This photo is a from a great site that I haven’t visited for a while, Secret Bay in the far north west of Bali in the town of Gilimanuk. Secret Bay is a great muck diving location with lots of critter action including many resident frogfish such as this bright orange clown frogfish, Antennarius pictus, which was sitting perfectly in a sponge. Photo taken with a Nikon D7000 in an Aquatica Housing with Sea and Sea strobes, f36, 1/250 and 60mm lens.
One of the cool things about spending a lot of time photographing in a place like Lembeh Strait is the fact you can bump into just about anything at any time. One of the stranger creatures I ran into happened to be when I was actually shooting wide angle and it was the perfect lens for the situation. When I first looked at the animal I thought it was a snake eel (it actually could be!) but after much looking around in fish books I actually think it’s a bigeye conger eel (Ariosoma anagoides) However, it’s not the eel itself that is of interest in this photo but rather the environment that the eel has chosen to live in. As is obvious, the eel is surrounded by dozens of tubular sponges in an otherwise rather barren stretch of sand and it blends in almost perfectly! I was very happy at this point in time to have brought my wide angle lens as only a wide angle photography could truly show the environment that the eel was living in. Now the question that immediately came to my mind when I saw the situation was: “Did the eel know that the sponges were similar in shape to it? Or was it just a fluke of positioning?” And that is the question that I ask the readers of this blog, what do you think? Was it a case of perfect planning by a cunning and intelligent animal or purely coincidence? Let us know in the comments
Aquatica D90, Sea and Sea Strobes, 10.5mm lens with 2xTC, f13, 1/13
As we have recently returned from Raja Ampat on a thoroughly enjoyable liveaboard trip (Trip Report is here) with great friends and superb diving, we are slowly processing our photos and presenting them on our social media channels. One of the highlights of our Raja trip was the dive site “Andiamo”, in the Daram island group in the SE Misool area, which is absolutely chock a block with bright and beautiful soft corals as well as plenty of fish life. Andiamo is one of my favourite sites in all of Raja Ampat due to the variety of terrain it offers – a blue water pinnacle, a sandy flat, steep coral covered walls, a current swept ridge, and an amazing “channel” that splits the two islets of the dive site. I could dive this site (and the neighbouring sites in the Daram group) all day every day and not get bored of the myriad photo opportunities. One of the biggest challenges I always encounter (anywhere in Raja really) is capturing a decent shot of the brilliant red coral trouts that are common to the area, on this shot I think I actually captured one with a compelling foreground and background subject. Stay tuned for more Raja, Ambon, and Banda Sea images from our epic series of Underwater Tribe trips over the past 4 weeks in eastern Indonesia.
Although it is known as a macro location, the Lembeh Strait is also a very under rated wide angle photography location. Besides the stunning reefs on the east and north ends of the island, there are sites within the strait that also host some amazing wide angle opportunities. Dive sites such as California Dreaming, Angels Window, and Crab a Goby offer reasonably clear water as well as a plethora of sea fans, sea whips, soft corals and other classic wide angle photo opportunities. However, the wide angle photo opportunities in Lembeh really come into their own when concentrating on Close Focus Wide Angle opportunities on Lembeh’s more signature muck sites. The “wow” factor of shooting mucky creatures with a wide angle lens is what makes Lembeh Wide Angle photos really stand out from the crowd as a “soft coral” photo can be from anywhere. During our annual Photography Workshop in Lembeh at NAD we always discuss the benefits of shooting wide in a macro location, join us this July and learn how to improve your wide angle muck photography!
Raja Ampat on the Mermaid II with the Underwater Tribe
We have just recently finished an Underwater Tribe group trip aboard the Mermaid II liveaboard in Raja Ampat and there is no way to describe other than the word FANTASTIC! When we planned this trip almost two years ago, we looked at the calendar to decide what dates would work best in terms of tidal and moon phase as well as the optimal time of year for weather and we decided that the end of March would be perfect, and boy are we happy that we chose those dates! The weather and sea conditions could not have been better, the water was crystal clear, and the currents were mild which made life easy for our group of divers. We spent the vast majority of our time in the Misool area enjoying the incredible dive sites that the area has to offer including Fansea, Nudi and Tank Rock, Whale Rock, Magic Mountain, Bo’o, and the Daram area along with a few other sites thrown in as well. In the Dampier Strait area we dove Cape Kri, Blue Magic, Arborek, Manta Sandy and Sardine. As can be expected from Raja Ampat, the fish life was prolific and the incredible amount of colourful corals was just mind-boggling. For those looking for macro subjects there was certainly no shortage of pygmy seahorses as we saw Denise, Bargibanti, and Santa Clause (the red and white Denise) on pretty much every dive. We had plenty of turtle encounters and we were also very lucky with mantas both in the Misool region as well as in the Dampier Strait. The diving could not have been better as everything worked out perfectly. When not diving we also enjoyed several cruises investigating and photographing the unique karst limestone formations that can be found in the Balbulol and Wayil area and also had the chance to wander around the island of Arborek and enjoy a very well performed dance by the kids. Of course we also presented our patented Underwater Tribe photo seminars each day and answered questions about photography for those interested.
We were very impressed with the Mermaid II, the boat was quiet and the ride was smooth, the food was excellent and plentiful, and of course the crew and guides were absolutely outstanding! We are already planning our next trip aboard the vessel and are looking forward to another week with the Mermaid II. Special thanks for everyone who joined us on the trip, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and we are looking forward to seeing you all again soon. Enjoy some pics and stay tuned for a few short videos as well!
Final Thoughts Ambon Photo Workshop 2015
Here is the delayed final blog post from our recently completed First Underwater Tribe / Maluku Divers Photography Workshop which was held from the 18-25th of March 2015. Although we have visited Ambon many times over the years and knew that Maluku Divers ran a fantastic operation, it was our first time holding a group event at the resort and we are happy to say that the entire thing went off without a hitch. The resort itself is well designed with 10 individual bungalows along with 4 spacious Garden Rooms, a dedicated camera room, a well appointed outdoor seating area for our presentations, numerous camera tanks and a well laid out dive gear area, and of course a restaurant that sat all of us in one big table along with fantastic food! We can’t say enough great things about how well Maluku Divers runs the resort fro the seamless reservations ahead of time to the wonderful and friendly on site staff and management, the team really bent over backwards to provide us with everything we needed and then some. We will most definitely be back next year to enjoy the great macro diving and photo opportunities that we enjoyed with long bottom times and fantastic critter spotters.
All of our guests arrived were on site by the morning of the 18th (a few had arrived ahead of time to get in a few extra dives) and we were able to split the groups and get out diving right away. Each of our boats had a dive guide as well as a photo instructor aboard (neither myself or Luca carry cameras during the workshops, we only use our slates) so everyone was well looked after when it came time to finding critters and setting up the right way underwater. Our schedule consisted of 3 (very long!) day dives per day, 2 before lunch and one after, as well as the opportunity to do an extra night dive if desired. During the dives Luca and myself would help the photographers underwater in many different ways including but not limited to: snoot holding, help with strobe placement, critter finding, backlighting, reassurance on camera settings, ideas about composition and lighting techniques.
Each day we would present at least two different talks: one after lunch and one after dinner. After the third dive of the day we would meet in the common area to either go over the days dives, critique photos, or help with Lightroom in a “mini” workshop setting for those interested in learning more about that powerful program. Our talks at the beginning of the week concentrated on the basics of photography such as f-stops and shutter speeds and then became more “macro” specific by discussing macro composition, backgrounds, shallow depth of field, snooting, backlighting, and more! Feedback from the participants was fantastic as everyone felt they learned a lot from our presentations as well as the one to one underwater work.
However, nothing spells success better than seeing the results of our students work and on the night of the 24th everyone had to opportunity to show off their best work of the week. After a fantastic BBQ dinner put on by the Maluku Divers restaurant team we sat down (along with the other guests in attendance who weren’t a part of the workshop) to see the results of a week of diving in Ambon! The resulting slideshow of images I have to say is possibly the best set of images I have seen in any of our previous workshops throughout the world as everyone provided at least 15 fantastic images toward the show. As a special treat, we were also shown a beautiful video from our video shooting attendee Nannette, stunning imagery all around. We would like to thank all of the attendees who came from all parts of the world to dive and learn with us! We had attendees from Australia, the USA, Malaysia, and the UK and we really enjoyed the camaraderie that was felt by all. The relaxed tone and fun atmosphere was a great setting for learning photography, making new friends, and enjoying world class critter dives with a plethora of incredible subjects! Thanks to all of our participants and the wonderful team at Maluku Divers, we will be back again soon!
The Underwater Tribe
Here are some samples of the fantastic images from everyone!
We just recently finished our incredible 9 day trip aboard the Mermaid II Liveaboard in Raja Ampat with a great group of divers and some amazing diving. The weather, the waves, the sun, the fish, and the corals are cooperated perfectly and all of these elements came together to make one outstanding dive trip for our Underwater Tribe group. We can’t wait to do it again soon as the diving in Raja Ampat is one of the best dive experiences out there. A full report will be coming soon but here is a sneak peak of one of our friends Nik enjoying a bit of sun while underwater in Misool!
Well the diving has now come to an end for our Ambon photo workshop with Maluku Divers and the Underwater Tribe, we still have one day of adventure left tomorrow with a few folks diving but the “workshop” dives are done. We are extremely pleased with the results of everyone’s efforts and the photos that we are seeing are superb. What has been the best part of the week was working with all of our guests to improve their photographic basics and then help them to expand their creative ideas with a little “one to one” work underwater. It was a real pleasure to watch everyone trying new ideas with confidence and not getting frustrated when the results didn’t work perfectly the first time. Everyone has really grown as a photographer this week and we are very proud of the gang! Tomorrow is the final night slideshow and everyone is looking forward to some great photos being put up on the big screen.
On a side note, one thing that we have noticed this year is the popularity of Mirrorless camera systems such as Olympus and Panasonic. You may also notice the popularity of Nauticam products in the following photo!
Another day and some more great photos in the bag today from all of the Underwater Tribe/Maluku Divers Photo Workshop participants. Everyone is gaining a lot of confidence in their camera setups and strobe positioning and are now concentrating on new and different ways of taking photos of Ambon’s rich critter diversity. In the last two days we have discussed blue and black macro backgrounds, constant lighting via video lights, macro specific composition, and “Shooting Wide in Critter Country”. We have noticed a definite change in everyone’s shooting style as the week has progressed as the participants have begun utilizing their newly learned techniques to try different approaches. Most of us only have two days of diving left while a lucky few are staying on a couple of days longer to continue shooting the fantastic subjects we have been finding here. Highlights of the last few days include red, black, and yellow bearded gobies, a tunicate shrimp, a mantis shrimp with eggs, a coral croucher, harlequin shrimp, and the always popular flambouyant cuttlefish. The highlight for many though was the bright purple rhinopias we have encountered which has remained in place the last few days enticing us to come back several times to try photographing it with new techniques.