Archive for the ‘underwater photography’ Category

Note on photo above and below:  The Leopard shark is the jackpot of all newbie divers coming to Similans and the secret heart's desire of every experienced diver who says that they've seen it all before.

Note on photo above: The leopard shark is one of the few sharks who do not need to be on the constant move in order to breathe.  It rests usually on sandy bottoms, breathing rhythmically as if in a deep and restful sleep.

Big Stuff

We had the great fortune of seeing a total of 3 leopard sharks during this trip.  These charismatic fish always get excited squeals (muffled behind bubbles and regulators) from divers who've never seen them before and rings of strobe flashes from photographers who suddenly behave like paparazzi around a Hollywood star.

They do not seem ruffled by any of these.  However, do not attempt to touch these creatures as they can still bite (a diver previously had a finger bitten off from attempting to pat their prettily-spotted heads).   

Note on photo above:  A photo from one of the divers who jumped in with her point and shoot.  I jumped in without my setup in my excitement.

Small Big Stuff

We had the even greater fortune of swimming with a very young 1+ m-wide young Manta ray during a surface interval.  Just about every diver on the boat got in the water, with or without fins, with or without clothes, in the middle of lunch without a second thought at the sight of the ray breaching the surface.

The ray didn't seem perturbed by our presence.  And instead hung around long enough swimming up and down slowly, gracefully, turning, swooping eluding the divers who were chasing it and turning up again only when everyone had gotten over their excitement and were now quietly floating in the water quietly and respectfully admiring its beautiful presence.    










Great Wreck of a Dive

I have to admit that Boonsung Wreck is one of my favourite wrecks aside from the Alma Jane Wreck in Puerto Galera (which is also astounding).










There's always something somewhere all around the wreck, including amazing schools of sometimes 13 lionfish all hanging around in a sandy corner of the wreck.

The wreck is literally teeming with bulleye fishes and bannerfishes.  Every limb seems to be inhabited by either Scorpionfish, stonefish, pufferfish, porcupinefish, threaded through with morays and spotted by blennies. 











Note on photo of clown trigger above:  The colourfully and cheekily spotted clown trigger emerged during my safety stop and I could only take a topside shot.

Note on photo above: Hordes of bulleye fishes hang around the wreck with clusters of bannerfish (this particular species being Heniochus diphreutes).

Note on photo above: Schools of brassy drummers swim past in shallow waters.

Note on photo above: A pair of bannerfishes taking shelter from the currents behind a sea fan.

Note on photo above: Holiday makers having fun on the first few days of the new year.

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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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The Invincible Reason

Posted: September 23, 2009 in underwater photography

My First Dive Buddy

My first dive buddy has retired.  Over National Day holidays, it blacked out on me about 2 times on each of my 10 dives.  And I knew that it was ready to retire to flippant point and shoot land photography.








So what you see here will be the last underwater photos taken with the Olympus SP-700.  I wouldn't say that they are great, given my lack of strobe and limited capabilities of the SP-700. 

Lots of backscatter in these photos is due to newbie divers kicking up silt onto me, my camera and onto my subjects.  Sometimes that make for some strangely appealing photos (like the one below of the sad-looking tomato anemone fish framed in a cloud of silt).

My Olympus SP-700 was with me for my first whale shark sighting, my first manta ray sighting, my first turtle sighting, my first dives over 40m (even though the camera proofing is only up till 40m), and about 200 giant stride and backward roll knocks and scuffs.






When I was walking up and down considering whether or not to make you my first dive buddy, my Mum said: "What for?  At most take photos of you, take photos of me."  Little did she think that you and I would have seen so much together.

So rest well, my dear dive buddy.  Thank you for the great memories.  And in you go into my little shrine.




Now you can compete with my Canon 40D when we go on road trips together.  Or I guess not.  Because you froze up when I used you to take a photo of my Canon 40D.  Probably due to jealousy.
































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Note on photo:  The fish on the banner of my page is the juvenile of this fine creature.  In all of my hundred plus plus dives I have never encountered a juvenile a second time.  Adults are common but not juveniles.  So it possibly is a once-in-a-lifetime shot for me… …



















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Call Of The Sea

It's only been 2 days since Similans and already I'm missing the ocean.  Being confined to a minimum distance of a few metres from my toilet doesn't really help.  This is the second day of tummy runs.  I think that's a long time for food poisoning.  It looks like there won't be any butterfly hunting for me this weekend.

When I was much younger and read books about sailors who 'heard' the call of the sea and felt that they must leave their families and their wives and their children to go out 'there', I always thought that's so overly dramatic… what could possibly be so alluring about a vast blue piece of nothing as far as the eye can see?











But I may understand that now.  And that distinction quickly marks between the people who do and the people who don't just mid week through the whole stay on the boat.

There's something about boarding a boat and heading out there to who knows what lies over the horizon.  Technically, we do know where we're going but still… that feeling of adventure is thick in the sea breeze.  And by the 4th morning, if you're about to go crazy from being on a boat, it probably means you're adventurous but definitely not smitten by the sea yet (my dive buddy was going crazy… she said she couldn't talk to the same group of people day in and day out… she needed more variety…).
















I can't put my finger on it.  But nothing makes me happier than waking up in the pre-dawn hours to watch the sun rise every morning and the sun set every evening and spend every single surface interval lying under the blue skies watching the clouds go sailing by.  Every morning I woke up at 4:30 and went to bed at 9.  I hardly watched any TV and didn't drink more than 1 glass of alcohol and hardly interacted with anyone and was perfectly contented with that routine.

The only time I was active and moving on the boat was when I was floating around during my dives, like a large cloud through the thick shoals of fish wafting above the corals.  And that was as much movement as meditation.  I could say I was perfectly content. 












The thai boat crew and dive guides were great and the company I was with were really fun to be with.  😛












Yes I miss the sea.  I was surprised when I didn't even think about butterfly photography once during the whole trip.  It seems and feels like the whole thing was just a filler … an activity or lifeline between leaving the sea and retuning to it once again.

Being on a boat is not without its price though because on the last day (I had a friend who always said that the last diving day of every dive trip is the one day where things will happen if they are to happen.  It also happened to be exactly my Mum's 7th month anniversary and around the same time when she'd passed away… should I read into that I wonder…) I fell down a short flight of stairs leading down to the room where I was living in because I was dripping with seawater.

Because I was holding my underwater photography equipment (I was bringing it back to the room to charge the batteries), I instinctively wrapped my arms around the camera instead of trying to stop myself from falling, with the effect that I bounced off the steps on the back and gained a few large bruises on my rib and just under my hip. 

We didn't spend all of our time on the boat though.  There were a total of about two days spend around Kata Beach, one day before boarding and one day after leaving the Black Manta.











If you told the Tuk Tuk drivers to send you to Kwong, they'd know immediately where to go… because it's just that famous.  The price is not unreasonable either.  And the food's great.  I seriously don't think my food poisoning was due to them because I didn't eat their food the one day before I started having these runs.

Phuket is a really colourful place.  One of the main highlights was the street food (yes that might have caused my food poisoning)… which sometimes looks a bit dodgey but taste great all the same.












They also have major fan base for motorbikes.

Their wet market is excellent.  We had gone all the way near the hill just to get ingredients to make Mojitos.












Below are a shot of the dive guides just missing the lady Thai guide who is not in the picture.  She was really shy and I didn't get a chance to talk to her other than a few smiles.

The left most dive guide sleeps on the top deck on the mattresses in the photo I attached earlier.  Every morning before the sun rose, I'd come upper deck and find that he'd just awakened.  When he'd gone downstairs, I'd take over the mattress because it was still nice and warm and wait for the sun to rise.



























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