Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m still wrapping my mind around the idea of getting back to the roots of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  We are up to nearly one thousand posts. That seems impossible to me. If the average post runs 1,000 words* then, if that guess is close to reality, that works out to be about 1,000,000 words of pure drivel which I have produced in a little over three years. The average length of a novel is 60,000 – 100,000 words. In sheer volume, I’ve produced roughly 12.5 novels during that period of time. Just think what I could have accomplished if I had put my mind to it.

I would have joined the sweaty masses who have written “The Next Great Novel” which absolutely nobody wants read, much less publish. In fact, I would have produced a dozen of them. How fortunate it is that I did not waste my time pursuing such a ridiculous dream. I would love to write fiction. The problem with writing is that a great many people do it rather well.

It is the same with acting. All of my life I have had dreams of being an actor. I’ve been in many amateur productions. A few scatterbrains even said that I might posses a smidgeon of talent. And therein lies the rub. A gozillion people can act or write reasonably well, well enough that one can stand to watch them play roles or read with some amusement what they write. However, even those with prodigious talents find success elusive. It requires intricate and complicated connections, fortuitous circumstances, and great magnificent piles of good luck to get a break.

Faithful reader ZydecoDoug commented yesterday that my Green Coral Imperfection shot “belongs on a magazine cover”. Well, I wholeheartedly agree. The problem is how to attract the attention of those holding the purse strings.

Hey, I’m beginning to bore myself. Let’s get on with Miscellanea.

A rather strange definition might be in order. I ripped this from some site at Princeton University:

  • S: (adj) assorted, miscellaneous, mixed, motley, sundry (consisting of a haphazard assortment of different kinds) “an arrangement of assorted spring flowers”; “assorted sizes”; “miscellaneous accessories”; “a mixed program of baroque and contemporary music”; “a motley crew”; “sundry sciences commonly known as social”- I.A.Richards
  • S: (adj) many-sided, multifaceted, miscellaneous, multifarious (having many aspects) “a many-sided subject”; “a multifaceted undertaking”; “multifarious interests”; “the multifarious noise of a great city”; “a miscellaneous crowd”

So, now that we know what it means . . .

I have gotten more and more interested in shooting faces recently. I’m found here and there attempting to get candid shots. It’s very annoying. I caught George up at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago:

I was really going for the lighting here. George has a rather dramatic face. The light here seemed about right to me. When you can’t control anything, you take what you can get and make the best of it. I’d like to do more shooting under controlled conditions, but then you lose the spontaneity and you’re into poses. The little bit of carved post at the far right is a nice touch. I now wish that I’d left more of it in the shot. After a few days you can always pick out the things which you did wrong with an image. It never fails.

Here is a cute little Calcinus minutus,  more commonly known as the  Hermit Crab:

I tried flash in this shot and it ruined it. The light was very dim, but kind to me, nevertheless. The image has a soft, pleasant appeal. Though I wasn’t intentionally composing (that’s difficult when dealing with nature), I ended up with a couple of very important rules being satisfied. One is The Rule of Thirds and the other is Angled Lines. Also, the regularity of the radiating lines in the coral contrasts nicely with the more or less randomness of the patterns in the Hermit Crab.

Here is a shot that I like because it looks as if it is an expensive aquarium in a high-class hotel lobby:

There’s not much to say about it otherwise. It’s just a pretty picture of a swarm of Anthea and a couple of Feather Stars.

Here’s something a little more to the point. It’s a fairly large sponge, about a half-metre across. I am far to lazy to look up the species:

Sponges generally take in water at the bottom, from which they extract food and oxygen, and “exhale” it through the top from an opening called an osculum. Here you can see two of those openings.

They are much more interesting when you get a close look:

Here you can see the intricate, uh, . . . sponginess of the inside of the beastie. Well, it is  a sponge. What else might we expect.

I’ll finish up with another face. This mug belongs to my good friend Trevor Hattersley. It’s a familiar expression for Trev. I call it, Who, me?

Trev looks a lot different these days, compared to a couple of years ago. He let his hair and beard grow. I’ve known him for a long time. I gotta say that this is the first time since I met him that I think that his appearance matches his demeanour.

He’s a natural-born pirate.

* I note now that this post runs 883 words, so my guess may be a little high.

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A New Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on July 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday I took a long overdue holiday from journaling daily. I let my compulsion go and worked on other things. A family portrait session for friends took up most of the morning. I came back and worked on some editing projects in the afternoon, fully intending to read for a while and maybe take a nap. The nap would follow naturally after about fifteen minutes of reading. Neither the reading or the nap eventuated. I ended up working on images for our friend Ush’s article for Niugini Blue  called A New Fish.  Ush came over to the house and we edited her text and Photoshopped images for the article.

One of the images was from Saturday’s dive on The Henry Leith  near Wongat Island.  Here is Ush half-way down in the cargo hold:

I asked Ush to write a short article about her experiences while completing her PADI Open Water Diver course. This course covers all the training and knowledge required to allow one to dive safely down to eighteen metres.

The dive on The Henry Leith  was Ush’s second dive since finishing the course. I was happy to see that she had been well instructed. She did very well on the dive. I did note that she was fascinated by this Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis):

It and a friend are almost always hanging around the bow area of the Henry. They are very shy. I was lucky to get the shot above when the fish was moving from one bit of cover to another.

They are nearly a half-metre long, so it’s impossible to get fine details in one shot. You have to take a picture of the head:

As you can see, it has a very unusual mouth.

Then you shoot the tail:

The tail is just an unusual as the head.

The Henry Leith  is covered with life. This is a large sponge with colonies of coral on each side:

One could probably complete a Doctoral degree by describing the life on this one wreck. I’ve been photographing it for almost twenty-five years and I still find new thing on every dive.

There are some familiar friends, however. This Golden Damsel (Amblyglyphidodon aureus)  has been haning around just aft of the cargo hold for several years:

Every time I stop to photograph it, it tries to bite me, sometimes successfully. The red stain on my fingers is not blood. Blood appears green underwater. The colour comes from touching bits of corroded iron while I steady myself for taking shots.

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Wearing the Captain’s Hat

Posted in Under the Sea on July 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today being Dive Day, I have the usual display of rather boring underwater creatures. I haven’t gotten through all of the shots from today yet. I see some more interesting ones coming up. However, not all of the photographic action was underwater. Ush was back aboard Rich Jones and Pascal Michon’s Sanguma.  Someone passed her the Captain’s Hat and she perched on the stern rail with her now famous shiny red sunglasses. What can one do but take a picture?

Ush is working through her PADI Open Water Course, which means that she will soon be joining us under the sea as well as on top.

Well, I’m playing catch-up today, so the chatter will be minimal. I don’t know what kind of sponge this is, but it is rather pretty, as sponges go:

I’ve been playing with flash intensities for a while. Today I’m showing a few shots where I’m trying to balance flash with natural light. It’s not a big problem when you are near the surface. However, the deeper you go the greater the difference becomes between the spectrum of the light at your depth and the spectrum of the flash, which mimics the sun at the surface. This can create some very difficult colour correction problems. The shot above turned out very natural, according to my colour memory.

This shot of a Feather Star (Comanthina schlegeli)  in the strong current which we had at The Eel Garden near Pig Island  was taken under a ledge, so the flash predominates the lighting causing an unnaturally warm tone which I generally dislike, because it is not the way it appeared to my eyes:

The current does lend a nice sweeping motion to the shot.

Here I caught a Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)  with a couple of Hawkfish in a single coral colony. A lucky shot:

I think that they are Pixy Hawkfish, but I’m too lazy right now to verify that. Who cares anyway? This shot displays a much better balance of flash and natural light.

I’m pretty sure that this is a very young Solitary coral of the species Fungia fungites:

It was only about six or seven centimetres in diameter. The little polyps were vibrating fiercely in the current. I had to take about twenty exposures to get one in which they were not motion blurred. This shot was taken with no flash at all.

This is one of my favourite Sea Squirts (Phallusia julinea):

I just thought about how geeky that sounds. It’s like hearing a grown man, indeed a mature  man, saying “This is my favourite model airplane.” or “This is my favourite miniature toy car.”

Hey, it’s just a hobby.

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Scorpionfish – Fail!

Posted in Under the Sea on June 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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We had a lovely dinner at our house last night with thirteen of us there consuming Eunie’s delicious Midwestern American farm meal. A special guest was there, but I’m not going to keep blasting her name out over the web, because I think that it’s time for her to have a chance to enjoy a bit of privacy. It was a typical Madang dinner party. There was a pile of “happy shoes” at the door, good food, good friends, and good Australian wine. Everybody came to our house by boat, so even the departing was fun. Everybody walks out to the dock, gets into their boats and we all wave bye-bye as if we’ll always see each other tomorrow. And, we usually do.

When I saw the sunrise this morning, the word industrial  popped into my mind:

It seems that I am a compulsive titler – is that a word, someone who titles things? I don’t know. If it isn’t, it should be. Every image has to have a title floating around in my head.

Oh, I can see that I’m boring you. Let’s get to the miserable failure that is the subject of today’s post. This could have been a perfectly good image of a Scorpionfish:

We had just gotten into the water at Planet Rock and I was fussing around making certain that our anchor was not doing any damage and watching divers and counting noses when Richard Jones pointed out this Scorpionfish. It was such a peculiar shape and so well camouflaged that I really wanted to get a good image of it. Sadly, I had time only for a quick snap. Unfortunately,as so often happens, the camera did not focus where I wanted it to. The focus on the rear half of the fish is tolerable, but the head is blurry. Still, it is so odd that it’s worth a look.

I have a lot of trouble figuring out what is a sponge and what is a sea squirt. I was all set to identify this as some kind of sea squirt. Fortunately, I sent the image to my Facebook friend Ana Karinna Carbonini of the Laboratorio de Biología Marina at the Universidad Simón Bolívar. She said that she thinks it is a Sponge, possibly a species of Leuconoide  or Asconoide:

You can take a sip of coffee now while you absorb that. Have a quick glance over your shoulder to see if the boss is lurking about.

At the request of a friend, here are a couple of Anemonefish shots from our dives on Saturday. This is a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)  peeking out from the safety of its host anemone:

I particularly like this shot, because it shows a very typical behavior. Anemonefish will often alternate between dashing about frantically around the anemone, coming up close to you to investigate or even take a nip of your finger and then plunging down within the tentacles to peer out and observe the result of the attack. I get more fun from watching anemonefish than anything else under the water, with the possible exception of some of my dive buddies.

For the Disney fans, here are some genuine Nemo wannabes. The Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)  never fails to live up to its name:

One seems to be shouting at me. By the way, I would call this a failed shot also. Careful examination will reveal that it was a snap shot and I did not take the time to check the focus carefully. Of course, if I had, I would have missed the shout.

Finally, I’ll show you this artsy shot of the beautiful clear view of the reef near Alexishafen late on Sunday afternoon:

We were all peering over the side of Felmara  as we stopped for a swim. The water was crystal clear and the pinkish sunset was alternating with the deep green of the two metres of water under the boat. A little bit of magic.

A little bit of magic is all it takes.

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Above and Below

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on December 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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A few days ago in front of our house the sky was sombre and troubled. The lighting was terrible, but I gave it a go anyway. It took nine frames from left to right stitched together in Photoshop to make this rather strange panorama:Front Yard PanoramaIt does capture the sweep of the sky nicely, but it gives a completely distorted idea of what is in front of our house. If you can imagine looking back over your left shoulder as you stand facing the opposite side of the harbour (in the middle of the image) you would see the coconut trees on the left side of the image. Then, as you turn your head slowly to the right you will have to look hard over your right shoulder to see the coconut trees on the right. The image covers about 200°.

How hard can it be to take a picture of a cloud? Well, as it turns out, it’s not so easy, if you want to capture all of the airy nuances:Cumulus Congestus cloudThis nice towering cumulus cloud (Cumulus congestus) was shooting up like a rocket when I snapped it. The trick is to expose for the brightest spot on the cloud. If you set your camera’s metering system (built-in light meter) to ‘spot metering’ you can put the brightest place in the cloud in the center of the frame and your camera will set that as ‘white’. Then you will either need to press the shutter button part-way down to lock in the exposure or use an “Automatic Exposure Lock” button, if your camrea has one. I also used a polarising filter in front of the lens to darken the sky. I think that the polariser also helps to bring out some of the shady details in the cloud.

Here is a shot of the beautiful reef colours at the South end of Leper Island:South end of Leper Island looking North to Pig IslandI guess that I’m lucky, because green is my favourite colour. There are about a million shades of green here. Green is everywhere!

We’ve been keeping a close eye on Kar Kar Island  since it was mistakenly reported that it erupted violently. It looks pretty peaceful in this shot:Kar Kar Island from Tab AnchorageEarlier this year we did see steam and brownish smoke coming from two vents which appeared to be on the side of the crater.

So much for above. How about below?

While diving The Green Dragon  B-25 bomber a few days ago, there was a small school of Humpnose Bigeye Bream (Monotaxis grandoculis)  swimming around under the port wing. I usually don’t pay much attention to them as they are rather a plain fish. Suddenly I noticed this individual who, apparently, had recently barely escaped with his life from a predator:

Humpnose Bigeye Bream (Monotaxis grandoculis) with injuryThat’s a fairly nasty wound. It appears to have happened recently, but already it seems to be healing inwards from the edges. This reminds me of the wound that our dog, Sheba, had on her foreleg.

Sometimes I come across something that is so unusual that it leaves me scratching my head. This is called an encrusting sponge. There are many kinds; this one is a species of Haliclona:Encrusting Blue Sponge (Haliclona sp.)There are, strangely enough, very few invertebrates in the ocean which are truly blue. Aside from the beautiful blue starfish, this is the brightest blue invertebrate that I can think of.

Finally, here is another head-scratcher. When I looked at this image I was stopped for a moment figuring out what I was looking at:Tail of Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina)Glancing at the frames on either side of it, I suddenly realised that it is the tail of the Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina)  which I showed to you a couple of days ago. Given that this snake is at least 1.5 metres long, this gives you an idea of how deeply they go hunting in the crevices of the reef. You can clearly see the flattened paddle-like tail from which the genus takes its name.

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The Arc-Eye Hawkfish and a Weird Sponge

Posted in Under the Sea on October 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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I pushed the shutter button about a hundred times on Saturday’s dive at Magic Passage. Yesterday, I showed you some shots that took some major work to come alive. Today, it will be a mixed bag, some that came out of the camera requiring little work and some that required a gentle massage.

One thing that I like to do it to get what we call “specimen” shots. These are images that show the characteristics of the species in as much detail as possible and capture the natural colours. If you are looking a good fish reference book, you’ll see the fish exactly as it appears when it’s right in front of your eyes at, say ten metres, where I got the next two shots. I like to do specimen shots, because it tests all my skills at once. It has to show the fish clearly for identification purposes. It has to display the natural colours. Moreover, hopefully, it will be aesthetically pleasing.

Once in a great while, everything works out just right and it’s as easy as falling off a log to get a good specimen shot. This time I was very lucky and got two nice images from different angles of the same individual under the same conditions. Meet the Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus):

Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)

I am very fond of all of the Hawkfishes. We have several species here and they are all very lovely little creatures. I tend to take an anthropocentric view of the “why” of all of the wonderous beauty of nature. It’s that way because I’m here to appreciate it. It’s philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but it satisfies my pragmatic approach to deep thinking.

Here’s the second shot from the front. Isn’t it a splendid critter? If you were a Hawkfish of the opposite gender, you’d fall in love instantly:

Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)

If you haven’t had enough Hawkfishes, you can see more here, here, here, here and here.

Now we go from something strangely pretty to something pretty strange. Believe it or not, this is a metre wide sponge. That’s not huge as sponges go. Some barrel sponges are much larger. This is an overhead shot. All those holes are there so the colonial organisms that make up the sponge can feed and breathe:


Here is what it looks like from the side. This is a rather large specimen, being a little over thirty centemetres high:


I don’t do a lot of diver shots, because I’m usually so busy trying to get that perfect image of some critter that I don’t yet have in my collection. I do like this shot of Amanda and Greg finning along above the edge of the passage:

Greg and Amanda

Here’s a shot of Monty Armstrong getting ready to reboard Faded Glory  after the dive.

Monty Armstrong

I’ve lost a huge percentage of the former diver mob that used to come out on Saturday. There seems to be little interest in diving in Madang these days. I hope that’s not a trend that will continue. Otherwise, I’ll be doing a lot of solo dives on Saturdays.

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