Underwater Photography 101: Get Down and Boogie


Underwater photography has its own unique set of challenges and in response to the requests of several readers, I would like to post some tips for better underwater photography.  These will appear under the heading, “Underwater Photography 101.

The first challenge a new underwater photographer will face is how to take an image of a marine animal so that it “pops” out from its environment.  This is because as a scuba diver, we are swimming along horizontally in the water, looking down on the subjects below.  Many new photographers will snap images focused straight down because that is the perspective they have of the subject.

1.  Get Close.  For example:  Below is an image of an anemone full of various fish.  This can be an exciting thing to see, and something you may want to share with your topside friends.  However, from this perspective, the fish are too small, taking up only a fraction of the frame.  The black fish are hard to recognize as fish, and the photograph has too many subjects.

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 Get closer and adjust the angle of the camera so that it is more at eye level with your subject. Shoot with the lens pointed up at your subject, and you will have a much more pleasing result.  The image below has just the anemone fish as the subject, and the fish is looking at the camera.  The anemone itself becomes interesting background material without distracting our eye from the fish.

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 2.  Get Down.  Sometimes, this is much easier said than done, as some subjects are in a crevice or are very tiny and hard to separate from their environment.  Nudibranchs are a great example of this.  The image below is of a rarely seen Hypselodoris californiensis (California Chromodorid).  Shot from above, all the details of the nudibranch’s rhinophores and gills are lost.

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 But when I waited for the nudibranch to crawl up onto a rise, and got my lens down on it’s “eye” level, I got a much more interesting result:

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 3.  Change Perspective.  The same principle applies to wide angle photography.  In the following photograph, I wanted to show the thousands of fish on the reef.  I pointed my lens directly at them, but the reef in the background makes them hard to see.

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To make the fish “pop,” it is necessary to get right next to the reef leaving the water as the background for the fish, as in the image below:

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 With a few adjustments, it is easy to improve your underwater photography.  Remember to get close, get down, and change perspective!

 If you have suggestions for underwater photography tips, or questions, please feel free to leave comments below.

If you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
 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
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Are You My Mother?


Spring is in the air and it seems like all the little animals are twitterpated.  Outside my kitchen window, two sparrows are building a nest, and a robin has already laid eggs in my wisteria bush.  Under water, similar developments are taking place.  Each time I dive, I look for animals with eggs, or nests of eggs.  The attraction of documenting new life is irresistible to me.  Perhaps it is my maternal instincts, but I often wonder if these little creatures ever know who their mother is?

Cardinal fish with fresh eggs
Cardinal fish with fresh eggs

Cardinal fish are fascinating in that the male fish will gather all the eggs in his mouth and brood them until they hatch.  He will periodically open his mouth wide, and aerate the eggs.  When they are pink, as in the image above, they are newly laid.  Later, the eggs will turn silvery and the eyes of the fry will be visible, as in the image below.  In this case, the babies may hatch to discover who their father is, but wonder about mommy.

Cardinal fish with well developed eggs

Cardinal fish with well developed eggs

Another parent who stays with its eggs until they hatch is this tiny goby.  Sometimes, both parents will care for the eggs, aerating them with their fins.

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Both male and female yellow bearded gobies stay with their eggs until they hatch as well.  These fish lay their eggs deep inside the hard corals where they live to help protect them from predators.

Yellow bearded goby with eggs

Yellow bearded goby with eggs

And in the image below, a male and female robust ghost pipe fish await the arrival of their brood which are developing inside a pouch which the female has made between her pelvic fins.  The interesting thing here is that after the eggs have been deposited into this pouch, small branches will grow from her skin and attach to the eggs.  It is thought this acts as a sort of umbilical cord.  Although the robust ghost pipe fish is related to other pipefishes such as sea horses, it is the female, not the male who has the brooding pouch.

A male and female Robush Ghost Pipefish with eggs.

A male and female Robush Ghost Pipefish with eggs.

Clearly, there are responsible mothers AND fathers in the kingdom of the fishes.  We may never read about the tiny newborn fish who wandered around asking the kitten, the hen, and the dog, the cow and the snort, “Are You My Mother?”

 If you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
 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

 

San Diego Sampler


It could have been the dead sea lion, or the tope sharks, or maybe the fascinating topography, because today I discovered that La Jolla Cove is one of the best kept secrets in Southern California scuba diving.  Besides all the great sea life, the cove was perfectly flat with no surge and visibility a staggering 50 feet or more.  (Unusual for Southern California shore diving.)

I had planned to photograph nudibranchs and other critters, even though I knew there were lots of large animals in the area.  I thought I could compromise by taking a 60mm lens which would allow me to photograph both tiny critters and basketball sized animals.  However, the larger creatures were more abundant and the only tiny critters were a few MacFarland’s Chromodorids:

MacFarland's Chromodorid

MacFarland’s Chromodorid

On a relatively larger scale, I found an octopus defending her hole,

Southern California Octopus

Southern California Octopus

And several lobsters who have survived this season’s lobster hunt.

Lobsters

Lobsters

One of the most interesting things, if not the most morbid, was the carcass of a sea lion that was covered with sheep crabs who were scavenging for food.  At this point, the lens I had was not sufficient for the whole scene, so only a single sheep crab was captured in the frame.  The whitish material is the sea lion.

Sheep Crab picking flesh off a sea lion carcass.

Sheep Crab picking flesh off a sea lion carcass.

Also spotted on this dive were four tope sharks which were too far away to photograph, but were nonetheless exciting to see.  I am eager to visit this site again as it appears to be a treasure trove of marine life.

 If you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
 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

Hair, Hair, Everywhere!


One of the freaky things about the under water world is discovering creatures that are “hairy.”  It never occurred to me that a fish could have hair, or a lobster or crab for that matter.  The interesting thing about hairy critters is that they blend in so well with their environment which is often made up of hair-like substances.  One of my favorites is the hairy frogfish.

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The Striated Frogfish (Hairy Variation) has all these filiments growing from it.  They live in or near filamentous algae and at about one or two inches long, are very hard to see.  They have a fuzzy lure atop the head which they use to attract fish.  The frogfish has a very quick strike and can eat another fish it’s own size.

Hairy Frogfish

Hairy Frogfish

Another hairy fish is the Yellow coral goby, or bearded goby.  It lives inside hard coral where it hides from predators.  This fish definitely has a cute factor with it’s chin stubble and big blue eyes.  What a heart breaker.

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The Shortpouch Pygmy Pipehorse is an interesting critter that is covered with various sized skin flaps.  It can be found living in sea grass and is only a few centimeters long.

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This fun critter is a Hairy Squat Lobster.  It lives on giant Barrel Sponges and blends into it’s pinkish environment.  It’s carapace is covered with numerous long white bristles.

Hairy Squat Lobster

Hairy Squat Lobster

The Algae shrimp (nicknamed hairy shrimp) are some of the most obscure tiny critters to be found.  They are only about 1/4 inch at best.  If you look closely, you can see that both specimen have a belly full of eggs.

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hairy shrimp

One day I hope to have an image of a hairy octopus (Yes!  Octopus!)  And the Lacey Scorpionfish has a coif that rivals the most cryptic of marine animals.  The amazing world of hairy creatures continues to inspire me, and lures me back to the water again and again in search of it’s crazy inhabitants.

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