Category

Underwater Photography

California Sea Lions, Coronado Islands, Mexico

Islas Coronado, Mexico, Sea Lion, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Some of my favorite diving with California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) has taken place at Mexico’s Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado). The Coronados are a small group of undeveloped rocky islands just offshore of Tijuana, Mexico and only about an hour boat ride south of San Diego. Seemingly barren, the islands are in fact loaded with marine life, including the clown princes of the Pacific, sea lions. Here are a few of my better photos of these noble and beautiful creatures. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lions, Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lions, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 02160
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion.
Image ID: 02943
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion, Coronados Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion, Coronados Islands.
Image ID: 00956
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion pup starving during 1997-8 El Nino event, Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion pup starving during 1997-8 El Nino event, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 02417
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion colony, Los Coronado Islands, Zalophus californianus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

California sea lion colony, Los Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 03077
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Sea Turtle, Galapagos, Black and White

Galapagos Diaries, Marine Life, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

I have made a lot of dives in the Galapagos Islands, and one of my favorite creatures to see underwater is the sea turtle. The ungainly-looking animals are actually quite hydrodynamic and can navigate the surge, currents and waves to graze on algae along the reef. These two turtles were encountered at remote Wolf Island (Wenman Island) in the far northern reaches of the Galapagos archipelago. In the first image, a school of ever-present Pacific creole fish surrounds the turtle; its distinctive tail gives away that it is a male. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Sea Turtle, underwater, black and white, Wolf Island

Sea Turtle, underwater, black and white.
Image ID: 16382
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Sea Turtle, underwater, black and white, Wolf Island

Sea Turtle, underwater, black and white.
Image ID: 16383
Location: Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Great White Shark Portrait

Great White Shark, Sharks, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

This great white shark photo (Carcharodon carcharias) was shot under dark skies, in early morning. These are tough conditions to shoot underwater with only available light. I prefer to shoot without strobes whenever possible but in the days of film this particular morning would have required I use artificial lights. Digital cameras, however, have changed all that and allow shooting in dark and flat lighting conditions that film did not. I hope to get back down to Guadalupe Island later this year to reshoot these sharks with the current cameras I am using (5D Mark III and D800). I think I have made 15 trips to the island (I’ve lost count) and I never get tired of Isla Guadalupe. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Great white shark, underwater, Carcharodon carcharias, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Great white shark, underwater.
Image ID: 21360
Species: Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

International Conservation Photography Awards 2012

Environmental Problems, Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Art Wolfe hosts the biennial International Conservation Photography Awards (“ICP Awards”). One of my images was honored in the 2010 edition of the competition, so I decided to try again this year. My photograph of a young California sea lion entangled in monofilament fishing line, taken in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve in Baja California, was selected in the “Natural Environment At Risk” category, which seems quite fitting given the competition is meant to highlight conservation and issues relating to the natural world. Thank you Art and ICP Awards! To see all the recognized images — and you should since there are some spectacular photos in this year’s competition — check out: http://icpawards.com/2012winners.php

California sea lion injured by fishing line, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion injured by fishing line
Image ID: 27419
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Wildlife Entanglement: Sea Lion and Monofilament, Pelican and Shopping Bag

Environmental Problems, Sea Lion, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Photos of Wildlife Entanglement in Plastic

Unfortunately, I have had a number of opportunities to photograph wildlife entangled in plastic debris. Plastic Debris. We make it, we use it and then we leave it behind. This stuff is killing animals and causing problems everywhere. I find it dismaying every time I come across abandoned netting (ghost nets) or monofilament fishing line in the ocean. Often the monofilament is wrapped around a sea lion’s neck as in these photos, or tangled on a reef where it can snag passing fish or invertebrates. I’ve also come across some animals entangled in plastic shopping bags, such as the brown pelican pictured below. At least plastic shopping bags degrade somewhat when exposed to sunlight, so those animals stand a chance of recovery provided they do not eat the bag in an effort to remove it. Alas, in all three cases shown below I considered how to assist the animal pictured but no opportunity presented itself.

California sea lion injured by fishing line, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion injured by fishing line
Image ID: 27419
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion, with monofiliment cut, Zalophus californianus, Monterey

California sea lion, with monofiliment cut.
Image ID: 00958
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Monterey, California, USA

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck.  This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican's neck.  Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck. This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican’s neck. Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year.
Image ID: 22572
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican, entangled in monofilament fishing line, showing winter mating plumage colors, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican, entangled in monofilament fishing line, showing winter mating plumage colors
Image ID: 28966
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Panamic Green Moray Eel

Marine Life, Mexico, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Photo of Panamic Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax castaneus

While I was in Mexico’s beautiful Sea of Cortez doing some diving last November, I spent time photographing the Panamic Green Moray eels (Gymnothorax castaneus). These eels are quite common, often found underneath large boulders and overhangs. They are typically content to remain in their holes, extending just their heads outside, but once in a while they will swim freely across the reef and only then is their large size easily seen. These are big eels!

Panamic Green Moray Eel, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico, Gymnothorax castaneus

Panamic Green Moray Eel, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
Image ID: 27466
Species: Panamic Green Moray Eell, Gymnothorax castaneus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Baja California, Mexico

Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Los Islotes is a small island at the northern end of Isla Espiritu Santo, near La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Espiritu Santo Island and Partida Island are two beautiful desert islands, scalloped with gorgeous white sand beaches. Bird nest on their rugged slopes, and cardon cacti grow in abundance. All three of these islands are part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, named a UNESCO Biosphere due to the area’s biodiversity and beauty. I have had the good fortune to cruise along both shores of Espiritu Santo and Partida but most of my time has been spent at Isla Los Islotes, diving and relaxing. These waters are full of many Sea of Cortez fishes, and Los Islotes itself is home to a renowned colony of California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus). I am a real lover of sea lions and fur seals, and spend as much time diving with them as I can, so when I am at Los Islotes I basically ignore all else and just enjoy my time with these gregarious and charming animals. Here are a few recent photos of Los Islotes, the sea lions, Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo. Thanks for looking!

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27424
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Los Islotes Island, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Los Islotes Island, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
Image ID: 27364
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Yellow-tailed surgeonfish schooling, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico, Prionurus laticlavius

Yellow-tailed surgeonfish schooling, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.
Image ID: 27564
Species: Yellow-tailed surgeonfish, Prionurus laticlavius
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Isla Partida, Sea of Cortez coastal scenic panorama, near La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve

Isla Partida, Sea of Cortez coastal scenic panorama, near La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve.
Image ID: 27358
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Stock Photo Gallery: Blue Shark Underwater Photographs

Galleries, Sharks, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Underwater stock photos of Blue Sharks (Prionace glauca)

I’ve updated my collection of blue shark underwater photos. Most of these blue shark photographs were taking freediving (breathhold diving) with a few friends in the open ocean near San Diego or just below the border in Mexico. In days gone by, a small bucket of chum would bring in 5-20 blue sharks, sometimes more, and they were big beautiful sharks, sleek and long and graceful. Longliners and the fishing industry has decimated the blue shark (Prionace glauca) population in the eastern Pacific (along with many other shark species) and today a bucket of chum might attract a few sharks which will typically be small. Some of the best days of my life have been spent swimming around a small boat under the hot California sun, in clean blue offshore water, trying to keep track of the sharks swimming around and frame up a few good images. Life is good! Thanks for looking. Click the image below to see my gallery of blue shark photos.

Blue shark, Baja California, Prionace glauca

Blue shark, Baja California.
Species: Blue shark, Prionace glauca

Salps, Pelagic Tunicates, Cyclosalpa Affinis

California, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Photos of Salps, Pelagic Tunicates, Plankton

This summer I’ve been fortunate to get out on the ocean a few times, and each time we have seen an incredible abundance of pelagic tunicates, in particular the species Cyclosalpa affinis. These open ocean planktonic animals largely drift with ocean currents, although they do have the ability to pump water through their bodies and propel themselves to a certain degree. Typically, the salps that I have seen are in some colonial form, either in rings or in chains of rings. Sometimes an individual salp is observed reproducing, producing a much smaller chain of miniature salps. A few of my salp photos were shot some years ago on SCUBA, but most of the ones on my website now were made freediving (snorkling, breathholding diving) so you can see they are often quite shallow. Salps will often be at or near the ocean surface at night or if the weather is overcast, and will sink 20′ or 30′ when the sun comes out.

Freediving photographer in a cloud of salps, gelatinous zooplankton that drifts with open ocean currents, San Diego, California

Freediving photographer in a cloud of salps, gelatinous zooplankton that drifts with open ocean currents.
Image ID: 27012
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Salp (pelagic tunicate) reproduction, open ocean, Cyclosalpa affinis, San Diego, California

Salp (pelagic tunicate) reproduction, open ocean.
Image ID: 01263
Species: Salp, Cyclosalpa affinis
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Colonial planktonic pelagic tunicate, adrift in the open ocean, forms rings and chains as it drifts with ocean currents, Cyclosalpa affinis, San Diego, California

Colonial planktonic pelagic tunicate, adrift in the open ocean, forms rings and chains as it drifts with ocean currents.
Image ID: 26819
Species: Salp, Cyclosalpa affinis
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Freediver photographing pelagic gelatinous zooplankton, adrift in the open ocean, Cyclosalpa affinis, San Diego, California

Freediver photographing pelagic gelatinous zooplankton, adrift in the open ocean.
Image ID: 26818
Species: Salp, Cyclosalpa affinis
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin Photos

California, Dolphin, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin Photos

The first dolphins I ever photographed were Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens). This extremely fast moving species of dolphin often appears around San Diego in winter, but is normally found much further north ranging as far as Alaska and around to Japan. We would freedive in the open ocean and hope our presence interested the white-sided dolphins enough to swim by and investigate us. The first image I ever had that placed in a major photography competition (Nature’s Best, early 90s I think) was an image of a Pacific white-sided dolphin towing a piece of kelp. It would drop the kelp in front of me, wait for me swim toward it and then zoom by to take it again before I could reach it. Schooled by a dolphin … Psych! For those of you who have only used digital cameras: can you imagine trying to freeze the motion of a fast-swimming white-sided dolphin using ISO-64 in a relatively dimly lit underwater setting? That’s what we used to have to do. It was downright primitive.

Pacific white sided dolphin, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens, San Diego, California

Pacific white sided dolphin.
Image ID: 00036
Species: Pacific white-sided dolphin, Lagenorhynchus obliquidens
Location: San Diego, California, USA