You Win Some, You Lose Some


This post is completely self-indulgent, but I guess when you think about it, the whole idea of writing a blog about my own underwater photography is pretty egocentric.  I recently entered an underwater photography contest in which several of my images placed.  So just to drive the whole ego-related point home, You can see the winners and the losers below.

The contest is a local “shootout” in Southern California, known as the So Cal Shootout.  Underwater Photographers have three days to capture images and submit them for judgement.  There are lots of categories and lots of prizes and most people go home happy, even if they don’t have a winning image because it is always fun to scuba dive with friends.

I entered eight images in several different categories.  I believe all the images are good, but not every image takes a prize, so the losers get to go first:

Entered in Portrait:

Giant Kelpfish

Giant Kelpfish

Entered in Behavior:

Giant Kelpfish Guarding Eggs

Giant Kelpfish Guarding Eggs

Entered in Behavior:

Nudibranch laying eggs

Nudibranch laying eggs

Entered in Macro Open:

Tube Anemone

Tube Anemone

Entered in Wide Angle Open:

A Diver in the Kelp Forest

A Diver in the Kelp Forest

And now for the lucky winners:

Best In Show and First Place in Wide Angle Behavior

Sea Lion Blowing Bubbles

Sea Lion Blowing Bubbles

Third Place in Open Macro

Simnia Snail

Simnia Snail

Fourth Place in Open Behavior

Sheephead Eating a Sea Urchin

Sheephead Eating a Sea Urchin

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
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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

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

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

The Night Before Fishmas


I subscribe to a local newsletter for divers and this was published there this week.  It is a lot of fun, so I thought I would share it here.  Courtesy of Ken Kurtis, Owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.

With inspiration from (and apologies to) Clement Clarke Moore . . .

‘TWARS the days before Christmas, and all through the sea
not a creature was stirring, with the exception of me.
The stockings were hung on the kelp fronds with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would swim there.

The fish were nestled all snug in their cracks,
while visions of baitballs called to them as snacks.
And Mama in her beanie, and I in my hood,
were entering for a dive we thought would be good.

When off in the distance there arose such a splash,
I  parked Mama on shore so I could make a dash.
Inflated my BC, I kicked on out,
squinted my eyes to see what this was about.

The moon on the breast of the rippling waves
gave the luster of shimmer above the fish caves.
When, what to my salt-stung eyes should appear,
but eight Black Sea Bass with a boat in the rear.

With a little old diver, gearing up lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Down went the anchor and up went the flag,
and Nick arranged fish toys inside his bag.

But Nick had no buddy, and then he saw me,
when he motioned to join him, I accepted with glee.
We completed a buddy check and started on down,
following the kelp to the bottom we did bound.

He was dressed in a drysuit, from his neck to his foot,
but his fins were all ratty from the pounding they took.
A bundle of fish treats he had in his sack,
plus bigger gifts that would keep things on track.

He was chubby and plump, as we all get with age,
but I was happy to join him on this aquatic stage.
A wink of his eye meant we had to run
because there was so much work to be done.

He spoke not a word, since we were underwater,
and left gifts for the fish, not missing a quarter.
But I could tell from his demeanor, he wasn’t quite done,
of the gifts to the fish, there was an additional one.

So he gave me a sign and lay his finger to his nose,
and giving a nod, to the surface we rose.
As he surveyed the water, he gave me a smile,
and I had a good feeling we’d be done in a while.

Nick took off his mask, and waved his right hand,
water bubbling and shimmering above the calm sand.
He had just created the best gift of all,
a Marine Protected Area, and the fish were enthralled.

Now they could swim, and with much less fear,
of the bubble-blowers descending in new diving gear.
Fish stocks would be healthy, their numbers would grow,
St. Nick works his wonders in water and snow.

With his task completed, Nick kicked to his boat,
Got out of his dive gear, and put on his coat.
Up came the anchor and down came the flag,
He’d done good work but he didn’t brag.

His eyes gave a twinkle, to his Sea Bass he whistled,
And away they all jetted, with the speed of a missile.
But I heard him exclaim, as he slipped out of sight,
“Merry Fish-mas to all, and to all a good night!”

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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.

 

Lion Around


This week I fell in love with sea lions.  These magnificent, playful, dog-like creatures are truly one of the wonders of the sea.  Curious as soon as they hear a diver’s splash into the water, they come over to investigate our weird fins, and huge camera equipment.  Since all of us have dome ports, the sea lions are extra curious. They can look at their reflections, and continually come down to gaze at themselves in front of the camera lens.  At times, I wonder if they are posing for me, or just checking out their poses of themselves.

Sea lion gazes at his reflection in the camera housing's dome port.

Sea lion gazes at his reflection in the camera housing’s dome port.

It takes a little while for them to get comfortable with us, but when they do, they start to dance and play in the water around us.

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Before long, they begin to interact with the divers.

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One of the things that I can’t help laughing about is their attempts to mimic the bubbles we blow through our regulators.

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This young lion was fascinated with either me or it’s reflection, and tried out several different poses in front of the lens.

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It was one of the funnest dives I have had in a long time.  Kind of like spending the day with your dog in the park.  In the end, I think all of us were satisfied.