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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Weird Sea Creatures and Vapid Poetry

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on July 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today, I am using the “Underwater Pictures Ruse” to inflict upon you the earthly equivalent of Vogon Poetry.  This literary genre has an amusing history. First revealed to us Terrans in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,  it is said to be the third worst poetry in the Universe. The description from the Guide  goes thus:

“Vogon poetry is the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent, of his poem,  Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning,  four of his audience members died of internal hemorrhaging, and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off… The very worst poetry in the universe died along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex… in the destruction of the planet Earth.”

A brief example is also given:

“Oh freddled gruntbuggly/thy micturations are to me/As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes. And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!”

It reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky,  except that it is infinitely more painful. You need not worry. My humble offering is unlikely to cause you any permanent harm. A faithful reader, Facebook Friend and fellow web journalist Steven Goodheart (yes, that is his real name) has been nagging and nagging for me to publish some of my poetry (Okay, he asked me about it once, “You write poetry?”), so I have a plausible excuse for my coming out.

First, let me prepare you for the shock by lulling you into a peaceful reverie with calming images of marine life:

That’s a nice little fan coral on the catamaran at The Eel Garden near Pig Island.

Here’s another, fancier bit:

I’ve been fiddling with creating a dark background.  Getting the colour right is a bit fussy.

Here’s a little better job with this Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia):

There. That’s better.

Feeling all nice and calm now? A little sleepy, eh? That’s good. Blank your mind now and prepare for Star Drifters:

If your mind wasn’t blank before, it certainly is now. This presumes that you discovered that you have to click on it to actually read it. Yes, there is writing there. In fact, it is designed just the right size so that you can print it onto one of those t-shirt thingies which use to transfer an image onto cloth using an iron. Don’t burn yourself. For pity’s sake, don’t make a t-shirt from it. People will think you are nuts. I suggest a cotton tea towel which is ready for the trash. After being embossed by Star Drifters,  you can use it to clean up messes in the bathroom.

Now, for your comfort and safety I need to ease you back into the world of what passes for sanity on this planet. I’ll show you a rare and splendid thing.

During over 2,000 dives I have never before seen a juvenile Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis):

Amazing, eh?

See, you never know when to take me seriously. I love that.

Seriously, when I first saw this little one, only about eight centimetres long, I thought it was some newfangled sort of pipefish. Then I noticed the very distinctive mouth:

There is no doubt that this is a juvenile Trumpetfish. What tickles me most is that I am almost positive  that you have never seen one. Of course, you had never read Star Drifters  either. Two shocks in one post. My, my.

I’ll leave you to recover with this peaceful image of a Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)  and some cute little Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

Yes, those are Nemo’s cousins.

Peace, baby.

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Planet Rock – Move Along People, Nothing To See Here

Posted in Under the Sea on March 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I may as well continue feeding you a steady diet of fish for a couple of more days, at least until I run out of images from our dive on Planet Rock  yesterday. Richard Jones, (A. K. A. “Eagle Eyes”) has been spotting for me. It’s like having an experienced tracker along on a safari. We’re not shooting big game, but I bet Rich could spot a lion’s ears peeking above the savanna grass at 200 metres.

Here’s Rich doing his thing:Not a single nook or cranny escapes his attention.

However, while Rich is poking around looking for treasure, I’m usually takin’ in the scene, man. When you first start diving you’re looking for the big, flashy stuff. After the shine wears off you can begin to appreciate the simple beauty of a starfish:It looks as if it’s strolling along the bottom, which, in fact, it is – though very slowly. I admire the starfish’s lack of urgency. When you pass, there’s always a little whisper, “Hey, man. Stay cool.”

You look for the odd juxtapositions. There’s no shortage of them. Here two species of Solitary Coral seem to be cuddling:Nobody told them that it’s wrong. It’s blissful ignorance. Life is simple in the sea. You only have three things to think about. You eat. You reproduce. You are eventually eaten or otherwise return to Mama Ocean’s storehouse of building materials.

You can never swim far without encountering a bit of magic. Here little jewels of amber hover over a plate coral.They are Reticulated Dascyllus,  but that matters not a bit when the magic overcomes you. Everything is alive and a part of the whole. Identity merges into the gestalt.  Are the Dascullus Reticulatus  and the coral inseparable – needful of one another? Technically, no. However, the sense that you get is that it is all meant to fit together just as it is. Everything is copacetic.

Here and there passes a Unicorn . . . no, not really. Nevertheless, what it is is no less magical:A Trumpetfish hurries to escape the camera. It’s no less a beautiful mystery if you call it Aulostomus chinensis.  The background blurs and the camera strains to follow the motion. The photographer feels a part of the daily life of the reef. I think of the Don Knotts movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.  I feel somehow more peaceful and accepted as a fish. I move like a fish, through a three dimensional world. My breathing slows and my body relaxes. I’m in the sea. I’m of  the sea. I am home.

And she rewards me for my admiration, respect and love. She sparkles for me:The sweet Anthea  gather round me and frolic. I join their dance and music rushes through me.

We must protect our mother. If she dies, we shall all perish with her.

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Undersea Bits and Bobs

Posted in Under the Sea on January 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Don’t ask me why, but I think of nudibranchs as the furry little bunny rabbits of the sea. They’re not furry. They don’t breathe air. They have no legs. They do sometimes, however, have what may appear to be ears, but are not. Here’s a little funny-bunny Nudibranch (Phyllidiella pustulosa)  for you:As you may have surmised, I’m a bit mentally frazzled today. I have a tentative job to run someone out to Bag Bag Island  in two days and it has me a bit disconcerted, as I usually have more time to plan a trip like that. It’s only about 120 kliks round trip, including a fudge factor for finding the spot where the guy wants to be, but it’s wild country and if you have problems, you’re in for a long, long stay. There are no regular boat runs out there, so the money is good. I can’t afford to pass it up, but I’m not like the fishermen with big boats who tootle out to Bag Bag on a lark. I’ve got to get my act together tomorrow and be ready to go at 06:00 the next day. I need to get used to this kind of work, because there will be a lot of it in our future.

Here’s another P. pustulosa  (I hate that name – it’s so . . . indelicate) for you:

The one in the shot above is a fairly small specimen. Most of those that we notice are three or four times as large. It was crawling on a bit if stuff that wasn’t attached to anything. That’s why I picked it up to show to you. We don’t normally bother the critters unless there’s sufficient reason and a genuine purpose (the reason being that I wanted to show you the size and the purpose was that picking it up was the most interesting way to do it).

This Nudibranch (Fryeria menindie)  is even less bunny-like, but it does have a couple of yellow ear-like appendages:I could not get myself around to shoot this one sraight from the side without scrunching my face up against the coral, which would have induced an itchy rash oozing stuff that you don’t want to hear about and lasting for weeks. Therefore, its front end and back end are slightly out of focus. These are the travails of an underwater photographer. I like to dwell on the minor irritations of life. I do this so that the big ones can’t take up all of my precious moaning time.

I’m a little puffed up about this image. These Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis)  are difficult to shoot:I managed to fire one off at this fine specimen just as he was attempting to scurry from one completely ineffective hiding position to another. Of course, they can’t really hide. They just like to imagine that they are invisible. All that they require is a few sprigs of sea fan or coral to make them believe that they have disappeared. I can still see them, of course, but the shot is ruined. It’s rare to get a good side shot such as this of one which is not obscured by something.

I include this shot simply because it’s a good example of “what I see when I’m diving”:It’s a little mob of female Purple Anthea (Psudanthias tuka)  hovering over a lovely coral formation which I think is Turbinaria reniformis.  It does make a pretty scene. I got that shot at Barracuda Point.

Returning home on Saturday, I stopped right in front of our house and took this shot to the South showing the big wood chip loading equipment at JANT (Japan and New Guinea Timber). They grind up trees to make paper:That’s the Finisterre Mountains  in the background. You can also see the Lutheran Shipping Engineering Yard on the far shore.

I seem to have nothing witty to wrap it up.

Happy Australia Day.

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The Henry Leith – A Ghost Ship

Posted in Under the Sea on November 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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On Saturday, we motored up to Wongat Island  in our dive boat, Faded Glory.  There are two world-class dives there within a couple of hundred metres of each other. One is the B-25 Mitchell bomber, The Green Dragon.  The other is a scuttled cargo vessel, The Henry Leith.  Bob Halstead bought the wreck for K1.00 and sank it as a diving attraction. It’s beautifully preserved. I believe that a clever student could probably work up a Doctoral thesis in Marine Biology without ever leaving the thirty-four metre length of this beautiful ghost ship.

I have been stalking a critter for a good specimen shot for about ten years. It is very elusive and quite rare. Near Madang, The Henry Leith  is the only place that I can guarantee  that you might  see one. For now, I’ll call it the “Mystery Fish.” That’s because I want to see if anybody is paying attention. The first person to leave a comment with the correct common and taxonomic name of this fish, based only on this partial view, wins a prize. The prize is that you get to be first:

Mystery Fish - Leave a comment if you know what it is.Yes, I’m cheap. What did you expect, a Rolex?

In the next couple of days, I’ll be showing you the shots that I’ve been trying to get for over ten years.

Here’s another difficult fish to photograph. It’s commonly known as a Trumpet Fish, but you can call it Aulostomus chinensis  if you like:Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis)They constantly try to hide from you in very curious ways. They assume odd positions. I was upside down with salt water gushing into my sinus cavities, nearly dying to sneeze, when I got this shot. UW photographers have to take risks for their prizes. You can see the railing of The Henry Leith  upside down at an odd angle. Possibly predators have difficulty matching memory-stored food images up with objects in the water if they are in unexpected configurations. That’s my utterly unscientific guess.

This is a lovely, snowflaky, starry coral which I am pretty sure is the Pipe Organ Coral (Tubipora musica). For once the taxonomic name makes sense, if you remember your High School Latin (yes, I am  that old):Pipe Organ Coral (Tubipora musica) [uncertain]I said that I’m pretty sure about the identification. There are quite a few corals that have a similar appearance. I forgot to look at the base of this one, so I’m thinking it may possibly be some Anthelia  species, which are very variable.

And now, would you care to venture a guess as to what this is? I bet that most people would be able to identify this as the eyes of a stingray which is hiding just beneath the sand.  This is why they are troublesome to divers. You often cannot see it easily until you have already frightened it and it escapes. That’s when the stinger is most likely to get you.Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii)As I approached this one he began to rise up slowly in preparation for flight:Blue-Spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii)A second after this shot, there was nothing left in the camera frame but swirling sand.

SITE NOTES: I’m hoping that you will find that Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  is loading much faster. I’ve reduced the eqo-stroking clutter in the side bar – the locations of our visitors and a visitor live feed. I’ve also dumped a few plugins that made calls to third-party sites and slowed things down. There are now seven pages on HOME instead of fifteen. I hope that this improves the experience for everyone. I’m also not bothering to link to every phrase or word on which I have posted before. I know that I’m supposed to do that to keep people from drifting off to some other site. However, for dedicated readers wanting to see what else I’ve written before on a given subject, use the Search box, or click on the title of the post that you want to read and you will get a “single” page with that post and up to seven related posts listed beneath. Remember also that you can “Click a Tag” in the sidebar to see all posts to which I have added that tag.

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Images That Were Nearly Discarded – Bad Fish

Posted in Photography Tricks, Under the Sea on October 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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If you are a long-time reader, you know that I am loath to throw an image away. If I go to all the trouble to get out on the boat, put on all that gear (which is becomming steadily more burdensome year-by-by-year), and fin around for an hour or so snapping pictures of anything that moves and much that doesn’t, then I reckon that even a less than technically acceptable shot deserves a few minutes to see if it can be revived.

I give a poor, but promising image ten minutes. If it still doesn’t amuse me, then I let it go back into the black hole of the tens of thousands of images that I’ll probably never touch again. Here’s a good example. These are Pickhandle Barracuds (Sphyraena qenie)  at about thirty metres on the bottom of Magic Passage:

Pickhandle Barracuda (Sphyraena genie)

The water was fairly clear, but it was dark there, so I had to make up much of the colour from memory. Since I hate the flashy thing, the deeper I go, the more I have to make up. It ends up being less a photograph and more a funky bit of art.

Here is a mob of Spotted Garden Eels (Heteroconger hassi)  at about thirty-five metres, right at the mouth of the passage. It’s nearly monochrome, but you do get the impression of the wavy critters swaying in the current nabbing tasty bits as they float past:

Spotted Garden Eels (Heteroconger hassi)

You probably know by now that the sub-adult Silver Sweetlips (Diagramma pictum)  is one of my favourites. They were born to pose. I sanpped this shot as a throw-away, because the current was quite strong and I was kicking like a mad man to reach the mouth of the passage. When I looked at the shot on the computer, my compassion overflowed and I spent a while massaging it. That seems to have breathed some life back into it:

Silver Sweetlips [sub-adult] (Diagramma pictum)

While we’re on Sweetlips, I’ll toss out a couple of others. This is the Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus),  a sub-adult. The adults have many more horizontal bands much closer together. It would be a perfectly good shot, if I hadn’t amputated part of its tail:

Oriental Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus vittatus)

I did seriously consider skipping this next one, because it was so horrible that I didn’t think I could make anything of it. This is a bit rarer type of Sweetlips in these parts and it’s difficult to get close to them. I did this at full telephoto on the Canon G10 and it shows the woes of being too far away underwater. The UW photographer’s mantra is, “The closer, the better.” This one is a Diagonal-Banded Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus lineatus).  They are very handsome fish. Too bad this is the best shot of one that I’ve yet managed:

Diagonal-Banded Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus lineatus)

Another surprisingly difficult fish to make into digital bits for your camera is the Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis):

Trumpetfish - (Aulostomus chinensis)

This also was a snap-shot. The Trumpet fish is, I’m certain, psychic. I don’t believe for a nanosecond in human psychics – please, don’t get me started. But the Trumpetfish knows when you are just about to push the shutter release and moves, qhite gracefully (grinning, I’m sure) just out of range. The only way you can get a clean shot is to see one in the distance, get behind some blob of coral or rock, sneak up close and then pop up like a tank-killer helicopter and kick loose a round.

It seldom works. Oh, I forgot to mention that you have to hold your breath while you’re doing all that.

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