Whale Watching

I recently took a trip out on the California coast exclusively to go whale watching.  I don’t take this opportunity very often, at least not for the express purpose of whale watching, because I spend so much time on the water for scuba diving.  Often times, whales will appear while we are crossing the channel to dive at Catalina, and sometimes they will appear just off the coast when we are diving at the beach.  But this day, was dedicated to finding and photographing the whales that migrate past our coast annually.

We first came upon a small pod of fin whales.  This is not a common whale in California, but there are a few.  They are characterized by a tall dorsal fin.  Fin whales can get up to 90 feet long and are the second largest mammal, next to the blue whale.  They are enormous and yet their slender torpedo-like bodies glide gracefully through the water.

A Fin Whale comes up for air.

A Fin Whale comes up for air.

Since Fin Whales can hold their breath for a long time, we soon moved on, looking for other interesting sea creatures.  We soon came upon a pod of three Gray Whales, aka Knuckle-back Whales.  They are characterized by a bumpy back that looks like knuckles.  Gray whales are much smaller than Fin whales, getting to about 50 feet long.  They have gray and white mottling on their skin from scars or parasites that have dropped off.  They lack a dorsal fin and have flukes that measure around 9-10 feet across.

Flukes of a gray whale

Flukes of a gray whale

Here you can see the ridges on the whales back as it prepares to dive.

Here you can see the ridges on the whales back as it prepares to dive.

Last highlight of the day was a large playful pod of dolphins.  These I get to see regularly as they love to swim along the bow of a boat.  This particular boat had a viewing pod.  Although the photograph is a little unclear, it was fun to see these dolphins racing along under the boat.

Dolphins swimming along the bow of a boat

Dolphins swimming along the bow of a boat

In this image, a dolphin comes up for air while it’s companion is just under the surface.

A dolphin surfaces momentarily.

A dolphin surfaces momentarily.

A big thank you to Captain Dave’s Whale Watching Safari  for a fun day out on top of the water.  If you are ever in Dana Point, California, I would highly recommend their operation.  You can click on their name for a link to their website.


All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.



The Night Before Fishmas

I subscribe to a local newsletter for divers and this was published there this week.  It is a lot of fun, so I thought I would share it here.  Courtesy of Ken Kurtis, Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.

With inspiration from (and apologies to) Clement Clarke Moore . . .

‘TWARS the days before Christmas, and all through the sea
not a creature was stirring, with the exception of me.
The stockings were hung on the kelp fronds with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would swim there.

The fish were nestled all snug in their cracks,
while visions of baitballs called to them as snacks.
And Mama in her beanie, and I in my hood,
were entering for a dive we thought would be good.

When off in the distance there arose such a splash,
I  parked Mama on shore so I could make a dash.
Inflated my BC, I kicked on out,
squinted my eyes to see what this was about.

The moon on the breast of the rippling waves
gave the luster of shimmer above the fish caves.
When, what to my salt-stung eyes should appear,
but eight Black Sea Bass with a boat in the rear.

With a little old diver, gearing up lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Down went the anchor and up went the flag,
and Nick arranged fish toys inside his bag.

But Nick had no buddy, and then he saw me,
when he motioned to join him, I accepted with glee.
We completed a buddy check and started on down,
following the kelp to the bottom we did bound.

He was dressed in a drysuit, from his neck to his foot,
but his fins were all ratty from the pounding they took.
A bundle of fish treats he had in his sack,
plus bigger gifts that would keep things on track.

He was chubby and plump, as we all get with age,
but I was happy to join him on this aquatic stage.
A wink of his eye meant we had to run
because there was so much work to be done.

He spoke not a word, since we were underwater,
and left gifts for the fish, not missing a quarter.
But I could tell from his demeanor, he wasn’t quite done,
of the gifts to the fish, there was an additional one.

So he gave me a sign and lay his finger to his nose,
and giving a nod, to the surface we rose.
As he surveyed the water, he gave me a smile,
and I had a good feeling we’d be done in a while.

Nick took off his mask, and waved his right hand,
water bubbling and shimmering above the calm sand.
He had just created the best gift of all,
a Marine Protected Area, and the fish were enthralled.

Now they could swim, and with much less fear,
of the bubble-blowers descending in new diving gear.
Fish stocks would be healthy, their numbers would grow,
St. Nick works his wonders in water and snow.

With his task completed, Nick kicked to his boat,
Got out of his dive gear, and put on his coat.
Up came the anchor and down came the flag,
He’d done good work but he didn’t brag.

His eyes gave a twinkle, to his Sea Bass he whistled,
And away they all jetted, with the speed of a missile.
But I heard him exclaim, as he slipped out of sight,
“Merry Fish-mas to all, and to all a good night!”


Let it Bee!


THE BEE – by Emily Dickinson

Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry

Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon!

Feeling Crabby?

To some, the mention of “crab” conjures up images of warm butter sauce and crab claw crackers.  I will admit, that I am fond of a good mouthwatering crab claw, but today I was feeling a little crabby, and not in a hungry, appetite sort of way.   The crabs I am thinking of are too small for human consumption, although I’ve seen a wrasse gobble them up without a second thought.  I have accumulated a good number of crab images in my underwater adventures.  It is remarkable that the crab family is as huge and diverse as it is.  There are hundreds and probably thousands of different crabs and they are all on a photographer’s “hit” list as far as shooting them goes.  One of the features I love the most about crabs is their eyes.  They have very interesting claws too, but their eyes are curious and colorful and seem to portray depth and intensity.  Many people may regard crabs as the spiders of the sea, but unlike spiders, I have no fear of crabs.  To me they are fascinating creatures who deserve to be acknowledged for their contributions to the balance of the marine environment.

Spotted Porcelain Crab
Spotted Porcelain Crab

This beautiful Spotted Porcelain Crab lives among the tentacles of anemones.  It has feather-like appendages that it uses to sift the water for plankton and other tiny nutritious micro algae.  The feather-like fans are like little hands that reach out and grab tiny meals out of the water and stuff them in the crabs mouth.  It makes you wonder why he has such big claws?

Spotted Reef Crab or Seven Eleven Crab

Spotted Reef Crab or Seven Eleven Crab

Big claws certainly belong to this Spotted Reef Crab.  Its carapace can get up to around 7 inches wide.  It is also known as a Seven Eleven crab in Hawaii because it has seven spots on the top of its shell, and four along it’s back side.  In Hawaii, there is a story of a hungry god who caught the crab and was pinched by it, drawing blood.  Although the hungry god got his meal, the crabs descendents still bear the god’s bloody fingerprints on it’s shell.

Mosaic Boxer Crab
Mosaic Boxer Crab

One of my favorites is this boxer crab.  It looks like a bruiser with it’s slitted eye pattern.  This one especially so as it has a tiny anemone growing over it’s eye that just resembles a black eye.  These crabs hold a tiny anemone in each claw that they use for defense.  The anemones get their side of the bargain, too.  They get transported around so that they can more easily grab nutrients from the water with their tentacles.

Orange Hermit Crab

Orange Hermit Crab

Hairy Hermit Crab

Hairy Hermit Crab

These hermit crabs represent a huge population of crabs that live inside a shell, coral, or any other object (even rocks) they can climb into.  It is their eyes that mesmerize me.  They can be virtually any color, but the blue-eyed ones are my favorite.  Up close, you can see into their depths.  Their iris bears an uncanny resemblance to human eyes, and their pupils follow you around like those creepy statues in the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.

Hairy Squat Lobster
Hairy Squat Lobster

This image is actually a squat lobster, and not a crab, but it deserves mention anyway.  It is covered with tiny hairs and lives on huge barrel sponges.  It is also a bit flamboyant with it’s purple veins, pink body, and orange eyes.

Orangutan Crab

Orangutan Crab

The Orangutan crab is often found on bubble coral and has turned under claws at the end of its feet that resemble an orangutan.  They are sometimes orange or brown, and often red.  Their bodies are covered with tiny hairlike fibers which seem to accumulate debris.

Soft coral Crab or Candy Crab
Soft coral Crab or Candy Crab

Soft  coral crabs like to hide down in the coral and have to be coaxed up to the top to pose for the camera.  This one has a friend on it’s shoulder.  They have red, multidimensional eyes that seem to see everything at once.  Sometimes they accumulate “weeds” that begin to grow on their bodies making them resemble decorator crabs.

You can see more of my images on my flikr stream or at  waterdogphotography.com,
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All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

In the spirit of the Holidays, I thought I would dig out a few of the many images I have taken of Christmas tree worms.  As the lyrics of the carol suggest, these glorious creatures are blessed with an unusual beauty (for a worm).

“O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!”

20130407-_DSC7126 20130411-20130411-Orange Christmas Tree Worm 20130412-_DSC7557 20140507-_DSC4875_DSC1097-Edit 20140512-_DSC6997 20140601-_DSC8046 20140601-_DSC8049 20140901-_DSC9925 20150127-_DSC0051-Edit

As you can see, these critters come in an amazing assortment of colors.  What you are looking at, is actually the plume (kind of like a butterfly’s antennae).  The rest of the worm lives in a burrow.  It can retract it’s plumes and they are very sensitive to the slightest disturbance in the water, even light.  The plumes sift nutrients from the water to feed the worm, as well as serve as a respiratory system.  They are found throughout the world and they are very common, yet they remain a favorite subject for photographers and divers.

“O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me;
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me;
How often has the Christmas tree
Afforded me the greatest glee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Much pleasure thou can’st give me.”


All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.