Category

Underwater Life

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

Photographing Macrocystis in La Jolla’s Beautiful Forests of Giant Kelp

La Jolla, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

I have been photographing kelp forests in California with a passion for 25 years, from the Mexican border on up to Monterey including all the Channel Islands. Usually when I go diving in kelp its to San Clemente Island, which arguably has the most beautiful underwater scenery anywhere in California. In doing so I have bypassed the large tracts of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) just offshore of La Jolla and Point Loma because the water is just not as clear as I would like in those places. During the last couple years, however, the kelp forests at San Clemente Island have thinned out incredibly due to overly warm water, while those along the coast are still thick and healthy. Recently while out with a friend on his boat, I was able to do a little freediving in the kelp beds just off Point La Jolla and managed to get some nice photographs. The light was great, the visibility “good enough” and I was reminded again just how beautiful a healthy kelp forest is. As is done with a lot of my underwater photography, these images are made with only the available light — no strobes or tricky equipment. In other words, this is what you would see if you put on a mask and fins and went for a swim off in the kelp beds off Alligator Head or Children’s Pool. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30986
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30989
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30996
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found throughout California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30998
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2' per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California's Southern Channel Islands, Macrocystis pyrifera

The Kelp Forest offshore of La Jolla, California. A kelp forest. Giant kelp grows rapidly, up to 2′ per day, from the rocky reef on the ocean bottom to which it is anchored, toward the ocean surface where it spreads to form a thick canopy. Myriad species of fishes, mammals and invertebrates form a rich community in the kelp forest. Lush forests of kelp are found through California’s Southern Channel Islands
Image ID: 30992
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Blue Whale Full Body Photo

Blue Whale, Icons, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

Blue Whale Full Body Photo

For more, see Blue Whale Photos, Balaenoptera musculus

I made my first underwater photo of a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) about 18 years ago, and over the intervening years I have struggled to make a perfect image of an entire blue whale, rostrum to fluke, one with which I am entirely satisfied. This image of an adult blue whale underwater, which I made while out on the water off San Diego with friend and fellow photographer Mike Johnson, is a good example.

Blue whale 80-feet long, full body photograph of an enormous blue whale showing rostrom head to fluke tail, taken at close range with very wide lens, Balaenoptera musculus, San Diego, California

Blue whale 80-feet long, full body photograph of an enormous blue whale showing rostrom head to fluke tail, taken at close range with very wide lens.
Image ID: 27967
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

This photograph illustrates the snake-like proportions of an adult blue whale as well as the curve of the upper lip bone (the largest single bone in the animal kingdom), the thin ridge on top of the rostrum that leads to the splash guard in front of the whale’s blowhole, and the curious skin mottling that characterizes the species. But technically this image has some problems, the sort that drive underwater photographers nuts. I do not exaggerate when I say trying to photograph an 80′ or longer animal underwater in typical California water conditions is a real challenge! The water is often cloudy or hazy, as can be seen in this image by a “glow” or “halo” that surrounds some of the brighter parts of the subject, particularly around the dorsal ridge and caudal area of the whale which are close to the surface and thus reflecting a great deal of light. With film this haloing was at once less objectionable but nearly impossible to deal with in post processing. With today’s digital tools, the computer operator can attempt to suppress the haloing somewhat but at the risk of adding too much artificiality to the image. So my decision is that it remains. Above water our eyes and lenses are accustomed to seeing things clearly in the range of miles. Underwater, our range of vision is crippled tremendously, measured in just feet. This begs the question: How does one photograph a subject whose dimensions are greater than the distance one can even see? For whales, water visibility must be excellent, 60′ or better, or else much of the leviathan is depicted without detail. In this image, note the whitewater at top left: it is the point where the blue whale left the ocean surface and began its underwater glide but, at about 120′ away, it is rendered with no detail at all. The leading 1/3 of the whale is sufficiently near the camera that it is rendered with plenty of detail, but is not so close that it is distorted by the fisheye lens I was using. The open ocean, miles from shore, is normally the best place to find clear and blue water. Recently, though, the ocean off our coast has been a veritable soup of zooplankton. Abundant salps, sea nettles, filamentous and particulate-like critters float about in an explosion of spineless life. This occasional summer phenomenon is very cool to experience, and in the past I have even stopped to photograph these small weightless water-filled wonders. But on the day I shot this photo, such things are effectively obstacles to photographing much grander subjects. The only way to deal with the situation is to shoot as many photos as possible hoping that, upon review later, one is lucky to have some frames in which the jellies do not obscure the whale. Of the 10 frames I shot while the animal passed by me, rolling on its side to look at us with one eye as it did so, this was the only frame that did not have zooplanktons screwing it up. I experimented with using a silver color conversion on this photo to better accentuate the sunlit whale against the dark, bottomless void of ocean below, and I thought this rendition looked pretty appealing. I do not get out on the ocean much anymore. In fact this may be the only photo of a blue whale I take all year! So I consider myself lucky to have seen it and be able to share the experience with you. Thanks for looking, and cheers!

California Sea Lions at Los Islotes, Baja California, Mexico

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

Los Islotes, the small island just off the northern end of Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez, is my favorite place in the world for photographing California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus). These wonderful pinnipeds are very comfortable with the presence of, and famous for the willingness to interact with, divers in the water. Shooting portraits of sea lions is a piece of cake, the photos almost take themselves. Plus the diving tends to be shallow and calm so bottom times of a two hours can be easily had. Here are a few of my picks from my last visit to Los Islotes a few years ago. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27418
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27423
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion underwater playing with sea star, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater playing with sea star.
Image ID: 27428
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27420
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

California sea lion underwater.
Image ID: 27421
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

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. In addition to the sea lions, these waters are full of many Sea of Cortez fishes. However, when I am at Los Islotes I basically ignore all else and just enjoy my time swimming with and photographing los lobos marinos.

Whales at the Coronado Islands, Mexico

Islas Coronado, Mexico, Underwater Life

Whales visit the Coronado Islands in Mexico throughout the year. During winter months, gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) pass by the islands, first southbound and a few months later traveling north, during their annual migration between Baja California and the Bering Sea. Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) may be found at the Coronados year-round but spring and summer months are the best times to see them in the islands, especially if there is the presence of krill which does occur from time to time. All of the photos below were taken at the Coronado Islands.

Fin whale dorsal fin.  The fin whale is named for its tall, falcate dorsal fin.  Mariners often refer to them as finback whales.  Coronado Islands, Mexico (northern Baja California, near San Diego), Balaenoptera physalus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Fin whale dorsal fin. The fin whale is named for its tall, falcate dorsal fin. Mariners often refer to them as finback whales. Coronado Islands, Mexico (northern Baja California, near San Diego).
Image ID: 12769
Species: Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

A blue whale blows (exhales, spouts) as it rests at the surface between dives.  A blue whales blow can reach 30 feet in the air and can be heard for miles.  The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds.  North Coronado Island is in the background, Balaenoptera musculus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

A blue whale blows (exhales, spouts) as it rests at the surface between dives. A blue whales blow can reach 30 feet in the air and can be heard for miles. The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds. North Coronado Island is in the background.
Image ID: 09497
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

A blue whale raises its fluke before diving in search of food.  The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds.  North Coronado Island is in the background, Balaenoptera musculus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

A blue whale raises its fluke before diving in search of food. The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds. North Coronado Island is in the background.
Image ID: 09484
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Gray whales traveling south to Mexico during their winter migration.  The annual migration of the California gray whale is the longest known migration of any mammal, 10,000 to 12,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California, Eschrichtius robustus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Gray whales traveling south to Mexico during their winter migration. The annual migration of the California gray whale is the longest known migration of any mammal, 10,000 to 12,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California.
Image ID: 29049
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Blue whale rounding out at surface, North Coronado island in background, Balaenoptera musculus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Blue whale rounding out at surface, North Coronado island in background.
Image ID: 02224
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

A blue whale blows (exhales, spouts) as it rests at the surface between dives.  A blue whales blow can reach 30 feet in the air and can be heard for miles.  The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds.  South Coronado Island is in the background, Balaenoptera musculus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

A blue whale blows (exhales, spouts) as it rests at the surface between dives. A blue whales blow can reach 30 feet in the air and can be heard for miles. The blue whale is the largest animal on earth, reaching 80 feet in length and weighing as much as 300,000 pounds. South Coronado Island is in the background.
Image ID: 09498
Species: Blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Garibaldi Fish, Coronado Islands, Mexico

Islas Coronado, Mexico, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

The most easily recognized, and typically the most prolific, fish at Mexico’s Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado) is the brilliant orange Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus). Some underwater areas of the Coronado Islands are urchin barrens (reef areas taken over by fields of sea urchins and devoid of most other marine life) so the recipe for garibaldi photos is: 1) smash a few urchins, 2) wait for the garibaldis to dive in for a feast, 3) snap photos. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Garibaldi, Coronado Islands, Hypsypops rubicundus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Garibaldi, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 02511
Species: Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

Garibaldi juvenile, vibrant spots distinguish it from pure orange adult form, Coronado Islands, Hypsypops rubicundus, Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado)

Garibaldi juvenile, vibrant spots distinguish it from pure orange adult form, Coronado Islands.
Image ID: 01930
Species: Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus
Location: Coronado Islands (Islas Coronado), Baja California, Mexico

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