Tagged: 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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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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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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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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A Limerick about the Ornate Ghost Pipefish

There once was a pipefish so ornate,

the crinoid it lived in seemed cut-rate.

“This feather star’s plain,”

said the fish, “I’d not deign

“to inhabit so homely an estate.”

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Feather star (crinoid) in Anilao, Philippines

Creepy crinoids and the camouflaged critters that colonize them

What stalks across the seafloor and ripples around the reef?

What looks like a plant, but then GRABS you when you swim past?

What has no brain, an anus next to its mouth, and a bunch of sticky arms that reach out and attach to you?

What’s beautiful and terrifying all at once? The crinoid.

What’s underwater and creepier than a crinoid? NOTHING.

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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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Anilao, Batangas, Philippines: Frogfish

Frogfish are basically sponges with mouths

How to find a frogfish? Look for sponges. Look at all the sponges. If a sponge looks like it has a mouth, it might be a frogfish. If it doesn’t look like it has a mouth, it might still be a frogfish. Maybe poke it. If it moves, your chances that it is a frogfish just went up.

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Seahorse, Westpunt, Curaçao

The Recalcitrant Seahorse

Once upon a time, in a magical far away land called Curaçao, there was a seahorse.   And it was a jerk.   Every time I approached it with my camera, it would turn its back to me. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes, it even just got up and walked away. I hated that seahorse. And []

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Wednesday Link Roundup: Muck Diving in the Philippines, Shooting Supermacro with Wet Diopters, Diving Cleopatra’s Sunken Palace

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m spending the next week and a half in Anilao, Philippines, one of the muck diving Meccas of the world. Muck diving is so named for the muddy bottom composition at the dive site. This sediment is home to a host of exotic critters, such as nudibranchs, frogfish, pygmy seahorses, and blue ringed []

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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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Sarcastic Fringehead

Diving at La Jolla Shores is like Going to the Zoo…

… In that I always seem to end up seeing one of everything. Seriously, head down there with a creature checklist and cross it off, and then ascend when you’ve seen it all. WOW, what an amazing night dive at La Jolla Shores. We went in at 8pm and dropped into about 15 feet of []

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Melibe leonina nudibranch

Melibe leonina nudibranchs are weird and awesome

Nudibranchs never cease to amaze me. Just when I think I’ve had enough nudibranchs for, like, ever, a new one I’ve never seen before comes along and voilà, instant nudibranch love affair all over again. I’d seen the Melibe leonina nudibranch in photos but never in the flesh (in the slime?). Then we went for a shore []

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The Sea of Cortez is Riddled with Nudibranchs

Being the kiss of death that I am when it comes to dive trips and good conditions, I shouldn’t have been surprised when we arrived in the Sea of Cortez to find cold, green, murky, Socal-esque water. For months prior to the trip, I entertained fantasies of seeing whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, orcas, manta rays, []

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Acanthodoris rhodoceras nudibranch

New-dibranch: Acanthodoris rhodoceras

I love finding new critters I’ve never seen before. Sunday, Mat spotted this adorable tiny nudibranch in about 100 feet of water. We were diving off the Pacific Star near Blue Cavern on Catalina Island. It was a brave little thing, too; when I crash-landed into the sand next to it (oops), it retracted its little []

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Spanish Shawl nudibranch

A Sojourn with the Shawls

So I was having some issues with my strobe connection, which made my lighting situation pretty much suck, especially when it was called upon to light anything farther than 0.000000001 cm away. Incidentally, there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of sea creatures who tolerate that kind of proximity to us noisy bubble-blowers. So I opted for my old standby, the nudibranch, which either doesn’t care or can’t get away or both. And Spanish Shawls were all over the rocks. Awesome!

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Curaçao: Stunning Slugs, Snails, and Worms, or… the Pretty Yucky Stuff

Christmas Tree Worm Go anywhere stateside after Thanksgiving (hell, after Halloween), and Christmas stuff is everywhere. We arrived in Curaçao Thanksgiving Day, and I don’t recall seeing anything glaringly festive. That’s OK. The only Christmas tree I needed in the Caribbean was of the worm variety. Possibly the prettiest worm ever: the Christmas Tree Worm. []

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Curaçao: Claws, Jaws, and Cephalopods

Just some crustaceans, eels, and mollusks we encountered on our recent scuba diving trip to Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles: Banded coral shrimp…   The batwing coral crab…   The red reef hermit crab…   The white speckled hermit crab…   Banded clinging crabs… which I think are just ADORABLE…   Spotted cleaner shrimp…   The perennially-grumpy []

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Sarcastic Fringehead

Making my way back to Shores-cago

Okay, that was terrible. I’m sorry. Last night was my second night back in the cold, dark waters of sunny San Diego since our return from Belize. (I have so many photos from that trip that I’m intimidated by them. Eventually they’ll get sorted and posted. Promise!) Monday night, I joined the crew of the []

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Tube anemone at La Jolla Shores

Diving La Jolla Shores, San Diego: The Usual Suspects

I have a confession to make: It’s been weeks since my last time diving La Jolla Shores. Conditions have been less than wonderful and life has gotten in the way. This morning, a friend and I finally got back in the water (in honor of his birthday!) and had a great time. It sounds silly, []

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Casa de Balboa archways at Balboa Park, San Diego, California

Balboa Park: El Prado, San Diego, CA

This weekend, I visited Balboa Park in San Diego, California for the first time. Wow-what a cool spot! I can’t wait to go back and spend more time there. I spent most of my morning in the park’s El Prado area. Balboa Park Balboa Park is a 1200-acre green space in San Diego, CA. Named for the []

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San Diego Nudibranchs: Hermissenda crassicornis

When the visibility gets tough, the tough find nudibranchs

San Diego Nudibranchs A swell that has been plaguing the San Diego coastline with rough surf (seemingly forever…) finally subsided late last week, just in time for our scheduled Easter Sunday boat dive. Visibility was severely compromised, though, as a result of the extended period of rough ocean conditions. The water was green and murky… []

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