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.
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.
I am happy to announce a new series of blog posts that I call “Behind the Shot”, basically one photo (or a series of photos) where I will explain what particular technique or idea that I used to get the photo. Some of the posts will be technical but most will just discuss an interesting photo and what my thoughts were when I was trying to capture it. These photos will consist of both underwater and land based photographs and will encompass images from my library dating back to the 90s. Hopefully I will post one or two of these a week and I will also cross post them on the Underwater Tribe Blog as well.
This image is one of my favourites from my time working in French Polynesia back in the early 2000s (I am dying to head back there!) The lagoon entrance channel where this photo was taken is the epitome of “Pass Flying” dive sites, a narrow channel with a very strong tidal flow that enters the lagoon on a rising tide. About 3/4s of the way through this channel a large school of grey reefs were resident at around 70ft of depth and would lazily circle the bottom of the channel while us divers “clung” to the sides mesmerized by the constant stream of sharks parading past. To get this shot I waited until I was low on air and then shot out into the middle of the pass and allowed the current to push me toward the wary pack of sharks while taking a steady stream of photos. Although many folks falsely believe sharks to be confident and predatory at all times, sharks are actually quite shy and don’t typically allow divers to get too close (unless there is feeding occurring). Therefore, getting close to this school of sharks was no easy task! As this shot was taken in the late afternoon, I needed to use a very slow shutter speed in order to separate the sharks from the background which ended up giving a “blurred” sense of motion to the image that I think works quite well in Black and White
Photo taken with Nikonos V and 15mm lens, Provia 100 ISO film, 1/30, f 5.6 depth of around 60ft (18 Metres), French Polynesia circa 2003