Word and Image

Archive for December, 2014


IMG_3353 aI used to read about called Swimmy to the kids. It was about a single fish that survived being eaten by bigger fish. He went on to organize  a school if fish to resemble a bit fish… well that’s another story. Right by the pier in two feet of water was a school of fish in close to the shore. Between dives I waded into the school and in two feet of water bent over with my dive camera, I took a series of shots. It was impossible to review and so composition and framing were by instinct. The there is a command in Photoshop to enhance contrast and color. It works! If you ever read the book… and if not, this is the school Swimmy swam with.

Crocodile Fish


It is in my book as the Indian crocodile fish. In Wiki the pictures are terrible. I had to look because my book did not show me the picture immediately. Wiki pics were poorly white balanced…. so mine are really better. And they show the fish ….


Three years on the reef here and this is the first one I have seen. I put my elbow down on him as I settled to the bottom to get a picture of a spotted ray. I don’t know who was more surprised. At least I was not bitten. He was skittish. I chased him. He settled and then moved. I got a movie. And then a few more shots before my dive buddies moved on.


It was very special and likely not to be a repeat encounter. But I met a diver who told me he saw it again after I told him about my first sighting. It’s nice to share.

Need ID Help


Almost forgot… if there is anyone who can ID this fish? It looks like a bottom fish with its side fins. The dorsal suggests a swimmer. It rests in the coral. It is spotted and has reddish color. My book is not identifying it….

I have seen an interesting fish. I was with a wonderful diver named Marie. She has infinite patience. She remembered a spot we had seen the week before. I forgot what I have for breakfast five minutes later. There was an intriguing fish. It would skitter in the coral and play hide and seek. It did not swim away. But instead it just gave us tantalizing glimpses. As with most subjects my mind wanders and off to another spot.

So yesterday…yes it was yesterday for real…Marie was hoovering for a long time with her big rig camera setup. I wandered over after a bit. She’s spending a lot of time… it might be worth a look.

The landmark is this big giant clam. Ah, something familiar … and I immediately started to peer around for that elusive fish. I figured this to be a lost cause. Hey! It poked its head out. So we played hide and seek. I just hoovered. And the other secret is hold your breath. Holding your breath is a big no no underwater. You need to equalize the pressure in your lungs to the depth so you don’t blow up your lungs. But… the air breathing is very noisy. Very! So hold your breath as much as you can. It also makes hoovering a tough deal since letting air out lets you hoover. Except!!! I was rewarded. This guy came out and posed. All out in the open and let me get several shots in decent focus. Marie was so jealous. She missed it. I got it. Sometimes I am the lucky one. She is so gracious.IMG_4815

If you are a photographer it is not the shot but it is about ‘you got the shot.’ So there is a subtle but definite difference. I do enjoy looking, but it is the actual shot in my camera that I count.



Imagine that? Just as I said I would, it is fish again in today’s post. I swim with some wonderful people. They are photographers. And they keep watch. I just have to pay attention when they point. There were several squid swimming. They swim in open water and are very hard to see. They actually blend with the ocean very well. The post processing brings out the dramatic colors.

Somehow I figured squid to be slow swimming too. Wrong. They swim faster than me. So to catch a shot required some maneuvering. I used some telephoto as well. But the murky water can ruin the shot easily. How the camera is able to auto-focus on something I can barely make out is an absolute blessing. Did I mention squid are pretty rare to see. These would be my second time. It was special. Where you catch enough of them for a restaurant supper puzzles me. They certainly look better in the wild than on your plate.




Backlight rim light you name it. I was playing around with composition background and texture. There are folks who want the whole flower. Maybe it’s for identification. And sometimes it is for the composition and beauty of the image. I like the color too.

I post in advance of the day so I will not forget. I manage to post about once a day reliably. But the days caught up to me. So this post is only prepared a few days before Xmas. Looking ahead today will be Saturday after Xmas. I will be diving if the schedule permits. So instead of flowers, it will be fish for me today. Last week it was a crocodile fish. I have never seen one. And my pictures are better than Wiki has. Imagine that. Way cool.

So to all, greetings from the Red Sea. Wish you all could be diving right after Xmas too.

Christmas Tree Worm


How appropriate! Right after Christmas I am able to sneak in a dive shot that works for the holiday season.

These tiny creatures are about ½ inch in size. I do not see them too often. Now I have found a group of them and will take the opportunity to get better shots. The colors vary. There are blue, brown, yellow, and orange so far that I have seen. There are usually two trees that stick up and then there is a smaller side projection. The worms will disappear folding themselves into nothing as soon as danger is perceived. If you swim upon them and slowly move closer you might get a shot. But the tiny subjects are really at the limit of my camera’s ability.


Yes. Camera envy. I could get a much more expensive set up. Then it would be really like work. And there is the heartbreak if the camera gets wet and dies. And remember I am doing this for fun. Yes. Yes. It is for fun. There is a fine line between madness and fun.



Annual Xmas Family Photo


I have tried to stage this shot all different ways. It is not easy to get a group shot. Someone blinks. Someone frowns. And those in front are larger than the group in the second row. The ladies hide their weight. Lighting is tricky. When it all comes together it is the annual family photo. And someone is always unhappy with how they look. This shot was about ten years ago. A lot has happened since then. Let it be at that.



It is another holiday I will miss at home this year. We had a lot of nice ones when the kids grew up. The annual tradition was to decorate the tree. We collected ornaments as we traveled so there were very few ornaments the same. And there were a lot of them at one point. The other tradition was who got to put Santa on the top of the tree. Somehow the kids kept track year after year. For a long time I had to lift them up without letting them fall into the tree. I was never forgiven the one time I slipped.

And there was a year when we were traveling on Christmas eve. In order to have time to make Christmas, Lisa decided not to tell the kids and we planned to have the day on the 26th. Shhhh just don’t tell. The airline pilot almost spoiled it when he spied reindeer off the plane’s wingtip. Lisa recovered quickly to Jules’ question by saying that Santa had to start early in order to arrive on time.

The next day the 26th was just like it was December 25th. The family arrived, I taped Xmas music from the radio complete with commercials, and we recreated the day without the kids noticing. I did not confess for about ten years.


Meanwhile we continued the tradition of Santa leaving a stocking full of small gifts. Santa doesn’t wrap so the kids could distinguish presents. The stockings continued well into the kids’ early twenties at which time I inquired as to when they knew there was no Santa. I guess we all kept the charade for a lot of years. Funny, though, the next year we stopped doing stockings. Bittersweet.



Well unless I told you how would you know where? But it was a mother daughter trip. Jules had spent a fairly miserable time in London. She had done a volunteer work in an exchange program. The problem was in acclimatizing. She was young and isolated. She did not know her way around. My phone bill was fairly steep with the consoling phone calls going back and forth. The upshot was that Lisa flew to Europe and they spent a few weeks in Italy. My kid grew up and she looks happy again. It was an experience she never spoke to me about. But the pain of it was palpable as it was happening. That was enough.



Knuckleheads! And I would use a lot more colorful language if I wasn’t trying to be polite. I can peel paint with some of the more vengeful thought I am thinking. Well! So you left your initials on the coral? And you have a girlfriend? And if you just left your full name and phone number I would be happy to call you up. You coward! Defile the coral and it is forever. It is pretty unlikely that this scar will heal if ever. It is unlikely that the idiot who did this will be reading my blog. That is probably not the person who can even read. What is the point? Leave some initials like a skulking coward so we can all see how you thoughtlessly defiled nature. When I first started diving here there was no graffiti. But I have noticed all manner of trash discarded into the sea. Bottles and cans are there by the ton. But plastic lawn chairs and even a prayer rug are deliberate thoughtless acts of trashing the reef we all come to see. As divers we are all there to see natural beauty. Is there a point to trashing the place for everyone else to suffer the pristine loss? It just bewilders me. And in the resort there are those who come surreptitiously with spear guns to fish. I posted last December about a swimmer who strangled an octopus in front of me. Hey! We come to see this stuff. I am told the reef was a lot nicer a few years ago. And now every time I swim past this coral I will recall a time when it too was pristine. Idiot is too kind. But if by any chance you know who you are then I have utter disrespect for you.





Another night dive – this one was significant because it followed my story of losing my dive bag and getting it back again. We found this guy. Much like an octopus they change color to camouflage themselves. We stayed on top of him and as long as you could see him you knew where he was. Yes, they shoot ink too. This was also the dive when my flash refused to fire. Quick thinking got me some images. I used the dive flashlight and set the color balance to match the LED light. Well the rest is history. We kept at it until the cuttlefish scurried under a coral to be lost from view.


Lunar Eclipse



Another advantage of digital is the ability to shoot in virtual darkness. But even more importantly is to shoot and review.


So as I shot the lunar eclipse I was able to adjust the settings to get a satisfactory image.


I think things suddenly got easier.


I have shot through a telescope to get an image of a solar flare also. Somewhere along the line I will pull that image.




It’s another year gone by and it’s John’s birthday. He had the fortune to be born near to Christmas. My aunt Fu Ching would always be able to say something nice about anything that happened in life. To me it was always like you have to wait so long  after Christmas feeling like you were cheated that the days are so close together. No matter what, it is nice to remember and say happy birthday.

Spotted Eel

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This is another unusual sighting. I saw a spotted eel three times. With my kids we saw part of one during a night dive. And once again on another night dive I had a pretty good look too. This time we had an eel in broad daylight. It swam along, tried to hide, and then made a run for it. I got movie and stills. The white balance was off because it was moving through layer of shadow and depth. The eel is basically yellow with brown spots. I got images but the color was not perfect. This is why you go down and keep trying. And once again this is not a snake. Snakes don’t breathe underwater.



Yeah, that's mom. You never would've believed it.

Yeah, that’s mom. You never would’ve believed it.

In a follow up to a recent post on the engagement of my daughter Jules, I am posting this pic. It was the day after Thanksgiving. The annual leaf raking was in progress. Jeff her intended set up a video and shot scene. Julia and he jumped into a pile of leaves. Typically Julia directed how they should jump. And when they landed, he dug the leaves out of her face and hair and put a ring on her finger. Jules cried and in the hugs I heard her laugh with joy.

This shot was many years before. And yes, that was Lisa making the leap. It was a time when we piled them high and jumped from a fence or ladder. This time it was just a belly flop into a low pile. But it sure was a happy ending.



Here is a trick that is easy to learn but maybe hard to do for some people. Historically it was taught to me at a Halloween banquet of our national organization, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons several decades ago. Since the banquet was on Halloween it was themed a costume ball. Henry Bartkowski and I wanted to participate in the theme but had not brought along anything of a costume. So we decided to attend as streakers. We slipped into the men’s room and removed our pants. Then dressed in the rest of our suit and tie, we pulled on our trench coats and attended bare legged. We were stopped at reception but showed our tickets and were admitted. You would have to understand that the more serious members of our organization came in ballroom period costumes from another century. Henry and I must have missed that memo.

On the dais was Roberto Heros and halfway through dinner he stood to make some extemporaneous remarks. “I have attended many of these banquets over the years. It has been my impression that they are entirely too stodgy.” He then promptly hung a spoon off his nose. The crowd applauded – some more enthusiastically than others. You may easily guess who’s side Henry and I were on.

Which brings me to the wedding I shot with my Canon G3. By this time old friends had all been exposed to my affection for humor. And naturally, Alex and Kathy joined in the spirit of the wedding celebration. I believe Alex had been drinking a bit. Kathy’s nose did not have the requisite anatomical configuration to achieve her goal without cheating. Look closely and you can try it at home or at a banquet. It’s your call.107-0731_IMG




There are holes in the sand. They are present where there is no coral. The sand patches are like little deserts. I never see any activity around the holes. I have been told that there is a sentinel fish that guards and looks out. And there is a shrimp below who makes the hole. Both fish work together. This particular weekend I was fortunate to catch everyone home together. Notice the little antennae of the shrimp. And the fish is looking up and to the left. The deceptive eye marking is on the tail and to your right. Yup, you don’t see this everyday.

Early Digital


This image of David was done soon after I received a Canon G3. It was a camera that is now in its G16 model and still a big seller. The salesman sold it to Lisa and told her I would love it. A simpler point and shoot would not work for me as well as this camera. He was right and Lisa gave me the start into my journey using digital cameras. The Nikon D70 was not released for about another year. Meanwhile the G3 got a lot of use as I began to transition over to digital.

Jules was critical and always seemed to be able to differentiate between my slides and digital images. I shot film and digital for Amy, Susan’s daughter’s wedding. Jules and Lisa used the G3 when they traveled in Italy. And I discovered that shooting in the dark at a school play was easy when the ISO could adjust on the fly. Yes, it was a good foray into digital using the G3.

Electric Ray



We were headed back to base. The late afternoon fading light made it hard to get shots. I was still experiencing camera woe. And there swimming before us was an electric ray. At least this is the name in my book. It was interested in getting as far away from us as it could. I have seen an electric ray only once in three years. So this was pretty special. And yes, I played with the wildlife to get him to stay in view long enough to get a decent shot. I shot a bunch but these images were the best of the lot and not excellent as is my usual luck. But an image of an electric ray is special no matter what.




In the interest of historical images this was taken about ten years ago. Gee time flies and you look different in a blink. It’s a nice technical image with the main subject off to the side. And there to the right is my dog Nellie looking out the door. More on that later. The point of this post is about the fact that this was taken shortly after I received this spiffy new digital camera. It was the beginning of the end of film for me.

Pink Suit


I wanted to throw up in my mask. That would have been unwise. Or if I had a spear gun, which I don’t, to at least put one of us out of misery. What a riot of color! Fortunately the face is above water. I am not sure there is anywhere that this outfit is appropriate to wear. Where are Joan Rivers and the fashion police? Okay enough of this moaning, I am just pointing out that one must never put away the camera until you are completely out of the water. Something may unexpectedly present.




Jules and Dave like to mug. There is a rule, which I realize looking back. Do not include too many girlfriend shots in the pictures you take. I have heard of families asking to Photoshop eliminate a spouse after the divorce. David’s graduation – it was my first serious digital Nikon D70. I mean it was about one week’s test shots after I received the camera that I just went ahead and shot his graduation. And there were plenty of pictures of the girl friend included in the day. She broke his heart later. He doesn’t speak of her and doesn’t want to see her. So I am sure he needs no photo reminders. One of the things the kids would do is make faces in protest of all the images I shoot. It was not too bad when film cost. But with digital there is really no limit. And I am free with my finger on the shutter. So I get faces a lot more now.DSC_0341



It looks like a color blindness test. It was there on a night dive. I admit I have not seen another like it. The lighting was improvised using my dive flashlight. The center of the beam is too brilliant and overexposed my image. So I had to rely on the light at the border. Well you get the picture. And I shot without my usual flash. And it is a starfish in the sea.



This was taken before I heard the term. It was back around 2003 and I attended a track meet at Hamilton College. Jules was still a runner. I drove up and stayed nearby. We had dinner and did the usual father daughter bonding. I don’t remember if she won her race. The point was to be there to show her my interest. Hey! It’s what fathers do. And I also point out this was a few years before yesterday’s engagement post.