Nightmare From the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on February 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, I am again today trying to get caught up. I can’t really speak, since my voice box seems to have malfunctioned. I got a call from California today, pretty important call, but I had to give up and say I just couldn’t do it. Try again tomorrow. Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with my fingers – yet.

I’ll continue today with a few more shots from last Saturday’s dive at the Eel Garden. Some of the critters you’ve seen before. These are different angles or show different features. For instance, I showed the the ugly mug of the Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis)  yesterday. Care for a game of “find the fish”? It’s not to difficult with this one. It was having trouble matching the leather coral on which it was lurking in wait for a meal:I’d really love to see one of these catching a fish. I’ve read that it’s one of the fastest actions in the animal kingdom. I imagine that all that I would see would be a puff of “dust”, probably accompanied by a loud popping sound.

I don’t often bother with most of the damslefishes. Except for a few, such as the anemonefishes, they’re not particularly pretty. However, I do like this shot of a White-Belly Damselfish (Amblyglyphidodon leucogaster):It’s one of the few shots that I have in which the image actually is prettier than the fish itslef.

You saw these two Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)  yesterday. Here is a shot of them from the side:It’s amazing how often one sees them in pairs.

You have seen a lot of images of these Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites)  here before. This one is unusual because of the white stripes. I can’t find any reference to this differentiating between species, so I’m guessing that it’s some kind of “sport” or mutation that’s not harmful to the individual. Any other guesses out there?It is not an uncommon sight, as is the purple stain that you can see at the top. I’ve seen these bright colours before on these corals.

Butterflyfish are extremely exasperating to photograph. I have very few good shots. This Spot-Tail Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellicaudus)  blasted past me at full throttle and I just pointed the camera and pressed the shutter release:Talk about a lucky shot!

Today’s nightmarish feature is this Sea Cucumber (Bohadschia graeffei):The body extends to the right, where you would find the stinky end, if you cared to look. I don’t want to think about what comes out of there.  The worst part is the end at the left, which is the consuming bit. I wouldn’t use the word “eat” to describe what this thing does. It engulfs, it vacuums, it . . . sucks!  The frilly black things with white edges are constantly reaching out, gluing themselves to anything remotely digestible and then shoving them down the ugly gob of this, this . . . thing.

Fortunately, it doesn’t move very fast.

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Merry Christmas Tree Worm

Posted in Under the Sea on December 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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Let me begin today’s mashup of disorganised visual and verbal clutter by wishing myself a happy birthday. This has, indeed, been an interesting year. Having lived through my 66th year, I now embark on my 67th. In the past year, as a result of a New Year’s Resolution,  I have banished foul language from my daily speech (almost  completely), made an unexpected trip to North America without busting the bank and begun to reverse the devastating financial situation at Casa MadDog.

So many blessings . . .  And now, it’s almost Christmas, a time of year that inevitably depresses me. So many reasons . . . No snow or cold weather (which would probably kill me anyway) Don’t get to see my son and his family, my beautiful, smart granddaughters. Never mind. I’m not going to whine on my birthday. Eunie will bake me a pineapple upside-down cake tomorrow, a family tradition. I’ll eat the whole thing. It will take me about two or three weeks, according to how rapidly my spare tire inflates.

And now for your daily Christmas Tree. Here is a cute little mob of them:

If you move your hand over these they will disappear down their hidy-holes in an instant. No, I’m not guaranteeing that it will happen on your computer screen. Hey, I could do that with a mouse-over. I wish I had time to try it. First I’d have to have the exact same shot with the worms retracted. Never mind. I didn’t think of that while I was under the water.

Here is the star Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)  for today:I like the little magenta stars on top.

Here is another “what I actually saw” shot. The murky water at Barracuda Point  last Saturday lends a spooky effect to this shot of Divaricate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  with Carol Dover in the background checking out some Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena jello):It’s not pretty, but it’s what I saw.

Here is something that has puzzled me for some time. We often see these Solitary Corals, sometimes called Mushroom Corals, with damaged edges and colourful stains. This one is a deep form, that is it grows in deeper water, of Fungia fungites:If anybody out there knows anything about this, please enlighten me.

The contortionist of starfish is Choriaster granulatus  or, as we sometimes call it, the Dirty Starfish. I’ll let you wonder why:Another common name for this one is the Granulated Starfish. I don’t know how they manage to squeeze themselves into such awkward positions. This one looks as if it is trapped under a coral ledge.

Sticking with water, but on the surface now, here is yet another water drop image:

My fascination with water drops is boundless.

I wonder what that means?

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Nudibranchs, Solitary Coral and Whatnot

Posted in Under the Sea on August 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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Oh, it’s Sunday morning and here I am at the office posting because Telikom can’t manage a telephone line four kilometres from the exchange that will pass a data signal. They just keep feeding me the same old lies and empty promises.

I went diving on the big reef just west of Kranket Island yesterday. I didn’t see anything exciting. One wouldn’t expect much inside the barrier reef, but it was too rough outside to anchor. The swell was running about a metre with white horses everywhere.

I do like this shot of a few Humbugs (the black and white fish) and some very pretty cyan coloured fish which I’m far too lazy to look up in my book this morning:

Little cyan fishes

There was an exceptionally brave Reef Lizardfish who allowed me much closer that can usually get. I don’t know how many time’s I’ve tripped the shutter on one of these and got only a puff of dust in the frame for my trouble:

A Reef Lizardfish

Nudibranchs were scarce, but I did manage to find a couple of them. This black variety is presents a genuine challenge to get a good exposure:

Nudibranch

The contrast between the black and white is greater than most cameras can handle. It takes some careful fiddling with Photoshop to get it right.

This was, by far, the best shot of the day:

Nudibranch

I’m getting too lazy to look up the taxonomic names of these. That’s a bad sign. I need someone to whip me into shape and get me moving again.

This, believe it or not, is an oyster:

Oyster

Like giant clams, they have light-sensing organs around the edges of the mantle. If you move your hand over it, it will close up and eject a puff of water strong enough to feel it on your hand.

Hmm . . . I got to the end of the post and nearly for the the Solitary Coral and Whatnot part.  At Kranket Lagoon, I wondered how it would be if I took a picture of nothing. Well, not nothing, exactly, just pointing my camera down at the bottom and snapping whatever was there. It turned out to be much more interesting than I thought it would be:

Solitary coral and whatnot

This is a typical bottom in a coral rich area. The predominant shapes are disk-like solitary corals, or mushroom corals, as they are called by some. They are called solitary because they do not attach to anything.

I often see these flipped over upside-down. The coral will die in this position, because it needs the sun’s energy to fuel the algae that live symbiotically with it and provide part of its food. I’m not sure how that they get flipped over. I suppose that some kinds of fish might feed by flipping things over to see if there is anything tasty underneath. I’ve certainly seen Triggerfish do this. Whenever I see a mushroom coral upside down, I turn it back over right-side up, so that it can carry on with its solitary life.

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Underwater Eye Candy – the Canon G10 Again

Posted in Under the Sea on July 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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The fun just keeps on rolling with the new Canon G10 and it’s buddy, the WP-DC28 underwater housing. Certain types of shots seem to come out better, and I’m at a loss to find a technical explanation. All I can say is, “It just works.”

Here’s an example:

Sea Squirts (Oxycorynia fascicularis)

The above are a kind of Sea Squirt, specifically, Oxycorynia fascicularis,  as if you care. I’m sure that somebody cares, but he or she is probably not reading this. In the past, when I’d try photographing these, the green sea squirts would come out very flat looking and lifeless and no amount of post-processing with Photoshop would revive them. Now they seem more lifelike. I’ve had this same problem with certain flowers which are very monochromatic – one colour, and very saturated. The only thing that I can imagine is that the G10 has more dynamic range for each colour in the middle range of luminosity.

This starfish (Fromia milleporella)  is a good example:

Starfish (Fromia milleporella)

The gradations in the red shade spectrum are much more discernible than I’ve been able to get before.

Okay, enough technobabble. It’s probably just magic, anyway. Here is another example. The polyps on this solitary coral (Heliofungia actiniformis)  are much clearer and more three dimensional than I’ve been able to achieve before:

Solitary coral polyps (Heliofungia actiniformis)

Clicking any of the above will give more detail. I wish I could provide higher resolution shots for you to view. My standard size is 1600 pixels maximum dimension, but when I have to compress the files to get them down to around 200K a lot of detail is swallowed up by the JPG compression, so the enlarged versions don’t look nearly as good as my originals. If you ever want high-res versions, just email me and I’ll put them up or make them available to you.  Maybe someday, I’ll start a high-res page where I can put my best shots.

This is an example of a shot where no amount of camera foolery will improve the view:

Decorated Goby [possible] (Istigobius decoratus)

It is, I think, a Decorated Goby (Istigobius decoratus).  There are more Goby species than just about any other fish. My book only has about 200, a fraction of the total number. You can’t do anything to make it more visible because it’s supposed to be nearly invisible.  Taking shots of highly camouflaged critters is always a losing proposition.

Getting back to easy, reliable shots, the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)  never disappoints:

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

The shot above, taken with flash, required almost no post-processing. It was a little on the green side, so I corrected for that and cleaned up the backscatter from the flash. Other than that, it is pretty much the way in came from the camera.

This shot of a Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)  on the attack is a different story:

Clark's Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)

The water was full of particulate matter, which I had to clean up. It was also very aqua coloured instead of blue. That’s probably a problem with white balance. Since I’m shooting in the RAW mode, I don’t have any. That’s why it’s a problem. In this case, there was quite a bit of work to do on the colours. You can see some fakey traces of it in the fins of the fish.

It’s not perfect, but It makes me grin anyway.

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