Word and Image

Archive for October, 2013



We were swimming north along the reef and Farid pointed. I saw the rays in the distance. He said we were floating above them and they hadn’t noticed us until I started flapping my flippers trying to position my self for a shot. Well they were gone in a matter of seconds. The backscatter was too much for me to get a clear image. Yet somehow the grainy image is ok. I hope that somewhere along the line, I’ll get a better image. But for now this is ok by me.




This is a mood image. I like the streaks of sunlight in the blue water. The fish are swimming or maybe floating mostly in the same direction and it evokes an emotional feeling for me. There’s peace and tension. At any moment a predator could appear.


Baby Stonefish


I guess before they grow up they are small. How we came across this tiny guy is a fair mystery. The human eye is trained to see movement first. It’s a protective defensive kind of thing. So this one moved a little and we had him. If you’re not careful you’d easily miss him. Knowing what you are seeing, now you can see the eye and then you know it’s alive. It was about 4 inches in length. We were darned lucky to see it.

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Another Mystery


IMG_2517 bI don’t know if this is plant or animal. It is attached to the coral. I have not seen this until now and on this particular night dive we saw several. I can’t find an example in any catalog yet. I got a few pictures. The first were partial images. The larger picture was fortuitous. I had just shot a fish image and noticed the subject in my LCD. So I backtracked and shot several more to come up with something sharp. They look a bit dangerous. The rule is not to touch anything, that might sting or bite. Good rule.


Plant or Animal

IMG_2141 aThere are some pretty amazing things you find. So far there are some things I have been unable to identify. I keep trying and eventually I may be enlightened. This is a shy plant(?) which is seen sticking out of the coral. It retracts and is completely hidden whenever there is a threat. You have to swim up slowly in order to get a shot.

IMG_2469 aAs an aside the Red Sea is so named because of the red coral. It doesn’t seem so red because underwater the first color that is lost as you go deep is the color red. But at night with a flash and restoration of the natural colors, I cannot understand the naming of the Red Sea.

IMG_2503This other object is or maybe a nudibranch or not. It is something I’ve only seen at night and it is certainly hidden under the coral. But I’ve looked during the day and you don’t see this. It’s tiny, pretty, and so delicate looking.IMG_2504

Halloween 2


_DSC2701 copyThis seems to be an annual rite. There is a body artist, Andy Galub. He paints his half naked models on the street right before the parade. And hordes of photographers are right there with him. It is quite a scene. Lately Andy has been trying for more attention by painting in the middle of Times Square. I have not been in NY To witness the event but it makes for interesting interaction with the public and the police. Anyway it’s all strange but true.

Halloween 1

_DSC3252 copyThere are thousands of costumes with countless masks. After a while you realize that masks hide the person. Makeup leaves you knowing the person without much hope of recognition in the morning. Make sense? Well, I gravitate to the strange and avoid too many masked persons. Confused? I just shoot the picture. I don’t really try for an in depth interview on how he decided to dress up. The picture says enough. And no, even by NY standard this is more than a standard deviation from normal.


_DSC3261 copyThis year will be the first Village parade I have missed since leaving NY. Last year was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy. There are a lot of participants and the avenue is lined 10 deep from Spring St to 23rd St. It’s a wild and crazy night. This couple got married right before the parade and like Cinderella rode a coach up the parade route.


_DSC3754 copyIt was on the same trip and I was leaving Camden and headed back across to Central Maine. It was getting toward evening and it was cloudy overcast and threatening to rain. Sometimes you see a pattern of color that is so soothing. I traveled without family so there was no one to complain about my frequent sudden stops. There are some images in my head that I regret not stopping to take. But on this particular evening, this image was not one of those regrets.


_DSC3705 copyI was up in Camden and passing through Rockport where there was a craft show and a photography school. I had parked the car and turned toward the school where the craft show was being held. I had a black and white moment in front of me without any help from Photoshop. Julia had me enlarge this and she framed it for her room. I continue to marvel at being so lucky to be in the right place at times like these.

Fall Foliage

_DSC1521Whenever I think about fall color it’s red and orange for me. But I tend to lose sight of the tree among the landscape. I would like more detail but when you get up close … Well, I guess you could say that the house and the fence are distracting. I like the color and the intermediate detail, not too close, not too far. It’s hard for me to not want to include the whole tree.

Autumn Leaf

_DSC1929 copyJulia commented on how much she liked this image. You spend your time chasing the fall colors. When you get right down to it, I think that what makes you stop is in the details. I had been shooting across the water and capturing the reflections of the trees in the water. And just as I turned to leave, I saw this single leaf. Yes sometimes it’s all about paying attention to detail.


Runaround Pond


_DSC1635 copyI had a magical autumn in Maine in 2008. For me most of my fall images came from Bear Mountain New York. I crisscrossed the back roads and put a lot of mile on the old wagon. When I look back in retrospect it was a time never to be repeated. I had fog, clouds, sun, water, reflections and just about anything and everything I could imagine. I’d say that I have not had a better experience and I wistfully think how fortunate I was to be there to take these images.

Runaround Pond was my go-to spot. It was peaceful and it was a great place to put up your feet and read. In autumn I was rewarded with fog and reflections. Fog is so hard to conjure and it is an ephemeral moment like sunset never to be duplicated. There may be many days like it but never the same as the one I shot.

Four in One Day

_DSC2522 copyI’ve been on a dive binge. It’s my chief hobby right now. For those of you in colder climes in the Northern Hemisphere, I have almost forgotten that it’s halfway to Christmas. The weather is colder and the frost is on the pumpkin. I lived in Maine for a time. All the while I was hoping to shoot a moose. I gave a medical talk and mentioned that I had finally shot a moose and one son of a gun actually asked me how it was to shoot it (with a gun). That got me to thinking that I should refrain from literal language (or stop talking to NRA Republicans).

Up until this particular day I was, shall we say sadly and completely unsuccessful. I had loads of advice from locals about how and where to go. Perhaps they were just playing around with a city guy? Up in the wilderness of Maine, way up past Millinoket, and near to Mt Katahdin my travels brought me on a journey and a last ditch search.

Yes! I passed three photographers idly chatting, tripods deployed, and telephoto lenses pointed off toward a far point on the lake. Their wives were with them. They pointed to a brown dot on the horizon hidden in the trees and told me it was a moose. They had to tell me because we were too far to identify anything except that it was animal not plant. Yeah!? This was a non starter.

Pretty much resigned to defeat I continued through the park on this cloudy day. Two cars were parked on the side of the road and I sensed there might be action. Walking into the woods I saw my first moose no more than 30 feet away calmly munching on whatever it is that moose munch. The first photographer was decked out in hunter clothes and appeared to be a real photographer. The other was an idiot approaching the moose from uphill. He had a maniacal grin and was edging down with a simple point and shoot camera. I felt sure this dude would soon be killed when he disturbed Mr Bullwinkle. Moose don’t see well and when startled they can make an awful mess in a hurry. It helps to stand behind a tree since it might help that the tree will slow down an angered moose. (Let it be a big tree.) I turned to the first photographer to ask about an exit strategy and he replied the moose in front is not the problem. It’s the three behind us that I might want to take care to watch. I regret not taking the picture of that idiot photographer on the uphill side. But then again he never did get hurt either._DSC2610 copy

The other bull moose and mama with baby were more interesting. None of them cared that I approached but I did so cautiously and kept to staying behind the trees. The first photographer and his wife came up to stand with me. He stayed behind and began to make his city version of moose calls. Meanwhile his wife stood next to me sharing my tree. This couple had driven to Maine that day to participate in a moose photography class. The just happened to be wandering the woods. Meanwhile they didn’t realize that they had hit the photographic jackpot. My exit strategy quickly formed. If the fool behind me wanted to make moose calls, it would be his wife I would push out from behind the tree in the event the any of the moose made a charge. It pays to think ahead. My presumption was that he didn’t like his wife too much since I had only just met the couple. Oh, and she didn’t know how to use her camera and asked me to shoot some images for her. My reason to photograph anything is to know that I shot the image myself. Otherwise who needs another picture of a moose. And remember when I say shoot, its photograph not gun._DSC2590 copy


IMG_2118 bThis is the animal that symbiotically protects the clownfish, ‘Nemo.’ I sometimes see the backside, behind the tentacles. The image that I got was a surprise when I enlarged it. First of all the backside is a deep rich red color. And there on the surface were two strange fish, not Nemos. You see the tentacles of the anemone. But the fish were kind of spooky just stuck there. They were not swimming by and they were not expected. I have this happen a lot. You never quite know what you have until you get it up on the computer screen.

Little Gem

IMG_2040 aBefore I knew what to look for I had taken several pictures of different kinds of nudibranchs. Some of them look like little bits of coral debris. I now know better. They don’t look like much and they are generally small. You need to keep a sharp eye for different. This one I had seen in another picture somewhere so I knew to get some shots before my dive buddies disappeared from view. I can’t say how I know, but it just isn’t coral. Looking and finding is like playing ‘I spy.’ So when you actually come across one, it’s a fun find. They don’t move much and certainly move slowly if they do. You’d think they are easy to find. But no, it’s not easy at all. So even yesterday’s post had one very similar. I had taken the shot but didn’t know what it was at the time. I follow the thought, when in doubt shoot the image if the subject is different from what you usually see. It can be hard to know you got the focus right. With this image, I knew better and got in for a good close-up.

Diver Experience (You Need Some)

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I was wondering how to sneak some more dive shots. I recently saw how hard it can be to learn scuba diving. I learned and the next week was following Farid up and down the reef without so much as a hiccup. When Julia visited, she had dived Central America and the Caribbean. We never had a problem.

A couple of docs at the hospital decided to learn scuba. I encouraged them and with my iPad assured them they would see a whole new world. Samir went first. During his pool dive at our compound Wissam came by on the way to the gym. Wissam signed up on the spot for lessons the very next week. He even bought all his gear ahead of his lessons – a bold move.

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This thing looked like coral to me. But I saw a picture and someone describes it as a nudibranch. Well, ok!


Big Fish (Honest!)

IMG_1824 copy 2I had seen an article on the giant ocean sunfish, mola mola. It can reach 1200 lbs. This isn’t one of them. But it was one very large fish in the ocean. I don’t have anything in the image to compare scale. Hey, the fish wasn’t hanging around for me. It was just on its way to somewhere else on the reef. It is shaped like a butterfly fish.

IMG_1703 copy 2Relative to the ones I see every dive they measure about palm sized. This sample was much, much larger. How large?

IMG_1827 copy 2Well at the risk of being an exaggerating fisherman, it was about three feet long. Now remember that water magnifies objects, I wear glasses now, and my kids are endlessly amused by my failing vision with age. But I’m here to tell you it was a very large fish. Really! I’d have liked it to be more colorful and to have hung around a little longer.

IMG_1826 copy 2If you’re familiar with those steakhouses that dare you to eat the 64 ounce steak, well, this fish would be a big challenge too.

Butterfly Fish

IMG_1760 copy 2Lighting is a challenge because red color falls off with depth. And the water acts like a big diffuser there is direction. So from one direction or another the light changes and so does the color. Try asking a fish to wait while I swim around into a better position. The challenge is in position, which is determined by our swim up and back along the reef. In the Red Sea we are oriented north south with the sun moving overhead fortunately almost always cloudless. I just am happy to get a focused well exposed shot. At some point I’m going to get further along the learning curve and control the environment a little better. It’s a matter of more experience.

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Sea Anemone

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The clownfish and anemone are symbiotically linked. I didn’t realize that the anemone is an animal and it has a significant sting until I began to read about them. Also I’m used to seeing one type of anemone with closely arranged tentacles.

IMG_1582 copy 2And there’s a mouth. Ok I haven’t been paying attention. The longer tentacle and less neat looking anemone is less common. But since I’m looking for it now, I see it more frequently.

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But what I usually see is always worth a photo stop.

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Lion’s Den

IMG_1829 copy 2I had an epiphany the other day. I’ve been diving for a year. I learned underwater photography without a lesson and on my own. I watched my dive master and used common sense. I tried flash, ‘underwater setting’, custom white balance, used two different cameras (not by choice), and edited in Photoshop and Lightroom. So I just realized how far I’ve come… or how little I knew a year ago. Even so I got some pretty good shots. But I can now tell how much better I’ve become. I realize how not so good I was last year. Right away I was excited with some of my shots. Later Julia and I had a big breakthrough with editing in Photoshop. The subjects (fish) remain fascinating and different every time I dive.

In this instance we have been diving the same area of the reef enough for me to become familiar with certain areas to find fish. There is a concrete cave made from fallen slabs.

IMG_1831 a copy 2One day you find a stonefish, another day there was a spiky pufferfish. But recently it was a lionfish convention. There were six… no… seven. It was almost too much for my camera. And we were training a new diver. There were four of us and I had the only camera. It was very poor visibility as in there was a lot of backscatter – looks like dust and is mostly fish poop. White balance in poor light is also a problem. I couldn’t back away without getting too much backscatter. You never see this many lionfish together. Maybe they were planning to mate up. Down on the left is another type with spiky fins. Whenever you find them they are rarely swimming toward you. And my dive mates are always swimming away before too long. So it means you move on because you ‘never leave your wingman.’


An example of the picture out of the camera, it needs a bit of processing.

I had three dives this day and passed this spot on the last two dives. With several chances, the light was best on the last pass. Otherwise I would have had some less dramatic shots.IMG_1839 copy 2

I don’t rely on flash. But anyone seriously needing to control the light is using a couple of external strobes to get a dark background. While I like ambient light, I can see the advantage to an isolating background and more consistent color balance. IMG_1841 copy 2


IMG_1387 copyThis was my first barracuda. The first thing I thought was a barracuda was a needlefish. They’re harmless. Everyone laughed when I panicked at my first needlefish. Here, I was buddied with Farid and he pointed out three of them (barracuda) swimming out of range. They were leaving in a leisurely pace and I just managed this shot. Farid was so casual I didn’t know to be apprehensive.

Big Spiky Thing Under The Sea

IMG_1254 copyHere is where the internet gods have failed so far. I had a previous partial image and then there was the night dive with some orange and blue images. Farid and I found this one out in the open clinging to a coral outcropping. It is a hideous green color – the kind you immediately want to white balance correct (or hide by converting to B/W). IMG_1244 copyLooking up spiked sea creatures – starfish, nudibranch, sea cucumber, urchins – there are many suggestions. It’s just that there are no pictures for me to compare and identify. It has arms and when you poke it, (It wasn’t me. Farid had an iron rod that he found…), it curls up into a spiky ball. It doesn’t move fast. I felt like a curious dog and then remembered to keep my nose from where it didn’t belong. So far no help from the kids… David, “What the…?”  Julia, “Dad! What!!??”IMG_1250 copyThree images and seen elsewhere, but still no clue as to the identity.

OK! I was watching the BBC news cable feed tonight. And finally, a clue – it’s the crown of thorns starfish that preys on the hard coral polyps of the reef. And they are hard to kill. There are some natural predators. But it’s a bad player on the reef that comes out at night. That explains a lot to me about why we first saw them at night. I suppose it is an instance in which you take it from the sea because it is bad for the reef. If you cut it in half both halves will grow. So it is a nightmare. And they come in different colors. Now I get it.

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Close But Not Quite Wow

IMG_1291 copyI’ve taken a lot of images of this guy or his cousins. It’s a hawkfish. They are great photo ops because the sit up and pose for you. I’m drifting in closer these days and still getting good shots before they skitter away. I should stop shooting them. I have so many. If you have one, why do you need another? Answer – for this very image…of all my shots, I have his mouth open wide for the first time. Actually, I didn’t know I’d gotten this pose till I was home. These little surprises make all the fun.