Filed Under: Macro

Painted greenling fish and Hermissenda crassicornis nudibranch.

Photo of the Week: Painted Greenling (and a Bonus Hermissenda Nudibranch)

Those who have been following this blog for any length of time will recall that finding tiny surprise creatures in a photo is one of my favorite things in the whole world.

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This Spanish Shawl is the Goldilocks of Nudibranchs

In unpredictable surge and weird currents, it’s a challenge and a half to get a Spanish Shawl photo “just right.”

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Macro Mania

I love shooting wide angle.

When the water is clear, there is nothing more gratifying than that fisheye lens and dome port. Wrecks. Kelp forests. Big animals. Coral reefs. And people. Wide angle means context, and people love context. People identify with the scene. They like seeing themselves, or people like themselves, in the frame.

When the water is clear.

But betting on clear water in San Diego is not a smart bet. So I often hedge with the macro lens.

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Point Loma Kelp, San Diego, California: Spanish Shawl (Flabellina iodinea) Nudibranch

Dreamy Nudibranch

The kelp forest can be a pretty dreamy place. The light coming through the kelp canopy has an ethereal beauty, and the gentle sway of the kelp stalks in light surge could rock you to sleep.

I wanted to capture that surreal, unearthly quality in this week’s nudibranch photos.

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Mexichromis porterae nudibranch with Podocerus cristatus amphipod hitchhiker

Photo of the Week: The Hitchhiker

If I’d had the ocular fortitude to spot the microscopic amphipod hitchhiking a ride on this nudibranch’s back, I would have spent all damn day shooting those two little guys. However, I never even saw it until I was home, my gear was rinsed and drying, and I was on the computer, heavily cropping this shot.

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Sunset at Key West, Florida

Back in Sun Diego: Solar-powered sea critters

Yesterday, while enjoying the heat at the pool, I briefly considered the possibility that maybe I was actually solar-powered. I don’t need food anymore, I thought, All I need is warmth.

This of course was incorrect, and I shuffled my flip-flops home almost immediately thereafter and ate some soup.

But it reminded me of critters that actually are solar-powered. Sea slugs, specifically.

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Anker's Whip Coral Shrimp (Pontonides ankeri)

This Shrimp is the Tiniest Sea Creature You’ve Never Seen

It’s easy for divers to get stoked on seeing the big-ticket critters. Manta rays? Majestic. Sharks? Spellbinding.

So far, we’re all on the same page here.

There’s this cognitive leap, though, that occurs for divers when they learn to find and appreciate the nudibranch. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, but this leap happens around the same time as divers learn to slow down and control their air consumption. Tiny things become cool, dives get longer, and there’s of course the self-satisfaction that comes out of being able to find and recognize the more obscure creatures.

But it takes a special breed to go for the borderline microscopic stuff. It’s possible they’ve taken the obscure critter-finding obsession too far: if you can barely see the thing without a magnifying glass, and your dive buddies can’t see it at all, are you really in your right mind?

Probably not, but that doesn’t seem to stop me, now does it?

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Ringed or Banded Pipefish (Dunckerocampus dactyliophorus), another member of the Syngnathidae family

The Reproductive Habits of the Ghost Pipefish (A Limerick)

When asked of his ties to the seahorse,

the ghost pipefish replied in due course:

“Though I lack a pouch,

“our girls are no slouch,

“and they tend to their eggs without remorse.”

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Why the Mantis Shrimp Rocks

Although named for its resemblance to both praying mantis and shrimp, the mantis shrimp is neither; it’s a stomatopod, in fact only a distant relative of crabs, shrimps, and lobsters. Stomatopods can be loosely divided into two groups based on how they kill prey with their raptorial appendages (I just want to say that over and over again, it sounds so badass). But just wait: the badassery gets better.

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Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Pygmy seahorse

In Pursuit of Pygmy Seahorses

The scene is a hotel room in Anilao, Philippines. Our heroine is standing over a console table, assembling an underwater camera, when her husband enters the room with news from their dive guide.

HUSBAND: The boat is going looking for pygmy seahorses today. How big are they, anyway?

Our heroine looks up, instinctively making a gesture with her thumb and forefinger suggesting about an inch, but seems less certain as she begins to waffle bigger and smaller. The husband smirks at her indecision.

Cut to underwater. The dive guide signals for our heroine’s attention and begins to methodically pick through a purple gorgonian fan, despite the fact that it appears completely barren of life.

He points at a spot on the fan. She squints.

He points again, and a piece of the fan no larger than her pinky fingernail moves slightly. She squints. Recognition washes over her face as it registers that pygmy seahorses are much, much smaller than she had originally thought.

Photographing pygmy seahorses is going to take some work.

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Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Chromodoris magnifica nudibranch

How to Fall in Love with Nudibranchs in 12 Easy Steps

It is no secret that I love the nudibranch. But it may come as a surprise that not everyone shares my branchophile tendencies. Fortunately, I have devised a twelve-step program to convert even the most reluctant slug-lover lover into a nudi connoisseur.

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