Of Ships and Mushrooms

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sleep still flees from me. I tire of chasing it. Maybe that’s the problem, that I’m chasing it. It had been my habit for a long time to shoot for eight hours. I seem to remember reading somewhere that as we age, we require less sleep. Maybe I don’t need eight hours. At any rate, I’m certainly not getting them. Except for a couple of nights when the events of the day relieved some of my stress, I seem to be averaging four or five hours in fitful episodes of no more that a couple hours at a time. Honestly, it’s exhausting.

I’ve received no small number of suggestions, none of which seems to help. Drugs are out, since I’ve decided that the “no substances” route is the safest way for me to get though this minefield. I don’t think that there is a magic bullet. I can but hope that as I heal and shake off this mantle of depression that is hindering my progress, some acceptable level of sleep will return.

Anyway, let me give myself a break from my constant whining and show you some pretty pictures of fungi. My friend from Hamilton, Ontario, Ron Barrons sent these two images a couple of days ago. He shot them last weekend on one of his regular outings into the wonderful countryside around the Niagara Escarpment:

Ron says that he likes shooting mushrooms because their growth patterns are interesting and they pose so nicely. I couldn’t agree more.

I am looking forward to visiting Hamilton again next year. I’ll be able see my son, Hans, and his family and my friends Ron and Brenda. Ron and I will take some long walks in the woods and try to outdo each other with our cameras. Here is a big mama mushroom and her babies on a fallen Birch tree:

There is no such thing as a “dead” tree in these woods. After they fall they begin a new life which takes them back to their origin.

I was always so happy with Our House. It’s big and roomy, plenty of room for parties. There is a dining room table which seats twelve. Now it seems somehow too big, too unrelentingly spacious. I’m rattling around in here like a forgotten marble in a boxcar. As I walked around the house last night wondering if I’d ever actually go to sleep instead of just feeling stupefyingly sleepy, a ship across the harbour caught my eye through the open door.  “Hey, I can make that interesting!”, I thought. Actually, I said it out loud. I’ve been talking to the walls a lot lately. Is that a bad sign?

I complained to a friend recently (something else I’ve been doing far to much of) that none of the things in life which used to give me joy are producing any these days. No joy. What to do. She said, “Pretend.” (she did elaborate on that) I thanked her and said that I would give it a try. It’s just crazy enough that it might possibly work. So, deciding to experiment, I grabbed my camera and tried to focus my mind on deriving some good vibes from the experience as I focused my G11 on the image. Hmmm . . . the image is ever so slightly blurry, but I did get a little tickle of satisfaction from getting just the shot that I had envisioned.

So, deciding that this pretending thing is worth pursuing, I went for a slightly more “arty” shot:

It’s not going to be hanging on any gallery walls, but it shouts at me nevertheless. It’s deafening. If fact, there are so many messages in this image that I could run on about it until you beg me to stop. It is the Vogon Poetry of pictures. I’ll let you puzzle it out for yourself.

In the meantime, I’m going to practice pretending. Maybe if I pretend enough, it might begin to feel real.

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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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Night Ships

Posted in Under the Sea on March 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Mmmm . . . stepped out of the front door last night to let Sheba out for a little swim – she likes to skinny dip in the dark – and the lights on the ships across the harbour simply stunned me. Had to trot back inside to get my G11.

I set everything to manual and cranked the ISO up to 800 and got this telephoto shot by bracing the camera against a coconut tree:

What an amazing gadget it is. If I were the Oprah Winfrey of photographers, I’d just give them away to everybody and say, “Go forth and photograph!” We would be so busy having fun that there would be no time for wars. Of course, the world economy would grind to a halt. Hey, wait! That happened already. Never mind.

I backed off the telephoto a little and got this nice little panorama:I’m not feeling too wordy today. I think I may have blown a fuse or something yesterday. Maybe it’s the Aliens influencing me to cool it.

Going back to the images from my dive with Monty Armstrong on The Lady Anne  I found one that I’d forgotten to massage. It’s a kind of Sea Squirt that grows profusely in the rich (read full of sewerage) waters of the inner harbour:Its formal name is Rhopalaea circulata.  I’m actually quite happy with the image, considering that the water was filthy. It marks the first time that I’ve posted an image of a species that is clearly better than anything that I could find on the web (not that a better one doesn’t exist somewhere). Yeah, I’m feeling a bit smug about that. Hey, I work hard at this. Even geeks should get to win once in a while.

This little Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri)  also makes me smile:It gave me every opportunity to capture a good image. If there is any fault for imperfection, it’s the photographer’s. I wish every fish posed so nicely.

Well, I’m running out of words. Some days I feel like I could write all day. Sometimes I do, for magazine articles. Other days, it just doesn’t flow. However, I can’t leave without showing you one more shot of the amazing Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  that inspired my bizarre “Aliens” post of yesterday.I had a dream this morning about these critters. Very amusing.

Ursula Andress was in it too.

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Local Newspaper Moves Washington DC to Colombia

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on October 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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This gigantic purple sunrise greeted me this morning. I’ve uploaded a 2400 pixel wide image of it. Click to enlarge and do a “save image as”. Then print it out big enough to stretch completely around your head with a little overlap. Then laminate it. (the lamination can be skipped if you are not worried about durability) Now have someone help you to wrap it around your head and tape the ends together in the back. You will have an amusing hat:Giant Purple SunriseIf there is anybody out there crazy enough to actually do this, please, oh please send us a picture. I promise to post it on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. Here’s your big chance to become famous. All of your friends will envy you.

The meat and potatoes of today’s post is, of course, the brash move by one of our much-beloved local newspapers* to relocate Washington DC to Colombia**. If you don’t believe me, read this:

Local Newspaper Moves Washington DC to Columbia

In case you are too lazy to read all of it, I’ll quote the salient passage:

Mr. Taylor, who is a native of the district of Colombia in South America, said during a press conference yesterday at the US Embassy in Port Moresby that he was delighted to be in PNG.

Well, no doubt Mr. Taylor is delighted to be in PNG (who wouldn’t be?) However the rest of it raises a couple of amusing queries in my mind. Has the capital of the U. S. of A. actually been removed to Colombia in South America? Or, though more likely, but still highly doubtful, is Mr. Taylor a native of some place in South America called the District of Colombia?

Or, my mischievous mind suggests, is our newspaper simply getting it wrong. I’d hate to think that, since our local newspapers, bless their hearts, have always followed the journalistic profession’s local motto, “All the news that fit to smoke.” (if you’re not a local, you probably won’t get that – never mind)

Here’s  another morning’s sunrise:

Orange Sherbert Sunrise

And yet another shot of the now famous orange lilies:

Orange lilies

Last Sunday, when we came back from Blueblood, I got this shot of a ship tied up at the wharf across from our house:Night Ship

It’s not terribly exciting. So, I exercised my favourite Photoshop artistic filter – Watercolour – and produced this mess:Night Ship Watercolour

Hmmmm . . . still not very exciting.

Tomorrow’s another day.

* I could name the newspaper, but that would be a cheap shot.

** Thanks to reader “werdna” for pointing out that I misspelled the name of the country Colombia as Columbia in my original post. Ironic, eh?

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Ooooo, Yummy Tube Worms for Breakfast

Posted in Under the Sea on October 26th, 2009 by MadDog
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I woke up feeling faintly queasy this morning. Maybe a little too much partying yesterday? Who knows; there are so many bugs here that you could get sick every day of your life with a different one – no repeats! I’ll play the trickster this morning and offer you a breakfast of Tube Worms, specifically, Sabellastarte sanctijosephi: Tube Worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)I don’t know if it is named after St. Joseph (surely there is more than one St. Joseph – hmmm . . . seems there might be five  others) or some person whose surname was Saintjoseph.

Here’s another shot showing the beautiful double-bowl shape of these critters:

Tube Worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)All of these images have excellent detail. Click to enlarge so that you can see the fine, featheryness of the ‘arms’.

Here is another example:

Tube Worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)They are filter feeders, grabbing tasty bits from the water and conducting them down the pipe. In the shot above you can clearly see the tube in which the animal lives. Only the feathery feeding apparatus is exposed. If in the least disturbed, the feathers disappear into the tube faster than you can see.

Premnas biaculeatus,  the Spinecheek Anemonefish is getting to be a regular sight here:

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)That’s because I’m seeking to capture the definitive specimen shot of this beauty. My theory is that, if I take enough pictures of it, eventually I will have taken the most perfect image of it ever captured. This asssumes, of course, that I’m going to live long enough to manage that trick.

Okay, one more shot for today. This is another frame of a series of a ship coming in to Astrolabe Bay  in the morning sun. I showed you a gloomy image from the series yesterday. Here’s a slightly less gloomy shot:

Sunrise and ShipThe ship look so insignificant on the vast sea. That’s what I was going for in this shot. It’s welcomed safely into port by the rays of the morning sun.

Hmmm . . . waxing rather too poetic this morning.

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Coral All Around

Posted in Under the Sea on October 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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On a dive at a healthy reef, what dominates your view? Well, it’s not fish, let me tell you. It’s coral. Just because it doesn’t move or have garishly bright colours doesn’t mean that it’s not interesting. I’ve had some emails from people who keep live coral in their saltwater tanks. We tried this a few times here with our tanks, but quickly found that it is very risky business. Corals are more difficult to keep alive. If a few polyps die, your entire tank will be dead the next morning.

Still, I like to photograph corals. It’s fun to look for the most representative specimens. What’s more fun is to look for the weird ones.

Here’s what I would call a specimen shot of a Coral (Acropora robusta): 

Coral (Acropora robusta)

As you can see, I’m not going for dazzling beauty or perfect composition. My goal is to show a typical specimen in a typical habitat using my very best efforts to show it as it actually appears to a diver so that other divers and collectors can easily and positively identify the species. That assumes, of course, that I myself have correctly identified it. That’s where the rub comes in and that’s why I’m hoping to get some feedback from readers. I’m 90% positive of the identification of the robusta  above, but the next few are, to one degree or another, doubtful.

Here is a close up of a Favites  species that I can’t identify positively. If reptilian aliens landed on our planet, I imagine that their skin would look like this:

Coral - Alien Skin (Favites sp.) You’ve seen this pattern before here.

I find this one quite pretty, though I’m not positive of the identification? I’m pretty sure,  but not really sure.  How’s that for a scientific identification. Sounds like something a doctor would tell you. I guess it depends on what is wrong with you. If it seems to be not-so-bad, you want really sure.  If it might be fatal, you’ll hope for only pretty sure.  (maybe  would be better or probably not  would be best)

Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii [young_stage])

Anyway, I’m identifying it as Coral (sure about that), Lobophyllia hemprichii  [young_stage].

This specimen is even prettier, but I’m even less sure about the identification. I think  it might  be a young stage of Pectinia lactuca,  but please don’t quote me on that:Coral (Pectinia lactuca [young stage ?]) [doubtful]

Actually, it looks like a fancy bow tie to me.

All of the shots above look very nice when you click to enlarge them. I’m getting beautiful shots from my Canon G10. I wish I had some extra bread to buy a new G11 with the factory housing. I’ve recommended that combination to several correspondents and I’m hoping to get some images from them soon to show to you.

Let’s step back from the bright colours for a minute for something a little more sombre:

Dull Sky and ShipI nearly deleted this image.

I’m glad that I didn’t.

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A Steamy Jungle and Guests Steven Goodheart & Pascal Michon

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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I have an image of my own today, but I’d first like to show you some images of friends who have responded to my pleas for treasure.

The first two come from Facebook friend and regular correspondent on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  Steven Goodheart of Berkeley, California. Steven is a science writer. Since he was formerly an editor for a large textbook publisher, he has a vast storehouse of information concerning where to find what, something that has already helped me to provide more interesting and accurate information.

The first shot really grabs me. I’d call the composition excellent. It makes good use of the Rule of Thirds. The smaller, gnarly tree and its shadow pierce the space and take it over like Atilla the Hun:

Berkeley Nature Walk by Steven GoodheartThat one is a calendar shot if I ever saw one. Some images remind me of others. This one recalls an image that I showed you from Central Park in New York City.

Stepping from grandeur to minutia, here is a huge mob of my favourite insect, the Lady Bug:Lady Bugs by Steven Goodheart

I have no idea why Lady Bugs do this. Steven said it was immediately following a heavy rain. Thanks, Steven, for these shots. Keep them coming. I’ve shown you some Lady Bugs here and here.

My friend and dive buddy, Dr. Pascal Michon (our naughty resident Frenchman) sent me an image of this very nice little project he did for his nephew who was inquiring of his uncle about Hermit Crabs. It was clever of Pascal to use the images from my journal:

Bernard L'ermite by Pascal Michon

I can’t read much of it, but it tickles me, nonetheless. People often ask me about using my images. If you look at the bottom of the journal you will see that everything is covered by a Creative Commons copyright. The terms of the copyright allow free use of any text or images as long as you state clearly that it came from me. I prefer my attribution to be my email address, but my name will suffice. The only restriction is that, if you want to use it in any way that could be considered commercial, you have to ask my permission. I usually don’t ask for payment, but I always ask for the end product, for instance, a book, t-shirt, URL of a website and so forth.

I was disappointed by this image when I first saw it on the screen. It wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. So, I spent a half hour or so ‘artifying’ it:

Steamy Jungle and Ship

I’m calling it Steamy Jungle and Ship.

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