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.
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?
This was the quintessential image that “hooked” (ha ha) me on night dives. Night dive? Sharks are out there in the dark?!! No. They don’t like the light. They think it’s a big eye; they don’t come near night divers. Hmmm? Who had a conversation with a shark and found that info out? I consider that bright flashing light a dinner bell, “Come one, come all, dinner is served!”
My first night dive during my “advanced” course was totally forgettable. I wasn’t allowed to take my camera. Drat! And double drat! We didn’t see much. It’s surprising how boring things are when you don’t carry a camera. But this image was taken during a boat dive and a night dive. We actually had a guy on the boat who was afraid of the dark and didn’t go into the water. Funny. But near the end of our dive, there it was – a stonefish on a platter. My! Everything was right (including the stars!) – I got this shot. Perfect! Well, for me it was so special to see this as I edited. Wow! You might be jaded and fail to see the difficulties that all culminated in this image. Me? I was just so impressed with everything that came together in that fraction of a second. What an image! Night dive? I was there ever after. We did not do many. It was not a thing that folks wanted to much wait around to do. Generally, we did a couple day dives and then moved along with our day activities. It was even rare to do a third day dive. I’d have gone (diving) morning till night. I appreciated the special moments and that they could end any time. Alas!
I wrote this post in my head and then never put it to paper. Someone I know laughs. I have no blank paper in my villa. I have, maybe, a pen and I don’t think there is a pencil. And, I’d dearly like to have a ruler. I needed to measure my bed mattress. Who knew? There are king and super king bed sheets. One does not fit the other. And I was put out that my sheets were too short. Yeah, so I measured. My hand span is roughly 9 inches. It’s a nice number to know. But this ain’t horseshoes. And the difference in sheet size is not so large. Anyway, it’s standard king. I got a measuring tape from the hospital. We use it to measure baby head sizes. I will parenthetically add, that tape is free too. I was shocked to actually buy a roll of adhesive tape (not related to measuring tape) in the drug store. Really?! They charge that much? No wonder medical costs are out of control.
So, meandering along the bottom on a night dive this puffer appeared out of the dark. …Lots of people hate the dark. And night dives seem to bring out the fears in even more detail. After all, monsters of the deep come out of the dark and eat whole ships! Oh my! But mostly I think “JAWS” the movie is a lingering memory. Shark! Attack! And even if you never saw the movie, there’s plenty of limbs and life injuries around the world with unwary unfortunate swimmers. If it’s any consolation, sharks like fatty seals. They get few meals. So when they taste human, there’s not enough fat, they spit you out. It’s nice to know you don’t pass the taste test. So mostly you don’t get eaten. I dunno, I think the very bright LED light is calling sharks to dinner, “Here sharky. Here sharky. Dinner!” And if you are ever on a night dive with me, and, my light goes out, “Well, dinner is served. Him (the diver next to me), not me…” Yes, be afraid… be very afraid.
Anyway, this poor puffer – white spotted puffer – was just down along the bottom. And it’s not common enough to see that I pass an opportunity to take a picture. And as I shot I saw something in its mouth. Was it eating another fish? Nope. A hook. A shiny reflection, the darned thing was embedded and would stay for the rest of his life. Now if he would only let me help…. Yeah, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you…”
Boy oh boy! Some dives you see hermit crab and some dives you see cuttlefish. I saw babie cuttlefish! They were very shy! And I saw this guy at the end of the dive. It made my dive. He was not able to get away and I got plenty of good stuff. He changes color and camouflage.
It’s quite fast. The babies don’t do as well or as quickly. But big ones have to start somewhere. There is a crescent under the eye. Or it that an eyelid? And you can see the pigment sacs which allow the animal to change quickly. Finally, there is ink. Squirt it and it confuses the predator. It works. One did and it confused me and I could not acquire the target again. As long as you see it moving, you can keep photographing. But if it stays still, then it is pretty hard to see. The human eye is way more sensitive to movement. Survival! It’s genetic! Science! Hurray!
It’s summer. Summer is defined by the equinox, or, by the babies that abound in the sea. It’s a baby cuttlefish. (Check the last post) I was practicing my newfound technique of annoying all the urchins. Cuttlefish babies hide beneath. And then I am constantly amazed what shows up in my image. I’m old…vision could be better. Ask my kids, they could regale you with tales… Yes! A little tiny fish was there on the rock next to him. Unexpected finds happen. Here, I got two fish. I grant that the detail is lacking. And you are less than impressed. They eyes on the fish at least give you some reference. The cuttlefish looks like a little gray blob. And, I assure you, that is exactly how he wants you not to notice him.
The problem with things that camouflage well, is that there is not much to capture on your image. There’s no eye to really see. But if you imagine how much fun it is to discover one underwater it would sure help this post. It helps to know where to look and what to look for. So first, I discovered – just now – that urchins are the big protectors of small creatures. Urchins are chicken too, as in the sense of being timid, not as in, “tastes like chicken.” Moving the urchins around annoys them. Sorry! But it also allows me to see what is hiding nearby. You can’t do this with shrimp. They are way too skittish.
But the purpose of the camouflage is that you don’t see them. Standing still is a key to that. I suppose there is also something to be said for, “Don’t let ‘em see you blink.” I don’t see eyes (theirs) too well. If I did know all of this, it would be really easy to miss this tiny creature and mistake it for debris. The juveniles are not that good at all of this. So they stay for a while and move off like a shot. I got two shots of two different baby cuttlefish. And the third got away. That percentage of success gave me very few choices in deciding which pictures to post…. All of them!
Not the music man, the puffer fish. It’s a spiky puffer. The secret to night diving is that the light is brilliant. The new LED lights are very bright. There is a rule. Do not shine your light in someone’s eyes. No they won’t go blind. But they will not be able to see. Same difference? But it’s terribly rude. Fish have the same problem. And as far as I see (see, ha, pun?) they have no pupils to regulate the light. So it is playing with the wildlife once again (sorry, kids – mine). They don’t read here so I get away with stuff… You shine your light into their eyes. They are blinded. And you can take your pictures.
You could also pull on their tail. (another big no no!) And then they puff up. With what? Air? Helium? What? … water, silly, yup, water! Duh! Well, it took me a minute too. I did not ask, but still, it was a matter of common sense. When they expand – blow up! – they are bigger. The spikes are sharp – like rose thorns. And then Mr Puffer is not so appetizing as he is so intimidating. The problem is that if you are the size of a basketball your fins do not propel you well. So, it’s Catch 22. You move slowly away and I get to take lots of pictures. It works!. The things we do in the dark are amazing. And this is all just between us. I don’t need animal rights guys hounding me.
Happy 4th of July. No fireworks for me to shoot. I guess I will have to make do with another day of diving….
Crab, lobster, and shrimp all love to hide. Not love, survival. They naturally don’t want to be eaten. And it’s true, because I don’t see them much on the reef. On this dive I was queasy. Bad pizza or current pushing me around, who knows? But I was thinking ahead to dry land and settling my stomach. My dive buddy pointed. And usually it’s obvious – the subject. He was wide angle and helpless to shoot this. The crab was in a hole. This means that the focus was going to be hell. The camera focuses on the closest nearest subject. No face recognition here! And then if you point your camera into the hole, your strobe will not fit too. I need a ring flash here. They do not make one underwater. Serendipity! Luck! Lots of it! Persistence! And time! The crab and I played peek a boo. I’d shine the light. He’d move. So I shined in one spot and waited for him to move into the field of my camera and strobe. It worked…till he caught on and moved away and under another coral to be lost to this poor photographer. Bye! I wasn’t going to eat you…promise!… heart crossed and hope to die….
The don’t like white light. Great! Tell me after the dive. I learned this on my own, thank you very much. My buddy found it, three in fact. He did not bother to chase down the little one. He tells me this afterward! The first one was impossible. Everything was against me. Current, backscatter, and shyness (the lobster’s). Everyone loves to eat lobster. He knows it too.
Racial consciousness? You know that a one time in Maine lobster was fed to the workers for dinner. And they objected. There are signs saying that lobster could not be served more than twice a week. I paraphrase but that is the gist. Ugly. I was afraid to touch it. It reminds me of a roach. I hate them too. My book names three different lobsters with the same color markings so take your pick. Lobster! No claws! Funny. The lobster has no claws, the best eating part according to my friends who eat them. And the shrimp around here have claws. Go figure?
Shy but not too bright. A pun. The poor guy would hide from the light but as soon as it was off he’d poke his head out again. They also say that lobsters have a brain the size of a roach. Fine. But roaches are a whole lot smarter. I never got a clear shot at any roach in my house. And they are big too. Remember Raid – Roach Motel – roaches check in and don’t check out? It was a box with roach allure and glue to hold the insect. On night the box shook. I thought we’d caught a mouse. Nope, a big roach came out of the box, shook off his legs, and continued on across the floor. They fly too! But that’s another story. But if you’ve never seen a grown man dive for the floor when a roach dive bombed… no, it wasn’t me.