Photographs of Southern California’s Spring Wildflowers — the 2017 Super Bloom

Carlsbad, Desert, Joshua Tree, San Diego, Wildflowers

During March and early April of this year I was chasing the wildflower bloom around the southernmost parts of California. The wildflower bloom was indeed spectacular and went on for weeks with vast displays of color. Was it a “super bloom”? I’m not sure. Somewhere during March the interwebs began using “super bloom” and the term stuck. I’ve seen wildflower blooms equally spectacular in the past, especially in the desert, so perhaps those past events were all “super blooms” as well. One huge difference this year is that social media and news outlets picked up on it and created crowds the like I have never seen before. I did much of my photographing midweek in order for me to find solitude in the flower fields — weekends were out of the question due to the sheer number of people. My outings took me to Anza Borrego Desert State Park (many times), Joshua Tree National Park, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Elsinore, Hemet, Santa Rosa Plateau, Mount Palomar, La Jolla, and my backyard of La Costa and Carlsbad. Below are 42 of my favorite spring wildflower images from the Super Bloom of 2017. They are presented in the order in which they were made, starting around March 6 and ending mid April. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California Poppies, Elsinore

California Poppies, Elsinore
Image ID: 33115
Location: Elsinore, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33120
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Desert Lily in bloom, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Desert Lily in bloom, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33124
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33126
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33131
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

California Poppies, Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

California Poppies, Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet
Image ID: 33134
Location: Hemet, California, USA

Wildflowers carpets the hills at Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

Wildflowers carpets the hills at Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet
Image ID: 33139
Location: Hemet, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33142
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33144
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33146
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Chocolate lily growing among grasses on oak-covered hillsides. The chocolate lily is a herbaceous perennial monocot that is increasingly difficult to find in the wild due to habitat loss. The flower is a striking brown color akin to the color of chocolate, Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, California

Chocolate lily growing among grasses on oak-covered hillsides. The chocolate lily is a herbaceous perennial monocot that is increasingly difficult to find in the wild due to habitat loss. The flower is a striking brown color akin to the color of chocolate.
Image ID: 33151
Location: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33154
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33161
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Panorama of California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Panorama of California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33164
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33168
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33173
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33179
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33184
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33186
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33188
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33192
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33193
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33198
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33200
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Purple owls clover, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Purple owls clover, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33208
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Wildflowers, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Wildflowers, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33213
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33220
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33227
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

A Panorama of Wildflowers blooms across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

A Panorama of Wildflowers blooms across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33229
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Mustard and other Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Mustard and other Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33231
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33234
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33237
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33238
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33240
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33242
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33243
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33244
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33246
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33249
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33252
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33257
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers along the La Jolla Cove cliffs, sunrise

Wildflowers along the La Jolla Cove cliffs, sunrise
Image ID: 33264
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Photographs of Clipperton Island, Ile de Passion

Aerial Photography, Clipperton Island, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

In May of 2017 I was fortunate to join an expedition to Clipperton Island (more info on Wikipedia’s Clipperton page). Organized by Michel Labrecque and Julie Ouimet and conducted under French permit HC / 1485 / CAB with generous support from Oris Watches and many others, our two-week trip used San Jose del Cabo as the launching point. The boat Nautilus Undersea (formerly Undersea Hunter of Cocos) — a very capable and seaworthy dive boat — would be our home at sea. Hailing from Canada, France (including New Caledonia), England, Mexico and the United States, our talented group of scientists, journalists, geographers, film makers, explorers and photographers spent 6 days at the tiny, remote atoll.

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32835
Location: Clipperton Island, France

My primary interest was simply to experience the trip, to relax and allow myself to absorb as much of the island as I could with all my senses without getting too bogged down with the distraction of photography concerns. I have visited and dived many of the notable islands in the near eastern Pacific, from California’s Channel Islands south to the Galapagos archipelago, many of them repeatedly, but I had not yet seen Clipperton Island so in that sense it was very high on my bucket list of islands. In spite of the fact I will probably never return to Clipperton Island, I had no real photographic agenda. I brought a drone, three underwater cameras and one topside camera and just let the daily pace of the trip govern which I would pick up and use and where I would point it.

Coconut palm trees on Clipperton Island, aerial photo. Clipperton Island is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Coconut palm trees on Clipperton Island, aerial photo. Clipperton Island is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32846
Location: Clipperton Island, France

The diving at Clipperton Island was very nice with healthy coral reefs and a variety of familiar-looking fish species. I was most impressed with the vast fields of huge, round Porites lobata coral heads. In many parts of the reef these enormous Porites clusters have grown together into a single shelf 20-50 yards across, very impressive indeed. There was a considerable amount of fishing gear found on the reefs, and our sitings of sharks were few and far between, evidence perhaps of fishing pressure on the shark species although that is not a certain conclusion.

Topside the island is harsh: little shade, no water, and very hot. Sunburn was a real risk since the equatorial sun would not only strike exposed skin from above but also reflected from the ocean as well as the bright white coralline rubble beaches. How the seabirds survive at Clipperton, or any of the similar islands, is beyond me. Most notable is the amount of plastic debris found on the island, testament to the seemingly insurmountable amount of plastic now present in our oceans. Several members of the scientific team performed surveys of the various plastics found on the beach to better understand where the debris is originating and how it is composed.

The French tricolor flag flies over Clipperton Island at sunset. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

The French tricolor flag flies over Clipperton Island at sunset. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32902
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Photographically, I was happiest with the aerial images I made with my drone. I put the flying camera in the air as often as I could, 6-8 times a day, learning what did and did not work as far as composing sweeping panoramic views of the island as well as images depicting details of the lagoon, palm groves, beaches and Clipperton Rock. There is really no way to fully appreciate the beauty of Clipperton Island without seeing it from a position of some vertical relief. The contrast of the deep, clean, blue oceanic water surrounding the crisp white beaches, surrounding a contrasting set of green, black and orange lagoon hues, can only be appreciated by the birds that inhabit the island, the occasional airliner flying far overhead, and now, thanks to drones, us.

Below are a few of my favorite images from the trip, or you can see my entire Clipperton Island photo gallery. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial photo of M/V Nautilus Undersea at Clipperton Island.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial photo of M/V Nautilus Undersea at Clipperton Island. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32886
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32889
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Clipperton Rock, a 95' high volcanic remnant, is the highest point on Clipperton Island, a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Clipperton Rock, a 95′ high volcanic remnant, is the highest point on Clipperton Island, a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32940
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blotcheye soldierfish and Clipperton Island coral reef, Porites sp, Porites lobata, Porites arnaudi

Blotcheye soldierfish and Clipperton Island coral reef, Porites sp.
Image ID: 32951
Species: Porites lobata, Porites arnaudi
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blue-spotted jacks and coral reef, Clipperton Island

Blue-spotted jacks and coral reef, Clipperton Island.
Image ID: 32952
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Fishing Longline, Wrapped and Embedded in Coral Head, Clipperton Island

Fishing Longline, Wrapped and Embedded in Coral Head, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32955
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blue-striped Snapper and Panamic Green Moray Eel on coral reef, Clipperton Island, Gymnothorax castaneus

Blue-striped Snapper and Panamic Green Moray Eel on coral reef, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32957
Species: Panamic Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax castaneus
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific, Porites lobata

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific
Image ID: 32963
Species: Porites lobata
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Underwater ROV Preparing to Dive at Clipperton Island

Underwater ROV Preparing to Dive at Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32964
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific, Porites lobata

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific
Image ID: 32998
Species: Porites lobata
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Bigeye Trevally, Bigeye Jacks, Caranx sexfasciatus, Clipperton Island

Bigeye Trevally, Bigeye Jacks, Caranx sexfasciatus, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33021
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Brown booby, Clipperton island, Sula leucogaster

Brown booby, Clipperton island
Image ID: 33088
Species: Brown Booby, Sula leucogaster
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Nazca Booby, Clipperton Island

Nazca Booby, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33093
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Plastic Trash and Debris, Clipperton Island

Plastic Trash and Debris, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33098
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Sunrise over Clipperton Island, Panorama

Sunrise over Clipperton Island, Panorama
Image ID: 33103
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island.  The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island. The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32866
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island.  The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island. The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32878
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Booby Bird Carcass on Barren Coral Rubble Beach, Clipperton Island

Booby Bird Carcass on Barren Coral Rubble Beach, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33095
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Skiff and Palm Trees, Sunrise, Clipperton Island

Skiff and Palm Trees, Sunrise, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33102
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Steller Sea Lions, Eumetopias jubatus, Hornby Island, British Columbia

Canada, Hornby Island, Sea Lion, Underwater Photography

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32660
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I have a real love for pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). I’ve been in the water with many big animals including whales, sharks, dolphins, massive schools of fish, mola mola, etc etc, but pinnipeds — particularly sea lions — are the most fun to be with. Sea lions are typically curious and engaging, and the speed with which they move usually makes photographing them a challenge. The Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) at Norris Rocks near Hornby Island in British Columbia, however, take the cake. They are akin to gigantic puppies. They are considerably larger than California sea lions, a fact which was immediately apparent the first time I was pinned to the reef by a friendly mob of 20 juvenile Stellers. I had been warned about their antics by a few buddies who have been diving with them for years. One fellow even jokingly (or not) suggested a helmet might be helpful. I processed all this info and wondered whether I should be worried. I had never been in 45F-degree water, had not been in a drysuit in 15 years, was admittedly a little nervous about just surviving in such chilly water, so my dive plan was to hang back and watch the other divers get pummeled. It did not go as planned. Less than 5 minutes after I first got in the water at Norris Rocks I found myself face down on the reef, both wrists and both ankles firmly in the grip (re: mouth) of at least four different sea lions, regulator gently tugged by a fifth, and several others trying to nuzzle their faces close to mine for a look. Holy shit, I thought, is this stupid, crazy or super fun? Yes, yes, and yes. Every piece of my gear was a chew toy. Every one of my limbs was a chew toy. My head was a chew toy. It was an exhilarating, intimidating, wonderful experience to be with a mob of Steller sea lions, such a dense group that it would often blot out what little sunlight was reaching the bottom. While I try to avoid anthropomorphising the animals I meet underwater, these Stellers were so inquisitive, with so much very close eye contact, that every dive was a moving experience. Every time I got out of the water I felt more alive than I had in a long time. It only took a few dives for me to become comfortable with the action, and I found that even while getting mobbed I was still able to lift my camera up enough to snap off a photo or two. Granted, most of them were crap, either because the sea lions were too close for the strobe to light properly, or both strobes had been yanked backward by a couple sea lions, or there were simply too many bubbles in the water for anything sensible to be photographed.

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller Sea Lions and Bald Eagles atop Norris Rocks, Hornby Island and Vancouver Island, panoramic photo
Image ID: 32659
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

I joined underwater photographer Richard Salas for the week. Richard’s work is exceptional and caught my eye some years ago. His style of lighting is especially appealing, bringing his broad experience as a studio and commercial photographer to the underwater world. When I found that my schedule allowed me to join him at Hornby Island to dive with Steller sea lions, I jumped at the chance in spite of my lack of experience in cold water. He gave me lots of great advice beforehand. Armed with a new drysuit I joined Richard and his group of friends at Hornby Island Diving. Rob and Amanda Zielinski run the lodge and dive operation on their property at the waters edge on beautiful Hornby Island. Rob took us diving in his comfortable, quick boat at dive spots just a few minutes from the dock. Amanda runs the lodge where we experienced superb food and lots of peace and quiet to keep us comfortable and warm between dives. Hornby Island Diving is a excellent operation, one of the best I have seen, which is especially important given the weather and water temps can be tough in winter. We had overcast skies most days with a couple of blue sky days, very little wind and calm seas. Water temps were right around 45F the entire week. Water visibility was great, relatively clean with a beautiful emerald green color. We dove twice a day with lunch between dives. I took a day off midweek to make a couple really beautiful hikes on Hornby Island. Over 6 days of diving I made 10 dives at Norris Rocks (and a couple dives elsewhere) and shot thousands of photographs, trying to squeek out a few good images in the chaos of action, bubbles, flippers and teeth that really portray how beautiful these huge creatures are. Gradually some keepers emerged, a couple on each dive, and in the end I was pleased with the images I made. These are some of my favorites. I am planning to return in 2019 for more. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32661
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32662
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32663
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32664
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32670
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32679
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32685
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater,  a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Young Steller sea lions mock jousting underwater, a combination of play and mild agreession, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32695
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater bubble display, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32757
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32675
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32687
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Selfie with Steller sea lion underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32737
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32777
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Steller sea lions underwater, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32788
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada, Eumetopias jubatus

Diver with Steller sea lions, black and white, Norris Rocks, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Image ID: 32789
Species: Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada

Natural History Photography – Best Photos of 2016

Best Photographs of the Year

My Best Natural History Photographs of 2016

2016 offered opportunities for me to photograph underwater and aerial views in the Sea of Cortez, sharks in the Bahamas, stingrays in the Cayman Islands, astrophotography landscapes in Grand Teton National Park, summer in Lake Tahoe, autumn in Mineral King, the Zion Narrows again, and as always America’s Finest City, San Diego.

This is the tenth year in a row I have done an annual retrospective. My creative goal for any one year is, as it always has been, to shoot 3-4 world-class images and 10-15 portfolio-quality images. Below are my favorites from 2016. If you like these feel free to check out previous years’ favorites as well: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007. Also, be sure to check out Jim Goldstein’s blog, where he collects the “best of the year” collections of many talented photographers.  Thanks Jim! Cheers and Thanks for looking!

Two tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier

Two tiger sharks
Image ID: 31875
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran

Great hammerhead shark
Image ID: 31966
Species: Great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran
Location: Bimini, Bahamas

Caribbean reef shark, Carcharhinus perezi

Caribbean reef shark
Image ID: 31977
Species: Caribbean reef shark, Carcharhinus perezi
Location: Bahamas

Lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris

Lemon shark
Image ID: 32015
Species: Lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris
Location: Bahamas

Southern Stingray, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island

Southern Stingray, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32070
Location: Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Beautiful Caribbean coral reef, sponges and hard corals, Grand Cayman Island

Beautiful Caribbean coral reef, sponges and hard corals, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32101
Location: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, Grand Cayman Island

Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32137
Location: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Southern Stingrays, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island

Southern Stingrays, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32162
Location: Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Southern Stingray, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island

Southern Stingray, Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32165
Location: Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Beautiful Caribbean coral reef, sponges and hard corals, Grand Cayman Island

Beautiful Caribbean coral reef, sponges and hard corals, Grand Cayman Island
Image ID: 32178
Location: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Aspens show fall colors in Mineral King Valley, part of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada, California

Aspens show fall colors in Mineral King Valley, part of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada, California
Image ID: 32257
Location: Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, California, USA

Aspens show fall colors in Mineral King Valley, part of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada, California

Aspens show fall colors in Mineral King Valley, part of Sequoia National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada, California
Image ID: 32273
Location: Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, California, USA

Teton Range from Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park

Teton Range from Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park
Image ID: 32312

Milky Way over T.A. Moulton Barn, Grand Teton National Park

Milky Way over T.A. Moulton Barn, Grand Teton National Park
Image ID: 32316

Eagle Falls at Sunrise, Lake Tahoe, California

Eagle Falls at Sunrise, Lake Tahoe, California
Image ID: 32326
Location: Lake Tahoe, California, USA

Split view of Trees and Underwater Boulders, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Split view of Trees and Underwater Boulders, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Image ID: 32331
Location: Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA

Split view of Trees and Underwater Boulders, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Split view of Trees and Underwater Boulders, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Image ID: 32334
Location: Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA

Boulders underwater, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Boulders underwater, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Image ID: 32358
Location: Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA

Punta Colorada and San Gabriel Bay, aerial photo, Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Punta Colorada and San Gabriel Bay, aerial photo, Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 32368
Location: Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California, Mexico

Los Islotes, part of Archipelago Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Aerial Photo

Los Islotes, part of Archipelago Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Aerial Photo
Image ID: 32397
Location: Baja California, Mexico

Punta Alta and La Cueva, Baja California, Sea of Cortez, aerial photograph

Punta Alta and La Cueva, Baja California, Sea of Cortez, aerial photograph
Image ID: 32435
Location: Punta Alta, Baja California, Mexico

Isla San Francisquito, Aerial Photo, Sea of of Cortez

Isla San Francisquito, Aerial Photo, Sea of of Cortez
Image ID: 32441
Location: Isla San Francisquito, Baja California, Mexico

Boat Ambar and School of Fish, Ensenada el Embudo, Isla Partida, aerial photo

Boat Ambar and School of Fish, Ensenada el Embudo, Isla Partida, aerial photo
Image ID: 32456
Location: Isla Partida, Baja California, Mexico

Sea Lions playing in shallow water, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez

Sea Lions playing in shallow water, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 32506
Location: Los Islotes, Baja California, Mexico

Sea Lion Underwater, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez

Sea Lion Underwater, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 32522
Location: Los Islotes, Baja California, Mexico

California Sea Lion Hunts in a School of Scad Fish, Sea of Cortez

California Sea Lion Hunts in a School of Scad Fish, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 32600
Location: Baja California, Mexico

Fall Colors in the Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

Fall Colors in the Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
Image ID: 32609
Location: Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah, USA

The Virgin River Narrows, where the Virgin River has carved deep, narrow canyons through the Zion National Park sandstone, creating one of the finest hikes in the world

The Virgin River Narrows, where the Virgin River has carved deep, narrow canyons through the Zion National Park sandstone, creating one of the finest hikes in the world.
Image ID: 32622
Location: Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Aerial Video of Archipelago Espiritu Santo and the Sea of Cortez

Aerial Photography, Mexico, Sea of Cortez, Video

In October I was fortunate to be a guest aboard a friend’s boat for 9 days, diving the islands north of La Paz, Mexico. One of our goals was to obtain visuals of the Archipelago Espiritu Santo as part of an effort to support legislative proposals seeking greater environmental protections for the area. The Archipelago, consisting of three islands — Isla Partida, Los Islotes and Isla Espiritu Santo — is considered by many to be the most beautiful island group in the Sea of Cortez. Following is a rough edit, a sampler, of some of the video we obtained. Be sure to click the small gear at lower right and select “1080 HD”. Cheers and thanks for watching!

Humpback Whale Underwater Bubble Streaming Among Rowdy Groups in Hawaii

Hawaii, Humpback Whale

During the years I worked for Dan Salden and Hawaii Whale Research Foundation studying humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Hawaii, we usually looked for surface active groups (“rowdy groups“) when possible, since these groups offered the greatest potential for collecting the social affiliation information that was the focus of Dan’s decades of research on humpback whales. Bubble blasts and bubble streaming were often a part of the rowdy group’s activities, by one or several whales. We would spend time photographing as many fluke IDs as we could, to identify which whales were in the group, as well as noting those animals that would depart or join during the time we were observing them. Eventually, if conditions were right, we would enter the water to observe them below the surface. The goal at this point was to determine the roles that the individual whales had: primary escort, challenging escorts, focal female, peripheral individuals, etc. Often these roles are clear from topside views, but not always, so getting in the water is important. Gradually, over years of observation, we accumulated a lot of interesting, unique video of active groups, including the bubble streaming that would occur in these groups. I had opportunities to shoot still photographs of the bubble streaming too. Below are some of my favorite images of humpback whales from my time in Hawaii. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater near mother and calf. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf. The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother.
Image ID: 05928
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female (left) during a competitive group.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 02828
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Primary escort male humpback whale bubble streaming during competitive group socializing.  This primary escort is swimming behind a female. The bubble curtain may be a form of intimidation towards other male escorts that are interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Primary escort male humpback whale bubble streaming during competitive group socializing. This primary escort is swimming behind a female.
Image ID: 04432
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf (barely seen in the distance), Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf (barely seen in the distance).
Image ID: 04434
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female during competitive group activities.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female during competitive group activities.
Image ID: 04444
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a mother and calf.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 05925
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Male North Pacific humpback whale streams a trail of bubbles.  The primary male escort whale (center) creates a curtain of bubbles underwater as it swims behind a female (right), with other challenging males trailing behind in a competitive group.  The bubbles may be a form of intimidation from the primary escort towards the challenging escorts, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Male North Pacific humpback whale streams a trail of bubbles. The primary male escort whale (center) creates a curtain of bubbles underwater as it swims behind a female (right), with other challenging males trailing behind in a competitive group.
Image ID: 05968
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.   The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female, .  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby males interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group. The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female.
Image ID: 06001
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.   The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims closely behind a female, .  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other nearby males interested in the female, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male north Pacific humpback whale bubble streaming underwater in the midst of a competitive group.
Image ID: 06037
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.  The male escort humpback whale seen here is emitting a curtain of bubbles as it swims behind a female (left) during a competitive group.  The bubble curtain may be meant as warning or visual obstruction to other male whales interested in the mother, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Adult male humpback whale bubble streaming underwater.
Image ID: 02826
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae

NOTE: These photographs were taken during Hawaii Whale Research Foundation research activities conducted under NOAA/NMFS and State of Hawaii scientific research permits.

New Tiger Shark Photographs (Galeocerdo Cuvier)

Bahamas, Sharks, Underwater Photography, Wildlife

I made new tiger shark photos in the Bahamas last month. Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) are really impressive fish, capable predators and in control of their surroundings. It was a real pleasure spending hours in the water with them swimming around us. Tiger sharks are typically about 11′ – 17′ in length (3.25-4.25m) and weigh in at 800-1400 lb (375-640 kg), although the largest recorded was 24′ (7.25m) long and weighed 1900 lb (900kg). Tiger sharks tend to be solitary hunters, but we sometimes had 3 or 4 simultaneously because we were baiting them. Many thanks to Jonathan Bird for organizing the trip on the Dolphin Dream, it was a superb trip and I look forward to doing it again. If you like these, please see more of my tiger shark photographs. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Two tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier

Two tiger sharks
Image ID: 31875
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark and underwater photographer, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark and underwater photographer
Image ID: 31877
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark and horse-eye jacks, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark and horse-eye jacks
Image ID: 31880
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark and underwater cameraman Jonathan Bird filming for television documentary, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark and underwater cameraman Jonathan Bird filming for television documentary.
Image ID: 31882
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark and underwater photographer, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark and underwater photographer
Image ID: 31900
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark close up view, including nostrils and ampullae of Lorenzini, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark close up view, including nostrils and ampullae of Lorenzini
Image ID: 31901
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark close up view, including nostrils and ampullae of Lorenzini, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark close up view, including nostrils and ampullae of Lorenzini
Image ID: 31949
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark
Image ID: 31881
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark swimming over coral reef, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark swimming over coral reef
Image ID: 31889
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Tiger shark close up view, including nictating membrane covering the eye, nostrils and ampullae of Lorenzini, Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger shark close up view, including nictating membrane covering the eye, nostrils and ampullae of Lorenzini
Image ID: 31925
Species: Tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier
Location: Bahamas

Keywords: tiger shark, picture, photo, Galeocerdo cuvier, underwater, stock photo, image, photograph.

Photographs of Namena Marine Reserve, Fiji Islands

Fiji, Seascapes, Underwater Photography

The Namena Marine Reserve is one of the most spectacular marine areas in the Fiji Islands. Since it is located between the two main islands Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Namena Marine Reserve is bathed with strong ocean currents that pass through that gap. It was established in 1997 and consists of about 70 square kilometers surrounding the small island of Namenalala. We visited and dived the remarkable reefs of Namena while on the excellent liveaboard boat Nai’a. A small user fee is required, proceeds of which are used by the Kubula Community in cooperation with the Coral Reef Alliance to manage and protect the area and its marine inhabitants. If you like these images, be sure to see more photos from Namena Marine Reserve. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fishes, feeding on plankton in strong ocean currents over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fishes, feeding on plankton in strong ocean currents over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world.
Image ID: 31319
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Spectacular pristine tropical reef with vibrant colorful soft corals. Dendronephthya soft corals, crinoids, sea fan gorgonians and schooling Anthias fishes, pulsing with life in a strong current over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Crinoidea, Gorgonacea, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Spectacular pristine tropical reef with vibrant colorful soft corals. Dendronephthya soft corals, crinoids, sea fan gorgonians and schooling Anthias fishes, pulsing with life in a strong current over a pristine coral reef. Fiji is known as the soft coral capitlal of the world.
Image ID: 31320
Species: Crinoid Feather Star, Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Gorgonian, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Crinoidea, Gorgonacea
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Beautiful South Pacific coral reef, with Plexauridae sea fans, schooling anthias fish and colorful dendronephthya soft corals, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Gorgonacea, Plexauridae, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Beautiful South Pacific coral reef, with Plexauridae sea fans, schooling anthias fish and colorful dendronephthya soft corals, Fiji
Image ID: 31321
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Gorgonian, Anthias, Sea Fan, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Gorgonacea, Plexauridae
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Sinularia flexibilis finger leather soft coral, Fiji, Sinularis flexibilis, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Sinularia flexibilis finger leather soft coral, Fiji
Image ID: 31326
Species: Sinularia Soft Coral, Sinularis flexibilis
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Crinoid clinging to gorgonian sea fan, Fiji, Crinoidea, Gorgonacea, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Crinoid clinging to gorgonian sea fan, Fiji
Image ID: 31404
Species: Crinoid Feather Star, Gorgonian, Crinoidea, Gorgonacea
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Acropora coral (foreground) on South Pacific Coral Reef, Fiji, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Acropora coral (foreground) on South Pacific Coral Reef, Fiji
Image ID: 31406
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Various stony and soft corals on pristine tropical reef. Table coral competes for space on the coral reef by growing above and spreading over other coral species keeping them from receiving sunlight, Pseudanthias, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Various stony and soft corals on pristine tropical reef. Table coral competes for space on the coral reef by growing above and spreading over other coral species keeping them from receiving sunlight.
Image ID: 31408
Species: Anthias, Pseudanthias
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Sinularia flexibilis finger leather soft coral, Fiji, Sinularis flexibilis, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Sinularia flexibilis finger leather soft coral, Fiji
Image ID: 31420
Species: Sinularia Soft Coral, Sinularis flexibilis
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

Sarcophyton leather coral on diverse coral reef, Fiji, Pseudanthias, Sarcophyton, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Sarcophyton leather coral on diverse coral reef, Fiji
Image ID: 31592
Species: Sarcophyton Soft Coral, Anthias, Pseudanthias, Sarcophyton
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

The Spectacular Coral Reef Walls of Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji

Fiji, Seascapes, Underwater Photography, Vatu i Ra Passage

One of most spectacular underwater sights I saw while in Fiji was the incredible wall at Mount Mutiny, a huge coral bommie in the Bligh Waters near the middle of the Fiji Islands. Mount Mutiny is surrounded by deep water and typically bathed in strong ocean currents rich with plankton, so the vast walls are covered with colorful invertebrate life, most notably large expanses of Chironephthya and Dendronephthya soft corals. Here are some of my favorite images from Mount Mutiny which I visited while on the liveaboard dive boat Nai’a, photographed at depths ranging from about 80′ to as shallow as 15′. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Red whip coral, Ellisella ceratophyta, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji, Gorgonacea, Ellisella ceratophyta, Vatu I Ra Passage

Red whip coral, Ellisella ceratophyta, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji
Image ID: 31332
Species: Gorgonian, Whip Coral, Gorgonacea, Ellisella ceratophyta
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Crinoid clinging to gorgonian sea fan, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji, Crinoidea, Gorgonacea, Vatu I Ra Passage

Crinoid clinging to gorgonian sea fan, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji
Image ID: 31368
Species: Crinoid Feather Star, Gorgonian, Crinoidea, Gorgonacea
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Branching whip coral (Ellisella sp.) captures passing planktonic food in ocean currents, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji, Ellisella, Vatu I Ra Passage

Branching whip coral (Ellisella sp.) captures passing planktonic food in ocean currents, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji
Image ID: 31369
Species: Branching Whip Coral, Ellisella
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Tubastrea micrantha, Vatu I Ra Passage

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji
Image ID: 31370
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Black Sun Coral, Dendronephthya, Tubastrea micrantha
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Brain corals on tropical coral reef, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji. Left brain coral is Symphllia, right bain coral is Platygyra lamellina, Symphyllia, Platygyra lamellina, Vatu I Ra Passage

Brain corals on tropical coral reef, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji. Left brain coral is Symphllia, right bain coral is Platygyra lamellina.
Image ID: 31371
Species: Brain Coral, Symphyllia, Platygyra lamellina
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji
Image ID: 31496
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage

Spectacularly colorful dendronephthya soft corals on South Pacific reef, reaching out into strong ocean currents to capture passing planktonic food, Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji
Image ID: 31499
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Colorful Chironephthya soft coral coloniea in Fiji, hanging off wall, resembling sea fans or gorgonians. Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji, Gorgonacea, Chironephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage

Colorful Chironephthya soft coral coloniea in Fiji, hanging off wall, resembling sea fans or gorgonians. Mount Mutiny, Bligh Waters, Fiji.
Image ID: 31694
Species: Gorgonian, Chironephthya Soft Coral, Gorgonacea, Chironephthya
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

California Sea Lions at Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Baja California, Mexico

Mexico, Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Photography

California sea lions underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

California sea lions underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31205
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

In October, Tracy and I joined our friends Mike and Sherry, Skip, Shirley, Barb and Walt for 9 wonderful days diving in the Sea of Cortez around La Paz. It was the first time Tracy and I had been diving together for any length of time in 18 years. It was so much fun to be back in the water together and the Sea of Cortez in Fall is about as relaxed, easy, warm and fun as can be. Los Islotes, a small island just north of Espiritu Santo, is famous for its rookery of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). I love diving there, more than perhaps any other place in the Sea of Cortez, and in particular like being there early or late in the day when there are no day boats around. (I could have spent the entire trip at Islotes, but fortunately for the others we did venture north to some relatively unexplored, colorful and fishy reefs that Mike has found over the years and keeps under wraps.) Islotes was as fishy as I have ever seen it, with enormous dense polarized schools of sardines along with pargo and other larger reef fish which the Sea of Cortez used to have in abundance but which are now harder to find. Los Islotes does have some legal protections against fishing, and these protections help to keep the waters around Islotes reasonably full of big fish and other marine life. But Islotes is also under threat of illegal fishing, and it is only through vigilance by those who care about a healthy Sea of Cortez that the laws that are on the books will mean something. Seawatch has made some progress on this front, but its difficult to keep eyes on Islotes 24-hours a day.

Here are some of my favorite images from our October dives around Islotes. I don’t keep a log any more but I would guess I spent about 30 hours underwater just photographing the sea lions, really getting to know several adult groups and having a great time watching how one bull in particular would manage his harem of females over the course of 4-5 days, not to mention the 30+ pups that would play with us at the edge of his territory. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lion underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

California sea lion underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31206
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion underwater in beautiful sunset light, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion underwater in beautiful sunset light
Image ID: 31208
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Young California sea lion pups underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

Young California sea lion pups underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31209
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion blowing underwater bubbles as it stands on its flippers, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion blowing underwater bubbles as it stands on its flippers
Image ID: 31210
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Blue-bronze sea chub schooling, Sea of Cortez, Kyphosus analogus

Blue-bronze sea chub schooling, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 31213
Species: Blue-bronze Chub, Kyphosus analogus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion and school of sardines underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Zalophus californianus

California sea lion and school of sardines underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California
Image ID: 31220
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Young sea lion hides in an underwater crevice, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Young sea lion hides in an underwater crevice
Image ID: 31226
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sardines and Scad, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Sardines and Scad, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31246
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion harem of females, underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion harem of females, underwater
Image ID: 31247
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Large adult male sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Large adult male sea lion underwater
Image ID: 31248
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico