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.
I realize that most people will not necessarily appreciate this image. Let me explain it. It is of a diver wearing his tank on his hip – Armand. It’s a style of diving to allow the diver not to bump things if he were wearing his tank on his back. We are approaching the landing dock, hence the waves. There is action with serenity. I appreciate the moment in which the dive is ending and the next to come. Peace.
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!
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?!!
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.