Sorry, Just Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on November 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I can’t think of anything to say about living in my skin that doesn’t feel to me like whining. The usual array of great heavy objects falling from a colossal height continue to rain down on my head. This week’s deluge began today. The details aren’t important to anyone but me, so I shan’t bore you. It suffices to say that it’s getting hard to stand up. So, instead of going all sissy on you, I’ll tell you a little story, two in fact.

Way back when, maybe a quarter of a century ago, we were in Lae to buy a car. It was a four-wheel-drive Daihatsu jeepy sort of thing. Anyway, we were in the auto showroom waiting for some paperwork. Suddenly, everyone went sort of stiff and jittery. There were a few nervous giggles, something which usually presages trouble. Everybody seemed to be looking in my direction. After checking my fly, I looked around cautiously. Standing behind me, staring at me with teary eyes was the tallest Papua Guinean woman I have ever seen. I’d guess that she was about fifty years old, but guessing age here is pretty useless. I was paralysed by curiosity and wonder.

A glance around revealed that everyone was looking from the corners of their eyes. Folks here often seem not to notice crazy people. As illustrated by the many people who walk on the very edge of the pavement a half-metre from whizzing vehicles with their backs towards the traffic, the general idea seems to be that if one cannot see the danger, it doesn’t really exist. In this case, there didn’t seem to be any danger, but the woolly forests on my arms rose up in anticipation. She took a hesitant step, seemed to make up her mind about something and walked toward me looking straight into my eyes. That got my attention, as it is almost unheard of. She stopped in front of me and asked, “Are you Jesus Christ?”

To this day, I can’t remember how or if I answered. In fact, I’m unclear as to what did happened next. It must have been anticlimactic.

Okay, another one.

Not too many years after that, I was sitting in our Suzuki jeepy thing in the parking lot of a now defunct food store. Eunie was inside buying some stuff. I was to lazy to go with her. I had the window down. In the side rear-view mirror I noticed a thirty-something guy walking up to the car. Caution always being wise, I pulled my arm in and readied myself for some action. I didn’t like the look of his stride. It was too determined.

Reaching the car, with no preamble he said, “Hello, I’m Elvis Presley.” Ever quick with a snappy comeback, I ventured, “I’ve got a lot of your records.” And that was it. He turned and walked away. You were probably expecting more. There isn’t any.

These two incidents somehow got wired up in my brain. I suppose that the connection is obvious. Whether there is any message there is open to interpretation. Let me tell you what I took away from them. You can decide if it sounds nusto and leave a comment explaining why or why not. It’s all up to you.

Some people have problems with genes or chemistry or injury or illness – that’s a given. Other people go off to lunar mindscapes for less obvious reasons. It’s not so much that they are crazy. It’s more that life has been crazy for them. One copes the best one can. One does what one must do. One deals with it. “Just get on with life.” “Take one day at a time.” This is what we are told. But, what if it all becomes too much? Some are stronger, tougher, more resilient, more anaesthetised against pain than others. Some will survive the onslaught. Others will perish.

I have infinite sympathy for those whose minds are broken, regardless of the cause. However, I am especially sad for those who have been beaten down by life. Perhaps it is because I’ve been there, I’m there again now.  I understand the feeling that one might fall over the edge with the next shove. It’s familiar territory. It’s terrifying.

So, maybe the two people about whom I have thought so many times over the years were not so unfortunate. They seemed blissfully unaware of their predicaments. Perhaps that’s the way to go – silently slipping into insanity without being aware of it.

And now . . . On with the fish.

We’ve dispensed with the Bad. Now we’ll have the Good and the Ugly. This critter should be familiar to you by now. It’s the Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans):

I think that it’s a reasonably good picture, if you like your fish in full context. We get a nice idea of what it looks like in its habitat. I frightened this one when I poked my camera at it to get it to move to a more photogenic location. I think that it believes that it is hiding now.

Here is a shot from directly above looking down:

No matter what I did, I couldn’t make this shot look nice. It lacks something, but I can’t honestly say what. It simply doesn’t sing. Maybe somebody can tell me why. I have photographer’s block.

Here’s a nice little shot of a couple of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):

It’s odd that I only now notice that there is also a Pink Anemonefish in the lower left corner. I did not see it at all as I was working on the image. How the mind works! Or doesn’t.

This is a flash-lit shot of some Anthea milling around. The brightly coloured tubular objects are Organ Pipe Coral:

Though the colours are pretty, they are completely artificial. The spectrum of the flash matches sunlight at the surface of the water. You would never see these colours with the naked eye.

This little fellow is a Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus):

They usually dive down into the forest of horns of coral for protection. This one was curious and stayed out to keep an eye on me.

I wonder if he is crazy?

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Sharp and Smooth

Posted in Under the Sea on July 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Weekdays come and go. My last work week consisted of exactly one day – Friday. Wouldn’t it be nice if Friday was the only work day? You could go to work in the morning knowing that when you clock in you are beginning your week and when you clock out, it’s the weekend again. Pay might be a problem, however. I’m working on a plan to live without money. If I get it worked out, I’ll let you know.

And following my one-day work week came Glorious Dive Day! I had nobody going out on Faded Glory  this week, so I skipped all of that boat loading and unloading and just went out with Richard Jones on Sanguma.  I have to admit, I really like getting picked up at my front door. It’s quite a treat compared to my usual Saturday routine.

The dive was quite nice. The Eel Garden was putting on a fine show. I got some very nice underwater shots. However, as it sometimes happens, my favourite shot of the day has nothing to do with fish. Ush is one of my favourite photographic subjects, at least when she is not too shy. I kept seeing wonderful reflections in her cheeky red sunglasses. A little coaxing got her into the mood to pose for me:

When I first saw the result on my computer screen I was not overjoyed. Though Ush gave me just what I wanted, my exposure skills were not up to snuff. It took me the better part of an hour to massage the image into what my original vision demanded. I wanted the sharpness of the sunglasses and the reflections, but I needed Ush’s skin to be as soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Well, it pretty much is in reality, but cameras are harsh to skin, as we all know. I’m happy with the finished product. It’s the most fun I’ve gotten from a single image for quite a while.

Now this one . . . this one is a mistake. It was so bad that I nearly deleted it. However, I sometimes like to play the photographic savior and redeem otherwise worthless frames:

The Soldierfish was swimming away, it was too distant, and the light was all wrong. On top of that, I had my flash turned on, which threw off the colour balance. I know! I’ll call it “Art’.

Richard Jones came over to me with a rock and seemed quite excited about it. It took me a moment to realise that on that rock was a nudibranch which I had never seen before. Of course, I took its picture. It’s a Phyllidia ocellata:

I have to say that it is probably the most humorously patterned nudibranch which I have seen. Some nudis are ethereal in their beauty. This one is wearing a clown suit.

I should know the name of this Planaria, more commonly called a flatworm. I got this shot standing on my head, because it was under a ledge. I’ve turned it right-side-up for you:

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m not going to look it up. Somebody out there help me. It’s very common here.

I’ll finish up with a couple of “Deep Focus” reef scenes. As several readers have pointed out, there is nothing special about these high depth of field shots. It’s just a matter of setting your camera right and having favourable shooting conditions:

However, I have noted that few underwater photographers actually do it. It seems as if nearly everybody either shoots macro shots of little things or big, gaudy scenes shot with super-wide angle lenses and multiple flashes.

I don’t see many shots such as these which use a cheap camera and a normal lens stopped down to achieve maximum depth of field:

I find them pleasing, because when I seen them I can honestly say, “That’s just the way it looked to me.”

Someday, that is going to come in very handy for me.

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Banana Bana Bo Bana

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on May 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Wooo hooo, I got up this morning and felt like Atlas. The world was wobbling around on my shoulders. After yesterday’s near anxiety attack, I calmed down nicely with a couple of beers, a nice cheap cigar and some encouragement from my soul mate. This morning it was all back. Nobody should ever have to start a new job. People should get jobs at birth and keep them until they drop. Think of the savings in stress alone. Of course, many would die of boredom, especially the renegades who expect more from life. However it might be a neat solution to the population problem.

Rambling already and I haven’t even gotten to the pictures yet.

This morning ‘s sunrise didn’t help much:I was about as stormy and confused as the inside of my head. I took a 5mg Valium out of the bottle and put it in my pocket, determined not to use it unless I felt like I was coming unglued. I made it all the way to 08:30 before chewing it for nearly instant relief. I an such  a wuss! My excuse is that I’m a recovering bipolar. That’s even more lame.

Anyway, by the time that 10:00 rolled around I’d received several emails which ameliorated a soupcon of my self-doubt delivered a second blessed release of endorphins. It’s 14:24 now and I’m about half way down. I think I can do this. I know  I can do this! I’m The Little Editor Who Could! Hey, it’s not Rocket Science.

Which, in an unfathomable way, brings me to my bananas. Of course I do absolutely nothing to grow them. Juli, our house helper, has absolute dominion over the garden. I’m allowed to walk about importantly, stroking my beard and saying things like, “Ah, yes.” and “Coming along fine.” while wagging my cigar around in my teeth. I call it “Playing the Planter”. Here is a bunch of bananas which Juli harvested yesterday:

Note that they are green, but not the green which you get from temperate zone store bananas. These are one to four days from going brown. You have to eat them quickly. They are called banana mau  or ripe bananas. They are incredibly delicious. I prefer mine after a day or so when they turn yellow. Eunie likes hers a little firmer.

These however are the gold standard of banananess:

If you harvest at just the right time, you will probably be rewarded by a very few bananas which have ripened sufficiently on the stalk that their skins have split. You have mere hours to get to these. The level of flavour and aroma is indescribable. These “splits” are my favourite. Bananas in heaven must taste like this.

By the way, the title comes from the 1964 song The Name Game  written by Shirley Ellis. I remember it being all the rage. How simple life was then . . . hmmmm . . .

Switching from bananas now to something that doesn’t make my tummy gurgle with hunger, let’s have a look at my foolish interpretation of the week. This starfish, a Linckia multifora,  reminds me of (get ready for it now):A joyful person dressed in a cover-me-all-over pink cow suit running to the right and hollering something like “Whoop tee doo!” If I have to explain it, just move on. It’s getting crazy in here.

Let’s settle down now for some nice relaxing Dascylus Reticulatus:I don’t know why I say relaxing. They are very nervous fish. At the slightest threat they dart down into the spiky coral and hide. You can see a Red and Black Anemonefish over on the right. Note the greenish background colour. It was impossible to take available light images at The Eel Garden.  There was a metre of cold river water on top which was loaded with algae. Everything looked very green.

This last image blows my tiny little mind. This is two flatworms doing . . . something . . . I honestly don’t know what. Truly, I don’t care to speculate, but what the . . .  I can think of three possibilities. (1) a simple crossing of paths (3) someone is about to have lunch or (3) I don’t want to say it:I’m going with the “ships passing in the night” hypothesis. If this is true, it must be an astoundingly rare occurrence. As if you could possibly care, the dark one with the solid, 24 carat gold dots is a Thysanozoon nigropapillosum  and the fancy yellowish one being wrestled to the coral is a Pseudoceros dimidiatus.

I wish I was rich and had time to indulge my dilettante fantasies. I’d research this incident until the cows come home and write a scholarly paper to submit to some club of dorky flatworm experts. It would be my fifteen minutes of fame.

I would dig that.

Really.

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Ancient Art Show Material Discovered

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on March 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers may note that my mind wanders more towards the end of the week. This is because I dive on Saturdays and I usually have enough pretty pictures beginning on Sunday which I can intersperse with mind numbing jibber-jabber to fill a page. Heaven knows that I seldom have anything important to say. I do, however, strive to say it with some degree of flair, if not true style. Polish is way beyond me. If I could polish prose, I’d be making a living from it. Prose polishing doesn’t run in my genes. I’m more of an assembler. I’ll screw and glue the chair. It’s someone else’s job to polish it.

Which leads me to . . . well, nothing. So, instead, I’ll concentrate on telling you more about me,  my favourite subject. Write what you know about, eh?

Yonks ago, when I was a young feller in my mid-50s the Madang Country Women’s Association up and did themselves an art show. Being a dilettante artist, I decided to try my luck. It was all for charity, you see. That usually means any fool can pretend to be anything he likes and pretty much get away with it.

If you’re a regular here, you’ve seem my so-called art work. It’s pure fakery – the purest kind. I take pretty pictures and grind them up in a computer and it spits out something that, when printed on paper, might fool bumpkins into thinking that the producer has some sort of talent. That, of course, it the whole point of the excercise.

Not wanting to get caught in a lie, I had to coin a new word to describe my wholesale pimping of digital excretion as art. Thus the novel term “Photostylizations”. I even adopted the Americanisation of inserting “z” in place of “s” to further confuse the issue:

That’s the poster which I prepared to introduce my “work”. That’s more or less how I looked at 50. I’m considerably more handsome now.

One of the “pieces” that has enjoyed the most longevity is this Beach in Christmas Bay  from an image I captured at Bag Bag Island:

It didn’t sell. So it, along with several other of these, is still hanging behind the “Blue Dolphin Bar” at our house to give the place a little class. I’ve also used this one several wedding program covers as a background image.

This is an old favourite of mine. It’s titled Fletch.  It’s based on a photo of Jan Fletcher which I grabbed at Kar Kar Island.  She was free diving down into a fresh water spring just off the coast:All of these were framed and numbered 1/1 meaning that they would never be printed again in the same format. Some people in Madang own 1/1 MadDog originals which will be worth a fortune when I’m dead. I hope that they laugh all the way to the bank.

Here’s a nice little pair of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):And another lone one:

This is a Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides):The common name is obvious. The taxonomic name, not so.

And this, regulars will recognise as a Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus):Above is the mom.

Below is the baby:Cute, eh?

This is a Shadowfin Soldierfish (Myripistis adusta):It does have a bit of the military look. Maybe it’s the chain-mail armor.

This one I titled Piscus Psychedelicus  for obvious reasons. It’s really a Midnight Snapper (Macolor macularis)  with its colours radically modified:The colours on this one came to me in a dream.

Another little fellow who will be familiar to regular readers is the Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus Reticulatus):The title of that one is Size Doesn’t Matter,  one of my favourite phrases.

Just because I could, I threw a gratuitous flower into the show. Straining my imagination, I titled this one White Flowers:The Madang Country Women’s Association apparently never recovered from the Art Show, though it was a financial success. I think that my stuff alone garnered about K500 and I was among possibly twenty genuine artists.

I hope that they do it again someday. My legend needs constant nourishment to stay alive.

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