Sharp and Smooth

Posted in Under the Sea on July 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Weekdays come and go. My last work week consisted of exactly one day – Friday. Wouldn’t it be nice if Friday was the only work day? You could go to work in the morning knowing that when you clock in you are beginning your week and when you clock out, it’s the weekend again. Pay might be a problem, however. I’m working on a plan to live without money. If I get it worked out, I’ll let you know.

And following my one-day work week came Glorious Dive Day! I had nobody going out on Faded Glory  this week, so I skipped all of that boat loading and unloading and just went out with Richard Jones on Sanguma.  I have to admit, I really like getting picked up at my front door. It’s quite a treat compared to my usual Saturday routine.

The dive was quite nice. The Eel Garden was putting on a fine show. I got some very nice underwater shots. However, as it sometimes happens, my favourite shot of the day has nothing to do with fish. Ush is one of my favourite photographic subjects, at least when she is not too shy. I kept seeing wonderful reflections in her cheeky red sunglasses. A little coaxing got her into the mood to pose for me:

When I first saw the result on my computer screen I was not overjoyed. Though Ush gave me just what I wanted, my exposure skills were not up to snuff. It took me the better part of an hour to massage the image into what my original vision demanded. I wanted the sharpness of the sunglasses and the reflections, but I needed Ush’s skin to be as soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom. Well, it pretty much is in reality, but cameras are harsh to skin, as we all know. I’m happy with the finished product. It’s the most fun I’ve gotten from a single image for quite a while.

Now this one . . . this one is a mistake. It was so bad that I nearly deleted it. However, I sometimes like to play the photographic savior and redeem otherwise worthless frames:

The Soldierfish was swimming away, it was too distant, and the light was all wrong. On top of that, I had my flash turned on, which threw off the colour balance. I know! I’ll call it “Art’.

Richard Jones came over to me with a rock and seemed quite excited about it. It took me a moment to realise that on that rock was a nudibranch which I had never seen before. Of course, I took its picture. It’s a Phyllidia ocellata:

I have to say that it is probably the most humorously patterned nudibranch which I have seen. Some nudis are ethereal in their beauty. This one is wearing a clown suit.

I should know the name of this Planaria, more commonly called a flatworm. I got this shot standing on my head, because it was under a ledge. I’ve turned it right-side-up for you:

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m not going to look it up. Somebody out there help me. It’s very common here.

I’ll finish up with a couple of “Deep Focus” reef scenes. As several readers have pointed out, there is nothing special about these high depth of field shots. It’s just a matter of setting your camera right and having favourable shooting conditions:

However, I have noted that few underwater photographers actually do it. It seems as if nearly everybody either shoots macro shots of little things or big, gaudy scenes shot with super-wide angle lenses and multiple flashes.

I don’t see many shots such as these which use a cheap camera and a normal lens stopped down to achieve maximum depth of field:

I find them pleasing, because when I seen them I can honestly say, “That’s just the way it looked to me.”

Someday, that is going to come in very handy for me.

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A Long, Hot Ride on a Harley

Posted in Humor on June 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post will be a brief one as far as the chatter is concerned. Eunie has gone off to Fiji to represent the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce and Industry at some big Pacific Island international conference. I find this intensely amusing as, I am quite certain, this is the first time in history which someone who’s primary work is being a missionary has ever been chosen to do this. This makes me proud of my wife, of course, but it is also satisfying that our constant guidance within our organisation that we should fully engage with all segments of society have paid off. The salt isn’t much good for anything as long as it’s in the shaker.

While moping around at the office last week moaning that I had to stay once again at home while Eunie went off to exotic places our receptionist, Elizabeth, said to me, with what seemed like a mocking tone, “Well, why don’t you just GO!” So, in my Mars way, I began to tick off all of the reasons why I couldn’t go. First on the list was:  I can’t afford it. The second was: The IT operations will fall apart.

Eunie put me “on the carpet” in her corner office – the one with windows – and gave me my instructions. “You can write enough magazine articles about your trip to more than cover your expenses.” That took care of reason number one. “You already have Mark coming in at least once a week to help out with the technical stuff. Just put him on notice that you’ll be gone.” Reason number two shot down like a rabid dog. Within an hour she had all the bookings done and had gotten me an Australian visa for my night in Cairns. Oh, how I love powerful women!

So, on Wednesday morning I’ll be off to Fiji. I’ll try to post daily while I’m travelling. I would have gone on Friday with Eunie, but, of course, Air Niugini was by then booked up for days with long waiting lists. For a country which depends on air travel exclusively for internal commerce, we have a pretty sorry example of a national airline. Anybody want to argue that point? And don’t use “they are doing the best that they can” as an argument.

Well, I said that I wasn’t going to chatter. So much for promises. The cat being away, the mouse played yesterday. I took a long, fairly fruitless ride up the North Coast Road with Ush to a place which we heard about from the Marshalls at a party at Lockland’s house on Saturday night. It was Marleen’s last party before departure and Ush’s birthday. I severely abused a bottle of Chardonnay and danced and kakaoked until 01:30 when Monty and Meri Armstrong finally herded me to their car and deposited me back at our house. Chattering again . . .

Anyway, 108 kliks up a road which is the Swiss cheese of highways you will find a place with a promising name: The Tapira Surf Club:

That’s the Harley sitting there in front of a little bar shack just to prove that we actually went up there.

It looks considerably better with Ush decorating it:

It was an exhausting ride up there. On three separate occasions I had both wheels locked up with Ush slammed up against my back to get the beast slowed down quickly enough to avoid Harley-eating potholes which stretched across the road.

I had decided already that I would have one beer only and smoke a nice Cohiba which Pascal Michon gave me on Saturday. It turned out to be a bit of a wasted trip. There was no surf, nobody home and only a toasty warm beer:Nevertheless, Ush and I had a nice time chatting in the club house or whatever they call it. We asked when the surf was up. The answer was “October”. Go figure.

I’ll finish up with a rather remarkable image which I shot on The Henry Leith on Saturday.

On the left side of a fan coral which you are seeing side-on is the rather rare Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). On the right is a Black-Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini). They are both nibbling bits off of the fan coral. In the background is the extremely rare Rozas savagica bearing the common name of Roz Savage.

I feel quite smug about this shot.

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Cute Lady – Cute Dog – Cartooning Again

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks, Under the Sea on April 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s Easter Sunday morning. In Papua New Guinea it’s an official holiday, so I have no excuse for going into the office. Miraculously, my TELIKOM copper line has dried out sufficiently so that I can get on the web, albeit at glacial speed. I sincerely hope to get my wireless connection to the office going tomorrow. It’s disappointing that we’ve put so much money and effort on it and it doesn’t work. I’m certain that the fix is simple. It just involved getting up on the supermarket roof again.

I have a small collection of miscellanea for you today. I am simply too lazy on this last day of a long weekend to go through the 160 exposures that I took on my two dives on Saturday. There are only two here. You will simply have to wait a bit longer for your fish. I hope that you’re not too hungry.

This morning I went outside to check out the photographic possibilities. Beside the front door, where I installed my last link in the wireless hop to my office, there was a katydid perched on the Cat 5e cable. I can only assume that it was trying to heal the link:Unfortunately, it’s efforts were unsuccessful.

Since this is an entirely random accumulation of images, I’ll jump to this one of Swami Monty wielding his new Canon G11 at some unsuspecting underwater critter. This was Monty’s first outing with the new rig, which is identical to mine:Richard Jones also has the same gear. I think that we’re going to have to start a G11 club here in Madang.

Today’s spider is a spindly looking critter. I’m not sure what the purpose of all the webbing is. Maybe it simply provides a firm scaffolding on which to hang:There is a fair amount of detail in this shot. It’s worth clicking to enlarge.

On one of the dives on Saturday I found this poor starfish which has had a leg chomped off by some predator:I can’t imagine that a starfish leg would taste very good, but then I’m not a fish. The most likely predators of starfish are sharks, rays and larger bony fish (as opposed to sharks and rays, the skeletons of which are cartilage and not true bones).

Back to the garden, I found one of my favourite subjects – water drops:As they say, simple things for simple minds.

I’m still slaving away to learn cartooning techniques. I’m not at all happy with the commercial software for creating cartoons from photographs. Most of the results look horrible and require a huge amount of reworking. If I’m going to go to that effort, I may as well develop my own workflow to get the results that I want. It’s really one of the most interesting and enjoyable Photoshop tricks that I’ve tried:

You saw the image above with Ush and Andrew and Jade Marshall’s Blue Heeler pup yesterday. I cleaned up the clutter in the background and cartoonised it.

I have in mind to someday write some cartoon strips based on photographs for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

I need to broaden the horizon. It’s getting smelly in here.

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Saturday – It’s Not All About Diving

Posted in At Sea, Under the Sea on April 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  probably think that Saturdays are all about the edgy sport of diving, photography and taxonomic names. One might be forgiven for thinking that it’s all so unbearably geeky. If you’re not a diver, but you’ve been around them, you know that they can be a snobbish lot, making whooshing noises with their gear and strutting around arrogantly in their wetsuits. Well, the truth is, everybody looks better in a well-fitting wetsuit, even me. It’s like an all-body girdle. You’re trimmer when you need trimming and you bulge in the appropriate places. So, one might be forgiven for wanting to be a diver. It’s semi-cool. Sort of like driving a Datsun Z car.

Hah! Saturday is not all about diving. It’s also fun for a very pleasant gang of people half my age who enjoy the pleasure of getting out on the water and away from the office. Here we are on Faded Glory  with Sanguma  in the distance heading for Pig Island  for some tropical water pleasure:It was a strange sort of day – half sunny, half  gloomy.

When we tied up with Sanguma,  the inevitable Scrabble game began:If you click to enlarge, you can see that Ush has a fairly good selection of letters to play with. Maybe that explains the expression on her face.

When the sun came out, everyone got into the water:Each boat has a generous selection of “noodles” to assist in the floating pleasure.

Monty Armstrong and I both did two dives, so it was not all fun and games. Monty just bought a new Canon G11 with the factory underwater housing, the same rig that I use. I feel a contest coming on:Richard also has the same camera and housing. We have yet to coax him to bring it into the water. Above is a nice little starfish that I snapped. I’ll have many more underwater shots later in the week.

Jade and Andrew Marshall were out on their boat with some friends and their very cute three month old Blue Heeler. After a dunking in the ocean, which he did not appear to enjoy, he was warmed up by Ush. Not surprisingly, he did seem to enjoy that.

Everybody seemed keen to get out again for the evening to enjoy the wonderful phosphorescence in the water. I was skeptical about the weather, but agreed to have the boat ready to leave at 17:30.

On our way out, my fears for the weather proved well founded when the western sky got very angry:It turned out to be a fairly miserable evening. We suffered rain, mosquitoes, a pesky chop which kept the boats bouncing against their fenders and finally a cold wind which drove us all back to Madang by 20:00.

Nevertheless, all was not wasted. We encountered a small group of mermaids frolicking in the warm sea:There is seldom anything such as a bad Saturday in the Land of Surprises.

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From the Strange to the Beautiful

Posted in Under the Sea on March 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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I have a couple of days left to irritate you with my babbling on about my solo dive off the beach at Wongat Island  last Saturday. I worked on a few more images yesterday evening. They run from the very strange to the very beautiful. Get ready for a trip.

I can sit back and close my eyes and imagine plunging through an alien atmosphere in a space capsule. When I land and walk around in my space suit (stay with me here) I’m stunned by the strange and wonderful creatures which abide in this hostile world. I see things like this:Every time that I dive I am acutely aware that I am entering another world. The image above is of a couple of higher invertebrates, namely Sea Squirts. This species is Phallusia julinea.  Never mind the racy name (see φαλλός ). They are strange by any standard.

I had a lot of trouble getting this shot of a Blackbarred Razorfish (Iniistius tetrazona):They are very skittish and stay just far enough away that you can’t get a good shot. I had to get this one from about three or four metres away, which is much more distant than my normal shots of small subjects. My average camera to subject distance for little critters is 3 – 30 cm. This fish is in the family of Wrasses. This is a teenager in what is called the Initial Phase. This is the middle phase of development. The Juvenile Phase comes first and the Terminal Phase represents the adults. Very often the first two stages appear remarkably different from the adults.

This freakishly beautiful monstrosity is a juvenile Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis):They are ridiculously easy to photograph, since all they do is hang in the water waiting an unsuspecting fish to mistake them for a bit of rubbish and move a bit too close to the toothy end. Then, with a clicking noise and a movement too quick for the human eye to see, the fish disappears into the mouth of the Lionfish, which is the common local name for these wonderful, poison-spined fish.

Here is a group of Periclimenes  shrimp enjoying themselves at the local disco located in a coral. The name of the joint is Heliofungia actiniformis.  You can pop in there for drink and shake your booty any day except Sunday from 8 PM until the early hours of the morning:Lady shrimp are admitted with no cover charge and receive a gratuitous cocktail of their choice to enhance their mood.

I accidentally got my camera stuck in the JPG mode for about half of the shots that I got on the dive. I usually shoot RAW:That statement has nothing to do with my attire. It’s a technical thing that you either know about or don’t. I’m not going to bore you with the explanation. The problem with not  going RAW is that you lose a lot of control over the colours, especially when shooting underwater. The shot above may look nice to you, but I can see a lot of problems with the hues. Never mind. The Chromis  are pretty anyway. I couldn’t figure out which species they are.

Speaking of pretty, I’ll show you pretty.

I found a nice little crab shell on the bottom and brought it up on Faded Glory.  We never take anything living from the reef, but an empty shell (with no resident hermit crab) or a crab shell is fair game. Our friend Ush started fooling around with it and I grabbed my camera. One doesn’t want to miss opportunities for the Kodak Moments:

So, I say once again. Beauty is where you find it.

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