Nightmare From the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on February 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, I am again today trying to get caught up. I can’t really speak, since my voice box seems to have malfunctioned. I got a call from California today, pretty important call, but I had to give up and say I just couldn’t do it. Try again tomorrow. Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with my fingers – yet.

I’ll continue today with a few more shots from last Saturday’s dive at the Eel Garden. Some of the critters you’ve seen before. These are different angles or show different features. For instance, I showed the the ugly mug of the Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis)  yesterday. Care for a game of “find the fish”? It’s not to difficult with this one. It was having trouble matching the leather coral on which it was lurking in wait for a meal:I’d really love to see one of these catching a fish. I’ve read that it’s one of the fastest actions in the animal kingdom. I imagine that all that I would see would be a puff of “dust”, probably accompanied by a loud popping sound.

I don’t often bother with most of the damslefishes. Except for a few, such as the anemonefishes, they’re not particularly pretty. However, I do like this shot of a White-Belly Damselfish (Amblyglyphidodon leucogaster):It’s one of the few shots that I have in which the image actually is prettier than the fish itslef.

You saw these two Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)  yesterday. Here is a shot of them from the side:It’s amazing how often one sees them in pairs.

You have seen a lot of images of these Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites)  here before. This one is unusual because of the white stripes. I can’t find any reference to this differentiating between species, so I’m guessing that it’s some kind of “sport” or mutation that’s not harmful to the individual. Any other guesses out there?It is not an uncommon sight, as is the purple stain that you can see at the top. I’ve seen these bright colours before on these corals.

Butterflyfish are extremely exasperating to photograph. I have very few good shots. This Spot-Tail Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellicaudus)  blasted past me at full throttle and I just pointed the camera and pressed the shutter release:Talk about a lucky shot!

Today’s nightmarish feature is this Sea Cucumber (Bohadschia graeffei):The body extends to the right, where you would find the stinky end, if you cared to look. I don’t want to think about what comes out of there.  The worst part is the end at the left, which is the consuming bit. I wouldn’t use the word “eat” to describe what this thing does. It engulfs, it vacuums, it . . . sucks!  The frilly black things with white edges are constantly reaching out, gluing themselves to anything remotely digestible and then shoving them down the ugly gob of this, this . . . thing.

Fortunately, it doesn’t move very fast.

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Reef Scenes – The Magic Kingdom

Posted in Under the Sea on December 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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It has been a joy over the last few years to get truly into the digital age of photography. Having learned the smelly-chemical method before I was twelve years old, I stuck to the film media for several years after the first digital cameras. I had inadvertently joined the massive ranks of ‘serious photographers’ who were shouting down digital cameras of the time as playthings not worthy of the art. They were  pretty miserable at first. My first digital was a 1.3MP model which was okay for snapshots, but inadequate for anything else.

One of the great frustrations (among many) of shooting underwater on film was that I could never, except by dumb luck, get an image to look the way that I saw it with my own eyes  – in other words – natural.  I have discovered, especially in the last year or so, that the secret lies in the techniques used. I’m not going to bore you with all that. If you’re interested, I’ll trade all of my secrets for a case of beer. It’s not a big deal.

However, it does give me severe pleasure to present to you images that look exactly as the diver (me) saw them, or at least as close as I can get. For instance, you often see close-up shots here that are products of careful shooting and laborious processing with Photoshop. The truth is that we seldom actually get that close. Here is a more normal diver’s eye view of a Spot-Tail Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellicandus):Spot-Tail Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellicandus)It may not be spectacular, but it’s what the diver actually sees. If you are going to get any closer to this little butterflyfish, your name had better be Houdini.

On the other hand, it is sometimes nice to get close. These polyps on a Sea Fan (Acabria sp.)  seem to be a white mass from a metre away. It is only when you get close that you can see their flower-like beauty:Sea Fan (Acabria sp.)It shots such as this, getting the colours right is the most difficult part of the job. When I can sit back and think to myself, “Yep, that’s just as I saw it.” then I know that my work is done.

Here is a group of Purple Anthea females (Psudanthias tuka)  with stalks of Whip Coral (Sea Whip – Junceella sp.)  in the background:Purple Anthea [females] (Psudanthias tuka)The colouration of the Purple Anthea is problematic. In most cases, they do look purple in colour. However when viewed with the light at a different angle, they often appear more blue, as in this image.

Here is a beautiful Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya [Roxasia] sp.)  with more Sea Whips in the background:Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)It is such a pleasure to sit back after fifteen or twenty minutes of work and say, “Uh-HUH!  That’s just the way it looked to me.”

Here is another coral species that has been a bother to me for a long time (Tubastraea micrantha).  It is a deep, deep forest green colour and is found only below about twenty metres where the light is beginning to dim to shades of blue:Coral (Tubastraea micrantha)It is devilishly difficult to get the deep green colour without trashing all of the rest, even with Photoshop. This is the best that I have managed so far. It came at the cost of desaturating much of the surrounding area. However, I can attest that the colour that you see on the coral itself is exactly as I saw it. Just ignore the stuff beside it.

Another type of image that I enjoy capturing is the community as a whole. Here is a little anemone garden featuring the Tomato Anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus).  These are females. The male, in this unusual case, is much less pretty, being more or less solid light orange:

Coral Reef Community with Tomato Anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus) [female]
It’s such a thing of wonder to glide up over clump of coral and look down on a beautiful scene such as this. I can’t imagine ever tiring of it.

Your mileage may vary.

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