Filed Under: California

Diver and Sunburst

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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USS Palawan Wreck

Throwback Thursday: Technical Wreck Training and USS Palawan

Wreck diving is the ultimate in underwater exploration.

I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t into wrecks, at first. I didn’t see the point. They weren’t as pretty as real reefs, and it’s not like I was going to go inside a wreck, like, ever.

And then I got some tech diving training, and it changed my whole world.

I feel like that one warrants a repeat: Technical diving changes everything.

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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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Wolf Eel on USS Hogan Wreck, San Diego

Photo of the Week: A Wolf Eel on the USS Hogan Wreck

The USS Hogan wreck is pretty much the perfect San Diego dive site–the conditions are usually excellent, the sea life is abundant, and the depth and distance from port are such that the site has an air of exclusivity to it.

It’s also so rife with wolf eels that it almost–note I said almost–renders them old hat.

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San Diego, California: A Purple-Striped Sea Nettle (Chrysaora colorata) on the USS Hogan wreck near the US-Mexico Border.

The Purple-Striped Jellyfish/Sea Nettle (Chrysaora colorata)

There were ripping currents on the deep wrecks this past weekend, and with the currents came a whole slew of jellyfish and tunicates. I’m mildly obsessive about the Black Sea Nettle bloom we sometimes get in San Diego in the summers, and I’m well-known as a nudibranch zealot, so it should come as no surprise that I get pretty excited about other squishy invertebrates as well.

This is why, when I actually happened to look up for once and spotted a big Purple-Striped Jellyfish (Chrysaora colorata) crossing the anchor line about 20 feet over the USS Hogan wreck, I took a quick mental note of where my teammates were, and went up for a closer look.

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backtothefuchsia

Back to the Fuchsia

Everything came together. I navigated through crappy visibility. I clambered around in surge that felt like the spin cycle. I stared at rocks until my vision focused on tiny fuchsia Spanish Shawls, my favorite nudibranch. I shed the responsibility of someone else’s good time, and all I had was my own.

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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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Missile Tower artificial reef/wreck, San Diego

The Missile Tower Wreck (165′), San Diego

The Missile Tower in San Diego, formerly used by the U.S. Navy to test-launch Trident submarine missiles, now rests in 165 feet of water near the Mexican Border as an artificial reef.

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Diving the Eureka Oil Rig

Getting Riggy on Eureka

The silence of my rebreather allows me to hear every hydraulic hiss, every crash as steel collides with steel, the sounds of industry happening above the surface. I catch myself wondering whether the fish are anchovy or sardine, realizing that I have been contemplating the question for several minutes, lazily resolving the taxonomical conundrum with the label: baitfish.

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Catalina Island, California: Red Octopus

When the Red Octopus Isn’t: Cephalopod Camouflage in Catalina

More camouflage today–this time from the cephalopods. Red octopus ran rampant at Catalina Island last weekend, scavenging on the discarded squid egg cases littering the seafloor. As they passed over kelp, seagrass, sand, rubble, and the egg cases in various shades of white and brown, their skin color and texture shifted to blend the animal into its surroundings.

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Spanish-Shawl-Nudibranch-text

Obligatory End-of-Year Post (A Summary of 2013)

Because (a) It’s pretty much in the rules of blogging to make an end-of-year summary post, and (b) 2013 was full of great diving and photo ops. From technical wrecks to nudibranchs: a photographic summary of my underwater exploits in 2013.

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UB-88 Submarine U-boat wreck

Diving the UB-88 Submarine Wreck

Part of the allure of technical wreck diving is getting the opportunity to experience bits of history that very few others, not even many other divers, get to experience. This is why when I received an invitation to go dive the UB-88, a German WWI U-boat off San Pedro, California, and the only U-boat wreck on the West Coast, I jumped at the chance.

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Sun shining through the kelp canopy

Sunlight streaming through the Catalina kelp forest canopy

Just a quickie today. Visibility on our little island Santa Catalina is routinely much better than it is over here on the mainland, but I don’t usually see the Catalina kelp forest quite this good. This was taken off Two Harbors at Ship Rock.

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Divers in the wheelhouse

The Ruby E: One of San Diego’s Most Richly Historied Shipwrecks

The Ruby E, one of San Diego’s premiere wrecks for divers, has a rich and colorful history. Although initially commissioned to intercept Prohibition-Era alcohol shipments on behalf of the United States Coast Guard, she also assisted in Bering Sea patrols, thwarted Japanese task forces in the Aleutian Islands during WWII, and worked as a commercial fish processing boat in Central America. She now rests in 85′ of water outside of Mission Bay.

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