DPReview has a review of the Ricoh Caplio GX100 which is the Sea & Sea branded camera inside the announced DX-1G underwater system. There are no big surprises in the review for someone, like myself, considering the DX-1G. It takes 5.5 seconds between shots if you are shooting RAW but JPG is snappy. There is no Flash preset for the whitebalance which is a bit odd and will impact underwater macro shots taken with a strobe. Noise is high above at ISO 400 and above which is the price you pay for live LCD preview and tiny size compared to a digital SLR but it is a non-issue for strobe shots. Low-light autofocus is slow which means the Sea & Sea YS-110 Strobe with LED modelling light will be very popular with this camera. I replaced my old YS-120 strobe with a YS-110 so I should do a mini-review of the new strobe some time.

Like all underwater camera systems, flash/strobe performance is always a question. DPReview mentioned that the flash hotshoe is not live, that is, the hotshoe does not fire a regular attached flash. This means the communication between the Sea & Sea “flash-like strobe triggering accessory” and the camera occurs over the same type of connection the external viewfinder uses. The protocol must be something proprietary to Ricoh. Is this protocol pre-flash based? Will the default in Aperture mode be slow-sync and will there be a way to turn slow-sync on and off? I dunno. I hope it works flawlessly though :-)

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My off-by-one nerdish juices are flowing after reading the press release on Wetpixel about the Sea & Sea DX-1G underwater camera and housing. There is alot of interest on the Wetpixel forum regarding the system. Adorama has a post about the DX-1G and says it will have a $1000 price which includes a Sea & Sea branded Ricoh GX100 camera plus the housing. Adorama lists the price of the Ricoh GX100 at $600.

Who cares right? Well, I do and if you are into photography but never plan on shooting underwater you may still be interested in this topic as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Shrimp in an Anemone

April 25, 2007

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Bring Out the Clowns

March 23, 2007

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Some days you just feel like bringing out the clowns… or the clownfish in this case. Clownfish have to be the most photogenic critters on the planet. They have beautiful color and the host anemone serves as a fascinating backdrop. They make me happy.

Leafy Filefish Behavior

February 26, 2007

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I took a photo of this beautiful Leafy Filefish on a dive in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. I normally would not have to mention “on a dive” but the results of a quick Google search made me think twice. I searched on “behavior leafy filefish” and the top results contained information for aquarium owners. Sigh.

Tom vs. The Long Tail

February 19, 2007

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Tom Slee is determined to give Chris Anderson’s book “The Long Tail” a thorough thrashing. The book is an extended version of a Wired Magazine article by Chris Anderson. I have read both the book (sometime ago) and the original article and I think the article succinctly lays out the idea behind The Long Tail. Unless you need a program to follow the play-by-play of Tom’s critique, the book is not required reading.

Tom is taking apart the book chapter by chapter. His latest post is a critique of chapter 1 but he started off by laying out his biases, ripping the cover (metaphorically), and booing the Introduction.

This is a fun game…. I like it :-)

Hair Removal

February 12, 2007

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This is a hairy frogfish. Beautiful, no? Cool name too. Not as endearing as the “many spotted sweetlips” but charming nonetheless.

So the topic of hair removal came up in conversation recently. Specifically, Brazilian bikini waxing vs. laser hair removal alternatives. I am amazed at the pain tolerance of women and their ability to think clearly about choices involving pain. I don’t believe a group of men would stand around calmly discussing the pros and cons of having one large spike driven through their foreheads vs. several thousand finishing nails. Yet choices involving horrendous pain do not seem to phase women. Amazing.

Hairy frogfish amaze me too but for completely different reasons :-)

Octopus Tool Use?

February 1, 2007

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How do you define tool use? I came across the little octopus on a night dive. He was walking around carrying two halves of a shell with him. When threatened, he closed himself up inside the shell. Now many animals, like the hermit crab, adopt a shell for protection but in this case the octopus carried around two sides that he knew fit together. That comes close to tool use in my book.

An Ocean World Podcast about the Blanket Octopus provides an even better case of tool use. The Blanket Octopus is famous for sexual dimorphism, the male being much smaller (2cm) than the female (6ft). But the really cool thing, in my opinion, is the way the tiny male uses jellyfish tentacles. Apparently he gathers the living stinging tentacles from jelly fish, holds them between his suckers, and wields them when threatened.

Click the player below to listen to the podcast.

Pygmy vs. Hobbit

January 31, 2007

pygmyseahorse_blog.jpgAnother shot has been fired in the Hobbit vs. Pygmy debate regarding hominid skeletal remains found on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. Some say it is a Hobbit (new species Homo floresiensis) and others say it is a Pygmy Homo sapien.

The problem is that while the Hobbit/Pygmy is quite small (brain size is 400 cm3 vs. 1400 cm3 for modern humans) they have found advanced tools and signs of advanced tool use in the excavation.

Really this is a battle of one Hobbit vs. Three Pygmies. The Hobbit is a new species of Homo. The Three Pygmies are subspecies/pygmies of one of three known Homo species. The three Pygmy options are Homo sapiens (modern human), Homo erectus (Java man which is a large neanderthal-like early human that lived in Asia long before H. sapien arrived), and Homo Habilis (smaller but less advanced in tool use than H. erectus but never thought to have left Africa).

Time will tell but if I’d put my money on a Pygmy H. sapien. Keeping with the theme of Indonesian Pygmies and yesterday’s seahorses, I’ve included one of my pictures of a Pygmy Seahorse from N. Sulawesi. He/she is only about 2cm long (including the tail).

Seahorse Sex

January 30, 2007

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Mr. Ringed Pipefish in this photo is carrying eggs. Pipefish are related to seahorses. The males carry the eggs though seahorses keep them in a pouch rather than externally. CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks interviewed Dr. Katrien Van Look about The Mysteries of Seahorse Sexual Activity. No shotguns were used in Dr. Van Look’s research :-) Click on the player below to listen to the interview.

Life in a Bottle

January 25, 2007

Fangblenny in a BottleThe provincial government of Ontario is introducing a new program next month that will require that we return liquor and wine bottles to the beer store. Premier Dalton McGuinty said:

The single most important thing that Ontarians need to know is that we have come kicking and screaming out of the dark ages when it comes to LCBO containers

Uh huh. As an aside to our friends living outside Ontario (Canada), the LCBO is the government run thingamabobee where we buy liquor while The Beer Store (formerly known as Brewers Retail… apparently some government thingamabobees do know marketing) sells beer. There will be a deposit system to help Ontarians do the right thing and we will need to return our liquor/wine bottles to The Beer Store.

But why? Doesn’t the Blue Box program work? The claim is that this program will help “divert about 25,000 to 30,000 additional tons of glass from landfills”. Wow. That can’t be right. That claim feels false to me mostly because, personally, the Blue Box is the absolutely best way to get rid of bottles and glass. I don’t want to put them in the garbage. Bottles are big, heavy, and they break. So where does this 25,000 tons of LCBO orginated landfill waste come from?

A little time with our friend Google turns up this wonderful debate that sheds some light on the matter.

If you don’t think it is true that glass is being landfilled, then I suggest you drive about 100 kilometres up Highway 6 from Fisherville and watch 100% of the glass that goes in the front door of a recycling centre come out the back door to be sent to the Green Lane Landfill for disposal. That is just one of many examples where glass collected in a blue box recycling program is landfilled every day in Ontario.

As an environmentalist with your track record, you should also know that the only environmental benefit of recycling glass has to do with the energy savings of making new glass bottles with glass cullet as opposed to making new glass bottles from mined natural resources. However, that energy savings is lost as soon as the glass has to be sent more than 80 kilometres to market. There are very few blue box recycling programs in Ontario that are within an 80 kilometre range of a glass manufacturer or glass recycling facility. Sending wine and liquor bottles destined for recycling back in the same truck as beer bottles destined for recycling can at least help narrow that energy gap. What would be even better would be if the truck that just delivered cases of wine and spirits to the local LCBO retail store was filled back up with empty wine and spirit bottles destined for recycling instead of that truck driving empty back to an LCBO distribution centre.

La voila. So my intuitions were right, recycling bottles in the Blue Box is what most people do but most out-of-the way municipalities just send the glass right on to the landfill.

But I am grateful that this enlightened government program has given me the opportunity to share my photo of a little fangblenny living inside a coral encrusted bottle :-)

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The first time I saw a cuttlefish face-to-face my mind reeled. Oh I had read about them and seen pictures and I had no problem identifying what I was looking at. But, my god, I had no idea. Cuttlefish are cephalapods so they are related to the octopus. Tentacles, gottem. Color change, yupper. But, my god, I had no idea.

My first thought was “who needs unicorns when we have this magical creature”. My second thought was “whoever named the ‘cuttlefish’ needs a lesson in branding”. Cuttlefish mesmerize. Yes they change color, but its not like a new coat of paint suddenly applied. Color moves and flows constantly across their skin and it acts like a psychedelic mood ring responding to your actions. If you want to see EEEEK, Wow, hmmmmm, huh, ACK, displayed in moving color then go hang out with a cuttlefish for a while and watch how it reacts to its environment. Its tentacles hang down from its face like some kind of alien snuffleupagus. Its body is ringed with a ribbon that dances like its being controlled by a rhythmic gymnist showing off.

The cuttlefish reminds me that there are many beautiful things in this world that my still camera can capture but only superficially.