Story Behind the Shot – Coconut Octopus

I am a big fan of octopus, I would willingly spend an hour with a curious octopus watching it go about its daily life, combing its environment looking for food and avoiding predators. The species of octopus doesn’t matter; they all seem to have an innate curiosity of their surroundings and will often interact with a diver who moves slowly and carefully.

Coconut octopus in Puri Jati, Bali, Indonesia

One of my favourite octopus encounters was with this coconut octopus during a dive at Puri Jati (PJs) in north Bali, Indonesia. Coconut or veined octopuses, Amphioctopus marginatus, have recently been designated as the first invertebrate able to use tools, elevating their status as an intelligent animal. On this dive, I encountered this guy in less than 5 metres of water and was able to spend a long time watching and photographing his/her daily life. The first thing that stands out in the photograph is that the octopus is obviously using the coconut shell as a home (hence the name) but that the “roof” of the house is a bright pink plastic cap! This photograph pretty much sums up the intelligence of these animals and lends credence to the idea that they can use tools. Not finding a suitable shell to use a “roof” to close up the shell when threatened, this octopus was able to substitute the next best thing it could find. Thinking I would help out this little guy and find it a clam shell to use instead of a piece of bright pink plastic, I found a big clam shell and brought it over, but when I set it beside the octopus it showed no interest whatsoever!  He/she was more than happy with its bright pink roof and just picked up its shell and trundled away!

Story Behind the Shot – Coconut Octopus

The Coconut Octopus

Coconut octopus Bali

For me, the ultimate photo when it comes to close focus wide angle photography is capturing an octopus behaving in the unique ways that octopus do. In Bali, there is a black sand dive site called Puri Jati which is well known for its octopus population including long arm white V, mimic, and the ever curious coconut octopus. This particular photo was taken of a coconut octopus that I found in a few metres of water which was living inside its namesake: a coconut! The best thing about this encounter was the fact this octopus was a player, each time I edged closer, the octopus would pick up its home and scuttle across the sand away from me before settling down once again. The key to this image was shooting it from far enough away to show some of the background as well as the main subject. I also used a slower shutter speed in order to utilize the natural light to “burn in” the background to show the environment where the octopus lives.

 

Nikon D7000, 60mm lens at f11, 1/80, ISO 160

 

Mike Veitch

Catfish Parade

When diving in Bali or Lembeh or a myriad of other sites with sandy bottoms, do you ever see a cloud of dust rising up in the distance?  When you get close the disturbance it often turns out to be a big school of striped catfish churning up the sand in search of food.  These social fish with their distinctive barbed mouth are a common resident in the Indo Pacific area and always make an interesting photo subject in both macro or wide angle formats.  This shot was taken in Bali at Seraya Secrets with a Nikon D7000 and Aquatica housing, 105mm, f22, 1/250 and Sea and Sea strobes

 

Catffish

Shrimp Cleaning a Moray Eel

One of the more interesting behaviours that divers can encounter underwater is the always entertaining relationship between a cleaner shrimp and the creature that is being cleaned.  It might look like the shrimp is an easy meal for a moray eel as it prances along the morays head but in fact the moray more than tolerates the shrimps presence as it picks parasites from its skin and gums.  I always enjoy watching the “fearsome” moray flinch when the shrimp grabs a particularly sensitive piece of skin from the eel.  The observant diver can witness all kinds of cleaning behaviour on the reef at all times of day.  Shrimp are one of the more active cleaners but many species of small fish such as wrasse and butterfly fish are also commonly found cleaning other denizens of the reef.  Although it is common to see most fish visit a cleaning station from time to time, perhaps the most common visitors to these “clinics” seem to be moray eels.  In this photo, a yellow margined moray eel is being cleaned by a scarlet lady cleaner shrimp beneath a small coral head at the Seraya Secrets dive site in NE Bali, Indonesia.  Interested in seeing more of this activity?  We frequently run trips to NE Bali where the diving and photography are easy and very rewarding!  Have a look at our Bali Safari page for more details.

cleaning shrimp

Abstract Photos

One of the more unique looking photos you can take are of fairly common subjects but shot in an abstract way.  A simple way to do this is with a macro lens and using your “artsy” eye to see outside of the box.  In this photo of a wrasse in Bali I go right up close and personal and only focused on its pectoral fin rather than shooting the entire fish.  This style of photograph works extremely well with varied colored tropical fish which have interesting and unique designs.  Try out shooting abstract photos the next time you are shooting macro.

Abstract patterns of fish

Photo of the Day – Batfish in Menjangan

Menjangan Island is an often overlooked destination in Bali as many folks love heading out to the famous Liberty Wreck or looking for mantas and molas in Nusa Penida.  However, the Menjangan area is one of our favourite destinations in Bali due to the beautiful coral gardens and plentiful schooling fish.

Here is a shot of 3 batfish cruising the coral garden of Menjangan.

Three spadefish in formation on coral reef, Platax orbicularis, Acropora sp., Menjangan Island National Park, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean

Three spadefish in formation on coral reef, Platax orbicularis, Acropora sp., Menjangan Island National Park, Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean

Frogfish Portrait – Photo of the Day

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.

Frogfish Portrait