Word and Image

Archive for April, 2016

HB HB!

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Yes, Happy Birthday Dave. Big one! Thirty years ago. His obstetrician showed up sleepy eyed. She was a member of a group so I met her for the first time in the delivery room. Her name was Ida. Hey! Get it? Ida Ho. The state, the potato, one of the names I wanted for my kids. Or Ivan… She was not too comical at 4AM. And poor Aunt Audrey was there at home taking care of Jules, his sister. She had asked that Dave not be born in the wee hours. She was sweet. She came from the Bronx to watch Julia in the middle of the night. And, my chief resident had last said to me, “Don’t go into labor, we got a big operation in the morning.” And, it was a terribly difficult vertebral artery aneurysm. And of course, we postponed the operation. In order to assuage the poor patient, I told him that I had named my son after him. A year later he appeared for his post op visit and asked how his boy was. My puzzled look was followed by, “You know! Vincent! Vincent Pallazoto Jr.” Oh, yeah!

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This is wedding weekend again. You just gotta love the shot. We had a muscle car courtesy of the rental upgrade in Los Angeles. A Dodge Challenger! Yes, it’s a fast car. We never did get to drive it fast. But the boys looked cool sitting on it.

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And for Susan, here’s another shot of the kids as they are today. And for those who want to see the dad, here I am again.


Got Eggs?

IMG_2559-2Eggs: and those are fish eyes. Yup. So, nature, in this case, decided that vision was critical to survival. Look inside the developing fish and it’s all eyes.

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I imagined this shot. I looked for it. I wanted to take it. Oh, by the way, I’d like a mermaid too… a redheaded on named Ariel would do…But really, I was thinking this morning before we dove, I’d like to go back and see the fish eggs I saw the past two weeks and see the fish inside the eggs developed so I could get a picture with the fish not yet hatched. Wish! Granted! And I found it! Wow! Yes, another wow moment.

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We were swimming by the anemone and as usual the Nemos were out front guarding. But there was something on the coral wall. Shiny, tiny, and being guarded too. I got a few shots. Got wide, got close, and shot detail. Amr swam past and signaled to move on. I grabbed his fin as he was leaving and pointed out this subject. He stopped, hovered, and started taking shots. He took my camera too. He was using wide angle and I had the macro lens ready to go. I got the same images. His are better. Credit: Amr. He keeps raising my bar. Note to self: Don’t give up on a subject till you get the image you seek. Macro subjects don’t move away fast. So work the subject, get a better image. Mine were lacking in focus and exposure. Decent but not like Amr shot. Darn, I want to get better in a hurry. But that’s the point, hurrying makes you miss.


Raise The Bar

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So, you saw yesterday’s post. I got some good images. And now!? My dive buddy took my camera and shot a few. This is what he got. It’s not blown up. It’s full frame. At this magnification, it is very hard to get a sharp image and detail. Things go blurry for lots of reasons. Everything is moving, photographer and subject, and current, and camera, and focus point, and it’s pretty near impossible…for me. Credit this to Amr. He just raised my bar. I think I’m good. He shows me I still have a way to go. This is fun. I’m better, not great, and not as good as I will be. At this point in my life it’s pretty nice to be challenged to do better. Good equipment helps. The right lens at the right moment helps. Luck! But it’s the photographer too. I just discovered that my equipment is fine. …and my hands shake. Not really…shhhh, I do brain surgery just fine. But I’ve been doing my day job for a long time. And I know what to do and I’m good at what I do… day job.


Served: Three Ways

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This hermit crab is too tiny to eat. Someone I know loves crab…to eat. That antenna is as small as a fine hair. So! Yes! This is a small morsel. Not even a tidbit. I took the liberty of cropping horizontal and vertical.

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Each image has its merits and you are left to choose which you like. And always, the question, “Which do you prefer?” You have to have a favorite.

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That would be like asking me which of my two kids do I prefer. And to that I just smile. Okay, back to the post. Do you see the detail? Are you getting some enthusiasm here. Great images are too easy to find? Someone always has a better one. But! This one is mine!


Jellyfish for You

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The 26th of the month is special to someone I know. And since we were just talking about jellyfish… here you are.

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I tried to shoot one once. It was a disaster. The things are translucent. Autofocus just doesn’t want to play. No image. Blurred. Unusable. Drat! On this day the jellyfish were blooming or whatever it is they do. The sea was full of them. I guess they are not good eating. What did I say about touching anything? Don’t! I was careful. But then I wanted a shot. These guys were near the surface which meant the waves were pushing me to and fro. I was dizzy and nearly nauseous. I persisted, of course, or you wouldn’t have any shots to see.

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Yes, tricky. I got a lot of images. Mostly out of focus. There’s not much to focus upon when your subject is translucent. Did I say that already? This has sort of become a dive blog. And the interesting images I get are accumulating faster than the days I have to post. I no sooner get one good image and another comes along right after it. By no means is this my day job. So the learning curve for underwater photography has been stimulating and challenging. Thankfully, I’m hooked up with some photographers equally passionate (crazy) who are pushing my skills to become better.


Wow! Yeah! I’m Impressed and You Might Be Too

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I got eggs! Be suitably impressed please. I don’t think anyone has this shot. And if they do, great and good luck to them. I have another somewhere. I’ll post it when I edit it later. But this was an unexpected find from the dive I made this past weekend. The senior and more experienced dive photographers as making fun of me. I have discovered what they have known about before me. I just discovered how to find hermit crabs. Ho hum. No big deal. Right! I’ve been tormenting all the hermit crabs that will come out to play on the reef. The others just shake their heads and photograph something else. I’m old. My vision is not what it was once. Add motion, and blurring with a dive mask, and then a gentle current pushing you around, and finally a subject that would rather you leave it alone. You cannot stage this. You can’t even know what’s going on. You certainly can’t see the eggs when you shoot the image. This crab is small. The eggs are miniscule. Yeah, wow! I have to say that this is pretty good. Right place, right time, luck is a great thing. Or as our neurosurgery departmental motto went: “It’s better to be lucky than good.”


More Bubbles

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Hey! I found this all by myself! I’m working this subject to death. And I’m sure if you don’t dive – enough! And if you eat shrimp – get on with it! This thing has claws! It’s not even a morsel. It’s way smaller than some fish poop I swim through. I’s like a small piece of lint on the coral. That’s what makes it so damn hard to see, so hard to find, and so hard to photograph.

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If you don’t look you will never see it. And if you look you will usually not find it. And if you are old and wear glasses…well, good luck to you underwater. They do not wear glasses. Things are magnified through the dive mask. But there are so many other ways to mess up vison. Your mask fogs. We use shampoo. A few drops and it coats the lens and fog is much less. You just blurring from the wavy soap. For some reason the camera and the glass stay pristine.

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So the images I shoot are better than what I see. You need faith. I need religion but that’s another issue. Hey! This set of images were on another dive and I am better at finding than I ever thought. I actually got a chance to shoot this shrimp as it moved over the bubble coral.

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And I got detail. …the claws. Not quite as good as my expert dive guru. But it’s more than decent. Just not great. But I’m better…just not as good as I will be…


Oh no! More shrimp…

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My shot. This would be my usual till now. I’m not too good at getting in on top of the subject yet. Focus and technical details still elude me. I am still closing my eyes and hoping for the best. Don’t get me wrong. This is special stuff. And I’m getting much better. Learning on the fly is pretty fascinating. I don’t have any formal lessons. I just go and shoot. Click, adjust, shoot, and adjust, all done on the fly. I constantly am impressed at how I’m able to come away with something decent. Now I’m working on better. Bear with me. Oh, you don’t see these guys often even though I’ve posted something three times recently. I was just thinking of seeing one with my close-up lens and my wish was granted. So, fingers crossed…I’m thinking I’d like to see a mermaid!


Bubbles – the Coral Shrimp

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You think the last one was good till you see the next. I got one of these shots. And my dive buddy Amr got the other. He’s my photo guru. Eyes that miss nothing. He joked that he got an image of the shrimp’s brain.

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Wizard of Oz – “If I Only Had A Brain.” It doesn’t. So I don’t think there was much to demonstrate. Except there are those scales. This is detail! Everybody is afraid to be eaten. This speck would barely be a tidbit.

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Definitely not tasty or worth the trouble. What I can tell you, I am not skilled enough to do this shot. Yet! But half the trick is understanding how they did it. And now to leap off the cliff…it won’t hurt a bit. The landing – that’s another matter to discuss…


Bubble Coral Shrimp

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I confess. I can’t see this guy. My dive buddy points it out when he sees one. By now I know the drill. He signals and I move in. It’s a dot among the bubble coral. Tiny, tiny, you have to take my word. Oh! See the claws. I would have thought that crab and lobster have claws. But they call this a shrimp. Close-up lens, yeah! It takes a great image. My other buddy tried. He couldn’t see it either. I guess the first one with x-ray vision is the winner. It ain’t me. I’m so grateful to have a buddy who sees things. No he does not have an imaginary friend. The next few posts are about bubble shrimp and my observations and evolving skills. It’s interesting because within a few dives I discovered that things changed. So, I can string together some images which look the same but are vastly different in terms of my skill and ability. This starting image would have been great for me. Then the bar went higher.


Fine… Detail

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Ok. So I have told you about my evolution. I become better as an underwater photographer because I’m a good photographer. Or, I get better gear. Chicken or the egg? I’m slapping myself on the back because my gear is better. It begs the question as to whether or not I should just be done and get the best gear. No! It’s expensive. And I don’t know how long I’m here diving. And once I’m done, it’s a lot of expensive gear with no where to go on the weekend. Hey! It ain’t golf. It’s insidious. Like anything with moving parts, you upgrade slowly. As another buddy said, it’s awful it’s so easy to press the return key while you are on Amazon. I bring my stuff direct from the US. But they order direct delivery like FedEx equivalent delivery. It works. The gear available in Saudi is pitiful. The stores are completely clueless. The dive guys I am with are very savvy and know exactly what they want. Hey, we need underwater tripods. I saw one diver cut down the legs of a very expensive Manfrotto tripod. I cringed. Where is this all leading? Last trip home I got a close up lens. Underwater optics are interesting. They go bare without any protection and don’t seem to mind if there is a scratch of two on the glass. Cringe! I got a UV filter and stuck it on the front. It’s a 67mm thread. Works! They all shake their head and smile. I have to unscrew the filter and let water inside because otherwise it will leak in slowly.

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Ah! Look at the detail. This is full frame. I used to blow up and enlarge my image to get this big. Naturally you see finer things that you would never notice without a macro lens. See the fins. Look at the eyes. And the open mouth. The trick – depth of field is awful, and try to hold steady at this magnification. Everything moving is magnified chaos. This is why to pick ion subjects that are sitting still to start.  Ha ha you say. Do you care? As someone put it – “Never mistake asthma for passion.”


Unicorn

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Everyone has his thing. I chase the little trunkfish. My dive friends shake their heads. On a dive you don’t leave your buddy. Often times my buddies are headed along and don’t wait. So I have to keep up. You can’t leave your wingman as Tom Cruise said. And then the fish does not want its picture taken. You know, the thing about a large man dressed in neoprene blowing bubbles can be an awful sight for a little fish. I got a lot of shots from behind. And a few from the side. And rarely rarely ever from the front. You don’t know how I’ve tried. All you see is the final product. This image is on my short list of images to get. But you don’t just go and shoot this. You dive and dive and wait and wait. Opportunity comes. Rarely. But on this day and in this place…I think the guy was confused. Sometimes it happens. He just swam away and then turned as I pressed the shutter. It happens. It happened. I got an image. I got another. And then we parted. I got the unicorn. If I get the chance I’ll do it again. Chances are I’ll post and be amazed at myself. You will nod and yawn. And I will tell you again – this wasn’t easy!


Bird – Well…Parrot

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Yes. Diving. And a parrot encounter. One of the guys brought his pet along. It raised quite a stir. This picture is absent the woman holding the bird. She turned her head and folded her hat over her face. Well, WTF. You know, she wore sunglasses and I really didn’t give much care for how she looked. Besides she’s not in the photo. Sorry. But some customs baffle me. Anyway everyone went away happy. The blur is because I have my underwater housing and the lens is wet. No, I’m not opening the housing for a potential water leak. So I take what I get. Sometimes its good and others its for documentation. I wonder why the bird did not fly away. It was docile and let me pet its beak. It’s surely intelligent. I wonder whether it’s right to capture such a fine creature as a pet. But then again we domesticate, we tame, and we eat. No matter. The parrot was docile and did not mind going from shoulder to arm to head. It got a lot of attention and tolerated the strangers very well.


Christmas Tree Worm

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They come in many colors but the anatomy is essentially the same. There are two fans with feathery ends. And there is a central trumpet structure. I shot these before and always the detail was brought out with some aggressive enlargement of the image. Here I have unretouched images with just the close up lens to thank. No cropping. Nope. Cool. The depth of field is shallow. So to get the image in focus is a challenge. You settle for what looks pleasing.

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This suffices until I improve and get an even more splendid image. Yup, you keep shooting and trying to get better.

 


Don’t Try This

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I’m behind. You’d never know it. A day late and a dollar short… So this is what I did yesterday. Maybe I’ll catch up to myself soon. Diving. Tax day and other significance…. Shhh! It was the big one. Yeah, alone, but not really. But I did this selfie. My dive buddy thought I had nitrogen narcosis or that I’d run out of air. Fortunately, it was just insanity. He kept on going with just a nod to mania.

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I decided to do a selfie. It ain’t easy with this rig. And it was a matter of lighting and…. Well, shoot, it worked. Those are bubbles not blemishes. And the wide-angle does nothing but distort my appearance. And the mask and the regulator don’t help either. So off with the regulator. Don’t lose track of it; or you’re gonna have trouble on the very next breath. I’m writing so I managed to do it. Auto focus does a lot. Got the exposure on the first try.

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And then the pose. Well, you can’t do much better. Hey, it’s a selfie.

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And what else did I do while diving? Why, I found more hermit crabs. I got the hang of it now. I find them all the time, almost at will. Imagine that. I’m a hunter. I’m a tracker. I just discovered nature. Neat So, this is out of the box and unedited. Really, no enhancement as in no plastic surgery or photoshop stuff.

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I can do this but it’s still a work in progress. I need better focus technique. My subject is very small, shy, and does not wish to be disturbed no way no how.


Retired

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Got your attention , huh? As a photographer, I’m usually not in my own pictures from my camera. Dave and I did a selfie. And then I shot Jules and Dave. I’m glad they grew up and are healthy and have jobs and … Yes, wedding for a day, a return to the event and a look back. I should retire. But then again I like what I’m doing. I still have skill. I was fortunate enough to have found a job in which I actually enjoyed the work. I don’t like the side stuff.

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No, indeed! But on the whole I never dreaded going to work. So as long as my skill is good and my judgment is sound… There are those who might protest, but I have pulled off some spectacular saves. There are still a few left for me to do. I’m hanging in. Besides, who else is issuing checks to pay the bills. Yin and yang. There is a balance to life. Good and bad, happy and aggravated. Oh! Never let’em see you happy; someone will want to mess with your serenity. Grrrr….


Guarding Eggs

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Fish eggs. Who’d have guessed. It seems that right out in the open, it’s a temptation for any other passing fish. Free food! Ah! But no!

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The father? Stays around and guards the unborn offspring. How’s that work? Or is it the mother? Can’t say. But it sure is a nice picture. I swear I see the eyes of one precocious developing fish. Yes, close up lens has opened up a new world. I need a steady hand. Did I tell you that I’m moving and the current is pushing and the … is moving. Oh well!

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Shoot early shoot often…nope, there’s a bit of skill needed. You don’t motor drive and hope for the best. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so special. Right?

IMG_1119For some reason the fish like to lay their eggs on a cylindrical object. So this metal bar acts as a depository. You’d pass this by every time. Amir called my attention. Nice light good exposure. Given the choice I would not leave my eggs out in the open to any passing predator.


Nudibranch

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This is a close-up of the nudibranch that started the series of hermit crab shots. When you are in focus, you are. There’s no way to fake it. And so you know pretty much whether to keep an image. I could have done better. But while I was shooting this guy, a shell twitched. I’ve learned to watch for movement. Actually it is a primitive sensory input for defense. Anything moving is a potential threat. You knew that, right? And so the eye picks up movement first. Anyway, I saw the shell move. No kidding. That led to a chase and a half. And I was shooting the hermit crab, this nudibranch all but forgotten. See, there was a story somewhere to tell.

IMG_0503I see this particular kind from time to time on the reef. So it’s always fun but not extraordinarily special. Never pass up a shot nature provides.


Crab – No, Not Hermit

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Three maybe four inches large, tiny guy, not on par with a tiny hermit crab but he was small. And he was shy. All that hard shell protection and they are very afraid to be out in the light. Which begs the question, where do they catch all the crabs in the market? When they are big enough to eat, are they more stupid too? We were on a night dive. These crabs are sometimes seen at night if you manage to surprise them. The problem is that when you see one you are surprised about as much. So I got a shot. Not much else, and then he was gone. I only posted a single image because that’s all I got. Bye. No second chance.


Night Dive, Hermit Crab, Shrimp

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Here is an example of how pitiful things can be. See the eyes? I was pretty clueless. And this was only this past summer.

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I got these images on a night dive. That would be diving under water in the dark. No, silly, we use flashlights. This is an entirely new and different experience. Yes, your imagination runs wild. I have friends who are afraid of the dark. Really? Yup! The usual, a shark will get you. He sees the light and comes for dinner. Well, you know that I have been told that the shark sees the light and thinks you are a bigger fish. So they stay away. To which I ask, “Whoever spoke to a shark to find out? And did all the sharks read the same rule book?” My strategy: Always dive with a buddy. Duh! Basic diving 101. And…if a shark comes along, turn off your light. You might have to explain how your buddy was eaten…. So, I got a hermit crab. I saw a shell tumbling. In the dark! And it was a hermit crab! Neat! I got a really bad picture which I was pretty proud of until now. Yes, it’s a pitiful picture considering the luck I’ve had lately. He read the same rules about sharks that I suspect is closer to the truth. Be ready to turn off the light….shhhhh.

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And then there was a shrimp inside a coral. Their eyes reflect the flashlight. The problem is that they retreat from the light. So you’ve got to play peek a boo. Well, about all I got was the glowing eyes. Yes, it is only a matter of time before what you thought once was good, was not so good after all.


Hermit Crab Again, Again, and Again

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So what are the odds…in the very same next dive. You know the second dive from yesterday’s post. Following along here? Yes! Ali found this at the end of the dive. Oh! Ho hum…ahem.

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Another? Yes! And red! And feisty. We’d turn the shell over and this little one held onto the coral! Yes! My exposure and focus were good. And we were at the end of the dive again. How much luck can one have in a few dives. I don’t think I’ll see this again. But wait!

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Oh well, the next dive I did see another hermit crab. No shot. Drat. They all look different if you’ve been following and paying attention. No doubt there, right? But my dive book is woefully poor at distinguishing the names. So for now we’ll just go with generic hermit crab.

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Hey, it’s about the image, right? I got color, focus, action, exposure, detail, what more? Priceless. I know. I’m congratulating myself. It has been a wild sequence.


Hermit Crab Again, Again

IMG_0875So the very next week, gee, it’s like an epidemic… yup, the very next week. Well, I just got lamenting my lost opportunity. And….whoa!

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Another shell appeared and there was another hermit crab! Wow! It was the end of the dive again. I carried that sucker back to the safety stop. Farid was frozen.

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Ali, my other dive buddy, was hovering patiently overhead. I was down till my air was nearly depleted. And I got the shots. I took the shell with me. Sorry kids. And then on the next dive, Ali got to stage his own shots of the crab. Neat!

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Yes, I played with the wild life. Sorry! He survived and we put him in a nice cozy new place. And he will live happily ever after….


Hermit Crab Again

IMG_0700So what are the chances? The very next day. Another shell fell and tumbled and I found another hermit crab! We were headed back to home. The dive was nearly over. Cold and nearly out of air… My buddies had headed toward the safety stop. I snagged this shell. The hermit inside was not very active nor accommodating. Drat! I placed it on a background coral and waited. It peeked a couple times. Mostly it was reticent. So, I did a bad thing. Sorry, kids. (Mine hate me to play with the wildlife) I took the shell to the pier and planned to bring it back on the second dive and continue the shoot. Unfortunately, the weather was a problem. A storm…the one I wrote about….that sandstorm….well, it was blowing about and the second dive never happened.

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I had Mr Hermit in a bottle of sea water. I think they can breathe on land? But anyway, I had to abandon him and dumped him back into the sea without getting a proper close-up. At least there’s something to talk about. But…. Darn! I’d like to have had a little more time….


Hermit The Crab

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Say wow! Really! This was a find! I happened to be shooting a nudibranch and the shell tumbled in front of me. Voila! I was curious and turned it over. The crab inside was active. Too bad for the snail that once lived here. My luck! We played peek-a-boo for a while. My dive buddy’s camera had malfunctioned. He hovered while I shot away.

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Depth of field is near zero at macro. I learned a new trick. Make your aperture small. Well, it’s a good tip if you understand the terminology. And for anyone else it means that the eyes and the claws were hard to get into focus at the same time. But the detail using the close up lens was priceless. I didn’t know the claws had hairs. And I shot and shot. It takes a lot to get the technique, exposure, and focus. Yeah, it ain’t easy. I’m posting three shots.  I could pic a favorite. But there isn’t a perfect image. And besides, you can see I got it about right three times.

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Can you see the difference? I do. I’m a hard critic. I’ll get better at this. I appreciate more than you will ever know – how it is that the Nat Geo guys get the pic: Patience, perseverance, and luck. Yes, luck! Yup, I feel lucky. Right place, right time, and with right gear. Oh boy!