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.
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.
The Daram island group in Raja Ampat is one of my personal favourite destinations in all of Indonesia. Dense schools of fish, beautiful soft corals and very few divers make for an incredible dive experience spread over several different world class sites. This photo is take at the site “Warna Berwarna” which boasts a huge diversity of life from big schools of fusiliers to the tiny Denise pygmy seahorse. This image boasts colourful soft corals and a dense school of fusiliers cruising along the reef.
I lived in Palau from 1999-2002 but never took advantage of heading up on the local plane in order to see it from the air while I lived there. It was not until I visited again as a tourist in early 2005 when I decided to take advantage of this incredible flight opportunity on my birthday! My friend Matt was the pilot (and he is still working there as a heli pilot doing charter flights if anyone is interested) of a small plane that I chartered for a one hour flight around the islands. As there were only 2 of us on the plane (plus Matt) we were able to take the door off the plane and shoot directly out into the air. For those who have never seen photos of Palau, it’s an incredibly beautiful country with hundreds of small karst islands surrounded by bright white sand. Perhaps the most picturesque area is the protected “70 Islands” preserve which is off limits to any and all visitors other than rangers and conservation teams due to the presence of nesting turtles. On this shot I simply had to lean out the window and snap away and allow nature to take care of the rest. I will let you decide if there are 70 islands or not…
Nikon D70, 12-24mm lens at 24mm, f10, 1/400
One of my all time favourite dive sites in the world is “Yap Caverns” in Yap, Micronesia. This site is located on the far southern tip of the main islands of Yap and is a series of ravines and gullies cut into the reef structure with many open caverns creating a maze like dive. The best way to dive this site is to jump in the shallows and follow the twisting caverns before emerging onto a steep wall with crystal blue water. The caverns themselves are in constant flux as they undergo a series of changes over a 3 to 4 year cycle with periods of bare rock showing at the bottom interchanged with periods of bright white sand filling the channels. Photographically, the periods of bright white sand is superior to the rocky periods for obvious reasons. I took this photo during a period of time when the bright white sand had settled back in to the caverns after several years of nothing but rocky bottom. To create this photo the conditions had to be perfect with the sun shining brightly overhead but still early enough in the morning that it was not overpowering. The key was to position myself so that the rock wall blocked the main portion of the sun in order to allow the sharp sunrays to filter through the water column. The other key ingredient to make this photo stand out was the fact that a bit of swell was running which stirred up the sand and created a “sand filter” that allowed the sunrays to shine through.
Yap Caverns, Yap, Micronesia, Aquatica housing and Nikon D70 with 12-24mm lens at 12mm, f8m, 1/500 (no strobes) ISO 200
This was taken at an Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok in Sabah Province, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. The Centre has a “feeding platform” where recently released orangutans often come to get a free meal in the morning, as they may not yet be fully adapted to life in the wild. This particular orangutan was a very shy individual and allowed the other primates to have first crack at the bananas that the handlers were handing out. However, she did keep a keen eye from afar on the goings on at the platform; I believe this photo really captures her look of curiosity and patience while awaiting her mid morning snack.
Nikon D70s, 400mm lens, f5.6, 1/80
I admit it, I have a bit of a weak spot for shallow hard coral gardens. I know most people think they are simply a nice bit of reef to look at, but don’t find them overly photogenic and give them a quick “once over” before looking for critters or heading down the wall. However, I could take photos of hard corals for hours on end. If an area has a healthy hard coral reef, then it’s usually a strong indicator of the overall health of the marine environment in that region. As hard corals are very fragile, they are often the first life forms to be destroyed when a major catastrophe happens such as a large storm or “El Nino” style event. Unfortunately, I have seen all too often the devastating effects of El Nino, typhoons, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks, and dynamite fishing; all of which can completely destroy a beautiful coral garden within a very short time. Therefore, when I find healthy and extensive hard coral gardens I just can’t help taking photos from every angle.
I visited a new location last week called Parigi Moutong, which is located in the SW corner of Tomini Bay in central Sulawesi, and I had the opportunity to get in the water for three dives. One of the first things that I noticed while surveying the area was the health of the hard corals as well as bright blue water. I have to say that the corals in Parigi Moutong were surprisingly healthy and abundant along the reef drop-offs and I spent most of my dives in the shallows documenting the beautiful forms of these reefs.
This photo is of the hard coral garden on the dive site “Rose”, was taken with a Nikon D7000 and Aquatica housing with a 10.5mm lens and Magic Filter at f8, 1/40. I simply made sure my strobes were turned off, had the sun at my back, aimed slightly down and fired away.