Look Through My Kaleidoscope

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Before I get started showing you the ten rather odd images for today, I’ll tell you what prompted my thinking about looking through things. Since I returned from Australia, I’ve been suffering from a variety of physical and mental ailments, most of which have never been problems before. One of them is paranoia. I’m not feeling weirded out by this, considering the number of very bad things which have happened recently in my life. It seems obvious that one might rightly feel a bit of paranoia under such circumstances.

For example:  I can see well enough to navigate around the house without my glasses, but I would not dare to drive and reading is impossible. I was certain that I had my last pair of glasses tucked safely away somewhere as a backup in case I lost my current pair. “Somewhere” is the catch word. I suppose that whether one might consider this to be a “very bad thing” depends on one’s personal evaluation, but all that I can say is that I simply could not stop thinking about it. After ever more frantic searches, I cannot find them. At least a hundred times the thought popped into my head, “Just ask Eunie.” Well, that’s not gonna happen. It makes my heart pound whenever my mind slips like that. It feels like running full tilt into a brick wall.

Anyway, I pictured losing my glasses and having to ask someone to fly with me to Australia for a new pair of prescription specs. It did not occur to me that there might be a simpler solution. Then I met Dr. John up at Blueblood last week. I discovered that he is an Optometrist with the Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand here in Madang. He told me that they could fit me with standard, ready-made glasses which should work well. I got an eye exam at the Fred Hollows Clinic yesterday. I walked out with three pairs of nice glasses. One pair is for distance, driving, boating, and so forth. A second pair is for computer work. It works best at arm’s length. The third pair is for close-up work or reading.

So, I now no longer need to fear losing my glasses. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll go back and get two additional sets of specs. I’ll leave one at the office and stash the other in a safe (and remembered) place in the house. My total investment will be about K180 (roughly US$60.00). Now I have one less fear on the list. It was small, but it was nagging. I was forever laying my glasses down and forgetting where they were. Eunie would always find them for me.

This episode left me thinking, “Just how stupid am I?”

Okay, having disposed of that item and reminding myself that other difficulties may also have simple solutions, if I can only discover them, let’s proceed with the gaggle of weird images for today.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by kaleidoscopes. I could spend an unreasonable amount of time staring through my grandmother’s very fancy dream maker. It sent my mind on mini-trips to strange and wonderful places. I’ve seen many computer generated multi-mirror images. Most of them do not please me much. I did get a little inspired by the work of Kathleen Farago May in her guest shot on MPBM, though the images lacked real-world components. I Googled for Photoshop plugins designed to create kaleidoscope images and got lucky on the first try with the Mehdi Kaleidoscope Plugin, which is free. I was immediately hooked. Here is a very amusing view of a Juvenile Oriental Sweetlips:

The presence of recognisable real-world images makes the kaleidoscope idea work for me.

Here is another featuring a Butterflyfish:

I wanted more.

Okay, it’s getting even better with this Yellowmargin Triggerfish:

I really like the background pattern in this one. It makes the Triggerfish leap off the screen.

From the same post as the one above, we have Jo Noble free diving:

The centre is quite abstract. As the eye moves out it suddenly encounters the lovely, graceful form of the diver.

A little more abstract, but still realistic is the Green Coral image from just a few days ago:

I have to admit that not much was gained from kaleidoscoping this one. I like the original image better.

This one is maybe my favourite of the bunch. The starfish pops out from the seemingly abstract background:

That one if from Saturday at the Office.

I call this one Hands Across the Water. It’s a kaleidoscopic view of a cartoon treatment of my friend, Carol Dover:

This effect is a little strange. It makes me a bit dizzy.

Here is another one which can make your head spin. When doing human forms you have to watch out for “creepy” artefacts:

The face effects in this one are interesting, but the strange blobs which came along for the ride are a little disturbing.

This one of Ush playing with a shell is less creepy, but even more head-spin inducing:

Kaleidoscoping faces is obviously a little tricky.

What about whole people? My initial experiments didn’t yield much that was pretty, except for the one of Jo Noble. I decided to keep trying. Reducing the number of mirrors seems to be the trick. Here is a much modified image of Jenn Miller floating languidly in the sea at Pig Island:

All of these were surprisingly easy to create and the process doesn’t take much time. I did discover that not every image makes a good kaleidoscope pattern. It seems to work best if the subject is clearly defined against the background. Otherwise, it gets all jumbled up.

You can take it a step further and create purely abstract patterns very easily, but the original image is lost in the multiple reflections very quickly, if you are not careful.

It’s fun to have a new toy. Especially if it was free.

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What Can Make Me Happy?

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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At the end of my last post, I talked about my current inability to derive joy from activities which have previously provided me with the emotional, intellectual and spiritual satisfaction which we all crave. This disablement has resulted in a strangely lifeless life. I’m sure that for many readers this will be preaching to the choir. As I’ve said before, this is my first experience with dire personal tragedy. I’m a late comer just catching up with most people my age.

My friend suggested that, as I engage in these experiences, say a Saturday out with friends on the boat SCUBA diving, that I pretend  to enjoy it. I took this to mean that I should try very hard to not let my mind wander to subjects best left alone for the moment and that I engage with others as if nothing had happened and laugh when it seems appropriate and so on. You can make up your own list of fakery. The theory is, I suppose, that if one does this consistently it will become real. This makes some kind of wacky sense to me.

A day or so later I got a Facebook message from Ush Antia who has departed Madang, but is fondly remembered by her friends. Having read my remark about pretending, she sent to me a very interesting link. A guy named Dan Gilbert presented a twenty-one minute lecture titled Why Are We Happy? I’m not going to go into detail about the content, because you can watch it for yourself. I’ll just say that our prefrontal cortex gives us some remarkable abilities that we may not ordinarily recognise. Here’s a little blurb about the lecture:

Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness,  challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.

Really, if you are less than ebullient concerning life in general, you might want to view it.

In order to investigate and reorient myself to what my current standards of happiness are, I decided to conduct a little experiment. All of the images which have speared in Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  are in one folder on my computer. I set out to scan through these several thousand images as quickly as possible, getting as far as I could in five minutes and pick out eight pictures which instantaneously, as in a word association test, elicited the response, “happy”. This is not as easy as it sounds.

Some of the images seem logical responses while others are puzzling. I’ll comment briefly on each one, if I can think of anything to say.

This one is so obvious that it requires no analysis. It is a composition of many tiny images from MPBM in a mosaic which simulates a picture of Eunie and I at our anniversary party.

Who would not respond with “happy” to this?

This one is not so straightforward. It’s important to remember that analysing these lightning responses one-by-one is a bit like Monday morning quarterbacking.

I think that I responded with “happy” here because, though the surface message of the image is decidedly not happy, the experience of expressing these feelings in an artistic manner was  happy. I derived considerable pleasure from the process of capturing a precise mood in an image.

This one of Carol Dover goofing off during a dive is another obvious choice. Friends always make me happy. That’s because I have no troublesome ones. That has not always been true in the past.

While it is sad that Carol is no longer here in Madang, true friendships never leave the heart.

This shot of a Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  got the “happy” tag because it is one of my favourite underwater images and always makes me think about the great mysteries of the sea.

It is one of the few underwater images in which I have deliberately fiddled with the colours. This is not the natural colouration of this anemone. However, I wanted to accentuate the surreal beauty and alien quality of the creature. So I did. That’s the beauty of digital photography. You can do anything you like.

This one is not to difficult to figure out either. It immediately brought to mind all of the wonderful times I spent with Eunie in far away places. I don’t remember anything about this lovely statue which we found in Berlin of a young woman releasing a bird. I do remember that we both were captured by its beauty and significance. It belonged in that place.

Eunie and I were very fortunate to have been able to travel considerably during the last thirty years. The necessity of moving back and forth between Papua New Guinea and North America gave us the advantage of seeing many places without spending much extra money.

As I looked back over my choices and pondered my response to each, this one gave me slight pause. It is of a lady selling her produce at the Madang town market.

I did enjoy working with the image. It required quite a bit of effort to get it just the way I wanted it. However, I don’t think that is why it struck the ‘happy” chord. Maybe it represents home to me. That’s a bit of a stretch, but it is close enough.

This baby balancing shot taken up at Blueblood is a no-brainer. Kids, friends, tropical warmth and water, a party . . . who would not think “happy”?

I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

The last shot also is obvious – family. I got this image of Tamara, Pippa and Audrey on the train returning from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. It is one of my favourite images of Hans’ little family.

Though there is the sadness of so seldom seeing them, happiness is the feeling I enjoy whenever I think of them.

What can I take away from this little exercise? I’m not sure that I know. All that I can do is make an observation.

Of all of the ideas, things and people in the images above, only one is physically missing. While it is a very crucial point that my wife is no longer on the scene, everything else remains, at least for the time being.

So, the question is, can I take what remains, do a lot of pretending and take the lessons of Dan Gilbert’s lecture to heart, trusting my brain to rewire itself in its own self interest as a function of its natural immunity against adversity and despair? Will my prefrontal cortex kick in and create a new standard of happiness?

I trust that it will. And when it does, it will feel real to me. Right now, I don’t see how it can happen. That it will  happen requires trust in something much bigger than my brain. God will have to handle that one.

I trust that God will do that for me.

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Underwater Pencil

Posted in Under the Sea on August 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ll be less chatty today, because I spent most of the day up at Blueblood. We are also dealing with a health problem which Eunie has been suffering through for a couple of months and a definitive diagnosis is probably not going to be available with the medical technology available here in Madang. It is very likely that Eunie will be leaving Madang in the next few days to go to Cairns where more sophisticated equipment is available and we can figure out what is causing her illness. Any treatment required for her problem will be available also in Cairns, so we’re certain that it’s the right move to get her out of here as quickly as possible. We’ve decided that I’d be pretty much in the way while that process is in progress, so I’m staying in Madang until we know what’s what.

I need to distract myself and possibly you also. I’ll show you a few more images which we got during our dive at The Eel Garden on Saturday. Here are a trio of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)  with Ush cruising past in the background:

There was a lot of particulate matter in the water, so I had to blur the distant background to get rid of it. It turned out to be a pleasing effect.

You might be surprised to find a pencil on the bottom at twenty metres, but if you hear the story, it will make sense. Divers sometimes use pencils to write on plastic slates. This one was accidentally dropped, I suppose. Why didn’t it float to the surface? It’s wood, eh? Well, after several submersions at depth, they soak up so much saltwater that they don’t float any more;

Here is a flock of Three-Spot Dascyllus (Dascyllus trimaculatus)  drifting around their somewhat crowded anemone host:

They appear to have only one spot at first glance. If you get close up you can see a paler spot. However, search as I may, I have never found the third spot. Obviously whoever named the fish was math-challenged.

This is just a nice little reef scene – not much to say about it:

This is my most favoured shot of the day. I snapped it just as I was coming up at the end of the line to reboard Faded Glory:

So, now you know what it looks like when you’re watching your diver friends clambering back on the boat. The big bubbles which you see in the foreground are mine.

I hope to have more information by tomorrow evening concerning our plans for the near future.

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Out With the Girls

Posted in Under the Sea on July 31st, 2010 by MadDog
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The ladies predominated the numbers on the boat today by three to one. We had five divers in the water today at The Eel Garden near Pig Island.   I got some pretty pictures of marine critters and a couple of nice shots of two of my favourite models. This morning it looked like a rain-out. The sky was dismal and the sea was up. By 10:00 the sun was out, but it was still a bumpy ride. I’m all worn out from the day’s fun, so I’ll spare you a lot of my usual senseless chatter.

We went Triggerfish hunting, which can be a risky sport, but there were none around. I had thought to give the ladies a thrill, but the fish were not cooperating. Down at the bottom of the sandy bowl, I found one of my favourite anemones with a pair of Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)  staying close to their Bulb Anemone host Entacmaea quadricolor:


I’ve been photographing this same anemone for years. Every picture is different. How could I get bored with it? These are very likely females.

Down on the catamaran, the underwater fashion shoot was all set up. The water was clear and the light was right. Geneviève Tremblay took her turn first:

I don’t think that I have to tell you that Geneviève is female.

About that time a huge school of Purple Anthea females (Pseudanthias tuka)  came rushing past:

What’s going on here?

The next thing I see is Ush doing a “Tiger Ambush” pose:

Need I mention that it is a female tiger?

I have no idea if this pretty little Starfish (Fromia nodosa)  is female or not. In fact, my science fact bin is empty. I can’t remember if there are  male and female starfish and I’m far too tired to care:

It certainly looks feminine.

That’s it. I’m finished.

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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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Ordinary Saturday

Posted in Under the Sea on July 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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No Saturday is genuinely ordinary. One never knows what to expect. This one started out with a cheery red sunrise. When I see colour coming in through our front windows I run for my camera. The one thing that I know, regardless of the quality of the colour, is that I’m looking at a brand-new sunrise which nobody else has ever seen before. That’s a pretty cool way to start out the day. Here is a zoomed in shot of the sun rising over Madang town across the harbour from our house:

The close-up view is almost too intense.

Here is a shot of eleven frames stitched together. I covers about 180°:

From about 06:00 to 09:00 I usually work on my post for Saturday. So, after I did these sunrises, I went to work looking for some images. I ran out of time before I could put anything together which wasn’t so discombobulated that it would make you nauseous. Therefore, between the image above and the next one, a half day of diving will have passed.

It is now much later, about 16:00. I’m tired, but before I take a nap, I’ll show you some of our enjoyments of the day.

On the beach at Wongat Island  there were a bunch of young boys collecting green coconuts and stripping off the husks. Since we were thirsty for the delicious, sweet fluid inside them, we offered to buy a few from them. While the rest of the boys were scampering up coconut trees to kick a few more down, one boy built a high-jump rig, which you can see at the water’s edge. He repeatedly ran screaming down the beach and jumped over the pole into the water:

In the shot above, he has tired of this entertainment and three of the boys are bringing our kulau  (green coconuts) to us.

Here you can see one of the boys handing up a kulau  to George. We scrounged together seven Kina to give to the boys. They were extremely happy about that:

We did our dive on The Henry Leith,  a 34 metre coastal freighter which started life as a steamer and ended up as a dive attraction. We have all enjoyed many wonderful dives there. You can find dozens of images by clicking on “henry leith” or “The Henry Leith” in the Tags section of the sidebar.

The visibility is never great at this site. Here is a shot which I have not cleaned up at all. I’ve corrected the colour, but have made no effort to remove all of the speckles which obscure visibility. It gives you a very realistic vision of exactly what you would see if you came down with us:

Anything made of iron attracts a lot of life, since the ocean is relatively iron poor. The presence of iron in the water stimulates life.

Speaking of life, this Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia)  is indeed alive, but it look more like an astonishingly beautiful glass artwork:

If you click to enlarge, you’ll see what I mean. A glass artisan who could create something this delicate and beautiful would be world famous. I’d guess it would take years to to it.

Diving with me on Saturday were Geneviève Tremblay and Ushtana Antia. Here you can see Geneviève looking at me with Ush hovering in the background like a guardian angel bestowing a blessing:

We enjoyed many more interesting sights today on The Henry Leith,  but now it’s time for a nap.

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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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