Category

Underwater Photography

Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas, in the California Kelp Forest

Catalina, Underwater Photography

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33354
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33355
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

I recently spent several hours alone amidst a large aggregation of black sea bass (Stereolepis gigas, aka, giant sea bass) and managed to shoot some nice photos. I’ve been diving in California for almost 30 years, with 1000+ dives in the kelp forest, but until now had only been able to see black sea bass a few times and then only fleetingly. Hammered hard by commercial fishing through the 1970s, black sea bass were nearly wiped out. In the early 1980’s they received protection and began a long slow recovery. In the 1990’s, when I did most of my diving at San Clemente Island, black sea bass were still relatively few but we did see them, usually one or two here or there. It was a big deal to glimpse one of these volkswagens cruising over the reef or emerging from a thicket of kelp, and we would be stoked to share our sightings with one another when we all got back on the boat. I took the next 10 years off of diving, but fortunately black sea bass continued to recover, with more and more being seen every year. Around 5 years ago I started getting back into it and kept my ear to the ground for black sea bass news. I would hear that Catalina, especially, seemed to be the place to see them, and often in aggregations during summer.

We were recently vacationing for a week near Avalon, and I took one of my underwater cameras to do some available light photography of the kelp forests, which have been thickening again after two years of hardship with all the warm water southern California has experienced. I did a little tank diving, and a little freediving, in a beautiful kelp forest. After two days I was satisfied with the images I got:

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean’s surface like a submarine forest.
Image ID: 33433
Species: Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Image ID: 33434

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Image ID: 33436

Sunlight streams through giant kelp forest. Giant kelp, the fastest growing plant on Earth, reaches from the rocky reef to the ocean's surface like a submarine forest, Macrocystis pyrifera, Catalina Island

Image ID: 33446

On the last full day of our stay on Catalina, I decided to make an early morning dive and head out a little deeper than I had been freediving, to range far and cover lots of ground on a tank in the hope of seeing a black sea bass. I had seen one the day before as it buzzed me, sneaking up behind me and swimming over my shoulder as I was holding my breath in a kelp forest grotto. So I knew at least one was around, but honestly did not expect to see another. No sooner did I get to 60′ then I found myself among a group of at least 12. The most I was ever able to count at once was 12, but I think there were a few more. I spent the entire hour with them, alone. I was sort of in a state of shock, not really believing what I was seeing. I was elbow to pec fin with these giants. They were slowly moving about the kelp, following one another, gently bumping each other and me. A few would be hovered in the kelp, really wrapped up in it and hard to see, with their nose headed into the current that was bending the kelp over. Occasionally there would be a sudden popping grunt-like sound. The first grunt I heard startled me, it was quite loud and I felt it in my bones. I could not attribute it to any one fish. Eventually, after hearing it a number of times, I decided that a few of the black sea bass that were following others were making these sounds since the moment the sound was produced the “follower” would give a big kick and pursue one of the other fish with vigor. I believe what was going on was a form of courtship, or an interaction among the fish to establish dominance. In my experience, there is little socializing like this that goes on underwater, among any marine species, that is not somehow related to procreation. I felt lucky, and privileged in a way, not simply to be witness to this gathering but to hover amid the kelp with it happening all around me. I was surrounded by circling giant sea bass. These fish were large, several of them 4′ to 6′ long, and were so near to me at times I had to push myself back to frame them properly with my camera. More than once I would be photographing one in front of me and would be bumped from the side or behind by another. Full grown black sea bass are massive (up to 8′ and 500 lbs) and while at no point was there any kind of threat or danger, it was still adreneline-producing to be so close to something that could easily smack the mask off my face or the camera out of my hands with a flick of its tail.

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33356
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33357
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

I came ashore, emotionally spent and hoping that I did not screw up the photos. I figured that was it, I would never see it again. We went for a hike to the top of the island, then had a nice lunch in Avalon Canyon at the taco place. I asked Tracy if I could sneak in another dive, I thought maybe the fish would still be around? She was all for it. I switched out my fisheye lens for my widest rectalinear lens, zipped down to the spot in our golf cart, got back in the water on a tank around 4pm. The light was getting low and the water was milkier and with more particulate than it had been earlier in the day. I swam back to the spot and sure enough, all of the black sea bass were there. I recognized many from earlier in the day by the scratches or spots they had. One in particular had come up to my face and opened his mouth several times in the morning, and sure enough he did it again. Was he expecting me to clean his gill plate? As tempting as it was (I’ve cleaned molas in the open ocean before, it was gross and fun), I didn’t want to become part of what was going on around me, so I refrained from relieving this fellow from the lice that were plaguing his face.

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33361
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33362
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33364
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33370
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33378
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33358
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33359
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8' in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest, Stereolepis gigas, Catalina Island

Giant black sea bass, endangered species, reaching up to 8′ in length and 500 lbs, amid giant kelp forest
Image ID: 33363
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating - courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island, Stereolepis gigas

Giant black sea bass, gathering in a mating – courtship aggregation amid kelp forest, Catalina Island
Image ID: 33368
Species: Giant Black Sea Bass, Stereolepis gigas
Location: Catalina Island, California, USA

After another hour among these beasts, I had spent my tank and bottom time and swam back to the surface. This time I knew the catbird seat was mine, for the day at least, as I had had out-lasted lady luck and finally seen black sea bass as I had always hoped, indeed, far better than I had ever hoped.

Two Days in Las Islas Revillagigedo

Aerial Photography, Mexico, Revillagigedos Islands, Underwater Photography

On the return from Clipperton Island to Cabo San Lucas, we stopped for a few days to dive at Socorro Island and San Benedicto Island, two islands in the Revillagigedos Archipelago. These stark volcanic islands offer some of the best diving in the world, with spectacular encounters with sharks, manta rays, dolphins and whales being common. We dove at Cabo Pearce for a day, with manta rays on every dive. The next day we spent at San Benedicto Island, again with sharks and mantas. A few of my favorites are below and show why the Revillagigedos is such a remarkable place. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33281
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Carcharhinus falciformis, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33310
Species: Silky Shark, Carcharhinus falciformis
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33285
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Cabo Pearce on Socorro Island, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Cabo Pearce on Socorro Island, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico
Image ID: 32905
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

San Benedicto Island and Barcena crater, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

San Benedicto Island and Barcena crater, aerial photo, Revillagigedos Islands, Mexico
Image ID: 32914
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Barcena volcano crater, highest point on San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Barcena volcano crater, highest point on San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 32922
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33276
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33286
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Manta birostris, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Giant Manta Ray at Socorro Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33294
Species: Giant Manta Ray, Manta birostris
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Carcharhinus falciformis, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33313
Species: Silky Shark, Carcharhinus falciformis
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico, Carcharhinus falciformis, Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Silky Shark at San Benedicto Islands, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33316
Species: Silky Shark, Carcharhinus falciformis
Location: Socorro Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

Yellowfin tuna at the Boiler, San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico, San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos)

Yellowfin tuna at the Boiler, San Benedicto Island, Revillagigedos, Mexico
Image ID: 33352
Location: San Benedicto Island (Islas Revillagigedos), Baja California, Mexico

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

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

Dendronephthya Soft Corals

Fiji, Seascapes, Underwater Photography

In my experience Dendronephthya soft corals are the most spectacular and photogenic of the myriad invertebrate denizens of tropical coral reefs. “Soft coral” is a broad term, often used to describe gorgonians, leather corals, cup corals, sea whips, octocorals, etc etc that are found in all oceans of the world. The genus Dendronephthya sp., including about 250 species, is the one I want to highlight here. I was recently diving and photographing in Fiji for a few weeks and focused my efforts on its colorful reefscapes, in which Dendronephthya plays a starring role.

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

Dendronephthya is found on Indo-Pacific tropical reefs, often carpeting coral reefs with amazing color: red, orange, yellow, pink and white are typical.  Dendronephthya soft corals do not contain zooxanthellae (unicellular symbiotic algae found in many coral species) and so must capture and consume copious amounts of plankton passing by in order to survive.  Since planktons are delivered by ocean currents, Dendronephthya and other soft corals are often found in profusion in areas where ocean currents are strong. Dendronephthya soft corals have a thick main stalk with bushy groups of polyps at the end of branches. Supporting the polyps are a network of sclerite spicules which give some rigidity to the stalk and branches.  Below are a few images illustrating what I love about Dendronephthya soft corals: their fantastic colors, their capacity to attract large schools of reef fish, and the endless variety of shapes and details with which they are found.  Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Spectacular pristine tropical reef, including dendronephthya soft corals, sarcophyton leather corals 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, Sarcophyton, Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island

Spectacular pristine tropical reef, including dendronephthya soft corals, sarcophyton leather corals 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: 31309
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Sarcophyton Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Sarcophyton
Location: Namena Marine Reserve, Namena Island, Fiji

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

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

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: 31340
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias
Location: Fiji

A Large Dendronephthya Soft Coral extends into ocean currents to grasp passing planktonic food, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

A Large Dendronephthya Soft Coral extends into ocean currents to grasp passing planktonic food, Fiji
Image ID: 31356
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Dendronephthya soft coral detail including polyps and calcium carbonate spicules, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Makogai Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago

Dendronephthya soft coral detail including polyps and calcium carbonate spicules, Fiji
Image ID: 31453
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Makogai Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago, Fiji

Dendronephthya soft coral detail including polyps and calcium carbonate spicules, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Makogai Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago

Dendronephthya soft coral detail including polyps and calcium carbonate spicules, Fiji
Image ID: 31455
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Dendronephthya
Location: Makogai Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago, Fiji

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

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

Seven of my Favorite Images #challengeonnaturephotography

Alaska, Antarctica, Bald Eagle, California, Fiji, Hawaii, Mexico, Ocean Sunfish, Penguin, Surf, Underwater Photography

In December a Facebook “challenge” was making the rounds named #challengeonnaturephotography. One of my favorite underwater photographers, Allison Vitsky Sallmon, nominated me to give it a try, and these are the seven images I plucked from my files to share. Each bears a special place in my personal history of travel, diving and photography, even if they don’t cut any new ground photographically. If you want to connect you can find me on Facebook and Instagram. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Ocean sunfish recruiting fish near drift kelp to clean parasites, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish recruiting fish near drift kelp to clean parasites, open ocean, Baja California.
Image ID: 03267
Species: Ocean sunfish, Mola mola

Sunrise breaking wave, dawn surf, The Wedge, Newport Beach, California

Sunrise breaking wave, dawn surf.
Image ID: 27978
Location: The Wedge, Newport Beach, California, USA

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, Gau Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago

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: 31378
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias
Location: Gau Island, Lomaiviti Archipelago, Fiji

Bald eagle spreads its wings to land amid a large group of bald eagles, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Haliaeetus leucocephalus washingtoniensis, Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska

Bald eagle spreads its wings to land amid a large group of bald eagles.
Image ID: 22669
Species: Bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, Haliaeetus leucocephalus washingtoniensis
Location: Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska, USA

A curious Adelie penguin, standing at the edge of an iceberg, looks over the photographer, Pygoscelis adeliae, Paulet Island

A curious Adelie penguin, standing at the edge of an iceberg, looks over the photographer.
Image ID: 25015
Species: Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
Location: Paulet Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place, Eschrichtius robustus, San Clemente

Aerial photo of gray whale calf and mother. This baby gray whale was born during the southern migration, far to the north of the Mexican lagoons of Baja California where most gray whale births take place.
Image ID: 29029
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Clemente, California, USA

Humpback whale (male) singing, Megaptera novaeangliae, Maui

Humpback whale (male) singing.
Image ID: 02813
Species: Humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA