I’ve been trying to get a shot of a school of fish. In my mind’s eye it has been a favorite shot of underwater photographers to get that swirling mass of biologic frenzy under the sea. It’s not as easy as I thought. Fish don’t swirl around that much. And mostly the masses stay well away from anything as large as me trailing a large burst of bubbles and likely as not to eat them. Maybe they liked Julia better and were closer just to see what she was up to.
I would have to say that it doesn’t look like much. In fact this is another find that Julia made. Really, I’m beginning to think that my mind wanders when we dive. It looked like a flounder on the move. When we surfaced and showed this photo around, the experienced divers were convinced that this is an electric stingray. They congratulated us for not getting shocked. I was not going to touch it anyway. It’s a rule. “Don’t touch anything, it may bite.”
We were diving at this resort. All the resorts are close set and the next door neighbor is just a stone’s toss away. It was abandoned. So these three girls, who were snorkeling, had clambered onto the empty structure and were jumping into the sea. It wasn’t exactly safe. There’s a reef and you can miss and land on a rock. If you’re willing to do something stupid, I’m equally willing to photograph it. As I snapped, one of the father’s (I didn’t know till he told me) stopped me and said, ‘No photo.’ Then he corrected and said not for advertising or commercial use. Hmmm…. anyway he let me keep what I had and from this distance, I defy you to identify any of the sillies jumping. More ‘street photography’ and luckily Julia was not there at the time to roll her eyes in disapproval.
What I like here in Julia’s shot is that she has a head on view of the fish. My shots have mainly been profile shots. Hers is a real fish portrait. As they say, it’s in the eyes. She nailed it! Have I mentioned before that this is not easy to do? You hover, the fish hovers, everybody is moving in 3D and then you have to get the exposure, pose, and composition …. ah you get the idea.
This is the term used to describe looking at your camera LCD to judge the last photo you took. This shot was purely fortuitous. I happened to get the LCD screen as Julia was lining up her shot. If you tried to do this you would miss nine out of ten times. Hey, I got lucky. Underwater, you don’t really get to use the viewfinder, and the LCD at best is just an estimate. You really let the camera do the hard stuff, focus and exposure.
These shots are examples of why Julia is better than me. She was able to float into place and just press the shutter at the perfect moment. Hence, she got these spectacular shots. The females are bright orange and do not look at all like the males. She got great shots of them also. What impressed me is that she got the hang of underwater photography on the fly by just listening to me and the she applied her own technique to get these shots.It’s a great feeling to have your kids exceed your own skill.
Maroun told us there were two octopi out on the reef, a male and female. As to where, he simply spread his arm and made a general gesture. Julia found this one also. She was looking at a rock, that she thought was a moray eel, which turned out to be an octopus. They change color and you don’t really get to see tentacles. So they are hard to spot. They can really mimic the surrounding coral, so you have to catch them while they are confused about what camouflage to take on. And shy… this one scooted under the rock and hid from us as best it could.
Julia and I were taken by Capt Omar (instructor) to his secret dive spot. It’s less than one hundred yards from the dock, but it’s not at all obvious. His co-instructor, Shamia, has yet to find it. So much for sharing… It was spectacular, but I’m still trying to get a great shot. We were there every time we dove and Julia even missed it as we swam through because it’s not so obvious. What it amounts to is a tunnel in the reef coral, that is beautiful to swim through. From one direction (as in these shots) it’s great and from the other side it’s nothing special. So that’s why Shamia is mad at Omar.For once, even Julia didn’t realize we were swimming through the tunnel when we approached from the wrong end.
We, Julia and I, were on our own, having passed the confidence test of the instructor, Shamia, and were swimming along, when a professional photographer beckoned and pointed out the presence of the larger stonefish (above). It’s not easy to notice because it blends in so well. I called Julia’s attention and we had a ball taking photos. The professional had completed his shoot. He had a serious DSLR and housing with high-end flash (big bucks). Julia to her credit was aware of everything around and motioned to me to look at another rock. It was another smaller stonefish. I wanted to ask someone if it was male and female, but underwater, questions are hard to put. Hey! I don’t see one (stonefish) before and then we see two in one dive.
Julia was visiting a few weeks ago. She actually learned to dive before I did. I’ve had more dives. She’s better. When I say this, I mean she’s got better buoyancy control and she’s a better dive photographer. She didn’t start off with an underwater camera, so she says that she had a lot of practice just floating and maintaining dive control. The kid can hover like no one’s business.I got her an underwater housing for Christmas and she used it once before she arrived. No water leakage, that’s the first test. Ah! What fathers can do to make their kids embarrassed. She’s used to it though. So as a good sport and knowing that I was taking her diving in the Red Sea, she consented to let me shoot pictures. Me, I’m still all over the map with buoyancy. So I adjusted weights and by the second day could drop like a stone and with a little help from my BCD could hover, somewhat. It’s still a work in progress.
Lest everyone that I know in New York and so forth get unhappy, I’ll not belabor the nice weather too much more. Parrot fish are skittish. I guess you would be too if everyone else sees you as a meal. In all my gear I don’t really get close. So I was able to drift above this guy and then catch him with his fins deployed. It’s not a view I get very often. I will say that it takes time to remember all the safety things when you haven’t been diving in a few months. I forgot to open up the valve on my tank. That took one breath and a few seconds to remember. But I didn’t forget the camera and there were no mishaps with the underwater housing. So far so good.
I haven’t been diving in a few months. It’s winter here and Farid says the water is too cold. That would be 77 degrees in the water. The nights are in the 70’s. And the days are their usual hot sunny 90+. So what’s cold? In NY it’s 40 degrees outside and 38 in the water. In the summer I wait all season for the pool to reach 80. Hey! It’s warm enough to scuba! But anyway for the first time in months we go to the beach with his kids. I actually got a pretty good burn on my back from the sun. The first thing Farid did was declare the water too cold after he dipped his toes at the beach’s edge. We dove anyway. One tank about an hour and the water was chilly but not at all annoying.
Later we got into the water with the kids. Rather, Farid suckered me into wading out with the kids, one hand on each. And then he sat and refused to come in. What a laugh. But the weather is so good mostly that you complain if it’s not perfect. Relatively, Silva, Farid’s wife, said the day was poor because their was a little haze and sand in the air. Geeez! Well anyway, the fish were happy to see us.
I love this guy. I see one on just about every dive. They look so utterly ungainly. And they all swim faster than me. Hey, I’ve got big fins. I got long legs. I can go fast (not). Those little fins get cranking and this guy swims away like I’m floating. It’s good that they tell me there are no sharks. At least that’s what they tell me….
I’m told that this is a snail. We happened upon two of them. I went to macro setting. I shot and shot. I got one image… not a very good one. Hey, it’s a snail and it wasn’t moving. But my dive buddy wasn’t staying, and I can’t ‘leave my wingman.’ You can’t exactly return to a random spot in the sea. So who knows if I’ll ever see this again. It’s not like a walk in the park. We’ve been on this reef back and forth many times now. Each dive is unique. Come to think of it, my dive buddy is like my wife, they never stop or look back. It’s entirely up to me to keep up or be lost. It’s amazing how I got the skill to shoot and scoot.
I thought it was spelled with two “o’s.” But that would be the dam named after the President. As I said this type of fish likes to just hover on the coral. Now that I know, it’s a matter of sneaking up and catching the shot. Believe me it’s not as easy as it looks… as in fisheye lens. The fish is skittish. And I don’t exactly present a small image in full dive gear. ‘Salting the tail’ is easy once you’re there.
It’s another clam. I am really pleased that the white balance was so good. It’s not a brilliant blue clam. There are different colors. And, yes, they do ‘clam up.’ When they do, there’s not much to see. I don’t know and can’t say whether, they are good eating, although I’m sure that my Dad probably wouldn’t have minded trying to eat this specimen.
You shoot and shoot. You miss…plenty. Then you get this. Ahhhh! Color is good, white balance is natural, shutter speed was acceptable, and on and on. I have to go to an acquarium some time and see the fish again. Meanwhile I am really enjoying chasing down these fish. So far there are none chasing me. I did a night dive and that spooked me even though we did not see anything alarming. It’s a big sea and there are big fish. And big fish eat bigger fish….
When I visited Jeddah in the winter of 2011, just before I spent the rest of the day with the Coast Guard officers (another story), I saw these crabs on the rocks. Today they were present at our dive site sunning themselves. The eyes are sharp. They know they are someone’s dinner. I couldn’t get close. Their legs can be brilliant red. I just got this guy for the photo record and in remembrance of the very nice folks in the Coast Guard station who hosted us for all those many boring hours.
One darned hard skill to learn is to actually point and shoot. Pointing is easy. It’s actually having a fish in the image, there’s the trick. And to zoom and really get the fish… The farther away the more the particles in the water degrade the image. So everything is a compromise. I’m practicing zooming. I make lots of mistakes. But sometimes you catch a fish without bait. Or as Kermit the Frog says, “Here fishy, fishy….”
The very nice thing about this fish shot is that this guy posed. Around the reef they sit atop coral and just hover there. So I took advantage and floated in close and got this shot. No panning, no chasing,… just following the behavior pattern. Gotcha!
This is about the best shot I’ve managed for these neon orange blue-eyed fish (name unknown) and the orange-red coral. I’m currently white balancing the camera on the fly. Yeah, raw, raw…. And it appears that these colors are pretty accurate. As I’ve said before, I think in color. Black and white is a completely different thing. For me it has been decades since Tri-X. No going back now.
There are a number of varieties of giant clams. This brilliant blue one is striking. Amazingly, underwater, they aren’t all that obvious to spot. You can see the valve there on the left. They get quite large. This one is two hands wide. He’s been around long enough to have been almost totally encrusted with coral. It is a veritable vegetarian paradise around here. I suppose this one would make a large clam chowder.
It’s hard to shoot one fish. Two is even more difficult. Truly, it’s point and shoot. But even more difficult is the color balance. As you change depth, the light changes constantly. Fortunately the sun is blazing bright all the time. And if that’s not enough everything is in motion – you, the fish, the camera and the particles in the water. So you have to move in close to avoid the diffusion. And the fish move away. Zoom won’t save you. And then there’s camera shutter lag… nag, nag, nag. Oh well, I don’t think the black and white will fit into the mouth.
Ok, I’m diverging from winter back to 100 degree weather and the warm Red Sea in Saudi Arabia. I’m blogging dive photos for the next days. I have so many shots recently. So I decided to spread them over my three blogs. This one is a different fish than I have seen on the reef. Perhaps if you swim around in neon yellow, you are essentially asking a big fish to dinner. I guess that’s why there aren’t many like him swimming about. It’s been particularly nice on the learning curve for me to get an occasional shot like this. I will tell you that very few shots by percentage are keepers. I estimate we’re at about 40 feet. This was from last week’s dive. Today I get to try out spiffy new equipment. I finally put down the money and got my own. So it’s kind of like going from rental skiis to new ones with real edges. And I have a real dive computer to record depth and all that neat data.