California Divin’


All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray

I’ve been for a dive, on a winter’s day.

I’ll be warm and dry, when I get back to L A,

But now I’m California divin’  on such a winter’s day.

I spend a good amount of time on this blog talking about the exotic animals I have seen all over the far reaches of the world.  But truly, I spend the majority of my diving time along the coast of California.  These temperate waters host some of the most interesting creatures in the world, and the topography is unique and beautiful.  One of the first things my non-diving friends ask is if it is green and murky in our California waters.  I am here to tell you, that the coast of California can rival the most pristine diving in the tropics.

Pink and Orange cup corals cover this pinnacle near Catalina Island

Pink and Orange cup corals cover this pinnacle near Catalina Island

The images above and below show some of the corals that can be found along the California coast.  Above are pink and orange cup corals covering a pinnacle at Farnsworth Banks near Catalina Island. The photo below shows part of a wall there called “Yellow Wall” and also shows some purple hydrocoral, which is found in just a few dive sites along the California coast.  These two images were taken just minutes apart, showing the diversity that can be found on just one site.

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 Another gem of California diving are the oil rigs.  There are only a few rigs that divers can visit, and since there can be current and depths of up to 700 feet, the oil rigs are for advanced divers only. The structure under the oil rigs provides an artificial reef for hundreds of animals.  The structure is encrusted with life, and great schools of fish and sea lions enjoy life under the rigs as well.

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The Channel Islands are a favorite dive destination for local divers as well as world travelers.  Santa Barbara Island boasts a sea lion rookery where the young curious pups will come out to play around and with scuba divers.

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Anacapa Island is loved by photographers for its macro subjects such as nudibranchs and amphipods.

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

This pregnant skeleton shrimp is one of the amphipods commonly found in California

This pregnant skeleton shrimp is one of the amphipods commonly found in California

Catalina Island has a large population of blue-striped, orange gobys commonly called the Catalina Goby.

Catalina Goby

Catalina Goby

Beautiful fish of all different colors can be found in dive sites all around Southern California, not to mention our own state marine fish, the Geribaldi.

A Geribaldi and a red sculpin (rockfish or scorpion fish) look curiously at the diver with a camera.

A Geribaldi and a red Cabezon  look curiously at the diver with a camera.

But the one defining feature of diving in California is the beautiful kelp forests.  In many ways the kelp reminds me of a forest in a fairy tale.

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The King's Forest

The King’s Forest

The great thing about diving in California is it doesn’t matter if it’s Winter or Summer.  The diving is great year ’round.  The water is temperate and requires adequate protection.  I recommend a 7mm wetsuit in the Summer and late Fall, and a drysuit during the winter months.  And oh, how I love diving California in the Winter months.

California divin’ on such a winter’s day.

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.

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

Cryptic! A Nudiphile Episode


The craziest things in the ocean turn out to be nudibranchs!  Some of these nudis are so cryptic that they have only recently been discovered.  Weirder still, some of these nudibranchs are solar-powered.  They store algae in their outer tissues and live off of the sugar produced by the algae’s photosynthesis.  These nudis are from the Phylodesmium family.

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In the images above and below, you can see the digestive glands (the brown clusters) through the translucent white body of these solar-powered nudibranchs.

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This nudibranch hides in the soft corals that it resembles.  Well, more than resembles.  It looks exactly like a soft coral.  You have to look closely to see it’s head and rhinophores.

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And perhaps the most cryptic of all, Allen’s Ceratosoma, or the Alleni.  This nudibranch is difficult to find and to some is known as the holy grail of nudibranchs. This particular specimen was about the size of my hand, but I have also seen them as small as my thumb.

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As a photographer, these are the finds that I hope for and the reason I love diving in the Philippines.  The nudibranchs are plentiful and lovely.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

New Galleries!


I have added two new galleries to my webpage at waterdogphotography.com  from my recent trip to the Philippines.  Stop by and have a look!

Wonderpus

Wonderpus

Anilao Philippines 2015 Gallery

Diver over a bed of Chocolate Chip Stars
Diver over a bed of Chocolate Chip Stars

Puerto Galera Philippines Gallery

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.

Love Affair, A Nudiphile Episode


I am having a love affair with this tiny little Sacoglassan sea slug called Placida cremoniana.  I know, it all sounds like scientific jibberish, so putting all the big words aside, I’ll just call it PC.

In the past few weeks, I have made several trips out to Catalina Island to search for the tiny beast.  It was necessary to collect some specimen so that their DNA could be analyzed, as they have never been found in California.  This will tell us whether PC came from the bilge of a passing ship, or if it has spread slowly from the south, or if it is an entirely new critter altogether. Interestingly enough, the slug seems to be plentiful in numbers.  I found them as small as 1mm and as large as about 6mm in length.

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

The unusually warm waters along the Pacific coast for the past year or more have encouraged many warm water life forms to journey north.  Most of the sightings have been of very large creatures such as a Whale Shark, Sperm Whales, Hammerhead sharks, and a plethora of fish such as yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and even Ono.  I was lamenting the fact that I haven’t seen any of these southern visitors yet, when I found this very tiny sea slug.  I guess I should have set my sights smaller in the first place!

Placida cremoniana.  As it turned around, it reared up and showed it's underside.

Placida cremoniana. As it turned around, it reared up and showed it’s underside.

If it is just a warm water visitor, then it may be a temporary condition.  Kinda sad, when you think about it.  If it cannot survive in California’s usually temperate water, then an entire population may disappear from our waters.  When you consider that I have been able to find them on every dive I have been on since I first found one, that becomes a very large population.   I hope to be able to report soon where this critter has come from.  If it truly is Placida cremoniana, then it is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and spread to the western Pacific from Japan all the way to Australia.  Several years ago, one was found in Baja, so the possibility of it coming up from the south is an interesting one.  Stay tuned….

Just for the sake of size context:  the bottom right corner is the texture of the skin on my finger.

Just for the sake of size context: the bottom right corner is the texture of the skin on my finger.

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 below.

 

California’s Underwater Halloween Party


To celebrate Halloween and in honor of all things orange, I thought it might be fun to go through my archives in search of images of orange sea life found in California.  Of course, the top prize goes to last weeks post of the orange and black nudibranch that made it’s first appearance in California.  But surprisingly, there are quite a few creatures of the orange persuasion in the sea!

 The Geribaldi is the California State Marine Fish.  It is found mostly in shallow coastal waters in Southern California.

Geribaldi

The male fish builds a nest of red algae every year in the same place, attracting females to lay their eggs.  The female will check out several nests before she decides on one.  These fish protect their nests while they are brooding.   They are the largest of the damsel fish.  I have found that I can attract them to me by tapping two rocks together.  They are curious, and unafraid of divers.

Geribaldi protecting it's nest.

When a juvenile, the Geribaldi has bright electric blue spots.

Juvenile Geribaldi

The Spanish Shawl is a nudibranch that takes the cake when it comes to dressing for Halloween!  It’s orange mane and purple robe put it fully in the Halloween category, but those maroon colored rhinophores make it very eccentric.

Spanish Shawl

Sea Stars are a rarity nowadays along the California coast because of the devastating Sea Star Wasting Syndrome that has been wreaking havoc on our echinoderms.  I found this guy just last month, and was intrigued by it’s texture and color.  He is certainly a survivor as he is the only sea star I have seen for months.

Texture on the back of a Sea Star

This Skeleton Shrimp gets double Halloween points.  One for being a skeleton (well not really, but they look like they are), and one for being mostly orange.  These guys are tiny (only 5 to 8 mm long), and have so much character.

Skeleton Shrimp

Here is a Bluebanded Goby that is found all over the place in Catalina.  They are tiny and this one was hiding in a deserted tube worm’s hole.  When he poked his head out, he seemed to have his tiny teeth barred.

Bluebanded Goby

Last, but not least, and certainly not all of the orangey types, is a Simnia.  This is a kind of snail that pulls its foot up over it’s shell.  It is very hard to see while under water because it appears brown and is perfectly camouflaged with the sea fan it lives on.  But just add light, and WOW!

Simnia

Waterdog Photography, Brook Peterson wishes you a happy and safe kickoff to the upcoming holidays!

 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 below.

 

 

Slug Bug! Another Nudiphile Episode


Introducing P. cremoniana!  While on a dive, searching for tiny critters, I came across this little fella, the likes of which I have never seen before.

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

Just in time for Halloween, this tiny critter makes its appearance in Southern California!  I have written an article that has been published in California Diver Magazine, so rather than reiterate the entire story here, I will refer you to the magazine, where you can read it in its entirety.  Suffice it to say that I am very pleased to have found the very first sea slug of it’s kind in Southern California.  This little guy originated in the Medeteranian, and has been found in the Western Pacific and also Mexico, but never as far north as California.

Placida cremoniana

My obsession with nudibranchs continues, even though this guy isn’t technically a nudibranch.  (It’s a sea slug)  It still has the beautiful colors that are typical of nudibranchs and the fascinating cerata and rhinophores, but lacks a gill plume.  It is unique.  And tiny.  It was no larger than the head of a pin, about 3 or 4 mm, although I have read they can get twice that size.  Still.  T  I  N  Y!

Placida Cremoniana

All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson, and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.