can often be seen as tiny crimson torches thirty metres away on a day with good visibility.

I’m a great fan of Feather Stars. This is a particularly nice image of some species of Lamprometra.  They are difficult for me to tell apart. I’ve been watching old episodes of Fawlty Towers  during the fifteen minutes that I can stop working each day. I can’t get out of my mind what Manuel (he’s from Barcelona, you see) says when he misunderstands a command from Basil Fawlty: “Eet ees deefeecult.”You can clearly see the “feet” of the feather star in this shot. If you gently tickle a foot with your fingertip, the creature will wildly thrash its arms around, waving madly. It’s a most comical sight. I’m going to have to shoot a video clip of it some day.

Here is a close up shot of another individual of a Lamprometra  species Feather Star:I didn’t think that the shot would turn out to be much. Now I’m simply blown away by it. Beware. If you stare at it long enough you may feel yourself getting slightly high, that is if you recognise “high”. Click on it to make it bigger and have a look. It’s mesmerising. This is a living thing. How can that be?

I don’t recommend it as a desktop background.

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Some Fish, a Friend and a Guest Lizard

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on November 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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Text will be terse today, as I am swamped by work in the computer room. Everybody needs everything right now.  It’s not something that system administrators are not used to. It does get a little irritating when you’re also trying to roll out an entire new network at the same time.

Enough complaining. Let’s have some fish.

This cute little critter with the improbable beard is, of course, a Goatfish – what else would you call it? Specifically, it’s a Manybarred Goatfish (Parupeneus multifasciatus):

Manybar Goatfish (Parupeneus multifasciatus)

The whiskery things are used to find food. It digs around in the sand for a meal. As you watch, you can see the whiskers flying around like mad. It’s speculated that they are extremely sensitive to the electrical fields around living things. Spooky, eh? I wonder if weapons researchers are checking into this.

This little one has the delightful name of the Pink Anemonefish . How harmless does that sound? If you’re on more formal terms it’s (Amphiprion akallopisos):

Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion akallopisos)

Everybody knows that this is a Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus).  What you may not  know is the it is the wrong colour.  This is another reason that I’m always whining about the use of flash for underwater photography. The eel looks nothing like this with the naked eye in natural light:Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus) Compare it with these images taken with available light here, here, here and here. This shot was too deep for available light. I had no choice but to use flash.

Steven Goodheart sent several very nice nature shots, but I could not get any but this one to load properly. It’s worth a solo appearance. It is, as Californians will recognise, a Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis):

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) by Steven Goodheart

This is a particularly nice shot for identification and I like it because the composition is also very clean.

And now, because I never tire of seeing myself on the silver screen, I’ll show you this shot of me at Blueblood with our missing friend Heidi Majano:

Hiedi Majano and Jan Messersmith at Blueblood

As is usual with most keen photographers, we hardly ever get an image of ourselves that we really like. This one tickles me. Put “heidi” in the search box in the sidebar to see some of her great images.

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The Sailor’s Eyeball and Other Salty Amusements

Posted in Under the Sea on March 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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A few days ago at the Eel Garden, near Wongat Island we had very warm, clear water. The temperature at 25 metres was 29°C (more than 84°F). I felt a bit over-warm in my wetsuit.

Down at the catamaran these Vanikoro Sweepers (Pempheris vanicolensis) were swimming behind a beautiful white Sea fan. You can see the tilted deck of the catamaran in the background:

Vanikoro Sweeper (Pempheris vanicolensis) behind Sea Fan

On the hull, I found an unusual Feather Star. I can’t identify the species. I think it’s probably a juvenile from the very few arms that it has. But, hey, I’m no expert. My invertebrates book is pretty slim. It’s an interesting image anyway. You get an idea of the range of colours that you can see within a small area. The image would just cover my hand:

Feather Star (unidentified crinoid)
I’ve always admired the Palm Corals for their beautiful delicacy and subtle colours. This one is a Clavularia species. I have no idea which one:

Palm Coral (Clavularia sp.)

The individual polyps are about 30mm in diameter. They sway gracefully in the current like miniature palm trees – thus the name.

This little beauty is a Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion). There was a pair of them on the anemone, but I could never get the two of them in the frame long enough to snap a shot:

Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)

There is another similar fish called the Skunk Anemonefish. It looks exactly like the Pink Anemonefish except it doesn’t have the white bar down the cheeks, leaving only the white stripe down the back. Thus the name “Skunk Anemonefish”.

I caught this little crab, which I can’t find in my books, in a coral head. I tried as I might to coax him out, but he outsmarted me. It was embarrassing. He is quite a handsome little crab with his blue eye glimmering in the shadows:

Unidentified Crab

I know you are wondering if I’m going to get around to the subject of the post. Patience, patience.

The Sailor’s Eyeball (Valonia ventricosa) has to be one of the strangest non-animal items that you’ll run across on the average dive. It is the world’s largest single-cell organism. This one is about the size of a golf ball.

Sailor's Eyeball algae (Valonia ventricosa)

And, no, I’m not making it up. It is ONE CELL! As you may have guessed, it is an algae. The cell wall is tough like the plastic that we curse whenever we buy practically anything these days. It is quite durable and completely transparent. The inside is filled with a greenish (surprise) fluid. If you take one for inspection (one per lifetime, please – we don’t want to over-exploit them) and hold it up so that you can see the sunlight coming through it, it looks very much like a dirty green marble. A little rubbing will remove all the surface incrustation.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the surface shows a refraction pattern exactly like a star sapphire. The star appears to be inside the ball. I’m going to try to get a photo of that sometime.

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The Aquarium in My Front Yard

Posted in Under the Sea on November 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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With my dive count now over two thousand, it’s amazing to me that all but possibly a hundred have been within a ten minute boat ride from our dock. This must surely make me one of the luckiest divers on the planet.
Since I’m feeling so lucky today, let me show you some of the lucky shots that I got this morning with Tris, Tracey and Pascal.

I’ve seen this fish around many times, but have only today been able to get a photo of one. I can identify most local fishes generically, if not specifically, but I haven’t bothered to look this one up yet. I usually don’t bother to learn a lot about a certain species until I have a photo of it that I can label with it’s taxonomic name. I usually go by common names, as do most divers:

Mystery FishFor now, I will call it “The Mystery Fish.”

This toothy little horror is Clark’s Anemonefish. The teeth are real and they do hurt when they bite. What’s more, they like to bite:

Clark's Anemonefish

Here’s another anemonefish that is not so feisty. This is the Pink Anemonefish. The interesting feature of this show is the oral disk of the anemone at the centre of all the tentacles. This is, of course, where the anemone puts its food for digestion. I fed an anemone half a banana once. (Yes, divers get bored.) It seems that they will eat just about anything. It took about fifteen minutes for it to ‘swallow’ the banana. I didn’t wait around to see if it coughed it back up:

Pink Anemonefish and Magnificent Anemone

The other interesting thing about oral disk is that it is where many of the anemonefish sleep.

Here’s some beautiful yellow anthea of some kind frolicking around in the coral:

Anthea

Everybody recognises this mean looking fellow. It is, of course, the giant moray eel:

Giant Moray Eel

This particular fellow was being very uncooperative. Every time I tried to get close enough for a shot, he’d pull his head back into his hidey hole. They are usually not so shy. In fact, the situation is usually the exact opposite – staying far enough away so as not to scare yourself into soiling your wetsuit.

We’ll end up with two cute and harmless cousins – members of the hawkfish family.

This is the Arc-Eyed Hawkfish. Explaining the name would be superfluous:

Arc-Eyed Hawkfish

And, this grumpy but passive little guy is the Freckled Hawkfish:

Freckled Hawkfish

Again, the origin of the common name is obvious.

I’ve sometimes been asked why I capitalize all of the fish names. There’s some controversy over capitalization of fish names. I won’t get into that boring academic fussiness. I will just say that it’s common courtesy to capitalize proper names.

I ask myself if I was a fish, how would I introduce myself – how would it be written as a conversational snippet?

Maybe something like this:

I’d walk up to a table in a fashionable restaurant where seated is a ravishing woman. I’d take her hand, bow slightly, and say, “Hawkfish, Freckled Hawkfish.”

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