I had the good fortune to dive with some serious underwater photographers. If the equipment is an indicator, they used some very costly stuff. The DSLR body, lens, close up lens, lights, modeling light, monster pod, waterproof case with air leak indicator… well it’s enough to make me feel completely inadequate. Say it must be about $10k worth of gear. Seawater is unforgiving. I have fried two cameras in the past. Fortunately it was not expensive gear. But it hurt to lose a camera. Well I was on a reef safari with four photographers, one with video, and all with external strobes. For a gearhead comparison think Volkswagen compared to Porsche. I had the VW. This group had varying tastes in subject matter. Some things I never pass by and I always photograph, seemed not to interest them.
So it was with interest as one found an anemone floating free at about 80 feet. Color is an issue at this depth. Red is almost gone. A flash would definitely help. I didn’t use one – just white balanced and let my camera go on autopilot. And so there were four photographers clustered around this fairly nondescript subject. It must be special but I have no real frame of reference. I hung on the edges having taken my shots. Then I decided that the quintessential shot here would be the gear in play. I sure don’t do any set up this complicated in life on the land. Trust me this is some seriously expensive gear. I will admit to being strictly amateur. I have a different level of interest here.
This story has been told but I will tell it once more. As I spun my archives this picture is before me with the story behind it. Jules wanted a tattoo. “No!” was the emphatic reply. I agreed with her mother. It’s rather a permanent thing and you will live with it when it gets wrinkled in old age as well. Okay – resolved.
We were on a cave walk in Belize. You wore battery operated headlights. The guide was one light short. He went without a light. Lisa and Jules got ahead. I fell behind to the end of the line. The cave was hot! I was sweating profusely, and cursing quite a bit under my breath. There was another older tourist who should not be here. He was out of shape, overweight and had labored breathing. I thought he was going to collapse at any moment. We were deep into the cave now. And I calculated whether we would carry him back or forward; it depended on the halfway point. So I labored on and wondered if we could actually carry this heavy man anywhere.
Suddenly a scream pierced the darkness – “Victor, your daughter!” What? She fell. She got injured. I’m still at the back of the line in rescue mode.
“She has a tattoo!” came the voice of my wife out of the darkness. What? Well as you see, they were walking single file and as Jules bent her head, there high on her neck under her ponytail was a tattoo,
When I finally caught up to them she explained. My favorite aunt had been asked to provide Jules with a Chinese name. She made a phonetic Chinese character, which translated to early spring lily. Jules explained that the tattoo was a lily in remembrance of my aunt. Okay, that takes care of that. How do you say anything else.
The parrotfish on the reef during the day is a hard fish to photograph. It is always aware and swimming away from me. I was surprised to find this one in the coral crevice and seemingly sleeping. Then someone told me that it weaves a bubble around itself. If anything touches it, the fish will awake and swim away. I don’t know but I am sleepy before I am fully alert upon waking. I don’t see any bubble.
I was headed home. The ride from Camden is along back roads. I passed this field. I took two images. I guess I should have spent a little more time in the waning light to be sure I had a satisfactory shot. I did not linger. I was hurrying home. Don’t know why the hurry? Reminder to self: slow down and smell the heather.
Feather Duster Worm
This pink color is not commonly seen. They don’t move but contract in an instant until danger passes. So you sneak up on it and if you are lucky it will let you get in a couple shots. I get the idea of a feather duster. But a worm?
Pumpkin on the doorstep, Jules loved this and framed it also. It’s almost a natural monochrome. You can’t make this stuff up. A little color and it was right out of the car door as I exited. I was in Rockport to check on a craft show. The photo was right there. Never turn down a golden opportunity. I have to thank the owner for setting up this little tableau.
This little fish is another one that is uncommon to see. I sneak upon it and sometimes I get a shot. So far I have had more luck with this guy. He will pause for a close up. But as with most fish they don’t like cameras pointed at them.
Camden. A white picket fence and dusty rose colored hydrangea; is there anything more to be said?
This trunkfish is another shy denizen of the reef. I swim up on them and then have to chase as they dart in and out of the coral. Invariably I am with a buddy who is moving onward. So it is only for second that I can try for a shot. You wait and wait but it is often just fortuitous. I have learned patience. Eventually you get a fish that will cooperate.
For Colleen, she’s a new buddy. I told her about Camden. At some point I hope she’ll see this post and know it is in follow up to a conversation about Maine we once had. It’s the harbor. The fall colors are not peaked yet. I am not OCD. So I shot what was available. I did not make a return trip to do better.
Fish In A Bottle
At the tail end of the dive, I am following a very good and patient photographer. She pushed her big rig into place and took some shots. She moved and pointed. It was an empty discarded bottle – trash. She kept pointing. My kids make fun of the fact that I don’t see so well anymore. I see fine. But in the water there’s always some backscatter and the mask lens has some distortion. So I did what I needed. I aimed the camera in the direction of the bottle and hoped for the best. Later I found out it was the bottle I was to shoot. I never did find that spot again. But this shot is an example of blind luck. Maybe the kids are right after all.
This is the lighthouse on the hill at the mouth of the harbor. It is not in Rockland where there is a rock jetty everyone walks. This lighthouse is a dedicated car ride to find. I happened to appear on the lighthouse tour day. So I got a shot of the Fresnel lens that can be had once a year.
It is a blenny I believe. I don’t have the ability to shoot super macro. But the fish hideout in some neat places, like an empty clamshell. Looking carefully there is an eye somewhere.
Marshall Point Light
I first was introduced to this light through the kindness of Bobby Draper. He knew I photographed lighthouses. On our way past he stopped for me to get a photo op. This was taken many trips later. But I remember who showed it to me first. Thanks Bob.
I found this one. I was following my dive buddy to shallower water. The long antennae are the tipoff. They reflect the flashlight. You may shoot a series and only one shot will do. Fortunately the shrimp was cooperative and I got this with the claws open.
There is something solemn about a cemetery in autumn with the color of the changing leaves casting a melancholy feeling.
Red Cup Coral
This is a very hard coral to see. It resides deep and underneath ledges so that getting a shot is a technical challenge. You keep looking into the crevices and sometimes your camera can fit. It’s a nice shot anytime you can see it.
One day a year the lighthouse is open to the public. I just happened to be there on that day. It was completely random for me. I took the tour inside later. And there in the reflection was someone in the lighthouse. You can’t get this shot again till next year. Maybe?
Another day another night dive. Right as we dropped to the bottom there on a coral outcropping was a starfish. This is an unexpected pose. Maybe it was settling into place. I shot quickly because my buddy was headed to 100 feet and I was behind. Never leave your wingman.
I looked through my archive. The day was crystal clear. It was what I call a ‘blue sky day.’ No clouds, crisp autumn air and I was getting ready for work. I have a view south but the WTC is just out of sight from my kitchen window. The smoke initially caught my attention. I thought it was too much smoke to be coming from lower Manhattan. As it turns out I had seen the smoke from the first explosion and then went to the roof where I could look south. I expected the fire would be controlled quickly. NYC FD is very good. The second explosion threw me. I have no perspective from my view. Then I realized that the two building are not side by side and that fire from one could not simply jump across. This shot is just after the second jet hit the WTC. Not long after the buildings collapsed one at a time. Ten years later I was down at the site and flags were placed in a park. All the names of the victims were inscribed. The profound loss is still haunting – all the more because I was so close to the scene.
I was diving with two advanced photographers. The big rig heavy duty cameras were impressive. I don’t use one. It would break my heart if I got water damage. So I am content to use my Canon G12 and natural light. We were headed back. Suddenly one of the photographers pointed and then twisted and turned into position to shoot. I white balanced and peered into the blue. There were two fish circling. The loss of detail made them hard to identify. Tuna? No jacks. They were jacks. Predatory fish, they were circling but we couldn’t see why. Meanwhile I just shot instinctively. At this distance no amount of flash was going to make to much difference. Photoshop enhancement and it is easy enough to make out. They are jacks because I was told so.
Moonrise. We arrived at dusk, missed the sunset, because we were lost. The last tram was headed to the top and there was no admission because we were so late. It is a rather nice view of the city lights. And the moonrise was just another bonus. We didn’t see much of the art. But I was there for the photo op anyway.
I had a very productive series of dive in which I saw octopi in the open many times. After more than one hundred dives the best I had before was the mere glimpse of a body or tentacle. What I was seeing was very special. National Geographic will only publish one shot. But I have no restriction. This series was at the end of another dive and I was on low battery power warning. Every thing held together. We chased this guy down and kept following him as he flowed over the coral. You can see multiple camouflage changes. The natural color is a chocolate brown. The color changes are accompanied by texture changes within seconds. I wondered why he didn’t squirt ink. Meanwhile he was accommodating and let me get images of all his changes.
All of the color changes, out in the open, a good view, and excellent light – as they say – priceless. Glad I didn’t blow this series. It’s why you practice. For this moment everything worked.
Close Up Please
I have a shot this Portland lighthouse from all directions and many angles. What is left? Take a close up. Get the light. Let it be dusk and let the soft blur of sunset suffuse the scene. Hey it works for me.