Archive for the ‘underwater photo’ Category

Bonaire smiles

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

bonaireSmile2Smooth Trunkfish Juveniles are about the size of a pea. They hover in sheltered areas among corals, using small pectoral fins that can be barely seen with the naked eye. When I first saw this one, I didn’t have my camera with me,so made a mental note that it was near a certain sea fan, by a certain square rock. The next day, my buddies and I went back to Karpata, and this time I had my camera with me. I looked around for a certain square rock, near a certain sea fan, and I was glad to see that my little friend was still there.

As with many other marine creatures, it takes a little bit of patience to get a good look at these little guys. bonaireSmile3Seaweed Blennies can reach 3 inches in length, but are wary of lumbering divers, and prefer to retreat inside their coralline homes when they are approached too hastily. This particular one was in the shallows at Something Special in Bonaire, near the marina, only a few feet away from the underwater webcam.

bonaireSmile1Secretary Blennies live inside small worm holes, and seem to feel secure in their tiny homes. Their brains may be small, but they probably have figured out that divers are not trying to eat them. Although, sometimes, they do get a little too close, and that’s when it’s time for the Secretary Blenny to pull The One Trick it knows: retreating into the hole and waiting until the big shadow has gone away. Patient divers can get quite close if they move slowly and approach gradually. These one-inch long fish have very expressive faces that are interesting to watch, and may occasionally dart out of their holes to grab suspended particles of food.

bonaireSmile4At Karpata, on Bonaire, in the Dutch Antilles, there is a coral, near a certain sea fan, by a certain square rock, where in March 2010 lived a tiny fish that looks like a black pea with yellow polka dots. The Redlip Blenny in this photo lives on the same coral. If a diver is patient and able to stay in one place while being “gently” swept back and forth by the surge, the Blenny will allow the diver to approach and reward the curious human with a nice smile.

Red Sea

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

The Brothers Islands are in the middle of the Red Sea.  These two specks of land are practically made of coral. That’s actually true: the Red Sea used to be higher, even at the time of the Roman Empire, when these two island were mostly submerged. Millennia of coral growth have brought us these two islands, and as you can see, they are still definitely in the realm of coral.  Near the surface there’s the best light, and that’s where I spied this pair of Red Sea Raccoon Butterflyfish. What I like about this shot is the mix of natural and artificial light, and, of course, the reef!  That’s what it all looks like over there, and it’s absolutely worth the travel time. A lot of people see this picture and think it’s an aquarium shot, because it almost looks fake.  Funny how we got it all backwards: we expect what looks like perfection to be artificial, while the natural version is often disappointing. Well, it’s good to know that natural perfection still exists, although we may have to travel a long way to get there. But it’s still there.

Red Sea Raccoon Butterflyfish in "live" aquarium

Red Sea Raccoon Butterflyfish in "live" aquarium

The Brothers Islands are in the middle of the Red Sea.  These two specks of land are practically made of coral. That’s actually true: the Red Sea used to be higher, even at the time of the Roman Empire, when these two island were mostly submerged. Millennia of coral growth have brought us these two islands, and as you can see, they are still definitely in the realm of coral.  Near the surface there’s the best light, and that’s where I spied this pair of Red Sea Raccoon Butterflyfish. What I like about this shot is the mix of natural and artificial light, and, of course, the reef!  That’s what it all looks like over there, and it’s absolutely worth the travel time. A lot of people see this picture and think it’s an aquarium shot, because it almost looks fake.  Funny how we got it all backwards: we expect what looks like perfection to be artificial, while the natural version is often disappointing. Well, it’s good to know that natural perfection still exists, although we may have to travel a long way to get there. But it’s still there.

Red Sea Clownfish and anemone

Red Sea Clownfish and anemone

It often happens, during dive trips, that the guide will give a briefing about something outstanding before a dive, and divers will listen and say, yeah, sure, I’ll check it out.  Later, during the dive, most divers forget about what they heard because they are completely taken away with the immediacy of the dive, and then all of sudden, turn a corner, and WOW! that was outstanding – uh, right, *that’s* what the guide was talking about!  Well, at Daedulus, in the Red Sea, there’s an anemone city that’s worth diving every day. There are tens and tens of anemone and each one of them is populated – teeming – with Clownfish, like this Amphiprion bicinctus.  Some of them adults, most of them juveniles, hundreds of them.  So if you want a nice picture of them, it’s just a matter of time, aim, wait, and you will be rewarded.

Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse resting in Giant Moray's mouth

Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse resting in Giant Moray's mouth

We have all seen cleaner wrasses and gobies doing their thing around larger fish, who diligently show up at cleaning stations just like SUVs at a car wash.  But what I don’t often see is a cleaner fish taking a break inside the mouth of the fish being cleaned, like this Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) resting in the mouth of a Giant Moray (Gymnothorax javanicus). Now, to be honest, the wrasse was not resting all that comfortably, but that’s probably not because the moray, which was about 6 or 7 feet long, could have swallowed it in a few milliseconds. It was because of me, that unusual blob of stinky neoprene with light-emitting protuberances, hovering there, checking them out.  I tried not to abuse their tolerance and left after a couple of shots.  In the end, no picture is worth harassing the very creatures we have traveled  around the world to admire. Sometimes we get lucky, and this time I got to take home this great shot that tells us a lot about different species figuring out a way to do business that’s beneficial for all. Now if only some business executive could learn from that.

Mistakes, mistakes…

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

As it often happens, after returning from a diving trip, I find myself looking at the photos I took and seeing all the mistakes I’ve made, wishing I could go back right now and do it right this time.  The mistakes I’m talking about are the little details I manage to ignore while underwater, and that are so obvious when looking at the images on my laptop.  The LCD on the back of the DSLR is a great help and sometimes a little deceiving, because it’s never as good as a 17″ monitor.

Bubbles on the dome

Bubbles

Although I am checking color histograms (most of the time at least), I often don’t see the “other” little details.  Like, for example, the dreaded air bubbles on the dome.   They’re a little annoying detail that make this image unusable.  It won’t take long to clone them out of existence with Camera Raw or Photoshop, but even if it takes ten minutes, compare that to the one second it would have taken to swipe those bubbles off the dome before taking the picture.  And this is just one picture.  Although spots can be removed from more than one image at a time with Camera Raw, that works best with dirty sensor spots, because they are always predictably in the same exact spot.  And usually they’re not as many as the bubbles spots in this example.  So the lesson here is: one second of thought underwater, before taking the picture, can translate to ten minutes per photo of mind-numbing (or relaxing, depending on how you view it) cloning work in post-processing.

Backscatter

Backscatter

Another classic mistake for me is leaving the strobes on when they’re not necessary.  Sometimes natural light is enough, either because there’s nothing within 6 feet to be lit by artificial light, or like in this example, because natural is the subject of the photo.  Now it beats me why it didn’t occur to me to switch the strobes off before taking this picture.  Oh wait – I know: because I’m an amateur.  That’s right.  Lack of experience.  Perhaps next time I find myself looking at a beautiful play of light, like this one in the cracks near the surface at Little Brother Island in the Red Sea, I will remember to turn off the strobes, adjust aperture and shutter speed, frame and take the picture.

Sometimes I surprise myself by screwing up the most basic things, like for example not focusing on the subject.  focus01Now, using the 105mm Nikkor lens with autofocus can be a real pain, because it often goes in wild back and forth swings looking for focus, which seem to take forever while I’m holding my breath and trying to stay still, and I wonder if it wouldn’t be best to just leave it at a fixed focus and move the camera back and forth.  But since I know that, I should really pay more attention to making sure that the subject is in focus.  This sea star is sitting on a pretty boring background, it really shouldn’t have been hard to focus on it and get a nice crisp shot of it.  It could have been a winner, and instead it’s just a demonstration shot.

And finally, uneven lighting.  lighting01You go to the store and buy all of them fancy underwater strobes.  You pack them and take them all the way to a remote place. You make sure the batteries are charged.  You go diving and see a nice crocodilefish (or similar bottom dweller) sitting on the sandy floor.  You adjust strobe intensity to make sure you’re not going to overexpose the picture, because at least you know that the sand reflects a lot of light and you need to dial down the intensity.  You take the picture and check the histogram and notice that there are no highlights, so you happily swim off to the next subject. But you also need to make sure that your subject is properly lit.  It’s easy, you can just look in the LCD, although admittedly sometimes it’s not so easy to see.  But in this case, it’s pretty clear that the sand in front of the fish is clearly lit, and the tail is not even lit.  This was a great chance to have a nice spotlight on the fish, to make it pop out, in spite of its natural camouflage colors.  Again, it could have been a winner, and instead, the best I can make of this image is an example of what needs to be avoided.

Of the many mistakes a photographer can make in the course of a single dive, these are just the few I have picked because they were so easily preventable.  You know, like they say, an ounce of prevention…