Kelp; The Magical Underwater Forest


Southern California is known for its beaches, Hollywood and Disneyland, but did you know the waters of the Southern California coast are also home to the giant kelp forests?  Kelp forests are areas in the temperate waters of the ocean with a high density of kelp.  When the kelp is anchored by a “holdfast,” it is called a kelp bed.  Most of my dives take place in the wonderful, temperate waters of California in the kelp beds.

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The image above was taken in the kelp beds outside of Santa Barbara Island, one of Southern California’s channel islands.  I was lucky enough to be diving with Alex Mustard while he photographed the kelp forest for an upcoming book he is working on.  Since this was his first time in the kelp beds of Southern California, he was very enthusiastic about what he was seeing and his enthusiasm was very contagious.  I had forgotten how beautiful the kelp beds are, but Alex’s perspective helped me regain the awe I first felt when I began scuba diving.  What a powerfully renewing experience!

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The kelp beds provide protection and a unique environment for many marine organisms.  The giant kelp fish is named for its incredible ability to blend in to the kelp.  It can be found waving back and forth with the surge among the kelp leaves looking exactly like a piece of kelp.  In the above image, the fish is orange in comparison to the greenish brown of the kelp, but when there is no outside light shining on the fish, it appears the same color as the kelp. This particular fish was guarding a nest of eggs.

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The fabulous kelp crab is another animal that lives in the camouflage habitat of the kelp forest.   It can be found scurrying high up in the kelp leaves as it tries to avoid being seen.

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Sea lions use the kelp to protect themselves from large predators such as sharks that normally do not venture into the kelp beds.

The King's Forest

When the kelp canopy reaches the surface, it continues to grow providing a beautiful shady environment for the critters below.  Scuba diving in Southern California is like no other diving on earth. The best time to visit the Southern California kelp forests is in the late Summer and Fall from August to November. The waters are generally a little warmer, and less likely to be turbulent, the kelp forest has had all Summer to grow, and the sea lion pups are grown enough to be playful with visiting scuba divers.  Bring a 7ml wetsuit or drysuit, and come enjoy the beautiful temperate waters of Southern California!

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 and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

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

All Things Bright and Beautiful


It is no secret that I enjoy photographing the little things.  This hydro-sapien loves being able to see and share, the almost microscopic world that exists under water, with land dwellers.  I have a deep appreciation for all creatures, and so, as I have been contemplating how to share some of the tiny critters I recently encountered, Cecil Frances Alexander’s words keep coming to mind.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.–Cecil Frances Alexander

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“All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small” immediately brings to mind the fabulous nudibranchs that I search for on every dive.  Lately, in California, we have seen a scarcity of these critters.  In the past few weeks, however, I have seen lots of nudibranch eggs, and lots of tiny nudibranchs.  The image above is of a Hopkins Rose (Okenia rosacea, a nudibranch measuring about 1cm.  It is not the most common, but I definitely think it is one of the most beautiful.  Below is a Porter’s Chromodorid (Mexichromis porterae about 2cm long).

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Since there are many very small nudibranchs right now, I have mostly photographed critters less than 1cm. This tiny Three -lined Aeolid (Flabellina trilineata) was only 5 or 6 millimeters long.

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And its look-alike cousin, the Horned Aeolid (Hermissendra crassicornis,) was about the same size, although both species can get up to 36mm or larger.

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And on an even smaller scale, I have spent a good amount of time looking through the seaweed for isopods and larvae.  This tiny critter is just a few millimeters.

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Some of my favorites are the skeleton shrimp, isopods that aren’t really shrimp, but bear the nickname because of their hilarious antics and the way they move around. They look like animated skeletons.  This one is pregnant with eggs, and when they hatch, the babies will cling to her body until they are nearly half her size.

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You may have to look closely to see them in the image below;  Momma is covered with her offspring clinging to her antenea, back, jaw, and every other appendage.

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Another fun find for me this week was a family of decorator crabs.  They were very hard to photograph because of the movement of the water, and all the fish that were desperately trying to take a bite of them while I exposed them to the camera. They are covered in all kinds of growth such as sponges, anemones and hydroids.  You can see the one below if you look for it’s eye which is about a third of the way down and a third of the way over from the right.  It looks like it has a long nose made of a white flowering plant with a brown leaf.  This one was less than a square centimeter.

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With the exception of the skeleton shrimp with all her babies, all these images were taken in the last few weeks in California.  The ocean is coming alive again after several months of quiet time.  I am thrilled to see all the new life and awed by the creatures great and small living in the waters of the California coast.

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 atwaterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 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

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

 

Creepy Crawly


The words “Creepy Crawly” often conjure up images of centipedes, spiders, caterpillars, and other unsavory types of insects we would classify as pests.  As I was searching through images I took in Anilao, Philippines, I realized that what we photographers affectionately refer to as “critters” in the ocean, might be considered a creepy crawly if it lived on land.

Dragon Shrimp, AKA Rhino Shrimp

Dragon Shrimp, AKA Rhino Shrimp

The critter in the image above is a dragon shrimp.  Not the kind you might have as a sushi plate, however.  This little guy is only about a centimeter or two in length.  It lives on whip coral and black coral.  The way it clings to the branch of the coral reminds me of a grasshopper.

Zanzibar Whip Coral Shrimp

Zanzibar Whip Coral Shrimp

The Whip Coral Shrimp looks similar to the dragon shrimp, only it doesn’t have three spikes on it’s back.  It does have a pointed spike behind its eyes, though.  These shrimp are translucent, making them very interesting to study closely.

Anker's Whip Coral Shrimp

Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp

Another Whip Coral Shrimp looks a lot like the Zanzibar, but doesn’t have the spikes on its back.

Anker's Whip Coral Shrimp

Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp

Here is an ocean-dwelling spider-like crab, called a Conical Spider Crab.  It also dwells on whip coral, and reminds me of a spider getting ready to jump.

Conical Spider Crab

Conical Spider Crab

Broken Back Shrimp AKA Ocellated Tozeuma Shrimp.

Broken Back Shrimp AKA Ocellated Tozeuma Shrimp.

This is one of the larger creepy crawlies, coming in at about 5 cm.  I call this the Pinnochio crab because it’s nose is almost as long as it’s body.

Elegant Crinoid Squat Lobster faces off with a Slender Crinoid Shrimp.

Elegant Crinoid Squat Lobster faces off with a Slender Crinoid Shrimp.

I was lucky enough to spot a Squat Lobster on the same arm of a crinoid as a slender shrimp.  Both are about a centimeter long, and just happened to be facing each other.

Whip Coral Shrimp

Whip Coral Shrimp

My last image is of another Whip Coral Shrimp.  This one matches its host, and is almost impossible to find, making it invisible to predators.  It is also about a centimeter in length.

One of the interesting things about the creepy crawly critters in the ocean, is that they don’t creep me out like the creepy crawly critters on land.  I wonder what the difference is?  It can’t possibly be because of their ability to crawl down my neck, because I did find crinoids creeping up my leg several times while in Anilao, and I didn’t freak out.  I guess it is just another one of the wonders of the sea!

 

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.