As I See the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on January 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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After yesterday’s marathon post concerning the dumbing-down of science I seem to be at a temporary loss for words. Those who tire of my bombast but enjoy the pretty pictures will sigh in relief. I’m also running three days behind, so I’m using my Time Machine to fake it, as usual. My aparent sloth is not as it seems. I wanted to do a post on Saturday. Unfortunatley, TELIKOM’s so-called “repairs” of my telephone line lasted less than a week, so I never made it online and did not have time to go to the office. Then, on Sunday, my intent was once again to catch up. Unfortunately, our car wouldn’t start . . . yet another headache. Are you tired of my whining. Okay, I don’t blame you. I’ll proceed briefly.

As regular readers will know, I like showing you what I see as nearly as possible the way that I see it. Sometimes “BLUE” is the only way to describe it:The above is a view of the bottom of Magic Passage from about half-way down the slope at about 15 metres on a good visibility day.

Down at the bottom, we were suddenly surrounded by a school of curious Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus):
These characters actually seem to enjoy swimming around divers. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. They commonly swim within a metre of us, their big eyes rolling around like Al Jolson singing Mammy.

These are not particularly good pictures, but that’s okay for today. Not every shot I get swells my head. Some are simply reflections of my experiences that recall moments of pleasure. Here Anita plays with a little mob of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):The cheeky little devils like to nip fingers. I prefer to get my nips bare-handed, but gloves are safer for the diver and for the fish. Who knows what nasty germs lurk on our skin which we may never notice, but would be deadly so some innocent creature just looking for a good time.

You’ve seen many Hawkfish here. However, we don’t always see them in profile, posing as if for a presidential protrait. Here a little Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitchthys falco)  is caught from above:He is not unaware. You can clearly see that he has one eye cranked up to keep me in view.

You’ve also seen the Bluestreak Goby (Valenciennea strigata)  here before.I like this shot because it’s realistic – warts and all. You can see sticks, leaves and other detrius strewn about. Reefs are not neat places, especially close to a river outlet.

This shot also has a nice, natural feel. I assure you , this is exactly what I saw:At The Eel Garden, near Pig Island,  there is a huge anmemone patch full of these Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion malanopus).  The depth is only about four or five metres there, so snorkelers can see this scene with ease.

Back tomorrow with more fish while I catch up with myself. I hope my car is fixed today. Otherwise, I may swim to work tomorrow.

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Underwater Photography – Abort, Retry, Fail

Posted in Under the Sea on January 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Back in the Bad Old Days of MS-DOS, if you were working with computers you would see, probably once an hour (it seemed so, anyway) the unhelpful message on your screen: Abort, Retry, Fail.  None of these three suggestions were ever of much help. It was Microsoft’s way of saying, “That’s not gonna happen, man.” Yeah, sure, you could usually figure out what was causing the problem, but most of the time there wasn’t much you could do about it.

You’ll be happy to hear that there is a way that you can once again experience these excruciating moments:  through the magic of underwater photography. I’ve collected a little gallery of horrors to illustrate a few of they infinite things that can go terribly wrong. I hope it amuses you, as an observer, more than it does me, as a practitioner.

SUBJECT RUNS AWAY

I wanted, longed, deeply desired, the moment that I saw this fish to capture its soul in digital bits. Sadly, the job is botched. This is a rather rare yellow colour variation of the Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus):

When I say rare, I mean that I have never seen this species with as much yellow on its body. It really is a beauty. This one, as you can see, was at a cleaning station – it’s like a car wash for fish. The underpaid and little appreciated workers in this car wash are the little cleaner-fish, one of which you can see here vainly chasing the Puffer in hopes of gobbling a few more parasites from its skin. You can see the little Bluestriped Cleanerfish trailing along behind. These little puffers run away (probably screaming in fishy terror) as soon as anything big approaches. They don’t swim very fast – just fast enough to spoil the shot.

The observant observer will note that the image is spoilt by motion blur. I was trying to pan the camera to follow the movement of the fish, which should have produced a reasonably sharp image of the fish with a motion blurred background. As it happens, I got it half right; both fish and background are blurred by the camera movement. I’m putting this one in the RETRY category. The big problem is that I may never see such a magnificent specimen again.

SUBJECT LOOKS PRETTY UNDERWATER – TERRIBLE ON THE SCREEN

These little Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)  looked ever so pretty fluttering in the lazy current along the bottom at the Eel Garden close to Pig Island  on Saturday:However, the finished image is sadly lacking any interest whatsoever. You had to be there. As soon as I started working with the image I realised that the magic was in the motion. You can’t truly capture motion in a still image. I’m putting this one in the FAIL category.

SUBJECT IS A CAMERA TEASER

This juvenile Midnight Snapper (Macolor macularis)  is a pretty cool fish. They don’t look anything like the adult, which is a big brown lump of a thing. However, cool or not, this fish is a nightmare to photograph. Like many fish, it has an inbuilt standoff distance or “comfort zone” which you can, under no circumstances, violate. If it could talk, it would be saying, “Back off, Jack!”:

I did manage to get this rather pathetic shot from about four feet away with the flash turned on. It was as close as I could get. Apparently not many photographers have done a lot better. I Googled for images of this species and didn’t find anything much clearer than the shot above, except for images that were obviously shot in aquariums. I’ll let this one pass with a RETRY.

SUBJECT DARTS AROUND FRANTICALLY

This rather uncommon species, the Red And Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)  swims spasmodically back and forth in its host and never even gives you an adequate opportunity to frame the shot. If fact, you’re lucky if the fish is even in the frame  when you push the shutter release. I only barely managed to catch it in this shot:This is compounded by the confounded shutter lag that is common in point-and-shoot cameras. I’d guess that the Canon G10 I’m currently using waits about a third of a second before capturing the image after I press the shutter release. So now, you have to guess where the fish is going to be during your next eye-blink. It’s like guessing which kernel of popcorn will explode next. This one can only be a RETRY.

SUBJECT DOES SOMETHING INAPPROPRIATE

Sometimes you just get a surprise. I would not ordinarily take a picture of an animal defecating. It’s simply not that interesting unless you’re a kid obsessed with scatological humour. We were at the deep end of the Eel Garden’s sandy slope where I was shooting the Red and Black Anemonefish when my dive buddy Carol Dover directed my attention to this big Sea Cucumber (Thelenota anax):

As you can plainly see, it was enjoying a nice, leisurely, satisfying poop. Without going into the unsavory anatomical details, I’ll simply point out the you can clearly see where the poop came from. There’s quite a bit of it, since the critter eats about 99% sand and digests only the digestible bits. All the rest comes out as tidy little sand sausages.

I’m putting this one in the ABORT category.

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Common or Odd – Find It At the Eel Garden

Posted in Under the Sea on February 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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I just got around to processing some snaps taken at the Eel Garden near Pig Island a couple of weeks ago. I’ll show you the ones that I like best.

This little guy is one a large group of walking decapods that we commonly call Hermit Crabs. They all have soft abdomens that they must protect from predators. Therefore, each one has to find a house all to itself – thus, the hermit crab who lives all alone in his house. This one is a Calcinus miutus:Hermit Crab (Calcinus minutus)

I enjoy snapping hermit crabs because they are so easy. The don’t move very fast. If you scare it, you just have to wait a minute and it will come back out to see what’s up.

Lizardfish are another of my favourites. The stay put pretty well if you move slowly. If you hold your breath and move very slowly, you can stick the camera right in its face. Here is a Reef Lizardfish (Synodus rubromarmoratus):

Reef Lizardfish (Synodus rubromarmoratus)

It doesn’t look very impressive just laying there on the coral rubble. But, if you move around and shove your camera in his face, it’s another story entirely. It turns into a monster:

Reef Lizardfish (Synodus rubromarmoratus)

Fierce, eh? It’s only about as long as your hand.

Here is a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus) to brighten up the page:

Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)

I keep finding Anemonefish that I’ve not noticed before. At first they tend to look pretty much alike. New divers tend to call them all “Clownfish”. That’s okay, but when you start to look closely, you see that there are many different varieties of the orange-ish Anemonefish. They have their colours distributed differently, their white bars and black patches in different places, and their fins are different colours.
This sturdy-looking fellow is a Shadowfin Soldierfish ( Myripristis adusta):

Shadowfin Soldierfish (Myripristis adusta)We often see this species and other Soldierfishes with a parasite on its head. Some studies have shown that females are more likely to mate with a male sporting a parasite. Have a look at this.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a puzzle. Here is a close up of a marine critter. It is about 40 cm long. It does not swim, but moves slowly on the bottom. The funny-looking swirly bit in the middle of the image is, I believe, where some predator has bitten a chunk out of it and the wound has left a scar:

Close up of a mystery critter - can you say what it is?Can you say what this creature is?

Leave a comment. I promise to answer each one.

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