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.
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.
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.
Challenged – Tiny!
I love a challenge. I like to go to the edge technically and have to struggle to get the image. You would think that point and shoot. Anyone can press the shutter and get whatever. You do it with your iPhone all the time. Right place right time, it’s mostly about being in position. Having a phone makes it easy to catch breaking news. But what if you actually had to work to get the image. It’s not as simple to press the shutter. I had about thirty tries. And, I was inadequate to the task.
The first image is not my shot. Amr. Suffice to say that my effort was lacking. I had two tries in two dives. I was at the limit of my present skill. I’ll get better, just not today. Remember, the current is pushing, breathing makes you shake, the subject is too small to really see, and no one is patiently letting you just shoot. Hey, we have a limit to air and bottom time! If you can imagine a tiny piece of lint, then this nudibranch was about that size. I could not see the details of it with my bare vision. Any movement and you have a focus problem. And I did. A lot! So it is Amr’s image that shows up my technical learning curve. I can get better. There is always a higher bar. Steadying your hand is easy. Just rest it on the coral. Then try not to let your body sway in the current. It helps if you can hold your breath too. Try to put it all together. There’s the trick!
I see new stuff infrequently now. My buddy kindly pointed this nudibranch out. At first I did not see what he was pointing to. Yes, I wear glasses. Don’t make fun. I don’t wear them underwater. But I see pretty good without them. How do you miss something so colorful as this? Easy! It’s easy to miss. There is a lot going on underwater. Countless times I have returned to discover things sitting on my computer that were never in the shot when I pressed the shutter. Laugh if you want. I saw something new. And that always is a good thing.
This is a first for me. And my dive buddy pointed it out and did not take a picture. He’s seen it. Oh my! That’s the name – large dragon. It’s in my handy dandy book. So you have not seen it here before. I was pretty excited. Every dive has a signature picture. Some dives have more than one. And some dives have none. This was an outstanding dive! Something new! And I even got good images. Yeah, I pretty thrilled. You don’t get high detail easily. You can crop post production in Photoshop. But that is sort of unfair. My ground dry land photography is cropped in camera. So why not underwater? At high magnification, everything, including this diver’s had, shakes more. So it is hard to compose, focus, and shoot. I’m already good. I’m trying to get better.
And this was a real thrill. Go ahead, yawn. But this was a great dive for me!
Details – Fine
Macro. It’s what they call it. Macro means large to me. It is counterintuitive to me. But the art or style is to get the details. And believe me the details are often not obvious on first look.
Red coral has hair – like the fine hair on your arm. Not obvious. I don’t know what the purpose is. I don’t see the hairs on most coral.
Horns – rhinopores. The yellow orange are pretty obvious. And the serrations are a new discovery since I now get magnified views with my super macro lens. The black and white – gee! – I didn’t know there were rhinopores for three years. There is a front and back! Damn! Starfish – fine details – it was out because the water was so murky the starfish was fooled into thinking it was dark. This is stuff that I simply never appreciated till I started macro photography. Neat!
Someone I know loves green. So here are color patterns that seem to go together. I would say I’m partial to red. It’s the color of the Red Sea. Red coral – Red Sea – duh! I was struck by the color when I edited. And I could not resist posting it. Otherwise this is just another pajama nudi on the reef. Oh boy! Like they are always just sitting around for a picture. Actually they move, Not fast but they cover territory and move from one dive to the next. Someone has seen them mating. I’d like to see that to photograph. You won’t see that here. I’m strictly G rated. HA
Big Pajama Nudi
How big? Everyone was laughing after the dive. These were the largest any of us have seen on the reef. We are all experienced divers. For this pajama chromodorid, these were quite large. As if a nine-foot tall person would be noticed above the crowd.
But my pictures are all showing close ups and full frame images. So how to prove or how to make the reader realize these were large specimens? Well, fisherman always lie about how large it was, the one that got away… There were four.
You see three. The other was not next to the others. Were they mating? That would have been neat to see too. The images here are uncropped. So, you can appreciate that my macro technique is a whole lot better too.
The equipment doesn’t make the photographer. But it helps to have good euipment. Hmmm do we need a bigger fishing rod?
Willey’s Dorid and Pajama Chromodorid
Here’s an odd couple. They were coexisting. Friends? Traveling buddies? Fighting? The big guy was picking on the little one? Anyway, it’s an unusual grouping. At this point the Willey’s is not usual but no longer unusual. Nudibranch have rhinopores and gills. You can see them. Sometimes you see them better. My macro work needs more work. I could not quite demo the rhinopores on the big guy.
Tsk tsk, I think the point was to demonstrate the pairing. It brings up and interesting question. When is enough?
I shot from different angles, from different focal lengths, changed the strobe settings, zoomed in, focused on parts, got a wide view… then you leave, swim on. At what point do you go? After one image? There was a time with film photography when you had a roll of thirty six exposures (one film roll) per dive.
Wow. My dives are about 100 to 200 images per dive. It’s not unlimited. Batteries run out. That limits your capacity. …unless I get a bigger camera… with a bigger battery.
Work In Progress
This nudibranch is pretty common where I dive. It means we see it. It’s not as though you don’t have to keep a sharp eye. And it is usually small. And it is not moving fast. And it is usually partially hidden. If no one is looking I might move it a bit to allow me to get my camera into a better position Shhhhh! Don’t tell. Charlie, a friend a buddy, a pilot with whom I flew, likes to get the whole subject in the frame. I find that I’m sometimes influenced by his notion. Though I had rationally discounted his idea much of my work is of the whole creature.
Lately, I’m trying for more detail. The rhinopores (horns) have striations. At high mag in macro, the depth of field is so shallow that focus is a problem And then this guy was truckin’ along. Yes, they move. Not fast, but they do. It ain’t easy to get a shot. And I would love to manual focus on the horn. But it’s not something I can do underwater. In a way it’s like getting all set and then the last thing you do is close your eyes and press the shutter. Unlike someone I know, I do not shake my finger when I press.
Here’s a rare find on the reef. I’ve seen it before. It’s a nudibranch. Someone asked me to explain. It’s like a forest with trees. This is one of the trees. There are tall ones and short ones and big leaves and small leaves. It’s doesn’t help too much. Generally, they have certain common anatomic features. There are the front end rhinopores and the rear end gills. Then there is size and color which vary. So you get big and tiny. Some are quite large and you would think with a big soft body, they would be a tasty snack. For some reason the big fish do not find them tasty – probably poisonous. And then again crabs with hard shells are skittish and wary. I love that the rhinopores have striations that you can make out. It’s fun to find. Today I was fortunate to have a very compatible group of buddies. I felt a little guilty. The other three did not have cameras. I got to have all the fun.
This Was Small
Look, I admit to being a certain age. And it’s beyond middle. Who lives to 100? That’s all I will say. I discovered I needed glasses when I was lost in Puerto Rico and tried but failed to read a map in a rental car’s interior dome light. That’s another story. But suffice to say when I visited my good buddy ophthalmologist he said, “You need glasses. Go to K Mart (yup, K Mart!!) and get a pair of 1.50 reading glasses.” Darn if that didn’t work for almost twenty years. I’m pretty lucky. My vision without glasses is good mostly. Dim light is bad for me. In the operating room, well, that’s different. I used strong headlight illumination – halogen then xenon. It worked till recently. Then I succumbed and got proper prescription glasses which I promptly crushed in my pocket. So now they are always on my head to avoid crush injury.
Back to my post… I dive with a guy who would be supernatural. He must have another sense. Maybe he sees infrared. But no, that won’t work in an ocean full of marine life. Who knows?! The son of a gun can spot things that mere mortals, even with good vision, cannot possibly see. This nudibranch is tiny. How small? Smaller that 1/16 inch. Who knows. It was so small that he took my close up lens and piggybacked it to his and then shot with +20 diopter. I hovered. It looked like dust, maybe a piece of stray debris. I mean I was looking now that he was all over the subject. Yeah. Really! And when I took my turn and got my shot, I could only see this in retrospect on the screen of my computer. Yes, it ain’t fair that some people can spot stuff I would have no ordinary hope of seeing. Hey! Look close, the rhinopores have striations. That’s really fine detail. Do I sound impressed? Well, I am unabashedly happy to have been there to get this shot.
That’s what they called it. It’s not exactly in my book. There are similar ones. It doesn’t seem to be identified. I’m too humble to say we discovered something new. It’s just not in my one and only book. Fine! It looked like a piece of dirt. I would never see it. And my dive buddy saw it. She beckoned and then started photographing this moving piece of dirt. Ah! It was moving. The key operative word, if it’s moving it’s alive and subject to being photographed. And without a macro lens, no way. There is no way I could have seen this much less post anything decent to see. It was tiny – a mere speck of dirt.
Ok, I exaggerate – not that small. It’s the opposite of the fish I caught the other day which was this biiiigggggg….This was indeed special. I’ve never seen it before and probably won’t again. But you can be sure that if I do, I will show you.
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!
It’s all in the details. And perhaps you read yesterday. The ribbon of eggs? Macro lens. This image ain’t sharp. It could be. Maybe it should be. Aren’t the details the important thing? Or is it art? Who knows? When I edit lately, my first pass is for images that appeal to me. This one has enough detail combined with a painterly quality that it qualifies as art. Otherwise I am doing catalog work for a book. Been there and done that elsewhere.
Ribbons – Eggs
I have so many interesting things to share. I compose a post and then don’t post. I am doing too many fish. Sorry, Carol. I know you are tired of so many fishies. But, hey, it’s what I do on the weekend. Surgery is not photographed. We do it. But the images are not for public view. They are teaching images. And everything is all red and unrecognizable to anyone but an expert. Besides I saw the picture of very nice hand surgery. There was even a picture of her surgeon and his team posed over the open wound. And then, she came to see me complaining that the surgery had failed and didn’t work. Yes, ‘mam, that’s a picture I want you to pass along to everyone you know. Nope! Not me. Well, I’ve done it here in the past, but not often.
Ok! So this ribbon that I speak of is here. I come across it occasionally. It is the time of year. It is egg laying season for nudibranch. They tell me, so I tell you the same. The creatures are here all the time on my posts. Apparently they lay eggs that look like a package wrapped and ready to go. Ribbons.
Pretty. A good image. Strange image. Odd. And now you tell me they are eggs all out there exposed. Don’t other fish like protein and aren’t eggs a good source of protein… and so forth and so on….. Darn! They are eggs! Look at the detail.
I’m famously unable to see the fine print and detail according to my kids. Hey! Look! Eggs! Neat. I guess I will have to get new glasses. But…I still don’t read the fine print. Look! It’s eggs held together by fine thin mucous membrane.
Pyjama chromodorid – the official name in my book. Yes, I spelled it like it was spelled in my book. I know how to spell PJ. It’s a nudibranch.I bet you wanted to know.
And I have shot this subject on many a coral. It was tiny. I like the graphic. It’s on a Red Sea coral. Get it? Oh! Yes look. It has stripes like a pajama. I think you would have figured that out. Every time I shoot on I go for the rhinopores and the gills. (psst… those thing sticking up from its back) And since I discovered lighting I am using less ambient light. I think this is their true color but you would never know because at sixty feet everything does not look so bright and colorful. Why not just be a neutral shade of putrid green? The color means – don’t eat me, I have something bad or I taste bad. Maybe it’s because I have bad taste?
I said rare right? That was yesterday. It is rare to see one. It’s not my first but each time is special. Some things are just not seen often. But how would you know. So here is another. What’s remarkable is that this one is big. How big? About the width of my fist. That big? Yeah. How do you tell from an image. They are all close ups.
Well I could put something there for relative scale. But instead I’m asking you to trust in my observation. I’m not making an exaggerated fish story up. And yes I got the details too. You have plenty of time to photograph. I thought. But this big guy was moving out of sight under the coral. A big lion fish sidled up…
Wiley’s Dorid Nudibranch
This is a rare find for me. Lots of things you see commonly and never think much of it. I’ve seen this nudibranch only a few times. The image, as I have mentioned, is to get the gills and rhinopores. And they should be distinguishable. That’s the hard part. It’s not an anatomy dissection. Divers are supposed to respect the wildlife and not disturb them. Some people break the rules often. I try to be good to the reef. It’s not always easy. Anyway, I got an image – without playing with the wildlife – and it shows the horns (rhinopores) and the gills. Nice going. (Pat on the back) … and no messing with the wildlife (my kids would be so proud).
Nudibranch are like little flowers. They are often colorful. They actually are mobile. I usually see them alone.
Three in one spot is a treat. There is always room for one more image. The usual image includes the horns and the gills. Everything needs to be sharply focused.
And a nice background is a plus. All sizes, shapes, and color are present on the reef. Each time I see one I take an image. Someone asked me why I take repeat images of the same subject. Good question…next?
TMI – too much information. See the horns? It’s an unretouched photo. Yes, it actually looked like this.
So, after yesterday’s post you have questions. The horns at the front are rhinopores – chemosensory receptors. And the frills at the back end are gills. The Spanish dancer is so named because in the water it moves like the skirt of a Spanish dancer. You can imagine the frilly edge. And it is quite colorful. And, no, we did not play with the wildlife. I would have, but too many people were all around. But it would have been fun to watch it dance. And so I took my pictures and cleared out so the next diver got his chance. What is hard for me to understand is how one is happy just to see the animal without getting a trophy image. I don’t need a stuffed head or anything. But if you saw it and don’t have an image, did you see it? I’m so excited that I saw this! And, it’s my blog and I get to post what I like.
I have seen this nudibranch, technically not a fish, the famed and almost mythical Spanish dancr. I see it every time I dive. There is a picture on a poster at the dive center. It’s not rare. Other divers have seen it. You don’t see it during the day. But on a night dive this is something like a quest for the unicorn. I have seen this nudibranch once in three years and many night dives later. In other words everyone jokes with me that we will see one and I never do. So it was “world night dive” night. Everyone went on a night dive together at 20:15 in keeping with the current year. How nice! Twenty plus divers under the sea with lights and noise and flash and…. So no way we are going to see a Spanish dancer. This is a big nudibranch – about a foot in size. Most are tiny tiny, not this big guy. And bright red and just sitting on the coral waiting, oh my. Yeah. We all got shots. One is enough. They all came out. No fiddling with the camera. The exposure was good from the first image. So I got my shot. And I will tell you it was an outstanding dive. And I will tell you that the next night dive I will quest once again. Have I told you how many divers I know are afraid of the dark? You dive with a buddy – always. I tell my buddy if my light suddenly goes out, it means that he is shark bait. You’d do that to yours too, wouldn’t you?
Pustulose wart slug. Really? To be honest it does look like pustules there. Look close; it’s the horns you try to get in the picture. I did. And this one is small. The adults are longer. They don’t really become too large. But this guy is teeny. I do see this frequently enough to be blasé about another one. But like everything else, anything rare s a photo op. Ignore the name. It’s in the nudibranch family. And I was just as disgusted when I found the name in my book. Cute, I’ll go with cute.