Red Sea stone fish – fish on a platter (coral). Caution!! Very dangerous!
Well, after you learn to dive, they all talk about a night dive. ??? Yes, underwater in the dark. My imagination ran wild. In the dark with a flashlight beckoning all the sharks to come eat me. Dinner! Dinner’s here! Come and get it!
Needless to say I was scared, apprehensive, and wary. What’s the fun?!
Well, here you are. “Fish on a platter” Night dive. The one that converted me. It changed me forever. You dive in a group. Night dives are chaos. A bunch of divers with flashlights and cameras all milling about underwater… got the picture?
I got this shot. He is supposed to be dangerous. Do not go near! Do not touch! It will hurt you if provoked. There! Lying atop a coral – resting? Sleeping? Camouflage doesn’t help now. Voila! A great shot. After this if they called, “night dive” I was in enthusiastically. This is the shot that changed my mind about the dark blue (Red) sea.
Not bad I was able to find this shot without too much wrestling. My archival skill is better than I thought.
Canon G12 – flash
It seems so long ago now. I first learned to dive in the Red Sea. The early images were drab green. Color disappears as you go deeper in the sea. What did I know? I was strictly amateur. But it was a photo op!
Flash! The first time I turned on my Canon G12 flash and shot the reef…it was a lionfish. Ok! But the real eye opener was the background! Who knew the coral had such color. It drab green until then. Red color disappears quickly as you descend into the sea. Wow! Whoa!
I have shown you this image before. It was like – discovery, lightbulb, birth, origin, awakening…. It’s interesting that it did not take too long to find this iconic image in the catalog. Yes, I challenged myself to find a memory. And, I did it! How my life was transformed after I saw this image in Lightroom. Underwater photography became an avid hobby until I left Saudi.
The last time I…
September 16, 2016. … the last time I dove. Underwater, Red Sea. The Red Sea dives. It was a week before I left Saudi forever. Good? What? Which? Answer: Complex. On many levels. Let me be obtuse and confusing.
As Carol says, ‘feral cats.’ Two, I had to leave them behind. Were it otherwise, I would have braved the red tape to bring Lulu and Casi home to the USA. But they were Arabic speaking cats…
The last dive shot? Hmmmm…. I have a dive log. It says 9/16/16. And my catalog? No pictures – no dive pictures for that day. What!?!! Somehow, there are – pictures of diving on that day.
The absolute last dive picture? Nudibranch, nothing special, yet, it was. Special. Last. Out with a whimper. The shrimp is almost too small to see with the naked eye! Blenny poking out of the coral? Dragon nudibranch! Hermit crab ‘en’ shell? Flying ‘whatever!!’
Oh boy, despite my failing memory, these shots are embedded…. I’ll never do it again. I was good! Oh, the skill! Wistful? Regret? Do I miss Lulu and Casi?
It was but a chapter in my life. I have moved on. You cannot go back. I am glad I have the memories. Colleen is glad I am home every night safe and snug in our bed. She worries a lot. This is one less thing to worry over.
Last picture of the last dive. Thank goodness it was a real subject and in focus.
I’m mining the catalog. When you think about it I have quite a memory bank of experiences. I have seen much. There are many stories that will never be told. Too little time. Not enough interest. Resigned? Philosophical?
There are many wishes left behind. There were many roads not taken. There were roads I wish… And for all of that I have no, well, a few regrets. But few. I have seen and photographed much. And the road is still stretching before me.
Diving is an activity limited to a few fortunate people in Saudi Arabia. Once again it occurs behind closed gated compound walls. It is the Red Sea for goodness sake! Nope. Not allowed! Somewhere else I described my encounter with the police and the order of the blue thumb.
Women are distinctly a minority. They must be covered at all times – unless you are behind closed doors outside of the view of the religious police. Lessons. Our surgical assistants all received lessons compliments of the orthopedic chief surgeon. There is much beauty and wonder beneath the sea. My friend/dive buddy related to me recently that much of the reef has been destroyed. Once again ignorance – lack of common respect for the fragility of nature was in play. His beloved reef was gone.
It happened. Can it be? Covid – mask? Ukraine? Travel? Events? Forbidden?
Though many around us have been touched by covid – children, grandchildren, cousins and so forth….
We went to the museum to see the new exhibit. It’s on loan and traveling from Long Island. Photos forbidden. Oops! I already shot by the time Colleen pointed it out. Does this fall under street photography? It was illustrative that covid was still in our thoughts.
Taken at random the flower or the fish could have been anywhere. I needed the white gate to orient me. Aha! Winterthur – been there!
Random sunset. Or perhaps sunrise? It would depend on which side of the car windows I was shooting. Aha! Metadata?! 6:56PM.
Fine photography? No, nope, not hardly… but, fine by me.
I rate images with stars in Lightroom. Here are some five star images. They merit being posted alone but there are too many images. Julia taught me jump images – in Africa. I already knew, but, this was the practical application. I have seen great beauty. Maine! I lived there are few years… Some of my best fall colors come from those times. Fun?! I traveled to nearby Massachusetts for Patriot’s Day. For fun, I was (wink) nearly shot. Notice too that the reenactment soldiers turn their head when firing their muskets. It’s no wonder you could fire from point blank range and miss the target. The birds are Atlantic puffins. I paid dearly – seasick – to get to see them.
… am I inspired? I am working with a catalog, presently, of over 433k images. Can’t find one? Find one? Go looking for something you remembered you took once upon a time? I got a database. Thank goodness!! Do you care? Am I bragging? Impressed?! Computers are so useful!? Or are they the enemy of good? Colleen thinks so. What (does she think)? I have a few followers and many who signed up as followers. I hear from a precious few (occasionally) Ginny, Carol, and my Colleen. My kids? Nope. They forgot long ago. It’s better that way….
Inspiration? Just toss a dart… it triggers memories – Africa, 9/11, Saudi, reunion, sunrise, sunset, Zanzibar, diving, marketplace, black and white… and so much more. It’s like an illustrated memoir (for you). There’s a lot of pictures and a lot of stories. I daresay some pics are better than the stories. But they are mine. It has been an interesting journey through my mind for all these many years. The tip of the iceberg? Oh, the things I could tell you! But what happened in the operating room, stayed there! Would I do it again?
Inspiration? Nowadays, it’s Colleen. Everyone has a muse? Right? I’m left-handed. … on the other hand, there are five fingers. She’s left-handed too! Right? Amazing!
Under the sea
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.
It was a good year
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.
Night dive! This was the moment when I realized that diving in the dark dark ocean with sharks somewhere about was not so scary as the result of obtaining a worthy night image. This was the moment that opened my mind to the concept. “Fish on a platter” I was hooked and enjoyed and sought night dives whenever I could.
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 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.
Must be jam…
…’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…
Unsafe in a shell
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!
Tuna as sushi
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?!!