Word and Image

Archive for February, 2016

Unicorn – Trunkfish


It’s February 29th, leap year. Once every four years… What to post?

My unicorn is the trunkfish. I chase them on the reef. The swim away. They have eyes in the back of their head. Not really, but it seems, just like mom, that they know I’m there and want to take their picture. Come to think of it I know a cat named Elle who is the same. A camera comes out, and she shies away immediately. So I chase and chase and get an ass end view. Not sexy at all.


The color pattern, texture, and detail are intricate and hard to capture underwater. Distance changes and the exposure is very tricky. Light falls off as the inverse square. At two feet light is ¼ and at four feet light is 1/16th power and so forth. Bet you don’t care. I do – every time I fail to get the shot. Yes, I chased again. Closer this time, not quite a cigar, but at least you see detail. Go ahead and yawn and take for granted that I am still chasing this unicorn. You can even laugh. I’m not done yet…



It’s all in the details. And perhaps you read yesterday. The ribbon of eggs? Macro lens. This image ain’t sharp. It could be. Maybe it should be. Aren’t the details the important thing? Or is it art? Who knows? When I edit lately, my first pass is for images that appeal to me. This one has enough detail combined with a painterly quality that it qualifies as art. Otherwise I am doing catalog work for a book. Been there and done that elsewhere.

Ribbons – Eggs


I have so many interesting things to share. I compose a post and then don’t post. I am doing too many fish. Sorry, Carol. I know you are tired of so many fishies. But, hey, it’s what I do on the weekend. Surgery is not photographed. We do it. But the images are not for public view. They are teaching images. And everything is all red and unrecognizable to anyone but an expert. Besides I saw the picture of very nice hand surgery. There was even a picture of her surgeon and his team posed over the open wound. And then, she came to see me complaining that the surgery had failed and didn’t work. Yes, ‘mam, that’s a picture I want you to pass along to everyone you know. Nope! Not me. Well, I’ve done it here in the past, but not often.


Ok! So this ribbon that I speak of is here. I come across it occasionally. It is the time of year. It is egg laying season for nudibranch. They tell me, so I tell you the same. The creatures are here all the time on my posts. Apparently they lay eggs that look like a package wrapped and ready to go. Ribbons.


Pretty. A good image. Strange image. Odd. And now you tell me they are eggs all out there exposed. Don’t other fish like protein and aren’t eggs a good source of protein… and so forth and so on….. Darn! They are eggs! Look at the detail.


I’m famously unable to see the fine print and detail according to my kids. Hey! Look! Eggs! Neat. I guess I will have to get new glasses. But…I still don’t read the fine print. Look! It’s eggs held together by fine thin mucous membrane.

Christmas Tree Worm


Close up macro underwater photography. You need a close up diopter. There are many but the de facto model in use here is a #10 model which I just ordered. My dive buddy loaned me his lens for use a couple times and I have images to post before my spiffy new lens arrives. I feel like I borrowed his toothbrush but I guess the loan of a lens is not quite that personal. And so it’s on to a new learning curve. Focus and settings are different. And I am doing this with gloves on. My fingers were so cold I could not last to the end of the dive not being able to feel the tips of my fingers. I found dive gloves without fingertips. That will help. And meanwhile I muddle onward. Focus, light, and composition are all different. Detail! Suddenly, maybe, there is too much detail. Or, there is not enough to really appreciate the whole sea creature. Nah! Among experts, this is pretty much ok. Detail work is more about seeing what the average reader and diver cannot see. A dive instructor/photographer intimated…”I can’t see what it is that I’m taking pictures of; the subjects and details are so tiny.” Ah! The emperor’s new clothes. Equipment makes a difference. But the photographer makes the image. You can do well with a point and shoot camera. But you can do better with cameras that do what you want when you want it. Therein lies the conundrum. At what point does the price exceed practical desire? For professionals, there is no price too high for the latest greatest gear. And for the advanced amateur it is a matter of what your wife will object to when you don’t get the new refrigerator you need. Yeah, I had a ton of American Express reward points and fantasized over a new Macbook computer. We got a refrigerator. Yup, brand new and spiffy, delivered shortly after she discovered my points. Hey! We needed a new refrigerator. Yeah, right! And Christmas tree worms? Well they are so called because they are worms. And the stick out of the coral and retract when disturbed. And the tops that stick up look like upside down pine trees.


The come in different colors and they are neat subjects to photograph. I saw two close by. I got images. They usually retract but this pair was cooperative. I shot. The images are not perfect but the detail work is pretty awesome. It’s a jump up from enlarging a small portion of my image. Yes, this is macro photography. Another day, another lesson, I’m still self teaching myself on the fly and getting images that keep me interesting in getting better.



Right at the end of the dive I was hovering and doing my safety stop. Activity!? Ah! A pipefish was open and swimming on the bottom.


They are shy and just disappear under a coral in nothing flat. Get a shot? Move in. Zoom up. Get an image. Got it. Now try for something better. I can’t do it with the magnified diopter yet. My buddy who owns and knows the lens did the close-up.


Yes the close-up image is in my camera but he took the shot. I learned another trick. I’m now a fan of macro photography. Now, to get better at it… I can’t tell you which pipefish. It’s not exactly in my book. Oh well, I did not discover a new fish. It’s just not identified clearly in my book.

Lyretail Anthias


Too common? I see them all the time. They don’t lend themselves for pictures. The bright orange is darned hard to capture and expose.


The orange is like snow. It’s just darned hard to get the right exposure. Capturing texture is a problem. You wouldn’t know. But I can tell you. And you still don’t know the trouble I have. And I’m sure you don’t care too much either. Show me the picture!


And there are males which are different, like bird pairs. I didn’t know that and still credit Jules with telling me. She looked it up. Why? I grant you the internet is full of wild and irrelevant facts. But why would you be prompted to look up the differences? Ah? Maybe she was just looking for ID? The males have a long dorsal fin which is rather nice when deployed. And it’s not too often deployed.


And it moves and is hard to capture in an image. And so this is a long term project. I know the image I want and keep waiting for the time it will present itself. And would you believe I’ve called them by the wrong name for four years. Jules gave me the wrong name. She is right about the male and female being different. Hmmm, I learn new things everyday.

Do Over Do Over – Hermit Crab

I would be happy with any image and got none the first dive….nada, blank, nothing….equipment malfunction…like that wardrobe malfunction during superbowl… only no fun at all.


Did you ever wish you could do something over? My first dive of the day was over before the first image. Memory card error! Maybe I just forgot to put in the memory card after I downloaded my images from yesterday. Dementia? I’m old enough. Oh bother and worry! Nope it was simply a contact issue. I found out later. So, the water is cold but I simply explored. I looked and poked and saw what there was and did not take a single picture. My my! It was torture. And if you know me, it truly was a hard thing to be freezing and cold and not be able to shoot a single thing. I followed the group and was as good a sport as I could be under the circumstances. Everyone else was happily shooting away.


Ah! A shell. I guessed and I was right! It was the home of a hermit crab. And he was home! And he was active. He did not like his shell being turned over. He was hiding. So for about five minutes I turned it over and watched him turn the shell back. Hey! A shell game!


No image, camera malfunction. I was heartbroken. I’ll never have another chance like this again. One of the group wandered by but was pretty blasé and didn’t even take a shot. He simply nodded and moved on.


Drat! I still think about that shot that wasn’t. I know I’ll never see it again. Underwater things are not found by landmark. I pass something, turn around, and can’t find a thing that I just saw the moment before. No! Not dementia. The landmarks are simply too confusing. It is akin to directionally challenged on land. And to the many women in my life for which this applies, you know who you are and what I mean. I used to hang back leaving a restaurant because someone I knew always walked in the wrong direction from the car. You would think the odds are fifty fifty. Nope. About 99 to 1. Second dive: I was banished toward the upper reef. It’s a long story short. I had been in “deco” the day before and was not to be diving deep and really not even diving. Sorry mom… And then low and behold! Wow! I recognized the spot and the coral and the shell! Yes! Happy day! I actually found the shell and the hermit crab. And I got to shoot him to my hearts content with a spiffy close up diopter that I was given loan. And I got shots! The crab would stick out his legs and claws and right his shell and hide. And I would tip it back over and over and shoot and shoot. Yup! Good shots, good focus, good exposure and… a do over!

Rant and Trash Talk


There are those here in the Middle East who are clearly shaking their heads at American politics. Clowns! They are for entertainment and laughter. The current group of Republican candidates are making me embarrassed to say I am American. Sorry. But they do not play well overseas. The trash talking reality TV sound bites are outrageous and inappropriate. More telling are the Koch brothers with their billions who have not backed a single one of these nuts. They want to see who survives before they toss billions into the race to buy the votes needed to secure the next President. Oh? The picture? Another rant. Trash! Yeah. This is the view right off the dive venue. The bottles are empty and floating and have been there for a while. What a lovely view! Bastards! All I can say is that it seems people care so little for those who come behind them. Don’t bother. Trash the place, I’ve been here and taken my pleasure. Let someone else see the mess I left. Really!? Pick up your trash! Around here people still toss trash right out the window of their moving cars. It’s pretty unlikely anyone reading this post does that. There might be a few Republicans among you….how about that Trump?

Open Wide, Say Ah


Here’s a behavior I don’t see very much. Isn’t that the point? Common things are not as interesting as the unusual. Stonefish were a lot of fun and good images when I first saw them. They don’t move too much and you can shoot away. But I have hundreds of images.


So what’s different? I found one and was shooting away. But then my buddy wrested the camera from my grasp and moved in and magically got this shot. I swear he did not speak to the fish underwater to get him to do this behavior.

IMG_7222Of late my buddy likes my camera and shoots with it. I admit the open mouth is not my shot but it was in my camera. It’s not the same. Close, but no cigar.

Shoot glass

IMG_7736 aIt’s not a misprint. I did not say shot glass – although that would be technically correct…


If you have ever tried to shoot an image through a window or worse yet through a screen window, then you have encountered the problem with auto focus. Auto focus saves me about 99 out of 100 times. But even the computer can be fooled.


So here you see the screen though it be out of focus it is still discernable. Ok! Now try focusing on a moving jellyfish. My buddy was suddenly looking up at the sun while we were near the end of the dive. I thought he’d gone mad from the cold water. I looked up and saw what else? The sun! Ah! Aha! A jellyfish. They are rare to see around here. And even more difficult is trying to shoot an image near the surface. Everything is moving in 3D. Does that make it 6D if the subject and the photographer are both moving? Do you count the camera too? And I’m dizzy. Yes, the motion is making me dizzy! Shoot! Keep shooting and hope for the best. Nope, it ain’t gonna happen today. Some days you lose. The autofocus does not work on things so translucent. Blind luck. I shot enough. But nope, not a single keeper. Yes, yes, National Geographic comes back with the shot. We were at the end of the dive. I was cold. Now I was dizzy. And I could not see the darned thing well enough to focus. Nope, it wasn’t happening on this day.


Another rule: never put your gear to sleep till you leave the water. As we swam to the stairs I swam over a collector sea urchin. Yup, broad daylight. Usually they are seen only at night. Surprise! And the waves tossed me but I got a shot. This might not seem to special either. But it is something we don’t see frequently. I’m still happy to say it is something different. Yeah, been there, done that…..


IMG_6990Pyjama chromodorid – the official name in my book. Yes, I spelled it like it was spelled in my book. I know how to spell PJ. It’s a nudibranch.I bet you wanted to know.

And I have shot this subject on many a coral. It was tiny. I like the graphic. It’s on a Red Sea coral. Get it? Oh! Yes look. It has stripes like a pajama. I think you would have figured that out. Every time I shoot on I go for the rhinopores and the gills. (psst… those thing sticking up from its back) And since I discovered lighting I am using less ambient light. I think this is their true color but you would never know because at sixty feet everything does not look so bright and colorful. Why not just be a neutral shade of putrid green? The color means – don’t eat me, I have something bad or I taste bad. Maybe it’s because I have bad taste?


IMG_6431 a

I’ve posted about these fish in the past. The swim in loose schools. Seemingly ubiquitous to the reef I hardly take notice of them. About once a year now they school in a tight bunch. And even more amazingly they swim in circles with their mouths open. They look spooky like monsters out to eat everything in their path. Then they slow down, close their mouths, and dissemble peacefully once more. Shooting tips: With my strobe setup I am not prepared for a ambient light image. I have settings ready to go. But it takes seconds. This school waits for no one. The water was not exactly crystal clear which made for another problem. And then the fish are not close nor would they come to close to me. So as they call it, aim the camera, point, and shoot. And I do and I did.


Next trick is in Photoshop. On the camera the image is washed out and barely discernable. I know what’s there but anyone else would be less than impressed. The trick: Jules taught me when we were editing our dives together. On a Mac: command- shift-L, it is auto level. Magic. Color correction and bringing up detail is done magically. Hey, I’m not into complex layers and nuances. I just want to admire something in a few seconds. Maximize your effect in the least amount of time.I cannot adjust levels the way that autolevel does its magic. I’ve tried; it doesn’t work fast for me.


I provided a before after shoot. And the others are here because I was too undecided to just pick one image. Fascinating fish behavior made graphic by the luck of being on site and with the help of Photoshop. It all happens infrequently.


I was happy to be there when the school went round. There’s a rule. Don’t swim with anything bigger that has potential to eat you. The big school swirling around with mouths open is intimidating.

IMG_6433In case you were wondering it’s done by opening your mouth and spreading your gills. Don’t try this at home.

Red Fish Same Fish


A quandary? Digital allows you to shoot multiple images of the same subject. Memory is limitless; batteries are rechargeable; you can experiment and not hoard resources. Frequently I may shoot more than a hundred images in a dive. I shot way more than that before. But lately I ask the question, “Is this a photograph?” Then I stop and don’t shoot a fish tail swimming away from my lens. A lot has to do with taste. But even so the same settings can give different results.


Therein lies the decision to keep one or the other. Can you imagine discarding images? Some do so ruthlessly. They discard all images in a first pass. I hoard. No discards. Hey, it’s ok. Memory prices are inexpensive. The bottom line – this guy waited around for me to take two images. The actual situation is that he circled and came back to the same position. This made me shoot twice and I was surprised that difference I got.

Clownfish – Finally!


I’ve been shooting clownfish since I’ve had an underwater camera. They are easy. They are gullible. You approach their anemone and they protect it. So they don’t swim away. Sometimes they even nip at you. Up until now exposure has been an issue. I am always overexposed. Can’t seem to get detail. The highlights are always washed out.


Ah! Eureka. Learned a new trick and it is paying off. I’m so happy when I learn a new trick! Old dog and all that… but it is what is so much fun. My day job is challenging. Yup! But my hobby is self-taught. I learn on the fly watching others and not taking lessons. Yes, it’s a new breakthrough lately and I’m still tickled about it. And I will readily admit that I am out of the box ready to post image. So lately there has been no need to do much in the way of post processing. Laziness has made me better at composition, cropping, and exposure.

Scene At The Traffic Circle


You could laugh. Traffic circles are a way to avoid lights. This assumes that one knows how to maneuver a circle without stopping in the middle. Fine, good – no! People just go into the circle and free for all ensues.


Somehow everyone emerges on the other side. Someone has to blink, right? What do in the middle? Ah! Art work! Who commissioned this stuff? How? Why? Whose taste? Oh my! A fruit boat in plaster and tile was just what I thought of. Really!


No, no, I’m pretty sure I have posted this before, but it bears repeat commentary. I’ve been here a while now and it never ceases to amaze me and make me shake my head. What were they thinking? And who were they? Did you understand that this is satire? Or is it just hideous?

V for Valentine


Last year at this time I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing with whom. Do you? Sorry, I ain’t telling.

So “A” is for the bright red coral accent that makes me think of the letter “A.”

IMG_7052And “E” is the shape of the coral, which reminds me of an elephant.

IMG_7066And “X” is for the orange coral sticking up like a Xmas tree.

Fair enough? The technical trick I learned is to isolate the subject by fading out the background ambient light by making the strobe the dominant light source. It’s like night diving which I love so much. So finally it dawned on me to do this more. I had heretofore been concerned with battery life. I’m shooting less and more particularly. I don’t really want to manipulate my images post processing like crazy in Photoshop. Mostly I am getting away with Lightroom and some cropping on occasion. Hey, it’s working better and better.

And yes, it was a very nice valentine too…

Brown Edged Glossodorid


Another new one! I have never seen this. Actually it looked more like a random coral. It actually photographs quite well. But the muted color underwater fooled me. Now that I made you look, it resembles a party dress.


I would never have noticed it except for my dive buddies. Everyone had a shot at getting an image. Then they moved off along the reef. The problem with subjects is that they move and you don’t see them again. So take your best shot. You might not get another for a long time if ever. The nudibranch moves slowly as measured in millimeters a minute. But they move. And this guy moved under the coral.


Bad for my shot, so… I played with the wildlife. I moved it gently and got more shots. Ok, I thought I was free but Marie asked me if I had moved it after she swam away. Don’t ask don’t tell. You must admit the name is pretty clinically boring for a rare subject. Technical note: if you shoot underwater, and most of you don’t – I now understand strobe lighting better and how it makes better images. How did I do without it? Here I used a fast shutter and increased the F stop. The lighting was really nice. Maybe next I go over to two strobes.

One Spot Demoiselle


I have not seen this until now. Interesting color pattern, the large spots make you think the tail is the front end of the fish. It reminds me of a cartoon. Who thinks up these patterns anyway? Nature and genetics, it makes you wonder how this pattern was adopted.


To me this is colorful little tidbit. So the story follows. We were at the end of a long cold dive and doing the three minute stop. I’ve learned not to put my camera away at the end of the dive. There is always something that shows up when your camera is secured. And this time I was not disappointed. This little guy was just flitting in and out and under the coral. He was tiny and skittish. We played peekaboo. I got shots.


My spiffy camera let me enlarge the image and still be serviceable. I love seeing things right at the end. When I looked up, everyone else had hustled out of the water and was warming in the sun. I never noticed the final cold minutes. Um? Read the title and tell me which is the one spot?

Quit While You’re Ahead


Prayer time and everything comes to a halt. The open air market is no exception. The shops close their doors. The outdoor vendors mostly follow suit. Not all, but they mostly do. So I headed for a seat. I had sat out the thirty minute hiatus here a few nights ago. The bench was full. But I’m brave. It’s like the Egyptians at the cornice right? Go for it. I sat next to the two old guys. Hey, I’m old too! And they left after a bit.


And across from me was a photo op. Gee, even sitting down and cooling my heels, I get to take pictures. So while checking on what I had, I also shot images too. The last one was the keeper. And I promptly quit. No waves, please.

Late Night


Well, it was quitting time for me. I was headed to the car and wandering the streets to make my way back. I was going up and down random streets and walking toward lights. There was a late café serving a classic dish. It is like burgers and fries. The dough is pulled into a square. Then, a sheet of dough is added, liquid looking egg batter, and another layered sheet is added. It is folded into a square. Grilled, it is served hot to a waiting group sitting at tables inside.


I got a single shot, it’s not great or even fully understandable till I explain. It’s a barber. His dad is holding the kid down.


And I guess it is not an exactly cooperative kid getting his hair cut. Lastly, I passed one more place. Somehow I was brave, made eye contact, and shot a few images. I heard someone in the café behind me say, “Camera.” That was my cue to beat it. It’s grilled flatbread and quite popular by the looks of it.



The end of my evening was the start for someone else. I chanced to pass this very active social night scene. My first pass was a failure. The camera had reset itself and the exposure was blurred. It was interesting. But I considered it a failure. In a rare moment for me I turned around and made a second pass. I was not quite as invisible but did get a better shot.


No women! The men were talking and drinking coffee and playing dominoes. Night life! No alcohol. No women. Oh boy! Well, a sports bar it ain’t. And the waiters are not dressed like Hooter girls either.



Open mouth. Lionfish are common on the reef. They are considered to be pestilence in some places because they eat all the reef fish. To aquarium owners they are a rather striking addition to the collection. And I have seen them often enough that you almost ignore them. Usually shy I am usually pointing my lens at their back and tail. So it’s not much of an interesting shot anymore. The newbes love them. First time underwater and all that… but me, I’m pretty much bored with the subject. We were cold and near the end of the dive. A stately lionfish was drifting in open water. They never swim fast but always swim away when I approach. Huh, I’ve told you that most fish don’t like big things (me) blowing lots of bubbles and swimming toward them with something pointed in their face.


This one challenged me. He stayed at 90 degrees watching me with one eye. And then he turned. My shot! Head on straight and I looked into his eyes. You can see the bubble of his fish eye lens. Yes, that’s where the term comes from. I have this shot too. Many times over…but! He opened his mouth. Fish don’t do that! Occasionally maybe sometimes I have seen this. But he opened his mouth right as I was aimed and focused and exposed. Oh shoot! Got it. A single frame. Yes, there are so many unusual shots people are no longer amazed and they are truly jaded. Well, I got it and it’s my image and I did it. Proud! And my dive buddy in a turnabout proudly showed me his frame in profile. Right place right time, I scooped him on this shot. Yeah, turnabout. Yay!



It’s a gold spotted flatworm. Names aside, it is a black flat thing with golden spots. The name – duh! I have never seen it move. Any time I ever encountered it was a black leaflike thing that just was a curiosity and a few images. It’s got a head! Well at least there are horns.


And it flies! Imagine that! The dive was going along and I was seeking things to image. If I say shoot, people think I’m using a gun. Yes, I got that question once. An elusive trunkfish was swimming away under a coral and as I gave pursuit, there in front of my eyes… a flying gold spotted flatworm. No! They don’t fly. Right. It’s not possible. Read: Disbelief! Yes, I love finding unexpected things.


The first time someone pointed this worm out I thought it was just some black debris on the ocean floor. I image everything and discovered it was a creature later. They don’t fly! But, to my utter amazement this guy was undulating in open water and headed for the coral to land. Yes! I got pictures. Great! I called over my dive buddy and he got a spectacular shot. Yes! I’m embarrassed. He shot a couple images and got a true Nat Geo image. No, you don’t get to see it. It’s his image and this is my blog.


But the image was exposed perfectly and showed my camera lens aimed at the flatworm from the opposite angle. Phenomenal! I thought I had a good shot but his was a learning experience for me. So, now I’m experimenting with technique and getting better. New and improved.

Lulu and Badi


Pearl and marvelous – Arabic names. Cats. I’ve named them. They adopted me. I’m a free meal ticket. I started with rolls. They are not vegetarian and finicky so they ate sparingly. Then I used canned tuna. I wasn’t sure if they would be back. So I did not invest in cat food.


Cats around here are stray and pretty much abandoned to the whim of people. They are painfully thin and pretty much know how to work a trash bin. There’s not much.


Two nights after I fed them from the tuna can – they licked the empty can – I found three bounding up to me when I opened my door. Pet food is located with the kitchen supplies at the grocery. There is even dog food. They are large (relatively), medium, and small. The little guy runs if I look in its direction. The large – now Badi – and medium, Lulu are braver. Badi let me touch him almost at once and Lulu is pretty ok. She will nip and scratch at me. At this point I have fed them about a week. And they now eat from my hand. They came into the villa for a visit.


Badi is dumb and started to meow and whine and climb through my curtain at the window. He doesn’t get the concept of a door or how to use it to get out. Lulu was in and out without a problem. Girls are smarter.


I finally got pictures of them both. The third guy is still missing. There are other cats lurking about. These three have adopted me. So we are getting to be buddies. I’m teaching them sharing. Everyone eats.