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!
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.
I’ve posted this before. Amr, a senior photographer and dive buddy shot/made a poster of it. It hung as an admonishment at the dive center. The Saudis are pigs. Ha, they don’t eat pork. Pig is a relative term I suppose. Someone (maybe not Saudi) destroyed this coral. They knocked it over. It looked like “shit” after it was destroyed. It was out about 15 minutes from the pier at 65 feet. It was beautiful and gorgeous once upon a time. Then someone came along and messed it up forever and for everyone else to come. Bastards!
TMI – too much information – too close. I sent this image to my daughter. She commented, “What is it? Show me the whole thing.” There’s a balance. You need context. But I’d like to just publish a single image. Choose. Which one? Ah! Well, that becomes a matter of choice. But which? I guess consider the difference between a snapshot versus a photograph. I’m still a camera person. Right tool? There’s no argument that most of all images are smart phone productions – too easy and convenient to ignore. I’m a long way from point and shoot. Set up takes time. I moved up along the scale. And yet there is a large group above me who finds my set up to be inadequate. There’s always someone better. Meanwhile, I like what I’m doing. I’ll stick to my day job for a bit longer. It’s still a hobby for me.
With digital you are not limited to shooting a single image. Fire away. Memory card and battery power are your limiting factors. You can shoot hundreds of images and discard them later. The point is not quantity; it’s quality. Lately I don’t press the shutter as I think to myself, “It’s not a picture.”
Pure white is rare to see in the sea. See it below. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Homonyms must be so confusing to non-English speakers. Reading it is easier. But it’s fun to hear. So, I passed this white coral. Pure white. So white, that my camera would not expose properly. Too much dynamic range. I bet you care? The brightness exceeded the camera’s ability to expose properly. There, I bet you were wondering. Well, the point of it all is that I wanted to shoot white. Shoot? Remember? Everything has this gray green cast. Lots of dead stuff. Like the floor of the forest. It’s brown drab. Fall leaves are such a good photo op. Afterwards there is nothing much photogenic in brown leaves. White is not natural. Dirt, grime, all that stuff you know, there’s no reason to remain pure white. Entropy! Chaos! Randomness!
Ok? So I was concentrating and adjusting the focus and exposure. I never did get the good shot I envisioned. It was the end of the dive. We were in our decompression stop – three minutes. Hover. And turn off your mind and camera till you are done and emerge. As I shot my camera was bumped. Not once, twice, and again. There! A fish decided to have a “human encounter.” Really! Yup. It was a dream photo op! And I had all the wrong settings. I was shooting “white!” Dammit! He came around again. It’s always a “he” when they are curious and aggressive? Eggs? Young? Nope. But we had an encounter. I was too close! Can’t focus in close. I back pedaled. Yeah, fins and all, I was backing off. Gotcha! If you don’t understand how rare this is and how hard it was too get, it’s ok. I’m telling you. Ho hum, just another interesting encounter. But it was five star in my book. Never turn off your camera until you are out of the water.
Here’s my rose garden now. The best garden is the one I can admire but don’t have to tend. No weeding. No deadheading. No watering. Just admire and smile. I did container gardening for more than twenty years. I’ll pull out some slides and show you someday. Plant, wait for the flowers to grow, deadhead, water, and fuss. It was a pretty damn good garden. It was like therapy. I’d water for an hour and be pretty mellow. Then it became a chore. And no one appreciated the effort. Oh well. Everything changes. These days, this is my garden. It is a landscape of coral that look like gray stalks underwater. Shine a daylight color balanced strobe on them and they are spectacular. You don’t have to agree. Fine by me. But I get to admire them and they always make me smile. They are down below 70 feet. Not too many divers venture here. No one seems intent on destroying beauty. There was a gorgeous fan coral someone destroyed not too far from here. Fortunately, the beauty of this coral is hidden until you make them shine. I get to see a lot of neat things. I get to see them over and over. This sort of makes all the downside better. Like roses with thorns, coral has the nasty habit of giving you skin irritation. So remember. Don’t touch nothin,’ nothin’ ever! I can assure you my advice is sound. (I’m itching the back of my hand as we speak.)
Don’t touch nothin’ under the sea. Nothin’ nope nada. Every time I brush the coral I get a rash. The water repellent shirt you wear is called a rash guard. I still remember my buddy Jack calling it that. Me, I thought the lightweight shirt shed water. That too, but the real purpose is to protect you if you touch something. Don’t ever, touch nothin’ ever. Got it?
So here is what I am now seeing with my close-up lens. No I’m not really seeing this underwater. The hairs are too small to really see until you enlarge the image on the computer. It’s simply amazing what’s out there just waiting to give me a rash. Don’t touch nothin’ ever. Of course I never met rule I didn’t mind breaking…
I never know the ass from my elbow – ok – I mixed metaphors. But the front end from the ass can be a challenge. And this nudibranch has a front end.
See the rhinopores? With macro – it’s easy! Was that all? Gee, it’s like I just got a brand new pair of reading glasses. By the way I do need glasses. But my vision is good enough without them. So I am only half blind underwater. This should be a great comfort to the patients I operate upon….
Here are some details of what I can do with macro underwater photography. Don’t sigh and don’t laugh. And yes, Carol, I’ll finish with fish someday. Meanwhile just smile and look at what I can do. Neat!
Last year at this time I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing with whom. Do you? Sorry, I ain’t telling.
So “A” is for the bright red coral accent that makes me think of the letter “A.”
Fair enough? The technical trick I learned is to isolate the subject by fading out the background ambient light by making the strobe the dominant light source. It’s like night diving which I love so much. So finally it dawned on me to do this more. I had heretofore been concerned with battery life. I’m shooting less and more particularly. I don’t really want to manipulate my images post processing like crazy in Photoshop. Mostly I am getting away with Lightroom and some cropping on occasion. Hey, it’s working better and better.
And yes, it was a very nice valentine too…
The crystal ball as I call it is shiny and reflective. It really is a coral. I see it frequently enough and saw it in my book depicted with the same ball shape as you see. It needs a little polish, eh? And black and white? Or should I say white and black. Camouflage and confusion keep predators from targeting you. For me it is a matter of getting the right exposure. I think I’ve finally caught on. It’s like shooting snow. My recent shots are better. I always seem to over expose the light sand. No, you do not get to see an example. Trust me (I’m from the government and here to help…)
Ok, if you must, and want to, know, I use an underexposure now. Then I bring up the light to get everything to be more evenly exposed. It’s still a work in progress.
Graphic subject and dramatic lighting, I used to get this on night dives. Now with the strobe and my current settings everything is more exciting. It’s hard to go back to available light.
The soft coral is just so picturesque with strobe. It’s named nephthaidae. I noticed my dive buddies would shoot this coral each time down. Some coral just look great with balanced daylight. And the feather duster worm is self-explanatory. Yes, it shrinks and closes up as soon as you touch it. Remember, don’t play with the wildlife.
Where does the name “Red Sea” come from? It’s the red coral that is there. And why is the coral red. Interesting, because red light and color fades the deeper you go down. So why then is the coral red? And do fish see red color? Is it a matter of survival and adaptation? It is an easy yes, But why?
I have begun to know where things are around the resort we have frequented. There is a fan coral at about 65 feet depth. Follow the reef north and you will encounter it. I have been there several times. It’s the only one around this area. Lighting is tricky as I have been disappointed with many images I shot. The key is the diffuse bounce lighting. It gives the coral a clean natural color and a pleasing glow. I’m not showing the failures all of which had some defect. But there are a lot of images that did not make the cut. I’m glad I got to come back.
I dive and look for things that are different. Fish are, so I’m always chasing them. The coral don’t move so it’s like photographing a tree. They don’t move away. So, there’s not too much challenge. The trick is to get something that’s not the usual fare. Close-ups help. Here are a few fanciful specimens.
So dive season started. The water is 84 degrees. Really, it’s just under bath temperature. I finally begin to appreciate Julia’s comment, “The coral in the Red Sea is soooo nice!” I’ve decided that I like the soft coral. And I’ve begun to pay attention to the background colors and to use a little more macro focus. So I’m still learning as I go. Oh boy, oh boy.