The major benefit during my stay in Saudi – diving! Since there are no tourists, I was afforded nearly exclusive rights to dive with the local folks under the Red Sea. It was magical. The Saudis are not environmentally conscious. This magnificent white coral was eventually destroyed by local divers. It was a treat to photo the moray being cleaned by a wrasse. And, the little box fish neatly escaped my camera each time I saw it. As for brain surgery, it was a curiosity to come across this fish with part of its skull missing – twice! Yes, it was a grand adventure. For a while I published “fish” so often that Carol finally (gently) protested, enough!
I have been afforded adventures one dreams about but never experience. Good? Bad? Leaving on a jet plane to Saudi from DC, you get the sunset over Long Island and sunrise over Egypt. The hot desert is a jarring sight.
Almost immediately I can dive beneath the Red Sea and its wonderous color and fish. Indeed, that was spectacular and special.
And, there were plenty of stray cats, largely ignored and mostly starving. The desert is cruel and harsh. A sandstorm? Several happened. I rushed out to see it. Disappointment. It was not the sweeping storm of Laurence of Arabia. Nope, it was more like dusky fog. From my vantage and perspective, it was curiosity and not too intimidating. My bad.
I’m a ‘datahead’ a nerd of sorts. It was but a moment ago, Noa was a baby; Colleen and I were in Scotland; my cats doubled in numbers. I have been keeping track of my slides and later digital images from nearly the beginning. First it was index cards and later on a computer. I now use an independent redundant array of external hard drives. It ain’t perfect. About once a year now, I update my yearly database summary. Do you care? … wanna hear?
Digital for me began in 2003. I number 701, 000 digital images in storage now. (Typing “701k” does not look nearly as impressive.) 2021 saw a high of 102k images shot– for the ‘freakin’ year! This spans (over the years) about 15 or more devices (cameras) including iPhone. As I asked, “Who cares?” Well, I do keep track. So, now you know. I shudder to think of how it might be without some “order” to the madness.
Life’s journey has taken me high and low – figuratively as well as literally – from love (lost to found) and to the depths of the Red Sea. Along the way I even took up basket making (#27) – See! Data! Gee!
From the pictures and the dates, it would appear that I last dove only a few days before I departed Saudi. Decompression protocol says you don’t dive 24 hrs before you (fly) leave. It looks like I got on a boat dive with the Filipinos. Nice! I learned this trick in my last few dives. All the nondescript shells on the reef harbored hermit crabs. Turn over the shell and voila! A hermit crab! Isn’t that a neat trick? Well, I guess the hermit crabs weren’t so amused. … giant clams, Christmas tree worms, clown fish, and pajama nudibranch numbered among my photographic subjects. One two three nudibranch, unusual to see them grouped, they are loners on the reef. Bright colors mean, danger, eat me and you will be sick. The details are what standout in these last images. My dive days are pretty much over, now.
I was enthusiastic about learning to scuba dive. It was a bucket list thing. Underwater photography? Yes, of course?? It was this photo that opened my eyes! It’s nothing special as far as other spectacular images I made. But this was a game changer for me. The color! Who knew the coral would be so colorful with a flash! Not me. Done! I was hooked. Thereafter, I was the first in and last out on any dive. One never knew what you had obtained until you post processed upon downloading the images to your computer. It was like opening Xmas! every dive.
This next few days are about 5 star pics. They are in my catalog going back years. How did we get to 5 star? My picking method varies enough that there are plenty of worthy pics that aren’t labeled 5 but should be. Here are some that have 5 stars and to me are memorable. I start with a fish and a bird. It’s rare and for me, nearly never, that I was there at the exact moment to see the catch. Not so good for the fish, I suppose. But I was glad to have gotten the shot.
Hey! I got experience. I have experience. I had the fortunate experience of diving in the Red Sea. I have hundreds of dives recorded. Lucky!! And I have photos that are one of a kind. I have a hermit crab in the act of laying eggs. How cool is that? One of a kind!! I was there at the right moment. Yes, sometimes I impress myself.
How do you tell one clown fish from one another? They all look the same to me. Male or female?? Ha ha, good luck with that. But here are fish eggs. They are a rare sight to capture underwater. I am indeed fortunate that I was there when it happened. I missed the moment the eggs hatched. That would have been special. I suppose there are always some regrets we have until the next time.
I discovered there are no words that come to mind. This photo is a night dive shot of a stone fish. You don’t mess with them; they are dangerous. I never did – mess with one. The warning was enough. I don’t know why not? I was never known to take warnings without some degree of skepticism. I should’ve/would’ve tried at some point…. This was the genesis of my love for night diving. Call it: “Stonefish on a platter.” This was it! It was the image that hooked me. It was not the first night dive. But when I put this image up in Lightroom, oh my! Can you say, “I was blown away?” You might laugh. I am. I just came across this image in a random sorting. This was the genesis of my enthusiasm for night dives. Shhh, cue the “Jaws” movie music. In a night dive it really is dark in the deep blue sea. And, the shark is out there waiting to eat you…. dum dum, dum dum….
I did a search on the hard drive for a picture. These images all carried the number “IMG_0771.” The image number(s) recycles. It is the nature of digital cameras. Fish in the Red Sea. Cat in Delaware.
I was surprised by the images that had the same number spanning many years. The image of Jules, around 2007, and Colleen 2014. Jules – Maine or Vermont. Colleen NYC.
I was blown away by the mask and the drawn face. It was a bit of shock. I have no recollection of that joke, date and place, unknown. And then, there’s a cerebellar tumor, Jeddah circa 2013? As I recall we successfully removed that tumor and it’s recurrence. IMG_0771, this image, has been an interesting historical journey touching significant things in my life.
It’s a nudibranch. This was the last subject I photographed in the Red Sea. Last dive in September 2016. This is one I have not seen before. How nice to see something new? The dive was like any other – uneventful. I knew it was the last dive. It came and went without fanfare. I have not dived since. I think I will dive again someday. Meanwhile, I have a lot of expensive equipment waiting for that day.
…’cause jelly don’t shake. I know. I know. I got it backwards. … don’t care. It ain’t easy photographing them. They are translucent transparent. And the last time I tried I was being buffeted in the Red Sea. Alas, I am in the aquarium and the conditions are different. Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you can’t.
Sometimes a picture strikes you. Smile laugh whatever! Happy! We were in the aquarium at the end of the pier in Manhattan Beach. It’s about the last place I expected to find and aquarium or fish. I’m taking pictures of fish! It’s not the Red Sea…
I learned this trick in the last months I dove in the Red Sea. Hermit crabs. They live in shells. I would see shells as we dove. I turned them over and waited. If there was a crab, it emerged to turn it’s house back – right side up. My dive buddies would laugh at me. No crab on the reef was safe from me. Mostly I would get or not get a satisfactory shot. Everyone else lost interest and stopped taking pictures of the crabs. I persisted. Look!
Eggs! Not once, but more than once. Actually, it happened more. But, in this instance you can see that the crab is in the act of laying its eggs. I think.
At least that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it. You should be impressed. This was not easy. Really? The timing !!! I was there, I will readily admit purely fortuitously. But there!!
Okay, back to diving… I’m editing some images for a presentation next March. Ha! I was never known for advance planning. But…. So, I’m looking through roughly 60,000 dive images. Many, most, are not any good. You take a lot and most are out of focus or poorly exposed. Got it? I’m looking over a night dive. The exposure is awful. But? Well, I ratcheted up the exposure and lo and behold… not one, but, at least four shrimp! I’m lucky to see one. But four! They like to hide behind urchins. Protective? I can count four. This is a complete surprise to me. I must have edited when I finished the dive. I guess? I don’t remember. Meanwhile, serendipity, I found something new. I know you might not be impressed. The Planet Earth series is full of amazing shots. We see amazing shots day in and day out. I’m just an advanced amateur. I am humbled to get these shots and to have had the opportunity to do so. Hey! Four shrimp, one shot! They are notoriously shy. You should know. You’d eat them if they were on your plate. They know this too!
Well, this was a first for me. I’m old. This is my first lobster. I don’t eat lobster. Nope! Nada! Never! Ok! But sometimes a bit of lobster bisque. I like the wine flavor. I’ve cooked/steamed lobster. I didn’t like that either. Afterward I turned over the carcass to the eater. The most fun I have had is in shooting a lobster. Yeah yeah, I mean photographing one while scuba diving. But finally, I am subject to the dissection. My companion would eat it steamed but had never taken one apart. At least I knew the theory. Oh, the mess! And the smell of lobster juice on your fingers… no! I did not do anything more than dissect… nary a taste. When you consider that: how you say the title can have two different meanings. I prefer a command interrogative, not entirely accurate but it sounds good. Now that I have broken down a lobster, bring it on!
Here’s something I don’t see often and never in Maine until now. Tuna. I don’t know how large. Say about 300 pounds? At least! It was a big one. It made quite a hit at the dock. I heard some loud voices and peeked over the rail to see the commotion. This was a big fish tale. How big?! But this was no trophy fish. It was headed for the market and a handsome profit. Within moments of hauling the fish onto the dock it was already being dissected. Off with its head! Soon to follow were the fins. They used a simple power saw. Onto the truck. Off and away to market. The head was tossed upon the dock and soon discarded for lobster bait. Nothing goes to waste.
It’s not a fish? This one washed up on the beach. It’s a much better picture taken underwater. However, the water is cold… too cold for me. No diving. You can actually see some detail around the edges. Fascinating. Transparent. Brain? It eats? Anything/anybody eat it? Life, how interesting.
This is a jellyfish in the Red Sea – in situ. Believe me, it’s hard to photograph. They are transparent and therefore near to impossible to focus your camera let alone get a decent image.
See through! Yeah! Try to spot this one. And they are small. And they are skittish. So, it’s very fortunate to see one. Now, try to get a picture. Damn! It seems that the flash does not trigger a retreat. Every once in a while, I get to see one. Focus! It’s the hardest thing to do. How do you focus on a transparent animal? Yeah, it was hard. I’d shoot and shoot and shoot. Some, a few (images) would turn out decent. Most were throw away images. Remember I’m shooting through water and moving in 3D – up, down, sideways – in the current. Yeah, it’s hard enough if I’m standing on dry land. Oh, remember to get all of your settings right. The flash had to be set manually – guessing at the right light settings. Oh yeah! Easy as pie?!!
They like to hide in coral holes. They are fearless. They think you can’t see them. Mostly no one does. Amr has eagle eyes. He sees them. After he moves away with his ($5000) big rig camera, I move in and get my shots. Rarely is it the case where I find a goby on my own. They simply hide/blend so well. This picture is mine. See the horn?! That’s detail. This is a good shot. I’m telling you so because it’s a hard shot to do well. Trust me?!
The last few months I dove in the Red Sea there was not a single (that I could find) hermit crab safe from me. Turn over the shell, wait, the legs and head would poke out to right the upside-down shell. They’d do it over and over. I just had to hang around long enough to wait to get the perfect shot. My dive buddies were swimming away. I would linger to the last second. The shot includes the eyes and the antennae in focus. You only get a moment. Once, I got a “mama” hermit crab with eggs. That was special. I think even my buddies were impressed. The crabs are only mere fractions of an inch big. Yes! Small! I’m used to shooting under (time) pressure. Traditionally, my companions are always moving on to something else as I linger behind. Yup, the Poky Little Puppy.
The holy grail of night diving around where we dove in the Red Sea? The Spanish dancer. You can see them. Lots of night divers have seen them. Right! But, it’s a rare sight. They look like the skirt of a Spanish dancer – duh! Beautiful! They are very large nudibranch. Not too sexy, huh? But the holy grail nonetheless. The feather star is also a coral that will shrink if the light hits it. You see them only on night dives. And you flash photo them. A flashlight will cause them to shrink. And the last animal with the tentacles was definitely a one-time shot for me. I was with Farid in the southern site we sometimes dove. Ugly and monstrous it spooked me and fascinated me at the same time. Whoa!
It’s interesting that looking at an image, I can recall the circumstances and location I took the shot. At other times I have completely forgotten the image until it showed up again in Lightroom. Memory is funny. It’s amazing what triggers memory recall. I especially like the images where, “I took that?” pops into my head.
Follow your buddy, shoot what they shoot. My friend Marie has the ability to find great “shit.” And she breathes slow! Way slow! She can get an hour and a half from a single tank. Newbies get about thirty minutes. I got an hour. After I learned to breathe more slowly and rhythmically from her (by watching her) I could get way more dive time. And more pictures! Meanwhile, she was taking pics of the male fish (see the teeth) with eggs in their mouth. And I did too! Yay! I once saw a fern in Jamaica whose leaves shrink when touched – sort of like scrunching up when a rain drop would hit. Coral does too – some types – as in you can write things in the coral. But once one coral shrinks the whole lot seems to follow. So, it’s a trick to write letters in the shrinking coral. Good luck.
During Ramadan everything (schedule) is turned upside down. Night dives! The guys would show up to break fast. Eat. Then dive. Yay! They did two or three! Night dives! Unfortunately, I was not privy to the schedule. No one ever tells you, nor do they bother to invite you. Ah well, I caught on to the rumor and showed up. The group all brought food to the communal break fast meal. They graciously fed me. (Free food!) We hung out way past sunset into night time. What the…? We were waiting for the late arrival of a friend. He was a thin guy whose wet (elastic) suit hung limply over his scrawny figure. He chain-smoked until he put his tank on and the regulator into his mouth. Yeah, nothing happens (explosion). It’s compressed air, not oxygen. I got to be his dive buddy. Oh great!? At the very end of the dive, after the decompression stop, when we were swimming in toward the pier, at the very last second; he pulled up short and started taking pictures like mad. It was a hermit crab on the bottom in ten foot of water. Yeah, sometimes your dive buddy has his moments.
Confusing picture? The hermit crab has green eyes. There are antennae. He has covered himself with shells in order to confuse you and to camouflage himself better. See?
I realize it’s not a good image. But it’s a good memory. Farid and I were swimming parallel to the reef. That would be north south. We are supposed to be able to navigate underwater. After all north south is south north going backward. Ha! It’s one way or the other. Keep the reef to your right or left shoulder. Done! Ah! No! If you swim into a cove you can swim in a circle and be right back where you started. Get it? We didn’t. I had a great laugh when Farid surfaced to see where the hell we were. Oh! I missed it too. I was just following the “leader.” Rays? Out in the “blue” were three rays just moving along the reef. Beautiful. We couldn’t get close. They swam effortlessly away from us. The “blue?” In the deep, with no reference for navigation, up, down and sideways, it’s all the same. You can be lost or disoriented so easily. We joked. Sudan is to our west and in the “blue.” Don’t go to Sudan.