Tag

Underwater

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

Chironephthya, Fiji’s “Other” Soft Coral

Fiji, Seascapes, Underwater Photography

Fiji’s Coral Reefs are known as the “Soft Coral Capital of the World” for good reason. Spectacular displays of colorful soft coral, usually Dendronepthya, are found on Fiji’s coral reefs in abundance. I had done a fair bit of research before the trip and thought I knew what types of soft coral I would see, and how I wanted to photograph them. However, one type of soft coral that escaped my attention before I got to Fiji was Chironephthya. While Dendronephthya tends to inflate and “stand up” off the reef, with fat cylindrical branches, Chironephthya on the other hand more often “hangs down” and, at first glance, looks similar to some of the gorgonians and sea fans I have seen in temperate water albeit with more intense color.

Colorful Chironephthya soft coral coloniea in Fiji, hanging off wall, resembling sea fans or gorgonians, Chironephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Colorful Chironephthya soft coral coloniea in Fiji, hanging off wall, resembling sea fans or gorgonians.
Image ID: 31487
Species: Chironephthya Soft Coral, Chironephthya
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

From “species-identification.org”: Colonies heavely branched, resembling gorgonians. Polyps scattered on stalk and main branches as well as at the end of terminal branchlets. Calyces prominent. Stem and main branches almost hollow. Brightly coloured pink, purple, red, yellow, orange. Sclerites are spindles. Zooxanthellae absent.

My best looks at Chironephthya were at the dive spot Mount Mutiny, a lone coral bommie in the current-laden Bligh Waters, with vast sheer walls perfect for soft corals to thrive. I made several dives at Mount Mutiny, each time passing along the spectacular Rainbow Wall section, a huge wall replete with dense swaths of Chironephthya color, particularly underneath overhangs. I hope to return in the next few years and photograph it with some macro gear. All of my Fiji coral reef images are available for publication and as high quality metal, canvas or photographic prints. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Colorful Chironephthya soft coral coloniea in Fiji, hanging off wall, resembling sea fans or gorgonians, Chironephthya, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Colorful Chironephthya soft coral coloniea in Fiji, hanging off wall, resembling sea fans or gorgonians.
Image ID: 31682
Species: Chironephthya Soft Coral, Chironephthya
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Diving the Vatu-I-Ra Passage in Fiji’s Bligh Waters

Fiji, Seascapes, Underwater Photography, Vatu i Ra Passage

See also: Photos of Fiji’s Beautiful Coral Reefs

The ocean waters between Fiji’s Viti Levu and Vanua Levu islands are called the Bligh Waters after Captain William Bligh and his flight from mutineers. The Bligh Waters are famous among divers as they are home to some of the most spectacular coral reef diving in the world. In particular, the Vatu-i-Ra Passage area of the Bligh Waters is wonderful, perhaps my favorite in Fiji and certainly the most colorful diving I have seen anywhere in the tropics. Some friends and I spent 6 days exploring the bommies, reefs, canyons, and walls of the Vatu-i-Ra region (as well as 8 more days elsewhere in the Bligh Waters), both from a land resort (Wananavu, highly recommended) and from the excellent liveaboard dive vessel Nai’a (one of the finest diving experiences I’ve ever had). The Vatu-i-Ra Passage, or Vatu-i-Ra Seascape, is named after the small island Vatu-i-Ra, a bird sanctuary with two beautiful white sand beaches. The coral reefs near this island, and in particular the narrow passages between the reefs and opening into atolls, pulse with life and energy when currents build and water begins flowing quickly. It is then that the soft corals for which Fiji is famous are fully extended, reaching for planktonic food, surrounded by the clouds of anthias and reef fishes, and at their most beautiful. Here are some underwater photos of the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape to give you a sense of what its like. All of my Fiji coral reef images are available for publication and as high quality metal, canvas or photographic prints. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Colorful Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fish on coral reef, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Tubastrea micrantha, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Colorful Dendronephthya soft corals and schooling Anthias fish on coral reef, Fiji
Image ID: 31316
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Black Sun Coral, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Tubastrea micrantha
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Colorful Dendronephthya soft coral and schooling Anthias fish on coral reef, Fiji, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Colorful Dendronephthya soft coral and schooling Anthias fish on coral reef, Fiji
Image ID: 31349
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Bright red Plexauridae sea fan gorgonian and yellow sarcophyton leather coral on pristine coral reef, Fiji, Sarcophyton, Gorgonacea, Plexauridae, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Bright red Plexauridae sea fan gorgonian and yellow sarcophyton leather coral on pristine coral reef, Fiji
Image ID: 31325
Species: Sarcophyton Soft Coral, Gorgonian, Sea Fan, Sarcophyton, Gorgonacea, Plexauridae
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Symphyllia brain coral on tropical coral reef, Fiji, Symphyllia, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Symphyllia brain coral on tropical coral reef, Fiji
Image ID: 31327
Species: Brain Coral, Symphyllia
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu 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, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  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: 31358
Species: Dendronephthya Soft Coral, Anthias, Dendronephthya, Pseudanthias
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Sarcophyton leather coral on diverse coral reef, Fiji, Sarcophyton, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Sarcophyton leather coral on diverse coral reef, Fiji
Image ID: 31456
Species: Sarcophyton Soft Coral, Sarcophyton
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Acropora coral (foreground) on South Pacific Coral Reef, Fiji, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Acropora coral (foreground) on South Pacific Coral Reef, Fiji
Image ID: 31483
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Acropora table coral 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, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island, Fiji

Acropora table coral 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: 31490
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Staghorn coral Acropora palifera on pristine Fijian coral reef, Acropora palifera, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Staghorn coral Acropora palifera on pristine Fijian coral reef
Image ID: 31514
Species: Staghorn Coral, Acropora palifera
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Green fan coral, extending into ocean currents where tiny polyps gather passing plankton, Fiji, Tubastrea micrantha, Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu  Island

Green fan coral, extending into ocean currents where tiny polyps gather passing plankton, Fiji
Image ID: 31687
Species: Black Sun Coral, Tubastrea micrantha
Location: Vatu I Ra Passage, Bligh Waters, Viti Levu Island, Fiji

Underwater Photos of Southern California Oil Rigs

California, Underwater Photography

Recently I did some diving underneath three of Southern California’s offshore oil rigs: oil rig Eureka, oil rig Ellen and oil rig Elly. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to do it again soon. The amount of invertebrate life on the oil rig beams was impressive — copious amounts of large scallops, mussels, brittle stars, Corynactis and Metridium anemones, schools of fish moving through the beams and a few sea lions. Great stuff! Here are a few more underwater oil rig photos from that day. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31115
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Brittle stars covering beams of Oil Rig Elly, underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Brittle stars covering beams of Oil Rig Elly, underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31136
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure
Image ID: 31081
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig, Zalophus californianus, Long Beach

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig.
Image ID: 31086
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31130
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31102
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31111
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31124
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720' of water

Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720′ of water.
Image ID: 31091
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Elly underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Elly underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31132
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

SCUBA Diving Beneath Oil Rigs Eureka, Ellen and Elly in Long Beach, California

California, Underwater Photography

I recently made a few dives underneath the oil rigs “Eureka”, “Ellen” and “Elly”, about 8 miles off Long Beach, California. Oil rig Eureka is located in about 700′ of water, so from the perspective of recreational divers it is a bottomless dive. Ellen and Elly are in shallower water, about 260′, which is still out of reach of recreational dives but I suppose if you wanted to you could check out the bottom, at which point you could then direct your captain to take you directly to the Catalina chamber. The Power Scuba group with whom I was diving had chartered the dive boat Pacific Star for the day. We left the dock at 7am. I thought the boat looked familiar and indeed it was: I had divemastered on this boat 20+ years ago when it was named Bold Contender. About an hour later, after eating a great breakfast, getting a briefing and putting together gear, we arrived at the Eureka. Seas were flat calm and glassy, and the captain made our lives easy by bringing the stern of the boat close to the rig so we had only a short swim to reach the enormous pilings.

Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720' of water

Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720′ of water.
Image ID: 31093
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Scuba Divers at Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720' of water

Scuba Divers at Oil Rig Eureka, 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California, lies in 720′ of water.
Image ID: 31089
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Water visibility was not great and the sun was still low on the horizon, so I had to resort to shutter speeds of about 1/8 to have any reasonable light to balance my strobes. My goal was to photograph the invertebrate life covering the underwater beams and columns. In preparation for a series of dive trips I have starting in October, I’m practicing wide-angle lighting again after taking about 14 years off of shooting underwater seriously. I figured big, stationary oil rig pilings with lots of color in relatively clear water was just the thing upon which to practice. The beams above about 50′ had been cleaned recently so did not offer much color, but below the first set of cross beams (at 60′) large clusters of Corynactis and Metridium anemones were growing and provided something to photograph.

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure and invertebrate Life, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure and invertebrate Life
Image ID: 31073
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Eureka, Underwater Structure
Image ID: 31080
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

After finishing our dive on the Eureka we moved to the nearby twin rigs Ellen and Elly, and made a dive on each. Conditions were a little better since the sun had risen further and the water seemed a little cleaner. On all the rigs, we saw large schools of bait along with a few California sea lions in the shallower reaches of the beams, which was fun — I love diving with sea lions.

Oil platforms Ellen (left) and Elly (right) lie in 260' of seawater 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California

Oil platforms Ellen (left) and Elly (right) lie in 260′ of seawater 8.5 miles off Long Beach, California
Image ID: 31095
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31114
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Corynactis anemones on Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31121
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Starfish on Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure, covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Starfish on Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure, covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31117
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

I plan to return and try it again, hoping for cleaner water and thicker schools of bait. It was a lot of fun, and pretty easy to do (provided one has excellent control of one’s buoyancy), and offers something very different than most of the other diving pursuits in California. Cheers and thanks for looking!

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig, Zalophus californianus, Long Beach

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig.
Image ID: 31087
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Bait fish schooling underneath Oil Rig Elly, Long Beach, California

Bait fish schooling underneath Oil Rig Elly
Image ID: 31143
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig, Zalophus californianus, Long Beach

California sea lion at oil rig Eureka, underwater, among the pilings supporting the oil rig.
Image ID: 31088
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31100
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Metridium senile, Long Beach, California

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31125
Species: Plumose anemone, Metridium senile
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure, Metridium senile, Long Beach, California

Metridium anemones covering Oil Rig Elly underwater structure
Image ID: 31129
Species: Plumose anemone, Metridium senile
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Corynactis anemones cover Oil Rig Ellen underwater, Corynactis californica, Long Beach, California

Corynactis anemones cover Oil Rig Ellen underwater
Image ID: 31096
Species: Strawberry anemone, Corynactis californica
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life, Long Beach, California

Oil Rig Ellen underwater structure covered in invertebrate life
Image ID: 31112
Location: Long Beach, California, USA

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

Sport Diver Cover, June 2015, Sea Lion in the Sea of Cortez

Sea Lion, Sea of Cortez, Underwater Photography

I love diving in the Sea of Cortez in the Fall. The water is warm, the weather is often serene, the diving easy and fun. And there are some amazing rookeries of sea lions, including the world famous Los Islotes island in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve. So I was pleased when a photograph from my last visit to the Sea of Cortez ended up on this month’s cover of Sport Diver. Thanks Sport Diver and Seapics who arranged the photo use! If you like this cute sealion, be sure to see more Sea Lion Photos and more photos from the Sea of Cortez. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Underwater Photos of Marine Algae in Southern California and Baja California

California, Underwater Photography

I dive in Southern California and Baja California, and one of the most appealing things about the underwater landscapes I see are the many species of marine algae. Marine algae cover the reefs in most places with a lush, colorful, vibrant carpet of life. Following are photos of some of the more common and beautiful forms of marine algae found underwater along the Pacific coast of Southern California and Baja California. Descriptions are from Wikipedia. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all marine algae, nor is it meant to be an identification guide — it is simply to show the variety and beauty of my favorite types of marine algae. Thank you to Dr. Kathy Ann Miller of UC Berkeley for help in identification, any errors are strictly mine. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera

Macrocystis pyrifera, commonly known as giant kelp or giant bladder kelp, is a species of kelp (large brown algae), and one of four species in the genus Macrocystis. Giant kelp is common along the coast of the eastern Pacific Ocean, from Baja California north to southeast Alaska, and is also found in the southern oceans near South America, South Africa, and Australia. Individual algae may grow to more than 45 metres (148 ft) long at a rate of as much as 2 feet (61 cm) per day. Giant kelp grows in dense stands known as kelp forests, which are home to many marine animals that depend on the algae for food or shelter.

Kelp frond showing pneumatocysts, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp frond showing pneumatocysts.
Image ID: 00627
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

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, San Clemente Island

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: 23428
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

A view of an underwater forest of giant kelp.  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, San Clemente Island

A view of an underwater forest of giant kelp. 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: 25400
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Kelp holdfast and substrate, Macrocystis pyrifera, San Clemente Island

Kelp holdfast and substrate.
Image ID: 00622
Species: Giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA



Feather Boa Kelp, Egregia menziesii

Egregia menziesii is a species of kelp known commonly as feather boa kelp. It is native to the coastline of western North America from Alaska to Baja California, where it is a common kelp of the intertidal zone. It is dark brown in color, shiny and bumpy in texture, and may reach over five meters long. It grows a branching stipe from a thick holdfast. It bears long, flat, straplike fronds lined with small blades each a few centimeters long. There are pneumatocysts at intervals along the fronds which provide buoyancy. The alga varies in morphology; the rachis, or central strip, of the frond may be smooth or corrugated, and the blades along the edge of the rachis may be a variety of shapes.

Feather boa kelp (long brown fuzzy stuff) and other marine algae cover the rocky reef, Egregia menziesii, San Clemente Island

Feather boa kelp (long brown fuzzy stuff) and other marine algae cover the rocky reef.
Image ID: 25416
Species: Feather boa kelp, Egregia menziesii
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA



Southern Sea Palm, Palm Kelp, Eisenia arborea

Eisenia arborea, or the southern sea palm (not to be confused with the sea palm), is a dominant species of kelp that is found in the Northern and Eastern Pacific from Vancouver Island, Canada south to Isla Magdalena, Mexico, and along the coast of Baja California. They are commonly found from the midtidal areas stretching to the subtidal areas. It is an edible seaweed, a source of nutrients for grazing marine invertebrates and a source of alginic acid, a food thickener. Some of the algas have a hollow stripe above its holdfast with two branches terminating in multiple blades. Eisenia arborea is studied in order to predict environmental stress in oceans intertidal zones. Hollow stripes where present when the Eisenia arborea did not receive essential nutrients for its thalli development. Eisenia arborea with hollow stripes are believed to be evolved algae in order to increase their survival in harsh living conditions. They play a huge role in determining environmental stress.

Southern sea palm, palm kelp, underwater, San Clemente Island, Eisenia arborea

Southern sea palm, palm kelp, underwater, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30919
Species: Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Southern sea palm, palm kelp, underwater, San Clemente Island, Eisenia arborea

Southern sea palm, palm kelp, underwater, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30917
Species: Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Southern sea palm.
Image ID: 09537
Species: Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Palm kelp. Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Palm kelp. Southern sea palm.
Image ID: 01249
Species: Southern sea palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Kelp covered wall of Isla Afuera, diver, Eisenia arborea, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Kelp covered wall of Isla Afuera, diver.
Image ID: 03724
Species: Southern Sea Palm, Eisenia arborea
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico



Surfgrass, Phyllospadix

Phyllospadix is a genus of seagrass or surfgrass, a flowering plant in the family Zosteraceae, described as a genus in 1840. Phyllospadix grows in marine waters along the coasts of the temperate North Pacific. It is one of the seagrass genuses that can perform completely submerged pollination.

Surfgrass (Phyllospadix), shallow water, San Clemente Island, Phyllospadix

Surfgrass (Phyllospadix), shallow water, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30941
Species: Surfgrass, Phyllospadix
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Surfgrass and diver, Phyllospadix, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Surfgrass and diver.
Image ID: 03736
Species: Surfgrass, Phyllospadix
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Surfgrass (Phyllospadix), shallow water, San Clemente Island, Phyllospadix

Surfgrass (Phyllospadix), shallow water, San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30886
Species: Surfgrass, Phyllospadix
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA



Asparagopsis taxiformis

Asparagopsis taxiformis, red marine algae, growing on underwater rocky reef below kelp forest at San Clemente Island, Asparagopsis taxiformis

Asparagopsis taxiformis, red marine algae, growing on underwater rocky reef below kelp forest at San Clemente Island.
Image ID: 30939
Species: Asparagopsis taxiformis
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Various kelp and algae, shallow water, Asparagopsis taxiformis, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

Various kelp and algae, shallow water.
Image ID: 21376
Species: Asparagopsis taxiformis
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Garibaldi and Asparagopsis taxiformis (red marine algae), San Clemente Island, Hypsypops rubicundus, Asparagopsis taxiformis

Garibaldi and Asparagopsis taxiformis (red marine algae), San Clemente Island
Image ID: 30881
Species: Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, Asparagopsis taxiformis
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA



Stephanocystis dioica

Stephanocystis is characterized by highly differentiated basal and apical regions and the presence of catenate pneumatocysts (air-vesicles). In Stephanocystis old plants have an elongated main axis, and in time the primary laterals become proportionally elongated. Their lower parts are strongly flattened into ‘foliar expansions’ or basal leaves. Fertile regions which bear conceptacles are known as receptacles. These are normally found at the tips of the branches. Their basal and apical regions are highly differentiated. They have catenate pnuematocysts (air vesicles). The aerocyst or air vesicles keep the organism erect, by causing it to float in strong currents.

A group of juvenile and female Guadalupe fur seals rest and socialize over a shallow, kelp-covered reef.  During the summer mating season, a single adjult male will form a harem of females and continually patrol the underwater boundary of his territory, keeping the females near and intimidating other males from approaching, Arctocephalus townsendi, Stephanocystis dioica, Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe)

A group of juvenile and female Guadalupe fur seals rest and socialize over a shallow, kelp-covered reef. During the summer mating season, a single adjult male will form a harem of females and continually patrol the underwater boundary of his territory, keeping the females near and intimidating other males from approaching.
Image ID: 09677
Species: Guadalupe fur seal, Arctocephalus townsendi, Stephanocystis dioica
Location: Guadalupe Island (Isla Guadalupe), Baja California, Mexico

Stephanocystis dioica (yellow) and surfgrass (green), shallow water, San Clemente Island, Phyllospadix, Stephanocystis dioica

Stephanocystis dioica (yellow) and surfgrass (green), shallow water, San Clemente Island
Image ID: 30946
Species: Surfgrass, Phyllospadix, Stephanocystis dioica
Location: San Clemente Island, California, USA

Stephanocystis dioica (lighter yellow), southern sea palm (darker yellow) and surfgrass (green), shallow water, San Clemente Island, Eisenia arborea, Phyllospadix, Stephanocystis dioica

Stephanocystis dioica (lighter yellow), southern sea palm (darker yellow) and surfgrass (green), shallow water, San Clemente Island
Image ID: 30948
Species: Southern palm kelp, Surfgrass, Eisenia arborea, Phyllospadix, Stephanocystis dioica
Location: San Clemente Island, 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.