Kristy and the Hibiscus

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on November 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I have another mixed bag of gibber-jabber and images. My work days on Thursday and Friday last week were severely disrupted by non-glamorous but essential tasks. At the end of Thursday’s post I showed a picture of Gosel, one of our Technical Services workers, mowing the grass at one of our houses. He also mowed my lawn that day. I suppose that describing what I have in front of my house as a “lawn” is a little pretentious. It’s a big patch of grass full of crab holes. It’s not even grass grass. It’s more like crabgrass. I guess that’s appropriate. On Friday there were two more yards to be manicured. It’s is not my usual work to haul Gosel around to the properties which need his weed-whacking attention. It would normally be something that our Administrator of Technical Services would tend to. Unfortunately, we do not have an Administrator of Technical Services. In fact, we are so short-staffed that all of us are doing things which most of us would not normally be called upon to do or have not done before. Our usual work is still there and still piling up.

In most workplaces in which I have been this kind of situation would cause problems of all kinds, mostly in the form of complaints and interpersonal relationship kerfuffles. Since I came back from Australia and resumed my duties I have been amazed and greatly encouraged by the way our entire staff of workers has responded to the drastic changes in the distribution and nature of our work loads. We still face some difficult times, but we are truly pulling together as a team.

Okay, that was pretty boring, eh? I’m sure that you dropped by so I could tell you all about my work days last week. I’m a charmer, I am.

Well, maybe I can amuse you by describing the strange little thing which just happened back in my medulla oblongata. We’re talking way down deep here, folks. I have no control over these things. It’s a lot like hiccups.

When the words “pulling together as a team” dribbled off my fingertips onto my keyboard, I had a sudden surge of energy from my autonomic music centre. It blasted my one good ear with some lines of the Pink Floyd song Have a Cigar  from the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.  I have an intense affinity for that album. It’s very familiar territory. I can’t listen to the title song without crying. Yeah, I know that’s an old man thing. The problem is that I’ve been doing that since the album came out. I wasn’t so old then.

It could be made into a monster
If we all pull together as a team.
And did we tell you the name of the game, boy,
We call it Riding the Gravy Train.

Strange, eh? – that the connection was made. Happens to me all the time. Rats have chewed all of the insulation off my wires.

Music can be so powerful. How does that happen? Take some notes, string them together, mix in some words . . . and you get a punch in the guts. Of course, it has to be the right tones in the right sequence and the words have to get your attention at some level deeper than a daydream.

The staticy radio sound of the acoustic guitar lead-in which drifts into a live sound at the beginning of Wish You Were Here  is pure genius to me. I’m listening to it right now. And, yeah, you guessed it. . . I won’t say it.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Oh, so many absent friends – so many I will never see again.

(Sniff, sniff . . .)  I’m repeating myself. I note that I wrote about this song in a very morose post only last March.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s look at some flowers and some other stuff. I have a treat for you at the end, so you may want to skip down to it.

While the grass was being trimmed at one of our houses and I didn’t want to drive back to the office and then come back later to pick Gosel up, I took advantage of the time to walk around the yard and snap some pictures. This view struck me as a comment about life these days in Papua New Guinea:

Razor wire and flowers – paradise and danger. How many ways can you say it? Things are not as pleasant as they once were. It is not considered safe now to drive up the North Coast Road. Expatriate volunteer workers are being advised rather strongly not to leave town. I’ve never been seriously concerned about my personal safety before in Madang. Now I’m not so sure. Tomorrow I wanted to drive up to Blueblood to party with friends. Now, I either have to go by boat or stay at home. I’m certainly not going to risk a carjacking of my new truck (can you carjack a truck?).

All right, let’s not dwell on that for too long. Here is a close-up of the business end of a hibiscus flower:

It reminds me of a particularly elaborate cheerleader’s pompom or maybe Mother Nature’s sceptre.

This hibiscus blossom has just opened. The yellow anthers are still globbed together in a ball:

Even after thirty years, I still occasionally see a colour of hibiscus which is new to me:

You never know what you will find in someone’s yard:

This unusually prickly pineapple plant is not only tasty when ripe, but very decorative.

Where there is lush plant life, you will always find the grazers:And vegetation is everywhere. This is the fire eaten stump of a huge raintree. In the hollow, a little garden grows:

Okay, I think that I have beat that subject to death now. Let’s move on.

I’ve been corresponding with a young lady for a while about photography. Kristy Peacock wants to enhance her ability to take exactly the photos which she wants. It does take a little understanding of some basic technical issues and knowledge of how to make your camera do what you want instead of doing what it wants. Once you begin to put these things to work you can step outside of the snapshot box.

We were talking about the night modes on her camera. I am glad to see that she is experimenting:

It’s a very imaginative shot. I’m not even sure how she did it. Maybe she’ll explain in a comment. The phantom images look like a double exposure, but I don’t think that is is it.  It’s more likely people moving out in the yard behind Kristy during the long exposure time when the “dark” image is forming before the flash goes off to capture the foreground.

I’m very glad that she sent this one to me. I like silky water shots. I’m pretty sure that this one had to be a tripod exposure, as I suspect was the one above. The exposure time would have had to be a second or more:

Some cameras have what is called a neutral density filter built in. Otherwise you can add one in front of the lens. The purpose of the filter is to cut down the amount of light getting through the lens. This allows you to use a much slower shutter speed. You have to brace the camera firmly against a solid object or, better yet, use a tripod. The result is that the water is motion blurred while everything else remains crisp and sharp.  Very nice work, Kristy.

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Chance Encounters

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s Saturday here – Oh Yeah – Dive Day!  It’s entirely possible that as you read this I will be communing with the fish under twenty or thirty metres of warm salt water. Don’t you wish you were here?

Okay, now I’m going to go all dark. Never mind. It will pass. I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here  on scrambled repeat for about three hours now, laughing and leaking from my eyes and, yes, whistling – I’m an accomplished whistler.

Here’s what I feel like:

I like working out my feelings with images.

One ant is anticipatory, eager, communicative. Its antennae reach out, seek. “Come back.” it implores. The other ant is withdrawn, hiding. It’s catching the next “big jet airplane” to elsewhere. “Where are you going?”

“Away.”

The bee visits the flower. It doesn’t live there. Does the flower feel abandoned when the bee has had its fill of nectar and pollen and moves on?Ridiculous!

What is all this nonsense?

I spend so much time telling you what I love about living here in Madang. I extol the blessings of the expatriate life-style. I praise the freedom, the nearly total absence of oppressing authority. I have much to say about what I love. Now let me tell you what I hate.

Loss.

Here I have enjoyed more wonderful friendships than I ever thought were possible in a lifetime. I have had friends who would spill their blood for me if it were necessary, and mine for them – friends who would not let me suffer need without thought of satisfying it. I’ve had confidants who knew me better, far better, than any therapist. Friends who laughed and cried with me with true simpatico.  Where are they now?

Gone.

It’s the nature of this place that people come and go. It’s a transient paradise. Few can manage it forever. It is too uncertain, too intense, too fraught with passion. It is the nature of this place for bonds to be profound, transcending the trivialities of a more urbane life. It’s a rugged place. A place of rawness and animal strength. Fights are common. Reconciliations are tender and tearful.

It’s the goings that hurt.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

I would last no time at all here without my good woman, my mate who consoles me when other cherished bonds are broken. I’ve seen tough guys cry in each others’ arms when parting for the last time.

Yeah, it’s that kind of place. Partings here tend to be permanent, despite promises to “keep in touch”. For many, the experiences of two or three years are best left to ferment. The less cherished fades. Only the sweet headiness remains.

The cut needs to be clean.

Blossoms fade, but the yearnings do not. They take on the patina of pressed roses in a diary:I’ve seen those hundred-year-old pressings crumbling between stained pages. Faded and tattered, yet bearing still the faint scent of a beauty that once was.

The approaching and parting. Canoes pass. Greetings are exchanged. Eyebrows flash knowingness:They pass and the moment passes with it.

A gloomy, tepid sunrise greets the next day, empty of promise and full of loss:You learn to tough it out.

So, to any and all of my dear friends of the past:I’ve never blamed anybody for leaving here. It’s a highly impermanent place. I loved you when you were here and I am full of constancy.

Know you are missed.

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Nearing the End

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on December 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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Counting the years as they whiz past seems less fun than it did at twenty. And, whizzing past they are.  It’s a pity that life speeds by so quickly as you get close to whatever is at the end. It feels as if I’ve had the pedal to the metal since I was thirteen and now I’m running flat-out in the fog at night with my hair on fire. The thought, “Pretty soon I’ll be dead.” intrudes daily into my otherwise manageable world.

Well, there is no sense in crying over milk that has yet to be spilt. It’s not that death frightens me. I made peace with death a long time ago. Accepting The Big Sleep as something that is as natural as life itself, indeed, defining life,  has removed the heebie-jeebie factor from the death equation for me. There’s some kind of Big Plan. My death is simply a part of that. I’ve been inches or seconds from death so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve lost interest in counting. Death is the biggest tease of all. How close can  you get?

No, I’m not going to off myself. I’m having way too much fun for that. I’ve been sitting here listening to Pink Floyd for about three hours now. That’s enough to make anybody ponder darkly the meaning of life.

Today I’m feeding you a stew of images that don’t fit anywhere else. Butter up some bread and have a seat:

That was Wongat Island  which just flew past and is left in the wake of Mike Cassell’s boat, Felmara,  on our way up to Blueblood on Christmas Day. It has a very nice beach and is the only place that I know of where you can pick up magnificent specimens of weathered blue coral. I’ll have to do a post on it someday.

This is a much prettier island image. I think that it is Sinub Island;  the outline looks right. I wasn’t really paying much attention to navigation, since I wasn’t driving:The sun lit it up nicely and a polarising filter over the lens darkened up the sky just as it is supposed to do. The big Cumulonimbus cloud is casting a lovely reflection on the sea.

Here is an example of how to blow out your whites. The little sensor in my Canon G9 simply can’t handle the dynamic range of brightness levels in this shot:The rest of the image was recoverable, except for the blocked blacks which I can live with in this image. However the bright area in the centre was blown out to pure white. I couldn’t get any detail out of it. This is where a US$5,000 camera comes in handy, if you have the moolah for it. I had to fake something in there, so Photoshop saved the day with the Selective Colour tool set on Absolute. Choosing Whites as the colour, I tweaked up the Yellow slider and added just a touch of Red. It looks a little fakey, but hey, what do you expect for a tenth of the price?

This shot fits my mood today like a glove. It’s raining and cold outside; Eunie would say that it’s winter today in Madang. The Finnisterre Mountains  are glowering in the distance as rain tumbles down from the gravid clouds:Mind, when we say ‘cold’ were talking maybe 24°C (75°F). I never sweat any more. My body has fallen deeply in love with tropical weather. In Indiana, at this time of year, I’d be dead in a month – I’m sure of it!

I gave you a frame of this series of sunrise over Astrolabe Bay  in another post. I like this one better:The canoe man is more clearly visible here. I also used a different mood for the colours. You can compare them, if you like.

Since I seem to be wallowing in the ephemeral nature of life today, here is a perfect image with which to illustrate the principle:

When I named this image Ephemeral Mushrooms, I thought that I was being very cute and trippy. Then I Googled the phrase and got 731 hits. So much for originality. Among other scholarly titles was, The Predictability of Ephemeral Mushrooms and Implications for Mycophagous Fly Communities.  That will give you the gist of the subject. I didn’t even know that mycophagus flies had  communities. I thought they were like wandering hunter-gatherers.

Okay, okay, I’ll wrap up this orgy of self-pity and random fluctuations with a Guest Shot by our fine friend and enthusiastic fellow photographer, Ron Barrons of Hamilton, Ontario. Ron, like myself, is a waterfalls buff. Here is his latest shot of Princess Falls.
I call the image above Princess Falls Mugged.  That’s because it’s my interpretation of the image that Ron sent to me. As I do, Ron struggles with ‘flat light’. He emailed the image to me with the remark that the lighting that day was very flat. My addition of a blue sky at the top seems to contradict this, but it’s fake. Punching up the contrast and increasing the γ of the image did wonders for it. Lightening only the shadows and changing the water in the pool from sickly green to deep blue put on the finishing touches. Actually, I liked the shot the way Ron sent it to me.

By the way, Ron said that Princess Falls only works when it rains. Otherwise it is dry. A dry waterfall. Hmmm . . . Is  it a waterfall, when it’s dry? Anyway, Ron said that he was going out to try again, but it will have to wait until all the ice is gone. Thank heavens I  don’t have to deal with that!

I simply couldn’t resist “improving” it.

Ron is a forgiving guy.

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