Monterey Bay, California’s Underwater Paradise


As a California scuba diver, I spend a lot of time in the coastal waters surrounding my home in Southern California.  But every once in a while, I get to explore the California coastal waters in Central California:  Monterey Bay.  The Northern California Underwater Photographic Society (NCUPS), and Backscatter Underwater Photo and Video sponsor a contest in Monterey called the Monterey Shootout.  This is what initially lured me into the colder waters up north.  Last year I attended and won a nice prize to Raja Ampat, Indonesia for my efforts.  This year I won a second place and an honorable mention in my division which earned me some new photography gear.  The contest is expertly managed and the atmosphere is friendly, making the whole experience very pleasurable.

As much as I love participating in the Monterey Shootout, it is not the anticipation of winning a prize that attracts me to Monterey as much as the great diving experience.  This year, the water was unusually blue and calm. There were many creatures and critters to be found and many that I have not seen or photographed before. In addition, I made new friends and sincerely enjoyed the company of old ones.

Top Snail

Top Snail

One of the common critters in Monterey is the beautiful Top Snail.  They can be found all over the kelp and reefs of Monterey.

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The image above is quintessential Monterey:  A beautiful anemone on the reef surrounded by the kelp forest and fish.  This image placed second in the Unrestricted Wide Angle category of the contest in the Intermediate division.

Kelp Crab

Kelp Crab

If you are observant, you might be able to find a kelp crab.  They are camouflaged by the kelp but can be seen skittering away if you get too close.

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In the crooks and crannies shrimp are abundant.  This image received an honorable mention in the Monterey Shootout.

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Did I mention all the beautiful anemones?

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Nudibranchs also abound on the Monterey reefs.  This one is called Dall’s Dendronotis and it is tiny and delicate.

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Decorator crabs and hermit crabs are everywhere.  I loved this one because he made his home inside a beautiful top snail shell.

Diving in Monterey may well become one of my guilty pleasures.  If you take a trip to Central California, be prepared to dive in a drysuit as the water temperatures are in the 50 degrees fahrenheit range.  You can dive by boat or by shore, and enjoy the playful harbor seals, sea lions, and the occasional sea otter as well.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
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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First Place!


Bluewater Photo in Culver City, California runs an annual underwater photography contest they call the So Cal Shootout.  In this shootout, participants are given a 36 hour period to take images and submit them for judging.  The photographs cannot be manipulated digitally, and can only have a few global changes made to them such as adjustments in contrast, exposure, and clarity.  No removal of backscatter is allowed and no cropping.  This year I entered eight photographs.  The judges smiled in my favor and awarded me first place in the open macro category for this image I took of an octopus eye.

Eye Candy

Eye Candy

Underwater photographers gathered during these three days to photograph everything from tiny nudibranchs to large schools of baitfish.  You can view all the winning photographs HERE.  Of course, there are many more images that didn’t win a place.  A few of my other entries can be seen below.

Hopkins Rose

Hopkins Rose

Envious Eyes Without a Face Reef Scene A Rose Among Thorns

Underwater Shootouts are a fun way to test your skills and get to know other underwater photographers.  Though the prizes are certainly a big motivation, just participating in the contest for the experience would be time well spent.

 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 use the contact form above.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!


I’ve always wanted to be an award-winning person. It hasn’t ever mattered what the award was for, as long as it was something I earned and had some kind of value.  Well, I recently participated in the Monterey Shootout.  Now, a shootout is a photography contest that is restricted by time and/or location.  In this case, this contest was restricted to 36 hours and photographs had to be taken under water in Monterey, California.  Participants could submit up to six photographs in four categories.

Anemone, 1st place under water wide angle unrestricted
Anemone, 1st place under water wide angle unrestricted

The photograph above was entered in the unrestricted wide angle category.  This means that the photograph could have some changes made to it via photo editing software.  In this case, I removed a few fish that were facing the wrong way. I believe the photo is also cropped by five percent.

Starfish and schooling fish, 1st place underwater wide angle traditional

Starfish and schooling fish, 1st place underwater wide angle traditional

Anemone, 2nd place under water wide angle  traditional

Anemone, 2nd place under water wide angle traditional

The two photos (above) were entered in the wide angle traditional category.  This means that the photograph could have only a few global changes to it.  In both cases, I bumped up the contrast slightly, and made minor brightness and color enhancements.  These are pretty much straight out of the camera.

Nudibranch, 1st place in under water macro unrestricted

Nudibranch, 1st place in under water macro unrestricted

This nudibranch image (above) is my favorite from the shootout.  It was entered in the macro unrestricted category, although I needn’t have made any changes to it.  I removed three small dots of backscatter (particles in the water that show up as white spots), and increased the contrast.  I had to wait for this slow moving slug to get into position, but it was worth the wait.

Top Snail.  3rd place winner in Underwater Macro, Traditional
Top Snail. 3rd place winner in Underwater Macro, Traditional

Finally, two more traditional macro shots.  The one above is a photograph of a top snail.  They are so beautiful for a snail that is only the size of my thumbnail.   The photograph below is of a hermit crab that really didn’t like my focus light shining in its eyes.  After this shot, it turned away from me and refused to show it’s face to me again.

Hermit Crab.  2nd place winner in Under water Macro Traditional

Hermit Crab. 2nd place winner in Under water Macro Traditional

In this contest, points were given for each photograph that placed.  Then the points were added up.  Those photographers with the highest number of points were able to choose their prize first.  Because all six of my photographs received a place, I had the highest number of points, so I had the good fortune of being first to pick my prize.  There were lots of fantastic prizes!  They offered several different dive vacations, as well as dive gear, camera equipment, and gift certificates.  I chose the top prize:  a 7 night stay at Misool Eco Resort  in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.  I look forward to diving there and taking many more photographs!