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.
It has taken some time but I have finally edited down my video clips from the Underwater Tribe Raja Ampat trip aboard the Mermaid II liveaboard in March 2015. As expected, the Raja area delivered some amazing diving for our group of explorers and the Misool area was especially abundant with clear water and plenty of fish. If you would like to read a brief trip report on our 2015 adventures then please head on over to our Trip Report from March. If you are interested in joining us on a trip of a lifetime to Raja Ampat we have booked the Mermaid II for the same moon phase at the same time of year in 2017 and we still have spaces available, please check out the 2017 trip page here: Underwater Tribe Raja Ampat 2017
The view from the peak of Wayag, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
The signature shot of Raja Ampat, Indonesia is usually one featuring the panorama overlooking the incredible lagoon of Wayag, one of the northernmost island groups in Raja. To get this photo involves a short walk/climb to the top of one of the highest peaks in the island group and the hike itself is no easy feat! Taking about 30 minutes from the beach to the top, the hike starts with a fairly easy jungle covered slope that evolves into a steep climb that involves having to pull oneself up a time or two. However, the view from the top of the karst mountain is well worth the effort as it provides a brilliant view in all directions of the beauty of Raja Ampat. With dozens of small rock islands surrounded by incredible blue water, the lagoon is the epitome of what Raja Ampat offers. For photographers, the colours are brought out best in the late afternoon or early morning with the soft available light working wonders. This photo was taken in the late afternoon and looks down to the SE toward the south lagoon mooring and a Super Yacht that is anchored in the area.
In case anyone was wondering why I have been so quiet lately it’s due to the fact I have been out to sea for the past three weeks, once again lucky enough to spend the christmas and new years season of 2014-2015 cruising the beautiful Raja Ampat archipelago in eastern Indonesia. Although I didn’t get to spend a lot of time taking photos (and almost no underwater photos) I was able to take a few shots here and there to illustrate a fantastic three weeks traveling through the area. Here are a handful of photos to have a look at…
Pier on Ayu Atoll, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Ayu Beach, Raja Ampat
Village in Ayu Atoll, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
The view from the peak of Wayag, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Split photo on a beach, Misool, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Kayaking along the islands of Waigeo, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Boatman seeking shelter from approaching storm
Black rocks on a beach, Misool, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
One of my more popular photos, the Pregnant Pygmy Seahorse, was taken in 2010 at Cannibal Rock in Horseshoe Bay, Komodo National Park, Indonesia. After spotting this pygmy seahorse a few days before, I made a mental note to prepare my camera for “super macro” for my next visit to the area. In all honesty, I didn’t expect this particular seahorse to still be so “pregnant” looking when I arrived 5 or 6 days later but I was more than happy to see it was still in this condition when I arrived. When shooting “super macro” I use a Nikon 105mm lens coupled with a Kenko 2X Teleconverter which creates a 210mm lens. However, as I was using a crop sensor camera this setup has macro capability of about 2.5X lifesize (with my basic math). Shooting with a teleconverter (TC) is extremely annoying as the autofocus takes a very long time and will “stutter” at the slightest movement of the button. Therefore, the best way to shoot when using this setup is to preset the lens to manual and “rack it” all the way to minimum focus distance before putting it in the housing. This way the lens is set to its optimum “super macro” setting and will be able to take photos quickly without the issue of the auto focus losing focus. On this photo I waited patiently beside the seafan and rocked gently back and forth with the lens until the pygmy was in focus before taking any photos. A lot of time and patience was spent (I won’t mention my deco obligation) on this set of images while waiting for this notoriously shy subject to turn toward the camera.
Nikon D90, Aquatica housing, 105mm with 2X TC, f 14, 1/250, Sea and Sea YS 120 strobes
I am cheating a bit here and posting two photos, the old one on film and the recreation shot on digital 10 years later.
This is the newer digital version Aquatica Housing, Nikon D90, 1/500 at f11
One of my more iconic images was shot on film back around the year 2000 in Palau and consists of a lone mastigias jellyfish silhouetted in front of a stunning sunburst. This was done simply by aiming my Nikonos V and 15mm lens at the jellyfish and trying a variety of fstops while shooting at 1/500 (I think). I then chose that image as the best from the series. However, I was never 100% happy with the photograph as I felt the sun did “leak” a little too much from the side of the jellyfish simply due to trouble composing an image via parallax. Therefore, when I had the chance to visit the jellyfish lake at Kakaban Island in Kalimantan province, Indonesia it was one of my goals to replicate this shot. The difference this time being I was shooting with a digital SLR that allowed me to frame the jellyfish properly through the lens. Although the Jellyfish Lake at Kakaban is not home to as big of a population as the one in Palau, the jellyfish are plentiful and the lake is highly photogenic. Once again I set the camera at 1/500 and found myself a likely jellyfish model that was near the surface and spent some time shooting it. The process was easy, I simply exhaled to allow myself to sink under the surface and then framed the jellyfish to my satisfaction and then shot it with a selection of different fstops to achieve the result that you see here. I am very happy with the results of this recent shot and I believe it to be superior to the film version.
Film version, Nikonos V with 15mm, settings not recorded
I admit it, I have a bit of a weak spot for shallow hard coral gardens. I know most people think they are simply a nice bit of reef to look at, but don’t find them overly photogenic and give them a quick “once over” before looking for critters or heading down the wall. However, I could take photos of hard corals for hours on end. If an area has a healthy hard coral reef, then it’s usually a strong indicator of the overall health of the marine environment in that region. As hard corals are very fragile, they are often the first life forms to be destroyed when a major catastrophe happens such as a large storm or “El Nino” style event. Unfortunately, I have seen all too often the devastating effects of El Nino, typhoons, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks, and dynamite fishing; all of which can completely destroy a beautiful coral garden within a very short time. Therefore, when I find healthy and extensive hard coral gardens I just can’t help taking photos from every angle.
I visited a new location last week called Parigi Moutong, which is located in the SW corner of Tomini Bay in central Sulawesi, and I had the opportunity to get in the water for three dives. One of the first things that I noticed while surveying the area was the health of the hard corals as well as bright blue water. I have to say that the corals in Parigi Moutong were surprisingly healthy and abundant along the reef drop-offs and I spent most of my dives in the shallows documenting the beautiful forms of these reefs.
This photo is of the hard coral garden on the dive site “Rose”, was taken with a Nikon D7000 and Aquatica housing with a 10.5mm lens and Magic Filter at f8, 1/40. I simply made sure my strobes were turned off, had the sun at my back, aimed slightly down and fired away.
We are very happy to announce that we have now created a website specifically for our Bali School of Underwater Photography at uwphotobali.com! Of course it’s still operated through the Underwater Tribe and we operate under the same top notch customer service that is a hallmark of the Underwater Tribe, but we wanted to create a web portal specifically aimed toward eager underwater photographers who want to learn about photography or join us on a photographic journey of Bali. On the Bali School of Underwater Photography website we will also be posting short educational tips and longer articles for everyone to enjoy. So please have a look at the new website and tell us what you think or join us in Bali soon and improve your underwater photography with the Bali School of Underwater Photography and the Underwater Tribe!
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!
This is one of the harder photos I have ever taken! Back in 2012 we (the Dive Damai) were exploring the Indonesian island chain of Halmahera, an area that is not well known to divers as it’s off the beaten path, lying between Raja Ampat and North Sulawesi. We were transiting between Raja and Halmahera and stopped at the small island group popularly known as “Pulau Pisang” or “Banana Island” to dive on the pretty reefs that are located in the area. I had already visited this area several times over the previous few years and looked forward to diving on a site that boasted a large population of fusiliers, surgeonfish, and red tooth triggers that would school in the currents just off the reef. On this particular trip, we dropped onto the site and enjoyed the schooling fish and bright soft corals that populate the current side of a pair of small islets. However, as we followed the reef around to the lee side we came upon the site of some freshly destroyed coral heads that could only be the work of illegal dynamite fishermen. Obviously this upset me quite a bit, so I went about the process of taking photos of the destroyed coral heads while swearing profusely into my regulator. While I was doing this, one of my fellow divers called me over and pointed out an object that immediately had me exclaiming even louder, an unexploded fish bomb lying on the bottom! I immediately started to tell the group to surface, as I had no idea if this explosive could still be set off. Of course I wanted to take photos of this “bomb” but I admit to feeling a rather deep sense of foreboding in doing it and had trouble convincing myself to get close. I ended up turning off my strobes (didn’t want the electrical circuit to set anything off) and zoomed as far as I could before snapping off a couple of quick shots all the while anticipating the bomb going off with each camera click!
Although the shot is certainly nothing spectacular, it does show how simple these home made “reef bombs” are: a couple of bottles filled with fertilizer and diesel or kerosene plus a wick. What is scary is that these items are made from pretty easy to get ingredients but pose a huge threat to reefs.