A Little Bit of Everything

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I do not intend for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  to indefinitely remain a place where I forever keep going back to the events of the last few months. I need to move on at some point. However, this is  a (more or less) daily journal.  I think of it as an open diary. I cannot escape the present. If I am to continue to be open and honest, I must put down here my thoughts, fears, challenges and successes. This allows me to take these things out of my head and examine them as I write. It allows me to record them as waypoints on my journey. It helps me to gauge my progress and someday, it will allow me to remember the events with the fresh perspective of one who is healed and able to look back with less pain.

So, having said that, I’ll tell you that the plans for the Memorial Service for Eunie at the Chapel at Divine Word University are progressing smoothly. Yesterday, I burned a CD full of Neil Diamond songs to play before and after the service. Later today, I will organise photographs on a flash drive to be displayed on the big LCD screen in the Chapel. These are small tasks which were assigned to me by the little “committee” of friends who are carrying the main load of organising the event. I was glad to have something to do which I probably could not mess up.

Tomorrow will mark one month since Eunie’s death. I think that that is the first time that I’ve used the word – death. Possibly this marks the end of my daily walk with denial.

This is the first sunrise which I have captured since before leaving for Australia:

The mornings have been mostly cloudy. Starting at about 05:30, when the sky begins to lighten, I can tell, by looking out the bedroom window, whether there will be a decent sunrise or not. Though I’m looking west, I can see the general colour of the sky and judge the brightness. If it looks promising, I’ll get out of bed and look out the front of the house. Yesterday, it was worth getting up.

Here is a particularly good image of a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

Its wholesome goodness comes from its very accurate colours. The conditions were perfect for a good shot. It was taken in about seven metres of fairly clear water with a bright, thin neutral white cloud cover which provided flat and untinted light. I’m quite happy with this one.

While our little troop of was back in Gympie at the home of Val Jerram preparing to scatter back to our own places we found this very amusing lizard under Val’s veranda:

That’s Carol Dover’s hand in the shot to give some scale. It’s not huge by Australian lizard standards, but it does look as if it might inflict some damage if it bit. Dr. Robert Sprackland sent a copy of his new book, Guide to Lizards,  because it has one of my images in it. I could not find this lizard in it. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s rare? Seems unlikely.

UPDATE: Reader Madcap Maven left a comment identifying the lizard as a Tiliqua scincoides scincoides,  the Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard. Her ID checks out. I consulted the Ultimate Resource, Wikipedia. You can read her message in the Comments at the end of this post.

Since I’m just rambling here I’ll throw in this interesting image by Lindsay Smith:

It’s a strange, moody piece.

Last, but not least, here is a beautiful shot by Alison Raynor titled Toogoolawah Sunset:

Someday I hope to visit Toogoolawah. It seems a peaceful place.

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Fake Art For Sanity’s Sake

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I needed a sanity check. Life has changed so dramatically in the last few weeks that it has left my head spinning. I’m a born nester. I guess it’s my feminine side trying to assert itself. I can handle just about anything if I can get back to my nest every night. Get out to raise a ruckus and create chaos every day and then fly back to the nest and watch it on the news – that’s my idea of the proper life for a man.

Alas, ruckus raising and chaos creation aren’t high on my priority list now and I don’t have any time for those rolly-coaster rides. However, I do have a treasure trove of images and stories saved up. A huge part of it has never been seen before. For today, I chose a few of my favourites from past posts and gave myself the luxury of an hour to pretend to be an artist. It’s one thing that stimulates me without having to leave my temporary desk on a big, round table in front of the couch.

This one is called Buddy.  It is one of several images which I had reproduced in large format for sale. I did manage to sell most of them, but I decided to keep the original of this one, since I like it so much. It’s a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

I ran this one through the Photoshop grinder pretty thoroughly to get the nearly cartoon-like look. The fish is still the focal point, but the filter effects changed the Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  into a fantasy foreground.

You first saw these dolphins in Happy Accidents. I see magic in that original image every time I look at it and it seems all the more special because it was a snap shot taken in a one-second window of opportunity. These are the ones which tickle me – the ones that were gifts:

I decided to try to turn it into a rough watercolour.

Both of the following shots first appeared in The Aquarium in My Front Yard. I’ve put the original references for some of these into links so that you can compare the originals, if you are that hard-up for amusement.

This grumpy little critter is a Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri):

My goal here was A Grumpy Clown,  you know, like Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons.  I think that my have nearly achieved it.

This one from the same post, of a trio of Anthea, I’m titling, Are You Talkin’ to US?

They also seem a little grumpy, though not so tough.

Of the lot, this one I like best. It took the most time to get it right. A click to enlarge it will be more rewarding.:

I’m calling it Refuge.  Maybe that has to do with my mood. It is an evening view across the harbour from our house in Madang. I don’t know when I will see it again.

Eunie is better now that she began taking the powerful anti-inflammatory which she mistakenly stopped the day after the ERCP. I am going to have to monitor her medications – yet another something which I’ve never had to do before.

I’m learning a lot of new stuff. None of which I ever wanted to know. If you’re going to win at poker, you have to learn to play the cards.

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Out With the Girls

Posted in Under the Sea on July 31st, 2010 by MadDog
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The ladies predominated the numbers on the boat today by three to one. We had five divers in the water today at The Eel Garden near Pig Island.   I got some pretty pictures of marine critters and a couple of nice shots of two of my favourite models. This morning it looked like a rain-out. The sky was dismal and the sea was up. By 10:00 the sun was out, but it was still a bumpy ride. I’m all worn out from the day’s fun, so I’ll spare you a lot of my usual senseless chatter.

We went Triggerfish hunting, which can be a risky sport, but there were none around. I had thought to give the ladies a thrill, but the fish were not cooperating. Down at the bottom of the sandy bowl, I found one of my favourite anemones with a pair of Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)  staying close to their Bulb Anemone host Entacmaea quadricolor:


I’ve been photographing this same anemone for years. Every picture is different. How could I get bored with it? These are very likely females.

Down on the catamaran, the underwater fashion shoot was all set up. The water was clear and the light was right. Geneviève Tremblay took her turn first:

I don’t think that I have to tell you that Geneviève is female.

About that time a huge school of Purple Anthea females (Pseudanthias tuka)  came rushing past:

What’s going on here?

The next thing I see is Ush doing a “Tiger Ambush” pose:

Need I mention that it is a female tiger?

I have no idea if this pretty little Starfish (Fromia nodosa)  is female or not. In fact, my science fact bin is empty. I can’t remember if there are  male and female starfish and I’m far too tired to care:

It certainly looks feminine.

That’s it. I’m finished.

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More Eel Garden Goodies

Posted in Under the Sea on July 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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Here is the way I like to see Faded Glory’s  anchor. This is a shot from The Eel Garden near Pig Island.  There is a big sandy bowl there which makes a good anchorage. You can safely drop anchor there with no worry of damaging any coral. Coral damage when anchoring is a constant worry for us. Fortunately, we can usually see the bottom clearly and find a bare rock or sandy spot in which to drop anchor. After getting in the water, we always check the lay of the anchor to make sure that we will inflict no damage.

Nevertheless, there is sometimes broken coral. We have no money to put in proper moorings at dive sites. A few years ago we all contributed to having about a dozen stainless steel hooks drilled into the reefs. There were to be floating buoys on each site. We could tie up to these buoys and avoid dropping anchors on the reef. Withing weeks, all of the floats on the buoys had been stolen. At the present time there is only one buoyed dive site, The Green Dragon  B-25 bomber.

Local divers have no money to do this. All we can do is be as careful as possible. Several representatives of so-called environmental organisations who claim to want to do wonderful things to “save the reefs” have sat in my office and extolled the virtues of their efforts. I have yet to find any of them who will actually come forward with the funds to provide proper facilities to protect the dive sites from anchor damage. Talking to school kids is fun and it’s cheap. In my opinion, it is about as effective as spitting on a forest fire. When am I going to find an environmental organisation which is ready to put its money where its mouth is?

That’s enough rage for a Monday morning.

This is Fire Coral. It’s name is not a joke:

Back when I was young and exuding clouds of testosterone fumes, I enjoyed the macho look of diving without a wet suit. I had a little more blubber as protection from the chill then. Our water averages about 28-29° C, so as long as you keep active, you don’t get cold. I remember a few times when I inadvertently brushed against fire coral. It is a distinctly unpleasant experience. If I had to describe it, I would say that is not unlike having been mauled by a tiger and then getting someone to pour vinegar into the wounds. It will  get your attention.

Way down in the bottom of the sandy bowl at The Eel Garden is a Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  which I have been photographing for several years:

Th odd thing about this anemone is how it changes colours. Sometimes it looks sick. I remember when we used to keep a salt water aquarium. I would bring back anemones and keep them in the tank until they began to look a little tired. Then I would put the back where I got them. After a while, they would regain their original healthy look. Finally I got tired of all the work and guilty about all the stress I was causing to poor critters which had done nothing but give me pleasure. I gave the tank away and decided to look and not touch.

I don’t know why these Sea Squirts (Phallusia julinea)  are so outrageously yellow. I photograph them often because they always make an interesting image:

In this shot I used a very throttled-back flash to lighten up the foreground and allow the background to appear darker. I’m discovering many new techniques as I get bored with doing the same thing week after week. It reminds me of when I bought a new Corvette back in our rich days. Every month I drove it faster. Finally I got a speeding ticket and decided to sell it. What I’m doing now is much safer.

I love the colour contrasts in this shot of a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

It one of the effects that I’m working on. I want to get some contrast between the artificial sunlight from the flash and the saturated aqua and blue shades of the water at deeper stages of the dive.

One of the things which I have always loved about photography is that there are a gozillion ways to take a picture of the same thing. How may ways could you photograph a tree? It fascinates me. After years of shooting underwater, I’m now getting bored enough by it to start exploring seriously. It’s going to be an interesting ride.

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Grass and Water

Posted in Under the Sea on July 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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I was standing out in the front yard this morning watching the sun rise up steadily, much too bright for good sunrise shots, and I looked down at my feet. The warm wine light of the fat, yellow orb was casting a very curious glow on the vegetation and shallow harbour water inches in front of my toes. I started to think about it. I took a picture.

It’s a very ordinary image. Yet, the familiarity of my surroundings give me context to extract much more from it than might be apparent to you:

The brown, twisty gnarls are the roots of my coconut trees. They are presently the only thing saving my front yard from melting into the rising waters of Madang Harbour.  The local sea level has risen at least twenty centimetres since we moved into our house twenty years ago. No, this isn’t global warming. It’s a local tectonic phenomena. We are on one end of a small plate which is tipping. Our end is going down. The gnarly roots speak to me.

The area at the edge of the water is almost daily flooded by boat wakes. The constant salting causes great stress to the grass at the edge of our lawn. The fresh grass shoots are vigorous and bright green.

All around me I can hear the splashing of fish. At this time of the morning predators are coming into water only ankle-deep and driving prey up toward the shore. I remind myself of the small life and death struggles taking place within a couple of metres from where I stand.

How much can you pack into an image.? I guess it depends on who is looking at it and what associations they can make.

Well, enough of the early morning moodiness. Have a look at this delightfully curly Feather Star (Comaster multifidus):

I didn’t think much of this shot when I first saw it on the screen. The composition is not so bad, but the varying distances from the flash left me with some spots far too bright and others too dark. It took a bit of fiddling, but I finally reckoned it was good enough to show.

I love Sea Squirts of all kinds. One could easily make a career of cataloging the varieties within a half hour boat ride from my house. I don’t know how you could make a living doing that, but it would be fun. These are Atriolum robustum:

I got some nice depth of field on this shot and the colour balance is spot-on. You are seeing exactly what I saw.

These are the same Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)  on the same plate coral which I showed to you a few days ago in Sharp and Smooth:

It’s just another frame from the same series. I like the depth in this one, though the general composition is not as good as the shot in the earlier post.

You’ve seen this exact Skunk Anemonefish (Amphiprion akallopisos)  before. I’m going to keep shooting him until I have him nailed down:

One might think that it would become boring doing hundreds (over 2,000 now) of dives in only a couple of dozen locations. I think it depends on what you expect from diving. For me it’s about being with friends, feeling the stress melt away when I slip into Mother Ocean, and photography. You don’t need to spend a lot of money travelling from place to palce like a well-heeled gypsy to get these pleasures. I’m happy to stay at home and squeeze the lemons.

Here’s two more of the Usual Suspects, Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

I had some fun playing with the colours in this shot. I can see some areas which are distinctly fake. However, I decided to take some liberties with Mother Nature.

I just don’t want Eunie to catch me. Shhhhhh . . .

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Scorpionfish – Fail!

Posted in Under the Sea on June 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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We had a lovely dinner at our house last night with thirteen of us there consuming Eunie’s delicious Midwestern American farm meal. A special guest was there, but I’m not going to keep blasting her name out over the web, because I think that it’s time for her to have a chance to enjoy a bit of privacy. It was a typical Madang dinner party. There was a pile of “happy shoes” at the door, good food, good friends, and good Australian wine. Everybody came to our house by boat, so even the departing was fun. Everybody walks out to the dock, gets into their boats and we all wave bye-bye as if we’ll always see each other tomorrow. And, we usually do.

When I saw the sunrise this morning, the word industrial  popped into my mind:

It seems that I am a compulsive titler – is that a word, someone who titles things? I don’t know. If it isn’t, it should be. Every image has to have a title floating around in my head.

Oh, I can see that I’m boring you. Let’s get to the miserable failure that is the subject of today’s post. This could have been a perfectly good image of a Scorpionfish:

We had just gotten into the water at Planet Rock and I was fussing around making certain that our anchor was not doing any damage and watching divers and counting noses when Richard Jones pointed out this Scorpionfish. It was such a peculiar shape and so well camouflaged that I really wanted to get a good image of it. Sadly, I had time only for a quick snap. Unfortunately,as so often happens, the camera did not focus where I wanted it to. The focus on the rear half of the fish is tolerable, but the head is blurry. Still, it is so odd that it’s worth a look.

I have a lot of trouble figuring out what is a sponge and what is a sea squirt. I was all set to identify this as some kind of sea squirt. Fortunately, I sent the image to my Facebook friend Ana Karinna Carbonini of the Laboratorio de Biología Marina at the Universidad Simón Bolívar. She said that she thinks it is a Sponge, possibly a species of Leuconoide  or Asconoide:

You can take a sip of coffee now while you absorb that. Have a quick glance over your shoulder to see if the boss is lurking about.

At the request of a friend, here are a couple of Anemonefish shots from our dives on Saturday. This is a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)  peeking out from the safety of its host anemone:

I particularly like this shot, because it shows a very typical behavior. Anemonefish will often alternate between dashing about frantically around the anemone, coming up close to you to investigate or even take a nip of your finger and then plunging down within the tentacles to peer out and observe the result of the attack. I get more fun from watching anemonefish than anything else under the water, with the possible exception of some of my dive buddies.

For the Disney fans, here are some genuine Nemo wannabes. The Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  never fails to live up to its name:

One seems to be shouting at me. By the way, I would call this a failed shot also. Careful examination will reveal that it was a snap shot and I did not take the time to check the focus carefully. Of course, if I had, I would have missed the shout.

Finally, I’ll show you this artsy shot of the beautiful clear view of the reef near Alexishafen late on Sunday afternoon:

We were all peering over the side of Felmara  as we stopped for a swim. The water was crystal clear and the pinkish sunset was alternating with the deep green of the two metres of water under the boat. A little bit of magic.

A little bit of magic is all it takes.

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A Model Model

Posted in Under the Sea on May 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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I have been feeling very anxious and incompetent for the last month. I was having a difficult time understanding the cause of my feelings. This, of course, simply made matters worse. As I’ve mentioned. I’ve taken on another job aside from my duties in the IT Dungeon. I’m now the editor of two quarterly magazines. It has finally dawned on me what the cause is of my distress. I haven’t had a new job for thirty years. Studies have shown that starting a new job is one of the top stress generators. I had forgotten the feelings of inadequacy, loss of control, uncertainty and raw fear that accompany a new job. I’ve been an author for a long time. However I’ve never been an editor. The job seemed simple when I took it on. It is only now that I’m into it that I realise how little I know about what I’m doing. Wish me well as I struggle to get myself oriented. I’m on a three month probation, so I don’t have much time to prove myself. It’s sink or swim time. Keeping this job and doing well at it so that I have a future in the industry is an essential tactic in our survival strategy as churches will undoubtedly continue to abandon us as we age.

However, today’s sunrise cheered me up:Nice sunrises are getting more and more frequent.

On Saturday we did a dive at The Eel Garden  near Pig Island.  The weather was horrible. We immediately ran into rain and it rained nearly the whole day. Only in the last hour did we get a little sun. Underwater, however, it was beautiful:

A beautiful lady is always a welcome addition to nature’s own. Above is Genevieve and a Magnificent Anemone with Clown Anemonefish or “Nemo” fish.

Here is another one of Genevieve with a Feather Star:

Taking inexperienced divers into my care and teaching them how to enjoy safe diving while learning the mysteries under the ocean is one of the more pleasant parts of my life. Genevieve comes to us with few dives and had not dived for about a year. I expected the jitters and problems on the dive. I was surprised that she was as cool as a cucumber, stayed close to me and interpreted my instructions perfectly. Being an excellent swimmer, she also moves through the water gracefully.

I trapped these Scarlet Soldierfish (Myripistis pralinia)  in a little cave: I had to laugh into my regulator as they darted around crazily as their teeny-weeny brains tried to figure out what to do.

We found the big patch of anemone’s near the island and it was full of  Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):I’m sure that this one believed that I couldn’t see him. The will often try to position themselves in the anemone so that only the eye is exposed so that they can keep it on you. I think that they don’t realise the their noses are fully visible.

I’ll finish up with a critter that is probably beginning to bore you.:Yes, it’s the nudibranch, Notodoris minor  again. I’ve found where they are living and I’m to keep on taking pictures of them as long as they are there. It’s a moderately rare species, so I want to “collect” as many as I can. Each image is like a trophy to me.

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