Diving into the New Year Part 1

Posted: January 5, 2010 in macro photography, underwater photography

Celebrating New Year At Sea

I returned back to Similans for the New Year on the PP Harmony this year.  This would make it my third liveaboard in Similans, my first 2 being Manta Queen II and the Black Manta.  We released firecrackers into the night sky at midnight floating in the peaceful waters in a protected bay near Tachai with various divers screaming in excitement at the flying sparks.  

Note on photos of collared butterflyfish: I had the opportunity to observe a school of very small/young collared butterflyfish in very shallow waters (5 – 10m) while snorkelling.

In deeper waters, the adult butterflyfish are usually found in adorable little couply pairs, feeding not far from each other.

I observed for the first time that the school of little butterflyfishes kept gathering under my shadow while I was floating on the surface, almost like how some young gather under floating debris for protection.  I didn't know butterflyfish did this too. 

Note on butterflyfish photos above and below:  Almost every single species of butterflyfish are found always in pairs, with the exception of the Raccoon butterflyfish.  I floated around it for a while but it didn't lead to its buddy.  I'd only ever seen it once or twice.  And I've never seen a pair of one while diving although I always see them in schools in books.











The First Underwater Photos with G10 and Ikelite

These photos were all taken with the G10 and a handheld Inon strobe.  The strobe was handheld due to an oversight on a connecting joint which is required to connect the strobe to the Ikelite plate. 

I held the G10 in its bulky Ikelite casing with much difficulty in my trigger hand (right hand) while triggering the camera with one finger.  Typically one would use the left hand to stabilise the bulky camera and use only the right hand to press the trigger.











Note on photos above: Exquisite butterflyfish are common in Similan waters but I can never get enough of them.  They are one of the more colourful butterflyfish species.

But I used my left arm and hand like a strobe arm, positioning the sensor below the strobe forward of the camera's flash so that the strobe would be triggered by the camera's flash.

The combination allowed for greater flexibility than a strobe arm.  However, my right hand was too small to properly grip the casing while triggering the camera at the same time. 

Note on photo above: Butterflyfish feed not far from their partners.  I always seem to bump into these particular guys along sandy slopes picking around.

It didn't help that the whole setup was negatively buoyant.

A lot of the photos are hit and run…or hit and slip (oops there goes the camera) and there are no photos of smaller critters because I didn't want to drop the huge casing onto the corals and crush them.

The hit and run didn't work badly for the fish.  As most of them aren't subjects which will allow you to take your time, especially butterflyfish… which I love to photograph.

Note on photo above: It took some quiet hovering before this couple came close enough to be shot.

The whole setup takes a good deal of getting used to.  By the third dive, I'd adjusted my buoyancy (2 bursts in the BC even though I usually am fine without inflation) and even the equipment I was carrying to accommodate the inconvenient setup.

However, the added air in the BC and the added bulk from the casing made it a terrible setup for fighting currents, which are extremely common in subject-rich areas like Richelieu Rock and Tachai Pinnacle.

Note on photo above: The beauty of having a strobe is that it lights up not just the subject but also the beautiful surroundings around the subject which are actually more brightly coloured and beautiful than what can be perceived with the naked eye in the blue depths.










Note on photos above: The three spot angelfish was not commonly seen during this trip and I was glad to pull off some shots on the only dive where I came across them.  Above, the striped surgeonfish is extremely common in shallow waters near Tachai.

The balance of the setup also takes some getting used to as I usually find the camera tilted in an angle when maintaining neutral buoyancy above the reef trying to position myself closer to the fish.

Note on photo above: This blue species of surgeonfish is also common around these parts.

Triggers, Surgeons and Angels

Besides my main love of butterflyfishes, I also can't resist following some of these fishes when encountered.  But surgeons are not easy to photograph, having a rather erratic path when sensing your awkward tilted camera and strobe presence.  Triggers and angels are relatvely easier as they tend to move slower, with the exception of the rugby-shaped muscular Titan trigger which is one of my most avoided subjects.



















Note on photo: Another nicely strobe-lit photo which was not previously possible with the small inbuilt flash of my old Olympus SP-700.

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