First Drenching of the Canon G11

Posted in Under the Sea on January 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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I won’t waste your precious time today with a lot of blabber. My own semi-precious “time for myself” is withering as my workload increases while my pay simultaneously shrinks. However, I did have a bit of fun today. I did my first dive with my new Canon G11 in its cozy factory housing.I still have a lot to learn about squeezing this new lemon, but first results have me feeling dreamy and wishing I had time for a mid-week dive.

The current at Magic Passage was raging and I had two divers with me with whom I had no experience, so I didn’t get much chance to shoot. I did get enough frames to tell me that I like what I’m seeing from the G11.

Here is a pretty ordinary shot of a Silver Sweetlips subadult (Diagramma pictum).  You’ve seen these many times here before, and much better images. However, this was a snap shot which I did not even expect to save. With a few minutes work, the G11 image came out acceptable:Here is a mob of what I think are Lunartail Snappers (Lutjanus lunulatus)  finning vigorously against the current. Again, as a snap shot, I’m very happy. The G11 seems to save more images from doom because of its increased dynamic range (the range of colours and shades that it can record accurately under varying conditions) and its lower noise level:Again, I didn’t expect for this image to be usable.

Here’s a sweet shot of a Circular Spadefish  or Batfish (Platax orbicularis)  that really illustrates how the two extra stops of dynamic range allow me to save a nearly impossible image:Where I would have had muddy dark areas and blown out highlights (such as the top of the frame), now I have decent detail in the very dark areas and smooth gradations with colour detail left in the very bright areas – just what I was hoping for.

I never pass up a chance to photograph the ridiculous Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata): When God was a little kid, he left some of his toys scattered around the planet. This is one of them.

Here is a close up shot of this very special toy:The detail is amazing. I’ve lost no ability to capture fine details by dropping from 15 to 10 megapixels. I think a lot of the extra megapixels were wasted because they were too small to gather enough light to put together a decent image. The pixel race is over.

Here is a reader favourite and mine also, the lowly Hermit Crab (Dardanus sp.):This little fellow will soon be receiving a notice from the Neighborhood Association for painting his house such an outrageous colour.

Back tomorrow with more wholesome G11 goodness.

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Anita and Wouter Dive Madang

Posted in Under the Sea on January 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Friends from Belgium, Anita and Wouter and Anita’s father, Jos are visiting this week with us here in Madang and I am enjoying half-days off from work to take them diving and sightseeing. Today I’ll show you some images from our dive on The Henry Leith,  which you have seen featured many times here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

Here is a nice shot of Anita and Wouter hovering over the wreck in unusually clear water, something that is a rarity in the area where the wreck has rested for decades:

As usual, the hulk was teeming with fascinating life. Here is a lovely young Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata)  lurking in a corner in wait for an unsuspecting fish to pass by:You can use the search box for SPOTFIN and find other images of this beautiful fish.

This is a close-up image of the polyps of a sea fan:I have uploaded this image in a higher resolution that I normally use so that you can see the delicate structure of the individual colonial organisms. It’s worth clicking it to enlarge the image.

This is a Periclimenes  shrimp. I can’t determine the species. Many of them are so similar that it takes a very close examination to figure out which is which:


They are also difficult to photograph, as the tentacles of the anemone are constantly waving about and the shrimp itself is restless and does not like the camera lens hovering a few centimetres above it.

This is a very beautiful nudibranch that Wolter found hiding in a difficult to reach spot. I should be able to find this species in my invertabrates book, but it also eludes me:


I need to invest someday in a dedicated nudibranch book. As helpful as the web is for finding things, I still prefer a real paper book in which to find species photos and descriptions. Wading through the web to find a particular species is simply too time consuming for me to work it into my hectic life.

Along with the critters inhabiting the deck we found three juvenile Circular Spadefish [or Batfish] (Platax orbicularis) wandering around near the bottom at the stern:

It was dark there, so flash was necessary, but this youngster was remarkably cooperative, allowing me to approach within an arm’s reach. Fish rarely pose for the photographer, but this one showed some interest. The only problem was the extreme contrast between the white, highly reflective bars and the darker portions. Still, this is one of the best shots of this species that I’ve managed so far.

We have many more dives to report and a nice collection of images coming up later this week.

Stay tuned.

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Batfish or Spadefish – Who Cares?

Posted in Under the Sea on September 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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I had too many nice shots from Saturday’s dive at Magic Passage  to dump them all on you at once. So, today and probably tomorrow, I’ll finish them up.

Just as we went down over the edge of the seaward end of the passage there was a small gang of Batfish gliding along. Group sizes vary widely, from three or four to over a hundred. This little mob was the perfect size for my camera:

Circular Spadefish (or Batfish) - Platax orbicularis

It’s always difficult for me to figure out what to call the fish that I show to you. Common names vary wildly around the world. In my reference book, Reef Fish Identification – Tropical Pacific  (Allen, Steene, Humann, DeLoach), this fish is called the Circular Spadefish. If one wants to do a proper job of presenting fish, it requires the use of the taxonomic names. That’s why I tell you that this is the Platax orbicularis.  I also do this so that people looking for images of fish and information about them can find my site more easily using search engines such as Google.

For example, if you Google:   “Caranx sexfasciatus” madang

You will see:

Caranx Sexfasciatus  | Madang – Ples Bilong Mi 
Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)  form a solid mass of fish. This creates a mesmerizing pattern that looks artificial:
www.messersmith.name/wordpress/tag/caranx-sexfasciatus/ – CachedSimilar -

at the very top of the Google search results (unless someone else rises above me somehow). This link will take you to all of the posts on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  that feature images of the fish. This is handy for searchers and it gets me a large number of hits on my site. By the way, the Caranx Sexfasciatus  is commonly called the Big-eye Trevally.

Well, enough of that.

Here is something that I like to show once in a while – nothing. I’m pointing my camera in a random direction and snapping away. Sometimes the “waterscape” is as amusing as the details. What you see here is what you would see just about anywhere on the top of our reefs. Think of it as a rainforest underwater:

Reef community

When I see an image such as the one above, I am reminded that it is something that few people ever view with their own eyes on the spot. If everyone could take just one dive on a tropical reef, there would be far less difficulty getting people to understand why we need to protect them. From above, it just looks like a lot of water. Think of flying over a rainforest at ten thousand metres. It just looks like a lot of trees. You can’t even see the individual trees. But, if you walk around down there, you will see that it is jam-packed full of life. It’s a carnival of creation.

Here’s another typical reef scene:

Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)

The fish are Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus).  The coral is Acropora robusta.

This is my pick of the day:

Amanda Watson on the edge!

It’s the extremely rare Amandanas watsoni,  commonly known as Amanda Watson swimming behind a lovely school of Anthea on the edge of the passage. She’s been sick, so she looks a little undernourished. We need to fatten her up.

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