Planet Rock – Move Along People, Nothing To See Here

Posted in Under the Sea on March 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I may as well continue feeding you a steady diet of fish for a couple of more days, at least until I run out of images from our dive on Planet Rock  yesterday. Richard Jones, (A. K. A. “Eagle Eyes”) has been spotting for me. It’s like having an experienced tracker along on a safari. We’re not shooting big game, but I bet Rich could spot a lion’s ears peeking above the savanna grass at 200 metres.

Here’s Rich doing his thing:Not a single nook or cranny escapes his attention.

However, while Rich is poking around looking for treasure, I’m usually takin’ in the scene, man. When you first start diving you’re looking for the big, flashy stuff. After the shine wears off you can begin to appreciate the simple beauty of a starfish:It looks as if it’s strolling along the bottom, which, in fact, it is – though very slowly. I admire the starfish’s lack of urgency. When you pass, there’s always a little whisper, “Hey, man. Stay cool.”

You look for the odd juxtapositions. There’s no shortage of them. Here two species of Solitary Coral seem to be cuddling:Nobody told them that it’s wrong. It’s blissful ignorance. Life is simple in the sea. You only have three things to think about. You eat. You reproduce. You are eventually eaten or otherwise return to Mama Ocean’s storehouse of building materials.

You can never swim far without encountering a bit of magic. Here little jewels of amber hover over a plate coral.They are Reticulated Dascyllus,  but that matters not a bit when the magic overcomes you. Everything is alive and a part of the whole. Identity merges into the gestalt.  Are the Dascullus Reticulatus  and the coral inseparable – needful of one another? Technically, no. However, the sense that you get is that it is all meant to fit together just as it is. Everything is copacetic.

Here and there passes a Unicorn . . . no, not really. Nevertheless, what it is is no less magical:A Trumpetfish hurries to escape the camera. It’s no less a beautiful mystery if you call it Aulostomus chinensis.  The background blurs and the camera strains to follow the motion. The photographer feels a part of the daily life of the reef. I think of the Don Knotts movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.  I feel somehow more peaceful and accepted as a fish. I move like a fish, through a three dimensional world. My breathing slows and my body relaxes. I’m in the sea. I’m of  the sea. I am home.

And she rewards me for my admiration, respect and love. She sparkles for me:The sweet Anthea  gather round me and frolic. I join their dance and music rushes through me.

We must protect our mother. If she dies, we shall all perish with her.

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Reef Panorama? I’ll Have to Try Harder!

Posted in Under the Sea on November 29th, 2009 by MadDog
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On our dive on Saturday at Leper Island  near Madang, I tried to shoot some reef panoramas. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, just not while I was underwater. Funny how thoughts come to you when there’s absolutely nothing you can do about them. I’m driving down the road and I think, “Hey, I should try some underwater panoramas!” Do I remember this the next time I go diving? Of course not.  Does this happen to anybody else?

Here’s one that I finished:

Reef Panorama 1The colours do not make me happy at all. The Canon G10 shoots panoramas only in the JPG mode, which means that you lose all of the wonderful wholesome goodness of the Camera RAW filter. You simply cannot get the colours right:

Next time, I’m going to try shooting individual frames in the RAW mode, lock in the exposure on the first frame, and use manual focus. The only problem then is using the exact same settings for the colour adjustments on each frame before stitching them together. That may take some fiddling. Here’s a partially finished panorama:

Reef Panorama 2As you can see, I’m also going to have to frame the shots better. It’s surprisingly difficult to hold the camera at exactly the same angle when the surge on the top of the reef is pushing you around.

Here’s another partially finished panorama. I do really like the concept. I always strive to show you the scene as I saw it. This will be a very nice technique, if I can work out the colour problem. Note in this one that you can just make out the hull of Faded Glory in the upper left hand corner:Reef Panorama 3Well, enough of that until I can make them look better.

Here’s something that you don’t see every day, a Sea Cucumber wearing a clown suit. It’s a Thelenota rubralineata:
Sea Cucumber - Thelenota rubralineataThey are sometimes called Sea Slugs. Their top speed is about a metre an hour, so the concept of sluggishness fits their nature. In shallower water the lines appear bright red.

I’ll finish up today with one of the best shots that I’ve gotten of the Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus):Reticulated Dascyllus - Dascyllus reticulatus

Compare this on with one that I showed a few days ago. I have some other images of the Reticulated Dascyllus here and here (a video clip from my YouTube site).

I think that I’m getting the hang of it. No more ‘too shiny’ fish! Look at the red fish under the coral. When I took the shot I didn’t even see it.

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Barracuda Point – Dirty Water – Disappointing Results

Posted in Under the Sea on November 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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We arrived at Barracuda Point  near Pig Island  on Saturday morning in bright sunshine. The water was very turbid with a lot of particulates drifting around. Miserable shooting conditions! I did manage to salvage a few shots from the lot. Not much to look at, I’m afraid.

This Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria)  looks like the entrance to hell:Barrel Sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria) All it needs is some red-hot lava boiling down there in the bottom.

Hungry? Have some Pizza Anemone (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer):

Pizza Anemone (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer)As you may notice, I’m a little terse today. We’re still rolling out a new network at the office and, computers being what they are, it’s two steps forward and one back.

As I mentioned, the shooting conditions were awful. Here’s a mediocre image of a few listless Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)  taken with flash:Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus) If the fish is in the right (or rather wrong)  position, the power of the flash blocks the side of the fish to full white, losing all detail. You get the same result if you take a picture into a mirror with the flash on.

Here’s another example of the much despised flash effect. Have a look at this imag of a Pixy Hawkfish [red variation] (Cirrhititichthys oxycephalus):Pixy Hawkfish [red variation] (Cirrhititichthys oxycephalus)The fish does not look anywhere near that red in natural light.

Here’s an absolutely terrible shot of an Eclipse Butterflyfish (Chaetodon bennetti):Eclipse Butterflyfish (Chaetodon bennetti)I’d have deleted it if it were not the only image that I have of this species. Oh, well. It gives me something to strive for.

Again I’m foiled, this time by a chunk of coral in the way. The Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)  likes to stay just far enough away from you to tease:Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)Your brain is saying, “Swim a little faster and you’ll have him!” Your body is saying, “Whoah! Heart attack time!”

Of course, by the time we came up a storm was passing over, everybody was shivering, and the wind was howling like a banshee. We went home for Saturday afternoon naps instead of the usual fun and games. Every day isn’t perfect.

Even in Paradise.

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