Word and Image

Archive for May, 2016

Chicago

Airbnb rocks. Despite what you may hear from the hotel trade, there are some finds. I’ve stayed in hotels whenever I went to a meeting. The designated meeting hotel in each city is about the most expensive after you get discount. The plain flat has a bed and a bath. Been there done that.

And then I discovered Airbnb about two years ago. This time around we took an apartment in Chicago. The strategy is to stay in walking distance to the convention center or one of the meeting hotels. The hotel bus to the convention center is free. I shouldn’t tell this secret. Everyone will rent out space before I do. The apartment was on the 32nd floor. And the view? The downtown landmarks – see them? And it was the whole place including kitchen. I did not need the amenities of a hotel. The only downside was there was no closet space so we hung our clothes on the back of a door. With the view you see here, that’s a small downside. Oh, Chicago’s called the windy city. From up here it definitely was. I think you’d agree that the view at dawn is spectacular. Why? ‘Cause my time zones are still a mess coming from the Middle East. And, ‘cause neurosurgeons like to get up real early to meet in the morning.


Work In Progress

IMG_6005

This nudibranch is pretty common where I dive. It means we see it. It’s not as though you don’t have to keep a sharp eye. And it is usually small. And it is not moving fast. And it is usually partially hidden. If no one is looking I might move it a bit to allow me to get my camera into a better position Shhhhh! Don’t tell. Charlie, a friend a buddy, a pilot with whom I flew, likes to get the whole subject in the frame. I find that I’m sometimes influenced by his notion. Though I had rationally discounted his idea much of my work is of the whole creature.

Lately, I’m trying for more detail. The rhinopores (horns) have striations. At high mag in macro, the depth of field is so shallow that focus is a problem And then this guy was truckin’ along. Yes, they move. Not fast, but they do. It ain’t easy to get a shot. And I would love to manual focus on the horn. But it’s not something I can do underwater. In a way it’s like getting all set and then the last thing you do is close your eyes and press the shutter. Unlike someone I know, I do not shake my finger when I press.


Octopus Encounter

I haven’t seen one since the winter. I guess they go south. Who knows? But in the last few dives I’ve seen a few. Or, maybe it’s the same guy. They are pretty solitary. Except someone has pictures of them mating. Have a look. Tell me who’s the boy and who’s the girl. Nope. Not here, it’s one or the other. This is one skittish octopus. It changed color and camouflage several times. It did not slip under the coral and hide. So this series gives you an idea of the show it put on for me. I happened along at the right moment. My buddy drifted patiently nearby while I feasted with my camera. Later he told me his battery was dead. The happy ending is that we saw him again on the next dive. Can you imagine? Of course you can’t. It’s near to impossible to go back and see the same creature again. So maybe the second time was the she we’ve been wondering about.

The base color is a deep brown. I’ve seen the octopus touch down on the coral and change color and texture in a matter of seconds. Curiously, this guy did not squirt ink. He put on a great show for me – all for free.


Detail

IMG_6027 copy

Here’s a rare find on the reef. I’ve seen it before. It’s a nudibranch. Someone asked me to explain. It’s like a forest with trees. This is one of the trees. There are tall ones and short ones and big leaves and small leaves. It’s doesn’t help too much. Generally, they have certain common anatomic features. There are the front end rhinopores and the rear end gills. Then there is size and color which vary. So you get big and tiny. Some are quite large and you would think with a big soft body, they would be a tasty snack. For some reason the big fish do not find them tasty – probably poisonous. And then again crabs with hard shells are skittish and wary. I love that the rhinopores have striations that you can make out. It’s fun to find. Today I was fortunate to have a very compatible group of buddies. I felt a little guilty. The other three did not have cameras. I got to have all the fun.

 


HB – Happy Happy

2973 09 John Victor Eric.jpg

Happy Birthday. I just remember the day. Eric was born on the last day of third grade for me. That would be Elkins First Ward School. Lot of memories there. I awoke and mom had delivered overnight. Dad was getting us breakfast. John and me. He had left us alone overnight. We slept and never knew it. I barely remember when John was born. All I remember is that they kept acting like I might be jealous of someone new in the house. He did not affect me in the least. We were expecting a girl (Eric). Hoping for a girl. I don’t know why. It seems ok by me that I got another brother. His name is closer to the front of the alphabet. And he got a middle name.

Me? My mother used a baby name book. She bailed at V. WXYZ not too much further to go. And no middle name. “T” it was on my birth certificate. No, I did not know till I was sixteen. My first summer job as a waiter in a camp and when they returned our birth certificates someone pointed it out. “Oh, well, I didn’t have a first name for you. So I just saved a spot.” Great story. And each brother got a letter closer to the front of the alphabet.

My mother was one of seven children. The last three were sisters. The youngest sister my dear Auntie Fu Ching told me after my mother had passed away, “Your mother lied on your birth certificate.” Huh? The older sister Emily told her she was too old to have a baby (me). So she told my mother, “Lie about your age.” Great! I have looked and I know that I am not a girl.

You’d be surprised but a lot of Chinese guys have my name. I can’t get my name alone as an identifier for email or username. The most fun I had was entering Hong Kong after I visited China. I was separated from my group and placed in a room with a very nice man with a rifle. It was clear he was guarding me. I, of course, did not have a guilty conscience. But I cooled my heels for a while. And when released (I was released with a smile) my friend informed me that the customs folks thought they had just caught one of the big drug smugglers with my same name. Geez!


Hermit

IMG_5000

It seems everyone knows about hermit crabs. Where have I been? But they are a ready target for macro photography practice. I find a shell and turn it over. The crab senses his world is upside down and emerges to turn himself upright again. We do this dance over and over. I get ready aim and fire. I’ve learned some crabs are not bright red and photogenic. I’ve learned that some crabs are faster than others. They turn over quick and then it’s a trick to be ready with the camera in time. I’m getting better. I am using super macro now. I zoom up with the digital zoom. I thought you can’t do that. But it looks like I can. So I do. Naturally. Show me a rule I can bend and I’ll do it every time. I’m still not to the level where I can image just the eyes yet. I working on it.

IMG_5015

I have a buddy who keeps showing me that there is a higher bar. You still have to be in the right place at the right moment.. But when that shot comes, I’ll be good to go. He’s been giving lots of folks lessons. He is the local guru of photography. His big rig Canon is quite impressive. It’s a massive housing and two flashes with double arms. The thing weighs about 25 lbs out of water. Underwater, it’s set to be neutrally buoyant. I have not taken a lesson. Cheap! But no.

When I learned to snow ski, I took a lesson. Exactly one. For four hours one morning. Mount Snow. Vermont. The instructor was busy hitting on all the girls for the four hours. I learned zip. I was married and did not need tips in meeting women. So the afternoon lesson was skipped and I learned to ski by putting on mileage. It worked. I can ski. I’m good enough to be at the bottom. In one piece. I may not look great coming down. But I sure have fun with my near escapes. How good? I’m good enough to ski down and video my kids as they go. Try looking at the slope thru a viewfinder as you go. Or to ski backwards as they come toward you. The real trick is that they would ski between and under my legs as they came by. The only caveat: “Do not under any circumstances, lift your head!” I got the video to prove it and it’s hilarious. Mileage baby.

I’m taking many many images and I keep practicing on these poor hermits. No, it’s not the same one. I got one good image. Quit? Lisa would not see the insanity. You know? Insanity – doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Me, I never claimed to be playing with a full deck.


Little Fishie

IMG_5539

Nice detail and nice background. Well, the detail in the coral helps the image. It’s why I took the image. So here’s the process. Did you want to know? No? Skip the rest and look at the fishie. First you swim by. You see the fish. You determine if it will stay put. Then you turn on the camera and the flash. Macro? Set up things by twirling the buttons and dials. Flash is done manually. There is no auto exposure. You set it up. And you set up the depth of field. And you make sure your background is uncluttered. And at high mag you are moving and so it’s exceedingly difficult to hold still while the current is pushing you up and down and to and fro. Meanwhile steady your hand and move in close whilst not scaring the poor fishie. He moves and your shot is toast. Still with me? Then you are indeed my friend. I imagine most folks would have given up on me way back. Ha! No paragraph. It makes it harder to skip ahead. Maybe you were reading along because you thought I might teach you something.

At the end of the day I like the detail in this white coral. I’d never post this image except the fishie got cooperative and stayed so that the two together make a good pair. You think this is easy? I now understand how to shoot a gun. You hold your breath and press the shutter slowly. Anything else and everything is moving and you don’t have much chance to hit a target or to get your image in focus. I’m getting quite good at holding my breath. No! That is the first rule of scuba. Breathe normally – in and out – and – out and in. But then again rules can be stretched without breaking. I’m holding in place. My lungs will be just fine. I will not pass out from lack of oxygen. And I got the shot!

In the movies the good guy shoots while falling out of a car and shoots three villians between the eyes in three shots. What you see here is a good shot. How it got here was a journey. Breathe in, breathe out.


I Lost

Bigg’s Museum ran a photo contest and I was seduced into entering. Like everything else I did not spend too much time in selecting three images for submission. You got to enter three images for $35. I think it was a fundraiser for the museum. I was persuaded to do this. Flattered into doing it. You know the drill. So I collected about twenty shots and they were passed around and around. The jury of my close admirers picked and debated. I submitted these images. I am perfectly happy to have lost. Someone better than me won. The images make me happy. In the end I have so many images that are good. Some are technically good. And others are artistically sound. There’s a difference.

The best example I could give was in painting figures. Dave and I painted detailed figures for a game we played. Jules did for a while but then lost interest. Dave kept me at it. I was technically sound. After all I was a surgeon and good with fine detail. So I could paint tiny detail and get it just so. Dave painted too. He was a kid. Mistakes and all. But his finished product was better than mine. Forget detail. We had both painted the same figures and his were better. Art. He had that “je ne sais quoi” (I don’t know what) that cannot be translated by technical excellence. That’s the difference in knowing and winning. I’m just happy that there are some folks who like what I’ve done.

By the way, the fish kissing was real and not post processed. Yes, they came together for a second, long enough for me to get the shot. I imagine it wasn’t kissing but then again, what else?


Red – As in Background

Hey! A new trick. Multiple photos are place in a mosaic. Where have I been WordPress?

I know I talking macro photography like it’s a new discovery. And for me the fascination is in the learning. Technique is half the battle. Not that you might care too much, and besides, why do they call it macro? I think that micro would be a better way to describe something close up. You know, like micro-scope? Or microscopic slide. But nope, they call it macro photography. Which is, get in close, get very close. A zoom lens does not cut it. Underwater the more distance the more dust in your way to ruin the sharpness of your image. So I got the first part ok. The next trick is composition. Background matters. And the detail – oo la la! The fish has horns. Don’t ask. I’m just taking the picture. I got a profile. It’s what I could get. Right and left side. And his mouth is open and you see reflections off the lens of the eye. When you consider that the camera takes care of itself I feel fortunate to have the capability to utilize its potential. There is some skill involved. You have to know when to press the shutter. Otherwise it’s pretty simple.

So red, the background, it’s coral – you know – it’s why they call it the Red Sea. And my fish posed perfectly. And if he had not, the image would not have been nearly as striking. I am just getting beyond where I happy to just have a macro image. Now I can go for composition and background. Yay! I’m still not giving up my day job.

 

 


Eggs

IMG_5495

The chicken or the egg? Clownfish reproduce. Cool! They laid their eggs on the wall of coral beside their protector, the anemone. Mama, papa, they look the same to me. That’s a nice thing. Eggs need protection. We were a few days early. I showed you the embryos with eyes not too long ago. Now, I got a few really nice images close-up. The eggs in fact look pretty detailed. I have no complaint. It’s not easy to spot the eggs. And then the fish nip at you as you move in to take a picture. Alas, by the time we return in a week the eggs will have hatched. Not many will survive to maturity. I’d come back to photograph the developing eggs but I have a day job.

IMG_5591