I have finally gotten around to creating a short Show Reel of some of my more memorable video encounters from over the years. This showcase features imagery from Yap, Lembeh Strait, Bali, Komodo, and Raja Ampat among others. This film is edited to show just a few highlights of interesting behaviour but no long or intensive coverage of any one animal.
Enjoy the video and feel free to share with your friends but please don’t edit or use the footage in any commercial venture without prior permission.
I am a big fan of octopus, I would willingly spend an hour with a curious octopus watching it go about its daily life, combing its environment looking for food and avoiding predators. The species of octopus doesn’t matter; they all seem to have an innate curiosity of their surroundings and will often interact with a diver who moves slowly and carefully.
One of my favourite octopus encounters was with this coconut octopus during a dive at Puri Jati (PJs) in north Bali, Indonesia. Coconut or veined octopuses, Amphioctopus marginatus, have recently been designated as the first invertebrate able to use tools, elevating their status as an intelligent animal. On this dive, I encountered this guy in less than 5 metres of water and was able to spend a long time watching and photographing his/her daily life. The first thing that stands out in the photograph is that the octopus is obviously using the coconut shell as a home (hence the name) but that the “roof” of the house is a bright pink plastic cap! This photograph pretty much sums up the intelligence of these animals and lends credence to the idea that they can use tools. Not finding a suitable shell to use a “roof” to close up the shell when threatened, this octopus was able to substitute the next best thing it could find. Thinking I would help out this little guy and find it a clam shell to use instead of a piece of bright pink plastic, I found a big clam shell and brought it over, but when I set it beside the octopus it showed no interest whatsoever! He/she was more than happy with its bright pink roof and just picked up its shell and trundled away!
Last night was the annual Ogoh Ogoh Parade in Bali, Indonesia (I write this during Nyepi, the traditional silent day in Bali) If you haven’t seen my post from last year about Nyepi you can find it here: Nyepi 2013
This years Ogoh Ogoh parade was not as large as last years but it was still a great night out and nice way to celebrate one of the biggest nights of the year in Bali with good friends and thousands of happy Balinese revelers. I always look forward to this night to see what new “monsters” they will come up with.
Here are is a short video and a bunch of pics, enjoy!
Have you ever been to Menjangan island in Bali? Often overlooked due to the popularity of Tulamben on the NE coast (home to the Liberty Wreck) Menjangan is a small island on the NW of Bali that features some wonderful wide angle diving opportunities such as soft coral covered slopes and fantastic hard coral gardens. There are also some interesting surface interval activities such as photographing the huge Ganesha statue or hiking up to the coral temple where locals often come for ceremonies. If wildlife is more your concern, Menjangan is known for hosting a population of wild deer which can be seen with a short walk around the island. When diving here we like to stay in the Pemuteran area, which is also close to the famous muck dive Puri Jati, so divers get a great combination of large and small while diving in north Bali.
One of the activities I have been getting up to a lot in Bali these days is mountain biking. I bought a good full suspension bike around the beginning of March and have been trying to get out and do some riding quite often when I am in town. For those not too familiar with Bali, it’s actually a very mountainous sort of place with lots of hills and off road terrain. The sort of riding that we are doing is what could be described as Cross Country, no major single track downhill stuff (mostly we are too old for that) but rather some very interesting trails through the woods, rice fields, and some gnarly roads found throughout Bali. We have been riding in the areas of Bedugul, Kintamani, Ubud, Tabanan, and the small island of Serangan near Sanur. There are loads of tracks still to be ridden but we are slowly finding more and more fun rides to go on. We have a group of anywhere up to 10 people joining us on these rides which can take anywhere from about 2.5 hours to 5 or 6 hours. If you are interested in riding with us then let us know and hopefully can sort something out.
Here is a short video that shows one of the rides in Bedugul.
Following the success of our underwater photo workshop in Lembeh this past April, we have decided to host another event in Bali during the best season of the year, October 25-30. This event will be another 5 day event with a maximum of 12 participants, everyone will get a chance to dive with each of the two photo instructors during this course. We will be discussing f-stops, shutter speeds, strobe angles, playing with light, composition, and of course workflow using Lightroom. This is going to be a really fun event with incredible photo opportunities so don’t miss out!
One of my favourite inhabitants of the underwater world is the octopus. Non divers may think of octopus as just “octopus?!?!” an item they see photos of from time to time or else as some sort of culinary item (not recommended!) However, to the well informed people (by this I mean those of us who scuba dive 😉 ) octopus are one of the most sought after encounters to be had. These long legged mollusks are one of the most intelligent “non mammals” on the planet and an encounter with one is always a treat to any diver. Having the opportunity to sit and watch one of these wily critters is always fun, especially if the octopus in question is up to something (hunting, house building, general tomfoolery such as attacking cameras)
In Bali, one of the best places to encounter octopus is the dive site Puri Jati (also known as PJs) which is located on the north side of the island, not to too far from Lovina. The species which can be found here are some of the most sought after for underwater photographers: mimic, long arm, and coconut octopus, I won’t bother with the scientific names! Last week, I was in north Bali teaching an underwater photography class with a student who was learning both wide angle and macro photography techniques. However, as part of his class he wanted to have a day in between so he could practice techniques without me, no problem I thought, I will go diving! So I did, and am I ever happy I did that. I took a wander down to Puri Jati and jumped in for two dives, a total of close to 200 minutes with a max depth of about 10 metres (30 feet) in nice warm water. It turned out to be a very octopussy sort of day, with 7 different individuals of 3 different species with half of them being “players”. The best two encounters were with a small mimic octopus and a large coconut octopus who were dueling for my attention. The coconut had a great home that he was transporting around (coconut shell and clam shell) while the mimic was out for a jaunt and poking his tentacles into every crevice looking for a meal. I spent over an hour just watching and photographing these two individuals and came back with some fantastic photos. I have posted one here, but the others are a part of another project so can’t be posted quite yet.
I have been back in Indonesia now for 2 months since a prolonged 4 months in Canada (over winter even!) and wow, what a two months it has been!
Luca and Niko looking for Pygmy Seahorses
In March, I taught two private photo classes in Bali as well as a fun road trip around the island with the Underwater Tribe. In April the fun really began! After another trip around Bali with Simon and Sofie Pridmore for a magazine article, I made my way to the old haunts at NAD Lembeh Resort. Along with Matt Oldfield, we conducted a photo workshop for 12 students and had an amazing but busy week. I believe that everyone learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed their time with us, we will be conducting another workshop in Tulamben, Bali in late October. Of course we spent a few days of diving for ourselves before and after the class in order to get some photos to fill out our portfolios. I decided to dive only with the 10.5mm + 2X TC combination as it’s a great set up for octopus, my main target for the week, and it did prove challenging. I had to pass up a lot of great subjects that others with more “macro” setups got to shoot but that’s ok, I got the octopus photos I wanted in the end (no sneak peaks yet)! I am very much looking forward to heading up to NAD Lembeh again soon for more photo opps in Lembeh. It really is a great resort and is proving to be the resort of choice for serious photographers in Lembeh Strait. I was blown away by all of the changes in the last 3 years.
Shrimp on a Snake Eel
Photo Workshop Participants
Matt and I also spent a day at the Tasik Oki animal rehabilitation centre just outside of Bitung. The folks at Tasik Oki work with local officials and the police to rescue illegally held animals that are kept as pets throughout the North Sulawesi area, animals such as cassowary birds, orangutans, macaques, and gibbons just to name a few. Of course don’t forget the Sun Bears who are kept for their gall bladder production, what a horrible thing that is! The centre has two sun bears on location, adorable little bears who are now enjoying a much better life than previously but unfortunately won’t be able to go back to the wild. They have successfully seized many of these unique and endangered animals from very poor conditions and are able to care for them much better than those keeping them as pets. I know its tough to see photos of these animals behind bars but its better than what they had before, the staff at Tasik Oki truly do keep good care of their animals. If you have the chance to visit Tasik Oki then please do, also, if you have some spare income to offer as a donation then it’s always appreciated as it goes to the benefit of these animals.
Sun Bear! I had no idea they were so small
Not 36 hours after arriving back in Bali, I was off on another private photo class in Tulamben before having a few days in Sanur to finish a couple of deadlines. Now it’s the first of May and I started the day out with a 2.5 hour bike ride with my friend Graham, a great way to start the day! I will be heading out to north Bali in a couple of days for more photo instruction and then then who knows?! 2013 has started out as a busy year and also a good and bad one (for reasons I won’t get into here) but the rest of the year certainly looks like it will be busy and fruitful with a lot of exciting adventures coming up! Looking forward to it.
Balinese culture has long fascinated me, from my first visit in 96 until the present, in which I call Bali home, the integration of daily life and the local Hindu religion is something that I am always reading and learning about, as well as watching it everyday! Although I have lived in Indonesia since 2007, I have not had the opportunity to fully experience the Balinese “New Year” celebration before. The name of this celebration is called Nyepi and means “day of silence” and like other new years celebrations in other parts of the world, it’s the biggest party of the year! Its basically a three day ceremony and involves the day of the Ogoh Ogoh (more on that in a bit), a day of silence, and a day of forgiveness. Basically, after 12 midnight of the first day the entire island goes black, electricity is not allowed and everyone needs to be silent for the next 30 hours until 6am of the following day! Yes, the entire island shuts down, including the airport, no flights come in or out of Bali on that day, no one is allowed out of their homes or hotels, and all shops are closed. Hotels do have electricity and obviously they do have some lights on but everyone, including tourists, are requested to respect the holiday by being discrete and quiet throughout the day. Only “village security” and emergency vehicles are allowed on the streets during that period.
However, the coolest part of the Nyepi festivities has to be the Ogoh Ogoh parade. What is an Ogoh Ogoh you may ask? Well, it’s a paper mache monster that each village spends many months lovingly constructing, in often massive proportions! The Ogoh Ogohs are meant to manifest and embody bad spirits that have taken up residence on the island over the year. During the Ogoh Ogoh parade residents shake and prance with the Ogoh Ogohs in order to force the bad spirits up and away from the island. After hours of prancing the Ogoh Ogohs along the streets, many of them congregate on the beach for a final “push” where many of these statues are destroyed or even burned. Once the bad spirits have been chased away everyone turns out their lights and remain silent in order for the bad spirits not to see an opportunity to come back to the island. By keeping the lights off and remaining quiet, the people hope to convince the spirits that there is nothing to see and therefore the bad spirits will go elsewhere to settle.
As this was my first time really seeing the Ogoh Ogoh parade, I was absolutely amazed at how many people were there. I joined many of my friends at the McDonalds corner in Sanur, along with what must have been 100,000 of our closest friends! Hundreds of Ogoh Ogohs were paraded past by excited and joyful locals who were obviously having a great time. We were surrounded by lots of young children who were watching the parade with a great sense of fun and adventure. The whole night was one big street party (the roads were closed to traffic by around 730pm or so) and there was absolutely no hint of testosterone in the air like is usually found in western cities during big street parties, the police in the area were having a great time watching it along with everyone else, we could watch them taking a lot of photos with their cell phones.
However, pictures can’t show the mood of revelry and sheer amount of fun everyone was having as well as a short video can. Watch the smaller Ogoh Ogoh and what it is doing to the giant pig! There may be a few swear words in there…