Misool, The Crown Jewel of Indonesia


I recently spent a few weeks scuba diving in the southern part of Raja Ampat on the tiny island of Batbitim.  At just three and a half kilometers in circumference, this island is not only a stellar diving destination, but it also hosts the luxurious Misool Eco Resort, while maintaining an eco-friendly environment.  I was so impressed with the resort and the conservation work they are doing there that I wanted to share a little bit about it.

The beauty and serenity of the resort itself is apparent as soon as you arrive. The island of Batbitim lies about four hours south by boat from the nearest port. It lies among other uninhabited islands and is about twenty miles from the nearest local village. Each guest enjoys their own cottage on the water, or residence on the beach. You can walk down the stairs from your front patio right in to the water for snorkeling or swimming.

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 Although the diving in this area of Indonesia is astounding, I believe it is the accomplishments of the resort itself that make this destination truly remarkable.  Just ten years ago, this island’s bay was a place where fishermen came to fin sharks.  Because the bay is a black tip reef shark nursery, that included juvenile as well as adult sharks.  Misool bought the island and has since successfully turned it into a marine sanctuary.  In fact, they have lobbied to make the entire location a marine protected area and now protect more than 1200 square kilometers.  This is policed and enforced by the local island population with great success.  The bio-mass has been documented since 2006 and in this particular area, it has a richer density and diversity than anywhere else in Raja Ampat.

A Coral Grouper rests among the iconic soft and hard corals of Raja Ampat

A Coral Grouper rests among the iconic soft and hard corals of Raja Ampat

Another great accomplishment of Misool Eco Resort, is the minimal environmental impact they have.  Everything from the cottages to the furniture are made from materials found on the island, with no trees being cut down to build with.  Fresh water is obtained through desalination, they generate their own electricity, and they recycle the gray water through the roots of a beautiful garden where it is naturally filtered.

All this is accomplished while maintaining the highest level of service and luxury in the industry.  The local islanders work on the island, the food is delicious and plentiful and the guest list is small.  In addition to scuba diving, guests can enjoy snorkeling, Stand Up Paddle boards, kayaking, local excursions and more.

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It is the scuba diving and the photo opportunities that draw visitors from all over the world.  Raja Ampat is known for its beautiful soft corals and colorful fish.

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The image above was taken at a site called Boo Window. There are two swim-throughs close to the surface that look like the eyes of a ghost. One of the “eyes” is partially covered by the gorgonian fan, but you can see why the site got its name. I asked my guide, Marfal, to show me critters such as the Raja Ampat pygmy seahorse which is found only in Southern Raja Ampat. Everything I asked to see, he found without fail.

Raja Ampat Pygmy Seahorse

Raja Ampat Pygmy Seahorse

I even mused that what I really wanted was a shot of a giant manta hovering above the colorful reef, to which he replied, “Okay.”

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Truly, Misool Eco Resort is one of those fantasy destinations that most people only dream about.  I can tell you that I will be dreaming about it for a long time to come.

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

Scuba Diving Under the Oil Rigs


A big Thank You to Dive Photo Guide for publishing my article on scuba diving under the oil rigs.  I am truly honored to be featured!  To read the article, click HERE.

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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

10 Best Photography Blogs


Thank you to Paul from “Pick My Camera” for referencing my blog as one of the ten best Photography blogs!  You can read the article here:

Stay tuned for a tutorial on wide angle underwater photography coming soon!

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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

Ornate Ghost Pipefish


In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Ornate.”

The Ornate Ghost Pipefish has the word “Ornate” in its name.  This one was found in Puerto Galera, Philippines.

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It is a beautiful fish, and even has an evil twin:

Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomidae)

To learn more about the weekly photo challenge, click HERE

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 D7000 or 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 at waterdogphotography@gmail.com

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

Underwater Photography 101: Lightroom’s Local Tools


Creative Cloud has announced their 2015 update to Adobe products and among them is a cool update to the local tools in Lightroom.  I’m talking about one of my favorite new tools, “Dehaze.”  For the past few months, this tool has been a global tool residing in the “Effects” module (where it can still be found).  But now, it can also be found under the “adjustment brush” in the local tools module.  For a video tutorial of how to use some of the local tools for underwater photography, click on the image below.

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

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 D7000 or 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

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Three’s A Crowd


I thought it might be fun to participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge since the theme this week is one of my specialties!  These yellow coral gobies make their home inside an empty beer bottle.

THREE'S A CROWD

THREE’S A CROWD

To learn more about the weekly photo challenge, click HERE.

Underwater Photography 101: “White Balance”


This is a post-processing tip inspired by the many almost beautiful photographs I see in my underwater group news feeds.  So many of these photographs have great composition, interesting subjects, and good lighting, but lack the “umph” needed to be truly fantastic.  It’s an easy fix, too, and one that should be employed as a matter of routine in all post processing.  I’m talking about correcting white balance, of course, and using a few other basic tools.  Here we will cover how to make a photo go from this:

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to this:

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in just a few easy steps. I use Adobe Lightroom CC for the majority of my post-processing and I will use Lightroom in this tutorial.

Underwater photography has its own unique rules when it comes to post-processing.  If you shoot with a DSLR, you have likely been taught to shoot in RAW format, and to use the auto white balance in-camera.  This is because it is expected that you will finish processing the photos yourself, rather than letting the camera make decisions about the photograph for you, (as it will if you shoot in jpeg format.) Why shoot RAW files?  A RAW file retains ALL the information that the sensor of your camera records.  If you use jpeg, the camera picks what information is important, processes it, and throws the rest away. Under water images are affected by the water itself and have issues with lighting, contrast, and loss of color to name a few.  The camera is manufactured for images taken topside, so the camera is likely to throw away the wrong information.  That is why post-processing under water images is so important.

White balance can be set manually for every shot you take under water, but it is cumbersome and time consuming and can easily be taken care of in post processing.  Set your camera to “auto white balance” and use RAW files if possible.

After you have imported your images, you will see them in the “LIBRARY” module.  There are several modules in Lightroom along the top right of the screen.  After you choose the image you want to work on, you will click on the “DEVELOP” module.

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This will bring up a set of tools to the right that you will use to process your image. You can open the tools by clicking on the triangular arrow to the far right of each toolbox.  In the toolbox below, you can see that I have the Histogram and the Basic toolboxes open.

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I will use the Basic tool box to adjust the white balance of my image.  My photo has too much brown/gold in it, and the beautiful colors of the fish are muted.  *Unless you are very close to your subject, you are likely to have too much green, blue, or yellow in your image.  In the Basic tool box (above), you can see “WB:  As Shot” towards the top.  You can click on “As Shot” for a drop-down menu of different white balance effects.  Try them.  You may like “auto” the best.  If none of these correct the color issues, you can try adjusting the Temp and Tint sliders or use the eye-dropper tool to the left.  Just click on the eyedropper tool, move it over your image until the R.G.B. values in the drop down box are close to 50%, then “click.”  (You can also see what your image will look like before “clicking” as you move the eyedropper over it in the small box on the upper left.

WB eyedropper tool

Here is my image with only the white balance corrected:

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That took only one “click” and it is already much better.  I can fine tune it further if I want, by moving the Temp and Tint Sliders.

After I fix the white balance, I will use the sliders from Exposure down to Saturation to bring up the contrast, take down the highlights, etc.  The box below shows what settings I used for this image.

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This is my final result:

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It takes only a few minutes to adjust the white balance and a few other basics.  But what a difference it makes!

To watch a video of this tutorial, click HERE

*The reason you will have too much green, blue, or yellow in your image if you are more than a few inches away from your subject, is because of the distance the light has to travel through the water column from your camera to the subject and back again.  Water is denser than air, and has a “tint” to it.  This will show up in your images, thus the need to redefine what is “white.”

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

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.
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

Flashback Thursday- A Nudiphile Episode


It’s no secret that I have a serious slug crush on nudibranchs.  So for Flashback Thursday, I thought I would just share some of my favorite nudibranch images.

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The cryptic nudibranchs are the most interesting to me.  I love the translucence of this one.  For the full article see “Cryptic, A Nudiphile Episode

California has its share of beautiful nudibranchs.  This Hermissendra crassicornis was just a tiny juvenile about half an inch long.

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

Here is an adult Hermissendra crassicornis:  (See “Are you a Nudiphile?”)

Hermissendra crassicornis

Hermissendra crassicornis

My all-time favorite is Placida cremoniana, a nudibranch I discovered in Southern California last year, which has since disappeared from California waters.  (See “Love Affair, A Nudiphile Episode.”  And also  “Slug Bug! Another Nudiphile Episode “)

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

Some of the prettiest nudis come from Anilao, Philippines.  (See “Are you a Nudiphile 2?“)

Hypselodoris kangas

Hypselodoris kangas

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If you enjoy these images, you can get the full story by clicking on any of the “nudiphile” links above.

 

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.
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

Underwater Photography 101: “Face the Music!”


One of the challenging things as an underwater photographer is getting your subjects to face the camera. Marine critters are inexplicably camera shy!  Most likely, it is because of the bright focus light you are shining in their face, but it could also be that your dome port looks like a big eye and that can freak out any little beasty. Luckily for photographers, there are some tricks we can try, and common sense we can apply.

Trick #1:  Red Light!

Underwater camera gear manufacturers are aware of the lighting issues photographers face.  On one hand, we must have enough light that our camera can focus on the subject and the thing we want in focus the most is our subject’s eye.  On the other hand, shining a bright light in our subjects eyes causes it to turn away before we can get the shot.  The solution to this is a red focus light. Several lights on the market have a switch that will turn the light red, a color that is theoretically not seen by marine animals.  The following image is a good example of critters that don’t tolerate light well. The pygmy sea horse has no eyelids and cannot shut it’s eyes.  Because it is so small, it is a challenge to focus on, even with good light, and the moment you get it in focus, it turns away.

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However, with a red focus light, there is enough light for the camera to focus, but the animal is not as sensitive to it and it is more likely to face the lens, such as in the image below.  (Don’t worry about the red showing up in the image.  When your strobes fire, all the red will disappear.)

Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse

Trick #2:  Fake them out!

Another trick to help turn a camera shy critter toward the lens is to hand hold the focus light behind the animal, or have your dive buddy hold the light so that it faces the camera.  The animal will turn away from the light, toward the camera.  There will be enough light for the camera to focus, and walla!

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Okay, on to using some common sense:

#3 Patience is a virtue

Sometimes you just have to wait for the critter to get used to you.  Most marine animals have little or no brains.  Instead, they have fight or flight instincts.  If you are not perceived as a threat, it only takes a few minutes for the critter to forget about you.  As far as it knows, you may have been a feature in it’s environment for months or years.  Give your subject time to forget about you, and eventually it may face the camera without being coaxed.  This goby and shrimp took only a few moments to forget I was there, and go about their business of shoveling sand out of their home.

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This leads me to a cardinal common sense rule,

#4:  Don’t be a Predator!

Nothing is more displeasing to an underwater photographer than getting pictures of fish butts.  Sometimes we become so excited to get a shot of that rare critter, just to prove we saw it, that we sacrifice good photography.  The following image is of a goby on eggs.  I really wanted this image, but unfortunately, in my excitement, I was not patient, I did not use red light, and I stalked this poor fish.  The result is a fish facing away from the camera, eye blurred, and generally just an uninteresting photograph.

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 Chasing the animals produces the same result.  This poor harlequin shrimp felt very vulnerable and could only flee from my big bubble blowing self.

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 So remember, try red light, move your focus light behind the subject, wait for your subject to forget about you, and don’t be a predator.  Using these tips will help you get good “face on” shots.

Jawfish with eggs

Jawfish with eggs

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

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.
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