Start With Fish!

Posted in Under the Sea on January 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Man, I can’t believe that it’s 2010 already. I just got used to writing year numbers beginning with “2”. Now I have to retain my hand to leave out the “00” in the middle. What a bummer! I’ll probably jump ahead and start writing 20010. Hey wasn’t that a “thirties-something” TV series? No, wait, it’s the ZIP code for Washington, DC. See, I’m aimlessly rambling already. I hope that that’s not an omen.

Anyway, let’s start with things that are not  fish. This is not a fish:

As any fool can see, it’s a spider, a very familiar spider, on a yellow flower. I cannot stop taking pictures of these amusing little spiders. They are certainly prolific. On many days there will be one of these little fellows on nearly every blossom. I suspect that it also has a very specialised hunting technique targeted to insects that feed on and pollinate these flowers. It is obviously an ambush predator, as are many spiders. It does not depend on its web, which you can see if you click to enlarge. The web wraps around the central parts of the flower and may or may not take part in the capture. These spiders eat tiny striped-wing flies on which I have often seen them feeding.

And, this also is not  a fish, though the name implies otherwise:

It’s a Starfish (Linckia multifora)  on the old catamaran at the Eel Garden near Pig Island.

And, neither is this a fish. I got this shot to illustrate that everywhere you look in the sea you find the spiral. It’s one of natures’ most common themes:It is, of course, coral. Specifically, it’s Acropora clathrata.  Now you know. Isn’t that a relief?

Now, these are  fish. This rather disorganised mob of Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)  are regrouping after being startled out of their tiny wits my me attempting to get close enough for a picture:They will shortly resume their normal feeding habit of marching above the sand in a line like soldiers policing up cigarette butts.

And, this is also a fish, the Pixy Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus):A very pretty fish it is. These look very much more interesting against a dark, blurred background. You can then better see the delicate structure of its dorsal fin, an exercise in excess detail. You can see what I mean in this post featuring the Dwarf Hawkfish, a closely related species. By the way, this is the red variation of the species. The other variation is less colourful.

So, let’s finish up with everybody’s favourite fish – Nemo:Nemo, a Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  is here with friends and me today to wish you a very happy New Year.

Now I have to start thinking seriously about my New Year’s Resolution.

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Yeah, Man! Give Me That EXTREME Science!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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You may not have been holding your breath, but I’ve been patiently waiting for Steven Goodheart to put up his third blog, Goodheart’s Extreme Science. I can barely keep one journal going. I can’t help wondering if he has a time machine stashed away someplace. I can’t imaging how one could find time for three journals. Anyway, pop over there to wish him luck. Give him a bookmark. People like us need all the breaks we can get. If there are any therapists out there, you might want to have a little chat with him. I think he needs help.

My pathetic little contribution to science (and art, I dare say) comes in the form of these two images that I captured yesterday morning. I’m trying to take the perfect picture of this spider. It’s been featured here before here, here and here:

My favourite Green SpiderI think that I’m getting close. I can’t wait to get my hands on my new Canon G11 when Rich Jones brings it back from Canada for me.

Taking a break from science for a moment, a loving grandad has to show off this image of my granddaughters. I just received it this morning:

My Granddaughters, Audrey and Pippa (left to right) and Jack the dog
That’s Pippa on the left and Audrey Rose on the right. The little critter is Jack the Dog. The biggest bummer in my life is that I get to see them only once every few years.

In this shot of a red-eyed fly I managed to get also another fly and an ant. I hadn’t even noticed the ant:

Red-Eyed Fly and FriendsThe play of light in this shot is very nice. I love shooting in the early morning when the sun is low and the colour of Chardonnay. It gives a warm glow to my images and casts interesting shadows.

To finish off here, I’m filching something directly from Steven Goodheart’s Metta Refuge blog. I found it amusing:



If you can live without caffeine,

If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him or her,

If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,

If you can face the world without lies and deceit,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

If you can honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion, gender preference, or politics,

–Then you have almost reached the same level of spiritual development as your dog!

The sublimely enlightened ShebaI’m feeding you seafood tomorrow. Don’t forget the tartar sauce.

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Spider Day!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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This morning started out with a mind-blowing sunrise. The sun is actually rising up over on the right side of the shot, just to the left of Faded Glory.  However, there was a huge cumulonimbus cloud thumping with lightning flashes over in the northwest. This shot covers nearly 180°. The glow in the cloud is not from the lightning in the thunderstorm, but from the reddish light from the rising sun. This is one of the more unusual sunrises that I’ve seen. It certainly started my day nicely:A mind-blowing sunrise - Nice job, God!
It’s worth a click on the shot above to see it full sized. I even caught a few birds flying around over the harbour.

I had a little walkabout in my garden. Yesterday, I showed you this little green spider hiding from me. Here it is waiting on a flower for a tasty insectoid aviator to land nearby:Little green spider threatening me

It has noticed me fooling around near his territory and attempts a bluff to scare me off.

It didn’t work. I didn’t go away. So, he did one of those, “Hey you! You lookin’ at me? You want trouble? I got yer trouble buddy!”:

Now he's getting very pugnacious
It still didn’t work. I took its picture anyway. The spider was humiliated and retreated to a greener place to sulk in camouflaged silence.

Now this is a spider to be reckoned with. I did no teasing here. I stood back respectfully, flicked my flash on and coaxed in a little telephoto:Big juicy spiderThat is a shot of his underside. Notice the “fake-out stripe”.

Here’s a better shot of the spider sitting in the middle of his metre-wide web. I know little about spiders, but I’m pretty sure that the white webby stuff is what I think of as a “fake-out stripe” I think that it’s supposed to fool insects into thinking that there’s no spider there at all – it’s just a funny looking stick or something – no danger here:Spider with a 'fake out stripe' in its web

Well, that’s enough Araneae  for today. I don’t want to creep anybody out.

I’m tossing in a variation of a sunrise that I did a day or two ago. I like the colours better on this one:A variation on a previous sunriseYou can’t improve  on nature’s beauty, but you can interpret  it.

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A Little Nature Walk in My Garden

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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I like to start off every day with a sunrise. Considering my proclivity for this, I must be the luckiest guy in the world. During most of the year, at least one day out of two will provide fodder for my famished camera. Some days are better than others, but every day is different.  This is part of my thinking time for the day. I usually get fifteen to thirty minutes to contemplate the newness of the day and what it might bring:

Weird orange glow sunrise

Then I have a little walk around my garden to see who’s awake and what they’re doing.

In the same bush in which I found a beautiful green lizard the other day, I spotted this tiny bug hiding under a leaf. The sun was shining through the leaf and making the little fellow glow. I tried to get the shot without flash, but there simply wasn’t enough light:

Some kind of little bug in my bush

The little guy is only about a centimetre long.

Over at the Bird of Paradise plants I found a similar sized spider. It kept trying to move around on the other side of the curled-up leaf to hide, but finally tired of that and submitted to my photographic zeal:

Itsy-bitsy Spider

The shot really appeals to me compositionally. Its simplicity is powerful. Getting one or two shots a day such as this one, which really pleases me, lifts me right off the ground. Photography is a powerful emotional stimulant for me. I must be neurotic. No, wait. Of course  I’m neurotic!

This spider is vainly attempting to hide from me. He nearly pulled it off, except that I saw it moving down from the flower on which it was waiting for a meal. You’ll see more of this little spider tomorrow:

Camoflaged spider trying to hide from me

I’ve featured this lovely green spider before here.

I never know which orchids in the garden are going to bloom next. The blooms last for an incredibly long time compared to most flowers, sometimes for a couple of weeks. I know absolutely nothing about orchids and I’m happy to allow them to be a mystery to me. I overanalyze the underwater world and pretend to be an expert. I think that it’s nice to appreciate some things without knowing everything about them. It leaves room for awe and wonder:

Orchids in my garden

The sun was coming in from the back of these blossoms. I turned my flash on to give a little fill light in the dark areas to punch up the colour. I’m quite happy with the shot.

The best thing about walking around in my garden with my camera is that, if I wake up the next morning, I know that something like this will be waiting for me.

"Blows My Mind" sunrise

Lucky? Blessed?

You choose.

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We’re Not Finished With Nob Nob Mountain

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 3rd, 2009 by MadDog
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I didn’t have enough space a few days ago to show the remaining images from my last trip up Nob Nob Mountain. I’m usually the one assigned to haul visitors up there so that they can have a village experience and look down at the beautiful Madang coastline. Let me tell you, aside from the somewhat scary ride, it certainly beats slaving away in the office. It also never fails to feed my camera some tasty treats.

Here is a view to the west from Guntabag, where my old friend Tagtap lives with his family:

View from Nob Nob Mountain showing gardensThe brownish patches are gardens. Slash and burn agriculture is practiced heavily here because it’s the only way the people can feed themselves. Unfortunately, the population pressure will soon make this method unsustainable. Increased incidences of land slides and severe flooding are a direct result of the disturbance of the thin tropical topsoil by agricultural methods and timber cutting.

Here is a very nasty image of the Madang wharf taken with my Olympus SP-590UZ in the hazy afternoon at least five kilometres away at full (26x) optical zoom:View of Madang Wharf from Nob Nob Mountain with Olympus SP-590UZ (original)

Unless you’re a spook looking for secrets, it’s useless as a photograph. Still, why waste pixels:View of Madang Wharf from Nob Nob Mountain with Olympus SP-590UZ (post-Photoshop)

A few minutes with Photoshop gave me a pretty image.

Here is a scary spider:

Spider at Nob Nob Mountain

The wavy background is a corrugated iron water tank, in case you’re wondering. I enjoy photographing spiders. There are so many different species here that I’ll never run out of new ones. Most of them are fairly large, so I can get very detailed images of them with my cheap cameras. I don’t have to spend a fortune on a DSLR and an expensive macro lens.

You would not think that this image would be difficult to get. That is, until you realise that these are African Tulip tree blossoms and they are growing about twenty to thirty metres up on top of the tree. So, how did I get the shot:

Blossoms on African Tulip tree at Nob Nob Mountain

Well, it wasn’t by climbing up in the tree. I’m not averse to risk to get a shot, but I’m not suicidal. I was standing on top of the mountain shooting down at the top of the tree.

There are all sorts of crazy looking plants here. I don’t know what it is about the tropics that gives plants the idea that they don’t have to be green. Whatever it is, I like it:

Colourful leaf at Nob Nog Mountain

What’s with those colours, eh? Personally, I take it that Someone  has quite a sense of humour.

Speaking of colours, have a look at this outrageous rooster:

A colourful rooster at Nob Nob Mountain

If I were a rooster, I’d want to look like that!  This dude shows his lineage back to the Wild Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)  which is believed to be the direct ancestor of all domestic chickens.

I feel a long bush-walk coming on. I lost both of my big toenails as a result of bad-fitting shoes on the last one. This time I’m going barefoot!

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Spiders, a Hazardous Crab and a Pesky Butterfly

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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Before we start with the creepy-crawlies, I’ll show you sunrise at our house this morning. It was hardly worth the effort. I’m accumulating a ridiculously huge collection of sunrise panoramas captured in our front yard. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do with them. That is, aside from tossing them at you practically every day. It does give me something to do in the morning when I wake up at 05:00 other that think about how our savings have disappeared. More on that another day. There are enough of us in that boat already.

Sunrise this morning

Now that we’ve dispensed today’s sunrise, we can proceed to the juicy bits. This seems to me to be an unreasonably scary spider. It was about half the size of my hand. It was in the middle of a web the size of one of those big, silly exercise balls that you roll around on. I don’t know what it intended to catch in that massive trap, but I was careful that it did not end up being me.

Scary spider

Those black dots are not its eyes, but they do a very spooky imitation. Its legs are improbably long and it appears as if it could club you to death with its hind end. Forget about the fangy bits in the front. I don’t want to think about it.

Now, this one’s not so bad. It’s just one of your regular, run-of-the-mill nasty eight legged horrors. However, check out the size of the beetle that it’s eating:

Spider eating a huge beetle

You’d think that a bug that size would put up some kind of fight, eh? Well, it was too little too late. Sorry, Mr. Beetle. You’re lunch.

This stupid butterfly is still foiling my attempts to get a good shot of him:

Pesky butterfly that eludes my photographyMy previous efforts were knocked back severely by a shot that Trevor Hattersly got. I’ve not forgotten. I’m determined to best him. What really irks me is that we’re both using Olympus SP-590UZ cameras and I am the one who sold him his. It’s really too much. As you can see from the shot above, I’m still well behind. I’m convinced that this is the same butterfly. It’s taunting me.

Okay, if the spiders are getting to be a bit much, let’s move to something a little less (ah, that’s what you think)  scary. Here’s your basic model coconut crab. Yeah, he’s got pincers, but he doesn’t look as if he could do much damage. Maybe get a blister on your little finger – maybe get a blister on your thumb (whoops, I seem to have slipped off into Dire Straits lyrics again – that’s happening far  too often these days):

A very hazardous crab

Let me lay down a firm warning to you. You do not  want to mess with these characters. If it get hold of any bit of you . . . well, if you want to read an amusing personal anecdote on the subject, have a look here.

We can finish up today with this shot of a cargo ship tied up at the main wharf across from our house:

Ship at night in front of our house

I had to work it over severely because of the noise in the shot in the low light. It’s more art than photography now. A few years ago, such an image would have been worthless – just spotty and unclear. Now we can turn throw-aways into something pretty, even if we don’t know what to call it.

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Chaos from the Land of the Unexpected

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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Keeping with the theme of random images from yesterday (it seemed to work), Here is a nice little shot of the mangrove creek up at Blueblood. I came out much better than It expected, which is not unusual when using the Olympus SP-590UZ:
The mangrove creek at BluebloodThis next one looks like a panorama stitch, which would be nearly impossible with this scene. I wanted a very wide angle, so I put the camera down about 3 cm from the water (very carefully) and shot blind, since I could not see the image screen. I took about ten shots like that. This one came out the best. All I had to do then was crop it so that it looks like a panorama. Simple, eh?
Another shot of the Mangrove creek at BluebloodThe Olympus did a terrific job on this one. The sea was quite rough on the way back from Blueblood. I wanted to get the nice colours of the sky, with the dark sea, but I also wanted t get the water splashing up from the bow wake. I decided to try the Night+Portrait setting from the Scenes knob position. It’s meant for shooting pretty lights in the background (with a tripod, most likely, unless you want motion blur) and getting a correct flash exposure on subjects in the foreground. In this shot (the best of ten) I got a good exposure on the sky and water, even while the boat was bucking like a spanked mule, and I also got perfectly exposed and stopped water drops from the wake. Amazing!
Sky, sea, and spray on the way back from BluebloodIt’s too bad that most people don’t seem to read the manuals on these top of the line point and shoot cameras. The will do things that were technically impossible to do only a decade ago.

Here is another shot, though not as good as the last, showing the Night+Portrait mode. I was a little too far from Mike to use the image as it came from the camera, so I had to fiddle with it a bit. Unfortunately, the fiddling is all too obvious:Mike CassellStill, it’s an image that would be difficult to get if you did not have the special settings needed built right into the camera waiting for the touch of a button.

Since I have acquired somehow an obsession with spiders, I’ll throw a couple of the leggy little critters at you. These are both residents of Blueblood. This is Fred: Spider at Blueblood
And this is Ginger showing off by hanging upside-down:
Another Blueblood spiderSpiders. Can’t get enough of them these days. I wonder if it’s a dietary deficiency?

I’ll leave you with my image pick of the week. It’s one of those shots that, when I took it, I didn’t think it was going to be much. Then, as I started to play with it and listen, it began to shout at me. “Hey, look at ME! I should be in National whatchacallit magazine! Gimme a break, man”Yonki dam spillwayHard to ignore pleas such as that. So I fiddled with this shot of the spillway at Yonki Dam with the kids walking home from school. You know what?

I fell in love with it.

Spooky, eh?

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