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

Oh, I wish I were a (frog) fish!


One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.  Hog fish, dog fish, meet the Frog fish!

I have a good friend who has a fascination with frog fish.  And with good reason! Frog fish are one of the most interesting, and diverse creatures in the ocean.  I have learned a few things while visiting my friend at Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao, Philippines, about frog fish.  The first and most important thing is that frog fish are cool.

Besides being cryptically well camouflaged, the frog fish comes in sizes from the size of a pea to the size of a basketball.  It comes in various colors, textures and patterns too.

This was the first frog fish I ever saw.  It was in Hawaii, and only the size of my pinky fingernail.

This was the first frog fish I ever saw. It was in Hawaii, and only the size of my pinky fingernail.

Lest this sound like a clothing advertisement, let me tell you about it’s feeding habits.   A frogfish has a lure that it waves above it’s head, tempting other fish to come take a bite.

A large black frogfish waving it's lure above its head.

A large black frogfish waving it’s lure above its head.

But when that fish get’s close, the frog fish has a lightning quick strike.  Check out “One Little Speckled Frog” to  Watch a video, here.

A frog fish can open it’s mouth wide enough to eat a fish nearly the same size as itself.

Hairy Frogfish yawning

Hairy Frogfish yawning

If you watched the video, you can see that the frog fish stalked it’s prey like a cat, walking on its fins.  Frog fish don’t swim with their tails and fins like other fish.  Instead, they propel themselves through the water by pushing water through their mouths and out a valve behind their elbow-like fins.

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 Most of the time, they stay close to a sponge or rock which looks just like they do, and wait for their prey to come to them.  Look closely at the image below. There is a large frog fish front and center.  You can see it’s frowning mouth and it is tipping to the right.  Another brown frog fish is turned away from the camera behind the first.

There are two basketball sized frog fish camouflaged  in this image

There are two basketball sized frog fish camouflaged in this image

Some frog fish are brightly colored and don’t seem to be camouflaged at all.

A tiny frogfish  hunts for a meal

A tiny frogfish hunts for a meal

And the hairy frogfish has filaments all over it’s body that resemble the algae in it’s environment.

Hairy Frogfish

Hairy Frogfish

Only a few of these fascinating creatures are represented here, but you can check out the amazing portfolio and blog (click “critterhead) of my friend, Mike Bartick, to see an astonishing variety of frogfish including mating frogfish (click “What’s New”) at Saltwaterphoto.com.  If you are interested in seeing these critters for yourself, my favorite place to see them is at Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao, Philippines.

Parting Shot:

This cute freckled frog fish is multi-colored to help it blend in

This cute freckled frog fish is multi-colored to help it blend in

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

 

 

 

 

 

Shipwrecked!


One of the great things about diving in Puerto Galera is the variety of wrecks to explore.  There are several sunken ships just in the harbor that are full of amazing sea life and have great structure.  Two of these are the St. Christopher, also known as Anton’s wreck, and the Alma Jane, a Chinese MV cargo ship which was sunk purposely in 2003.

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A small boat can be found in 70fsw at Monkey Beach, and several other large wrecks dot the coast.

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Above, a diver explores the hull of a cargo ship.  Below, a diver hovers above the wreck.

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There is plenty of structure for batfish to hide around.

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There is a deep wreck called “Dry Dock” that was interesting because of it’s structure and because of the large sweetlips that made it home.  These sweetlips are in a cleaning station where they are being cleaned by cleaner wrasse.

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Sometime in the 1620’s, a spanish galleon known as Nuestro Cenora De La Vida, sank on the shores of Verde Island.  The wreck has long since washed away, but the evidence of it’s demise can be found all along the shore of the island in the form of broken pieces of chinese pottery.  The dishes from the ship are still being washed ashore, and tourists can find pieces on their own, or purchase larger pieces from the local residents.  It is interesting to note that no one perished in the sinking of this ship, but the captain was hanged for his responsibility.

 

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.

The Wee Beasties of Anilao


Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

Wi’ bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,

Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

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I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!
Hairy Frogfish, yawning
Hairy Frogfish, yawning
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Blue Ribbon Eel

Blue Ribbon Eel

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell –
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
Ambon Scorpion fish

Ambon Scorpion fish

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
Candy Crab  (Soft Coral Crab)

Candy Crab (Soft Coral Crab)

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Hairy Squat Lobster

Hairy Squat Lobster

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
–Robert Burns  (To a Mouse)