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.



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.

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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

Just Pulling Your Leg

A few years ago Octomom was all the rage in our news.  Can you imagine?  A woman gives birth to octuplets!  Then last May we heard about Octogoat, a young goat born with eight legs in Croatia!  It all seems too crazy to be true.  Now, thanks to Disney Jr., we have the Octonauts; a group of quirky characters dedicated to rescuing amazing sea creatures and  protecting the ocean.  Now these guys are the real deal.  Or am I just pulling your leg?  Well, legs seem to be the order of the day for the Octopus whose eight appendages aid it’s every move from feeding to locomotion to camouflage.

Mimic Octopus

Mimic Octopus

These amazing cephalopods are interesting in every way.  The Mimic Octopus (above) pulsates with color when agitated, turning from dark brown to light with striped legs.  The octopus below, is the same octopus only a few seconds later.  It is trying to make itself look more threatening by spreading out.


One of the things that really fascinates me is the Octopus’s ability to camouflage itself.  This one imitates the sand that it lives in.


This one looks very much like a rock.


This one imitates the colors of the corals it inhabits,


And this one blends in with the surrounding fauna.


There are many different kinds of Octopus, and this tiny Pygmy Octopus was a riot to watch.  It has the tiniest little short legs which it hides underneath it’s body (while they are actually digging away the sand beneath)  Then Poof!  It disappears into the hole it was hiding with it’s body.


Here is another Pygmy who’s body is disproportionate to it’s legs.  This one was also digging a hole to hide in, but rather than hiding that process under it’s body, it’s legs threw “handfuls” of sand out as it dug.


The Pacific octopus takes on the greenish and reddish tint of the algae around it’s den, not to mention the rough terrain, and loves to wrap itself up in it’s own legs.


Nothing is more surprising than watching an octopus slip into a space that is a fraction of it’s size, or hide inside an empty beer bottle. The octopus’s remarkable ability to change its appearance makes it seem like one of those far fetched octo-tales we hear about in the tabloids, but in this case, I am not pulling your leg!

I’m Blue for You

Of all the creatures in the oceans, it seems like the “blue” ones are the most threatening in our imaginations.  Blue sharks, for example, spark a bit of fear just by their name.  Blue whales conjure up childhood memories of stories of being swallowed and later spit back out in some foreign land.  Some of the most beautiful, and dangerous animals in the ocean are blue.  Beautiful by nature, and dangerous by reputation is the blue-ringed octopus.

Blue Ringed octopus

Blue Ringed octopus

When I arrived in the Philippines, I was given an orientation on some of the underwater hand-signals for various creatures and critters.  One of these signals was placing your fingers in an “okay” sign and tapping it up your arm three times.  This signals that there is a blue-ringed octopus nearby.  When my guide first gave me this signal, I had forgotten its significance and I brushed him off because I was focusing my camera on a very large frog fish.  My guide very patiently waited for me, then gave me the signal again for the blue-ringed octopus.  I wasn’t sure what he was showing me, so I followed him to where a small group of divers were excitedly gesturing.  As soon as I saw it, it dawned on me that I had missed an important sign from my guide.  I sheepishly gave him the okay sign, then began to snap away happily on my camera.

Blue Ringed Octopus

Blue Ringed Octopus

The blue ringed octopus has a reputation for being the most venomous critter in the ocean.  Although this octopus is smaller than the palm of my hand, it produces a lethal toxin called Tetrodotoxin that can kill a person in a matter of minutes.  As menacing as that may sound, there have only been three recorded deaths in the last 100 years attributed to a blue ringed octopus bite.  It is considered the Holy Grail of under water photo subjects by some divers.  Most of the time it appears tan, or golden in color, but when it is alarmed it’s blue rings become prominent.  It was a treat to see this creature with it’s undulating rings as it postured itself against my presence.

Click below to watch an interesting and informative video on the blue ringed octopus.

Watch Video