I’m still diving. The water is still in the 80’s. For those of you in the snow and sleet of winter…my regrets. This image was taken during a night dive. The shrimp is about the size of your thumbnail. It’s small! And it’s shy! The tip I got was from master photographer who said they were there to begin with. You look under the coral and look for something reflecting back your flashlight beam. Once you see two glowing eyes, shove your camera in there and shoot. The shrimp are not hanging around to get their picture taken. They move. And you can’t see to shoot because you have your hand under a coral to get the camera close enough for a decent magnified exposure. You are really just in a ‘shoot and pray’ mode. The photographers with the big rig – macro domes, wide-angle lenses, and articulated armed flashes – probably have a better percentage of success. But as always the trick is to find these guys first. I have several images and someday I’ll get a better one. If you look closely you can see the eyes and six legs plus two long antennae. The creature is not even enough to make a mouthful.
I was shooting with flash during a daylight dive. The afternoon sun was setting. I followed the big guy under a piece of coral. it was my fairly typical tail end shot. He turned just enough that I got his eye. The other fish was just there on the image when I processed it. I never saw it when I shot the original. And furthermore, I never saw the little colorful nudibranch tucked under the right fin of the big guy. Serendipity!
I periodically get email from some of my silent readers. You know who you are. Carol, in particular asked me to change subjects gently cajoling that she was waterlogged. I apologize and will switch from sea to land in a few days. One of patients recently came with dive photos that I had taken. He’d looked me up on the ‘net. It’s got me worried about making any political misstatements and getting into trouble. (By the way all you folks who read me are welcome, really, to comment and let me know you’re there. The feedback helps.)
For example: We have recently taken on a group of Chinese nurses. They speak English but it is as a second language. I insulted one unintentionally in the OR. The light was dim so I asked for a candle. (It was a joke. Get it?) You’re doing serious surgery here. And to ask for a candle was just to break up the tension. There’s usually a pause and … then a nervous laugh. (Am I really serious?) The Chinese nurse thought that I had said ‘condom.’ Honest, I did not mispronounce ‘candle.’ The Filipino nurses all laughed and later corrected the Chinese nurse (I am Chinese American, by the way.) but the insult had been made. Really, it’s hard to defend against candle. Maybe she’s never seen a candle? So you must forgive me if I refrain from commenting about the Middle East too much these days. There’s a lot of political turmoil. Being misunderstood seems to have been a habit with me. And if the wrong people (paranoia?) read me, I could be deported. Yeah, they do that too. (They disallow beheading these days… it seems they can’t find qualified swordsman.)
One more example and this happened in Maine: My patients often need to be shaved before surgery. We do it at the last second to try to limit infection. One day I finished the shave and made a sound like I was blowing away the hair. (It’s a joke!) I did this through my scrub mask. I later had to defend a complaint from the circulating nurse that I had removed my mask in the OR and had broken sterile rules. The nurse ( a male) had his back to me when I made the sound. I know it and he did too. But still I managed to misfire. Some days you believe you are working with idiots.
This incident actually occurred before my night dive experience. The instructor was a bit of a crazy guy. He suddenly lurched and shot his hand into the coral. Out he came with a puffer. I got some shots. I was too excited to white balance and expose properly. But you get the idea. And that’s not my wrist bracelet. The girl we were with wouldn’t let go and she took the terrified puffer all the way back to shore before she released him. As I said, I believe they are puffed on water, hence the squishy feeling when you hold them. I didn’t want to do it, but they sort of thrust it into my hand.
The wrasse is a small fish that thrives on cleaning other fish. It is a beneficial service so the wrasse doesn’t seem become a meal for other fish. I have seen them work on many different fish. It’s just hard to capture an image. They are so small. But I have seen it done, so I wait for an opportunity. I got a bunch of shots of this cleaning session. And I got the moray with it’s teeth out. Yes, this was a shot worth imagining. I’m glad to have caught it.
I make the assumption that this is a mouth. It could be the nether end of the alimentary canal. Or I could be wrong in assigning a name to the structure. Anyway, it’s what Farid and I concluded. For all the times we see anemones this structure is usually well hidden. I had always considered anemone a coral but it is indeed an animal. And like many things under the sea it stings.
This guy took up residence right by the stairs everyone uses to get into the water. He lay there among the rocks for about three days in plain sight. To look from the surface above he looked like a white piece of pollution someone had discarded. Scores of divers passed him without realizing he was right there, twelve inches below. And I would have missed him too if my dive buddy had not been eagle eyed. Though he was white his coloration did blend rather well with the surrounding rocks.
You swim along and look for movement under the coral. The light is bad but the point and shoot cameras often surprise me. I assume, but I cannot be sure, this is an octopus. It looks like tentacles to me. As soon as I got this image, it moved away under the coral. I was just lucky that I spotted the motion. I’ll say it again. These critters are very shy and hard to spot. Every time you see one, you feel it’s special.
I apologize for not having the name before I posted the picture. It retracts into the coral when threatened. And it is bright and colorful. But it’s darned hard to find and photograph. And it certainly looks like a tasty morsel. I imagine that the color is a warning. So far, I have learned that you don’t touch anything. Most things have a bite or a sting. And need I mention that they don’t call it ‘fire coral’ because of the color. With all the detail you can see, this is a pretty nice shot. Most of the other times I have images with far less detail… far less. What nature designs is sometimes pretty amazing.
It looks like it’s all cooked up and ready to eat. Or, maybe it’s part of why they call it the Red Sea? I can understand why I don’t see anything like this during the day. It would be too tempting to pass up. You realize that the color red fades as you dive deeper. But that doesn’t mean that the animals don’t have red color.
You see a lot of interesting things and sometimes I don’t. I missed this one until I was post processing. Whoa! There’s a chunk missing from the frontal lobe. He doesn’t seem to be any worse for the striking appearance. I found this image but definitely didn’t take it because of the defect. To make it even more crazy, a few days later, I got the same fish. The defect is hard to duplicate. And with all the fish in the ocean who would ever have expected to run into the same fish again. I have a habit of shooting whatever will pose for me. So I did and here he is again and again. Fascinating.
I don’t have the book yet. It may or may not be thus named. It is colorful and skittish. I found one on the reef and was able to follow it. It’s the best I could do. From a rear angle, I like it when I can get a view of the cornea and see the fisheye bulge. Yeah it’s cool. Anyway the spotted pattern makes me think this is as a perforated fish. And the green top?…it’s as though some buff was customizing his sports car and tricked out the finish to make it standout. To be sure this little guy swims about the reef like everyone wants to eat him.
The biggest urge I have to avoid is staging the image. Well, maybe once or twice… but mostly I just shoot as is. Of course with the fishies it’s not possible to stage anything. But starfish?…don’t you just want to move them around to make a better image. No? I really don’t do it. But it sure tempts me sometimes. I think that to see the starfish lounging in nature is more natural than seeing all the arms symmetrically displayed.
There are spiky urchins aplenty on the reef. Less common are the pencil urchins, obviously named because their spikes are the diameter of pencils. I almost passed this collector urchin except that my flashlight picked up the brilliant color. Later the book showed and named it for me. Yes, they pick up debris and cover themselves, hence the name, collector. As I said I thought it was plant not animal the first time I looked.
I have seen these creatures infrequently and usually singly. We were swimming along and I found four – the fourth is just above on the coral and out of view. Maybe they were gathered to mate. They have rhino horns in the front and the frond in the back is for breathing. I read it somewhere. You want to have both ends in focus when you shoot. And I didn’t know there’s a footpod. Once again the first time you get an image you feel so lucky. After that you try for the classic image. No, I didn’t Photoshop and clone these three together.
Here’s a trick! I saw it done twice in the same week. Catch a puffer fish in your bare hand. I have to say that as fast as I can swim with fins on, and I’m no slouch, it’s safe to say that the smallest fish is faster than me. And the other question I think I can now answer is what does a puffer puff? So we’re on a night dive. Suddenly to my right there’s a diver holding a puffer in his hand. Later he told me that they don’t move if you shine your light on them. I guess it’s like the proverbial deer in the headlights. This diver was a goofy young kid whom I had marked as ‘stay away,’ he’s not yet completely safe in the water. So I was surprised by his boldness. And what do they puff? Well there’s no air, so it would have to be water. Aha! Yes, he did feel squishy. Why puff?… to make them too large a bite to eat. Yup, more fun facts.
On one night dive a senior diver asked if I would object to him carrying a speargun. He and the dive instructor got one each before the end of the dive. No I didn’t get the shot (of spearing). For goodness sake, it’s in the dark. My big regret is that there are two less fish to see in the ocean. It’s illegal to hunt but legal to have a speargun for protection. Ah!? We’re back to the fear of sharks in the ocean at night. Actually I had a conversation with several colleagues last night and they were in fact afraid of the water for that reason. At some point I will have a shark encounter, but it’s not got me worried. I have plenty of life insurance? …and it beats getting hit by a car.
These fish are not too common on the reef. Somewhere I will have the name. Actually I was shown a book with all the names and pictures of the fish in the Red Sea. I’ll have my hands on it in about a month. If I‘ll soon have the book, why shoot the fish? It’s like why come to New York to see the Statue of Liberty? And there’s a fair amount of challenge in getting the image. Once again the conditions have to be good. I’m better now at anticipating good light. Here it’s as though I have a great bounce flash exposure. An added bonus was there were two, yup two! It would make sense, you have to have a boy and a girl to… but the rare fish on the reef are usually swimming alone. As rare as they may be, once you see one, it seems that I encountered another fairly frequently for a few days.
Well sharks have them, right? Anyway, I read somewhere that the profile, side on view of the fish – head to tail – was like a catalog shot. If you’re doing a fish guidebook, that’s what you want to shoot. And to get an image worth keeping, you need a head on view. Someone also said that fish see the big camera pointed at them and think that big photographer is coming to eat them. As a result most of my images are tail end where I’m chasing as the fish swim frantically from my camera. Profile images result from shooting as the fish turns out to avoid me. But every once in a while I get an image face on into me. And even less often is the lighting, focus, and exposure are good enough to be satisfying. Hey, remember this is a point and shoot camera.
This is a very shy creature. It lives under the coral and is a master at camouflage. My dive buddy and I were headed in to shore and just about out of air when we came upon this guy in the open. Oh boy! I just shot a bunch of images and hoped the air would hold out. My other problem here was that I was breaking in my new underwater setup. It was a matter of getting exposure – shutter speed, focus, aperture, and ISO – all coordinated. I had been getting a lot of blurred out of focus shots and this day was no different. I was just fortunate that I came away with several good images. Here you see the octopus literally starting to blend into the coral. It’s why they are so darned hard to spot (pun?).
One thing that’s hard to anticipate during a night dive is when and where you will have a fish encounter. The light you bring is your main source of vision. Fortunately my beam is very strong and penetrating. It’s so strong that I have to point it away from my main subject in order not to overexpose the main subject. Once you have at least one image then you start to experiment. My goal was to get the eel with its mouth open and showing teeth. I just missed seeing his tonsils. And keep in mind, I have a camera in one hand, light in the other, which leave me with needing one more hand ….
Night diving makes everything look better. The colors are more intense and the background goes to black. Another challenge is how much of the fish is necessary to include in the image. A close up may tell more by showing less. One thing I like is that the ocean is like a big light box and diffuser of sunlight. Still the exposures tend to be long when you are at thirty feet below. Either way it’s always nice to have something different. So you shoot and try to experiment. I recently read that to ward off brain aging it’s good to be engaged learning activities. Photography is an excellent hobby in this regard. Now if only I could remember what I had for breakfast. Did I…?
We were swimming north along the reef and Farid pointed. I saw the rays in the distance. He said we were floating above them and they hadn’t noticed us until I started flapping my flippers trying to position my self for a shot. Well they were gone in a matter of seconds. The backscatter was too much for me to get a clear image. Yet somehow the grainy image is ok. I hope that somewhere along the line, I’ll get a better image. But for now this is ok by me.
This is a mood image. I like the streaks of sunlight in the blue water. The fish are swimming or maybe floating mostly in the same direction and it evokes an emotional feeling for me. There’s peace and tension. At any moment a predator could appear.