More Underwater Canon G10 Shots from the Eel Garden

Posted in Under the Sea on July 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve had time to work up some more Canon G10 images from the dive on Saturday at the Eel Garden near Pig Island.  I’m still a little disbelieving at what’s coming out of this relatively cheap camera. It makes me wonder what we’ll be able to do in another five years. 3D?? Who knows?

Here is absolutely the anatomically best shot that I’ve ever gotten of a Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

What I usually get is a pretty reddish-orange blob with some detail. Sometimes you can actually see the spine on the the cheek. With the G10 I’m getting scales  on the side of the fish! If you click to enlarge, you’ll see a lot more detail than I’ve been able to show you before.

Here is a difficult to photograph nudibranch. They are very small (this one as long as your pinky finger). Depth of field is always a problem:


I’ve not been able to capture the delicate nuances of shading around the white bumps before. In this shot you can tell that they are white protrusions, not just faded spots.

Here’s another difficult fish to photograph because of the same problem that we have with Clark’s Anemonefish – the huge dynamic range of contrast between the soot-black bars and the snow white patches. It’s a Moorish Idol (Zanclus comutus):

Moorish Idol (Zanclus comutus)

In this shot, I was able to get some detail in both areas; a first for me. I give the credit to the camera’s dynamic range. I’m not doing anything new or different.

Here is a Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides) lurking under the catamaran wreck:

Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides)

Like the other subjects here, this is a difficult one to shoot. It likes to hide. If it can’t, it swims away. This shot is nowhere near perfect, but it’s the best of this fish that I have managed to get so far.

To finish up today, here is probably one of the most photographed fish on the planet. Everybody and his brother wants to take home a picture that “I took” of a lionfish. This is the Common Lionfish (looks particularly uncommon to me, but . . . ) whose taxonomic name is (Pterois volitans):

Common Lionfish - sub adult (Pterois volitans)

For a fish that poses so nicely, it is still difficult to get a good shot. Again, the contrast ratio is through the roof. I did have to work a little to get the dark bands up from the depths. This shot was saved by Photoshop.  Nevertheless, I give the G10 credit for giving me a few bits to work with from the bottom of the well.

You’re going to get a lot more underwater photos in the future. I hope you have a taste for fish.

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The Deadly Ice Cream Cone

Posted in Dangerous on March 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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I need to get back into the water. Let’s see . . . If I sweet-talk my boss (that’s my wife Eunie – Yes, really!), I might be able to take off tomorrow afternoon for a dive. I’ll tell you later how that goes.

In the meantime, I’ll get figuratively back into the water by showing you some more shots that we got on the inside of the reef at the West end of Pig Island last Saturday.

Here is something that I’d bet that you haven’t seen all week:

Sea Pen (Vigularia sp.)
It’s a Sea Pen. This one is some species of Vigularia.  It sticks up out of the sand about 20cm and looks a lot like a feather. What is surprising is that if you give it a tap, it pulls down into the sand and disappears! I love to see the look on the faces of divers who have not seen this before.

This thing is a Fan Worm (Sabellastarte indica):

Fan Worm (Sabellastarte indica)
It looks like a dead bird fallen on the coral with its feathers blowing slowly in the wind. If you get too close, it will disappear down into its tubular house so quickly that you can see no movement at all. One microsecond it’s there and the next, it’s vanished. It’s about the size of your hand.

Of course, almost anybody would recognise this is a Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima):

Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima)
This one is hardly a man-eater. I remember in the old movies when a diver would get caught in a giant clam. They can  clamp together quickly, but I seriously doubt if the clam would like to keep your leg inside. It would probably want to spit it out as quickly as possible. This one is about 30cm long.

Here is a different shot of the Spinecheek Anemonefish that I showed to you the other day (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)
The little partner is probably unrelated. I used to think that all the Anemonefish that inhabit an anemone were related to each other. I discovered that this could not be less true. Since there is a free-swimming planktonic phase in the life-cycle, each individual fish must find a host anemone or die. The chance of it ending up on the same anemone on which it was spawned is practically nil. I’ll write more about that sometime. I learned it while researching an article on Anemonefish for Niugini Blue magazine.

In a large sandy area there were thousands of tiny hermit crabs all moving in the same direction in a hurry. I’ve never seen that before and I don’t have any idea what it was all about. Here are a couple of them:

No, I haven’t forgotten about the Deadly Ice Cream Cone. This is a Cone snail (Conus litteratus):
Cone snail (Conus litteratus)
It is one of the most deadly creatures in the ocean. It has a harpoon-like barb that it uses to kill fish. Yes, you heard that right. This snail is a vicious piscivore. This one is about as long as a finger. I’ve seen movies of a cone snail harpooning a fish larger that itself. Here is a video clip of a Cone Snail capturing a small fish:
Is that scary? If you stuck your finger close to the business end, you could be dead in 24 hours. I turned this one over with a stick to I could take the shot.

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Today at a Reef Near You

Posted in Under the Sea on March 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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Just inside the reef at the Western tip of Pig Island there is a spot that few choose to dive. There is a lot of sandy bottom and the visibility is usually not much to write home about. It is, however, chock full of unusual critters.

For instance:  This is a juvenile Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus). It is rarely seen and looks nothing like the adult:
Juvenile Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus)I didn’t have a good image of the adult form here at the office, so I ripped this from the web ( photo by W. Allgöwer) so that you can see what it will look like when it grows up:

Adult Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus) - [from]

Regarding the image above, I should mention that the bluish stripes are actually white.

The area abounds with anemones, many with unusual characteristics. Here is a variety of Leather Anemone (Heteractis crispa)  with unusual blue tips on the tentacles:

Anemone (Heteractis crispa)

The visibility cleared up a bit here and there. I was lucky to get this shot of Bluestripe Snappers (Lutjanus kasmira)  with the flash turned on. It took me a while to clean up the backscatter, but it was worth the effort:

Bluestripe Snapper (Lutjanus kasmira)

There are many small Bulb Anemones (Entacmaea quadricolor)  here and a large percentage of them are homes to Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

The large individual above appeard a dusky red colour to my eyes. It had much darker than normal pigmentation. This is probably because the individual anemone is also heavily pigmented. Many Anemonefish take on shades that help them to blend in with their host amenome. The flash made the fish here appear much brighter than they appeared to the naked eye.

I can’t seem to stop shooting lizardfish. At least I’m not using a shotgun. This is the very common Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus):

Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)

It always amuses me how fierce that they look when you get a good shot head-on and close-up. The nose here is a little blurry, but I’m still happy with it.

Sometimes the smallest things are the most amazing. This Blue Lipped Coral Oyster (Pedum spondyloideum)  is only about 40mm wide, but the colours are spectacular:

Blue Lipped Coral Oyster (Pedum spondyloideum)

Stay tuned for more fishy features on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

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Sun Comes Up – Divers Go Down

Posted in Under the Sea on March 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I get up early on a Saturday morning and it looks like this:

Sunrise in my front yard - Canoe and birdsI feel as if the world is grinning at me. I grin back.

Here’s some images from a recent Saturday Dive.

If the name on your Birth Certificate was Plagiotremus rhinorrhynchos, I’d feel empathy for you. If you can imagine the sad story of a boy growing up in a very tough neighbourhood with the name of Jan Messersmith, maybe you could appreciate my empathy. I still have scars on my knuckles to attest to the agony. I’ve never forgiven my mother for it. It’s even worse for this little fellow. His nickname is Bluestripped Fangblenny. No wonder that he’s hiding in a hole:

Bluestriped Fangblenny (Plagiotremus rhinorrhynchos)I’ve shown Blennies on Madang – Ples Bilong Mihere, here, here, and here.

I made it worse for myself when I reached the age of sixty. I decided enough is enough. I’m old enough to decide what I want to be called. So I changed the pronunciation of my given name. Instead of the much-maligned Jan (rhyming with can) I decided I wanted to be called Jan (rhyming with yon – as in “By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes”). As you can imagine, this caused much consternation and no little laughter among my friends. I felt like a clown. I still do. I don’t mind. Speaking of clowns, here’s a Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)I showed you another Clown Anemonefish here.

While we’re on Anemonefish, let’s have a couple of more. Try these Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):

Clark's Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)I have no idea who Clark is. I can only assume it is not Clark Kent. He doesn’t seem the type to have a fish named for him. However, his alter-ego might be proud to have an Amphiprion supermanii.

Hmmm . . . I appear to be drifting. I’m like a teensy-weensy tectonic plate drifting on a molten globe of magmatic thought. I’d better get out of here.

But, before I leave for the day, I’ll show you my favourite of the day. Here’s the darling, shiny, all-too-brilliant Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus): (you can find another Spinecheek here.)Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)Would that I were so handsome, but ça ne fait rien.

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A Feast for My Camera

Posted in Tattoos, Under the Sea on February 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday, for our regular Saturday morning dive, we motored out to Pig Island  to check out the Eel Garden, one of our favourites.

Along with some ordinary, but nevertheless spectacular critters, we enjoyed some rare treats.

On the long wall that marks the outer side of the Eel Garden, I visited one of my favourite anemones. Its residents are Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus).  One of the pleasures of doing many dives in a small area over many years is that you get to know the fish as your neighbours. This is Mary Jane and her young cohabitant, Mike:
Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)Over on the other side of the wall at the old catamaran wreck, a double cluster of Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinuosa)  was lit very nicely. I took a shot with the light available, eschewing my flash, as is my wont. It’s nicely balanced, not too bright, and the colours are somewhat muted – just exactly the way my eyes saw it:

Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinuosa)

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I prefer shots that I’m able to capture with the light that is presented to me by nature. Sometimes flash is necessary (as in the Spinecheek shot at the top), but I prefer to show you the images that I saw with my naked eyeballs.

To illustrate the difference once again, here is the same shot with the flash turned on:

Bubble Coral (with flash)  - (Plerogyra sinuosa)

It’s more colourful, but it is not  what I saw.

Once in a while, maybe every hundred dives, we get to see something that blows us away. Here’s Albert, one of our Spanish divers, getting a shot of a giant flatworm. He had just gotten this new camera and this was his first dive with it:

Albert shooting the giant flatworm with his new camera

In case you don’t know much about flatworms (planaria), let me tell you that this one is huge. I can’t find it in my identification book, so it must be fairly rare. On the odd chance that anybody out there recognizes it or has a better book than I do, please let me know the species name:

Giant flatworm - Do you know the species?

On the other hand, new species are being discovered at the rate of dozens a year, so we may have  found something that has not yet been described.

Finally, Anna, another of our Spanish divers, has herself a brand-new tattoo:

Anna's new tattoo

And, a lovely one it is. I’m more into the pictorial designs rather than the abstract. However, this one, based on the henna hand designs, is certainly beautiful and very feminine.

Good job, Anna, for choosing wisely. It’s there for life, so I’m happy for you that it’s a good one.

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A Few of My Favourite Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on October 20th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’ve been trying to take a little time each day organizing my photographs so that I have some small chance of finding something that I want. If I’d been smart, I would have found a way to organize all my photos as soon as I put them on my computer by keywords.

I tried assigning the keywords “underwater”, “anemone”, and “anemonefish” to the photo below. Adobe Bridge allows you to assign keywords (as many as you like) to each image and then search by keyword. I searched for “anemone” and, sure enough, this photo popped up. The only problem is that I have tens of thousands of photos. Probably half of them or more should simply be deleted. I can already see what I’m going to be doing on during my next vacation time.

As I was going through some photos yesterday, I ran across some old pals. I’d like to introduce you to some of my favourite fish.

These little beauties are obviously Anemonefish. Specifically, these are Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

The shot above was incredibly lucky. Out of 100 – 300 exposures that I make on an average dive, I feel lucky if a handful are worth processing with Photoshop. I’m joyful if there is one that really makes me grin like an idiot. The frame above was one in a thousand. Everything was copacetic.

Anyone who doesn’t know this little fellow must have been engaged in intense navel contemplation in a cave for the last few years. Yes, it’s everybody’s favourite fish, Nemo. If you’ve not been formally introduced, he is an Anemonefish, specifically a Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula). This Nemo wannabe looks as if he is swimming onto the stage for a screen-test:

Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)

Much as I hate to discuss filthy lucre in this carefree space, I must admit that the next photo has enriched the meagre coffers of Clan MadDog more than any other. I have sold this image several times over. It’s been in magazine articles, on the cover of tourist information booklets, and sold as metre-wide wall hangings. Its title is “Buddy.” He will soon feature on one of the dozen Papua New Guinea post cards that I am producing.

Divers call their paired-up fellow diver a buddy, so the name is a natural. Divers are like Nuns, we always travel in pairs.

Meet Buddy, another Anemonefish. Buddy is an example of the Orange Variation of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):

Orange Variation of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) - “Buddy”

I snagged the next image on The Henry Leith near Wongat Island. One can only describe it as a handsome fish. He displays a certain smug dignity in his tweedy suit. Formally, he’s known as Epinephelus miliaris. He introduces himself with a Bond-like smirk as Grouper, Netfin Grouper:

Epinephelus miliaris. He introduces himself with a Bond-like smirk as Grouper, Netfin Grouper.

Soon, I’ll write about the less congenial denizens of our salty, wet neighbourhood – the ‘friends’ that we keep at arm’s length.

We all know people like that. Fish are no different.

You will find other photos of anemonefish on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi here, here, and here.

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