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.

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.

 

 

Welcome to Aquaholics Anonymous!


Hello. My name is Brook, and I am an aquaholic. I crave salty water and don’t care whether it is warm or cold. Being in and around the sea lowers my inhibitions and allows me to express myself openly through digital film.  While I enjoy photographing the miniscule creatures under the sea, I occasionally shoot wide angle scenes as well.   What is your favorite type of underwater photograph?  Do you prefer reef scenes or unusual creatures?  If you are a diver, where is your favorite place to dive and why?  Please feel free to post your comments in the “comments” section below.

Anthias on a coral reef

Anthias on a coral reef

Crinoids and Anthias

Crinoids and Anthias

Duck Billed Shrimp

Long Nose Rock Shrimp

Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse

A Day in the Life of a Hydro-Sapien


A Hydro-Sapien is an advanced species that thrives in water and on land.  I think I have evolved into one of these during the last few years.  I definitely thrive in water.  The most exciting thing about this is discovering all the things that have evolved under water that the land dwelling Homo-Sapiens are unaware of.  Some of these critters are so indistinct, that my photographs of them are meaningless to the common land-dweller.  I will attempt to educate the waterless by taking you on an underwater photo-safari of some of the more obscure creatures.

Slender Crinoid Shrimp (Araiopontonia odontorhyncha)
Slender Crinoid Shrimp
(Araiopontonia odontorhyncha)

The shrimp family is truly vast.  And weird.  They are colorful and full of character.  The Crinoid shrimp (above) is hosted on another animal called a Crinoid.  Crinoids come in many colors, and the shrimp that inhabit their tentacles match their color.  They are very small, growing up to 1.5 cm.

Skeleton Shrimp (Caprellidae)

Skeleton Shrimp (Caprellidae)

The Skeleton shrimp is one of my favorite.  It is actually an amphipod, whose slender body makes it look like a filament of seaweed.  The female will carry her babies all over her body which makes them look like a creepy mass of claws and legs.  (below)

Yup.  That's mommy in the middle, holding about two dozen babies.

Yup. That’s mommy in the middle, holding about two dozen babies.

The skeleton shrimp below appears to be riding on a nudibranch.  She reminds me of a queen riding on a float, waving at her underlings.  They are very entertaining to watch.  They move somewhat like an inchworm and spark the imagination with their unique character.

Skeleton Shrimp and Nudibranch

Skeleton Shrimp and Nudibranch

Next is the Ornate Ghost Pipefish.  These small fish come in a lot of different colors.  The one below is a male, black, Ornate Ghost Pipefish.  They often hide among plants that look just like them.

Ornate Ghost Pipefish  (Solenostomidae)

Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomidae)

Just to satisfy your curiosity, a few other ghost pipefish are the Robust and Halemida (below)

Halemida Ghost Pipefish

Halemida Ghost Pipefish

Robust Ghost Pipefish

Robust Ghost Pipefish

The Paddle-Flap Scorpionfish (below) is a rare and odd shaped fish.  It has a false “eye” (the white spot below it’s real eye), to trick it’s prey into thinking it isn’t watching when it really is.

Paddle-flap Scorpion fish (Rhinopias eschmeyeri)

Paddle-flap Scorpion fish (Rhinopias eschmeyeri)

Here’s a tiny little,  uh,  thing:   They do have a scientific name; Idiomysis.  They are called sea owls by the locals.  They hover above anemones and are about the size of an ant.

sea owl

sea owl

sea owls

sea owls

The Homosapien in me is pretty creeped out by spiders.  But, it turns out, spiders inhabit the sea too.  This one was one of many that inhabited some seaweed.  After the “photo shoot” I had the heebie jeebies for hours.

Sea Spider

Sea Spider

The electric file clam (below) is hard to describe.  It would look better in video.  The iridescent blue that lines it’s mantle actually looks like light or electricity moving across it.

Electric Fileclam

Electric Fileclam

These are only a few examples of the unique aquatic beasties under the sea.  With thousands more to see, it’s no wonder I’ve developed gills.  Don’t you wish you were a Hydrosapien too?

 

How Would You Like Your Eggs? (Part 2)


The eggs featured in this post come from a variety of sea beasties.  The interesting critter below, is a Hairy Shrimp.  The first time I encountered one, a guide was pointing it out to me.  I looked at the end of his pointy stick only to see a tiny bit of moss (no bigger than half my pinky fingernail) floating around some leaves.  I looked closer at the leaves, and rocks, thinking he meant something hiding underneath.  The guide tapped my shoulder and again pointed at the bit of moss.  So I shrugged and took a photograph of the moss, just to make him happy.  Later, when I looked at the image on my computer, I noticed there was an eye in that bit of moss.  I asked another photographer what it was and was shocked to find out it was a Hairy Shrimp.  Needless to say, I began hunting for the furry bug, and soon found this one, which has a clutch of eggs filling her back half.

hairy shrimp

In keeping with the “shrimp” theme, I found several other types of shrimp with eggs.  These two are glass shrimp.  One has a tight round whitish ball of eggs, while the other has a more developed pinkish clutch.

Glass shrimp with eggs

Glass shrimp with eggs

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The largest shrimp I have ever encountered is this Peacock Mantis Shrimp.  She was about 7 inches long and carries her eggs in between her front legs.  She was not happy about being photographed, and tried to flee and hide under rocks and coral.

Peacock Mantis with Eggs

This one simply stayed put in her burrow, and showed me her babies from her front door.

Peacock Mantis with Eggs

Peacock Mantis with Eggs

Here a Coral Crab shows off a carapace full of eggs.

Coral Crab with eggs

Coral Crab with eggs

This Simnia from Southern California is busy laying her egg sacs on this Red Gorgonian.

Simnia with eggs

Simnia with eggs

Nudibranch eggs are commonly seen on reefs where Nudis are found.  They are often laid in a spiral pattern.  These Nudibranchs were “holding hands” near a spiral of nudibranch eggs.

Mating Nudibranchs with eggs

Mating Nudibranchs with eggs

The world under water is full of fascinating behavior.  I am particularly interested in how diversely aquatic creatures reproduce.  So how would I like MY eggs?  With salt water of course!