Saturday, December 3, 2011

Art Imitates Life... with a little help from Photoshop

One of my favorite things is diving at night. The mystery of the ocean is intensified when the only thing you can see is what is illuminated by the limited throw of your dive light. It forces you to narrow your focus and to observe marine life with renewed interest and intensity. Colors pop in the bright white light that you project onto the reef and its creatures. The reef at night brings out a whole host of different creatures, many predatory in nature, who use the dark cover of night to ambush their prey. Night diving during a full moon can be particularly interesting, as many reef creatures use the tides to their advantage in timing their reproductive behavior.

I recall one particular night dive, when the conditions were just right. It was just around a full moon and the the diving conditions were optimal, with crystal clear water and calm surface conditions. Just off the reef was a shallow sandy bottom in about 20 or 30 feet depth. I rested on the sand and looked up in wonder as the light of the moon shimmered down into the ocean and danced above me and onto the reef. Dives like these can only be described as magical. That dive was many years ago, but it inspired the image I am currently using as the background on my website.

The image was created completely in Photoshop. I started with a solid black background, then used the radial gradient tool to created the blue water on the surface. Then I used the angle gradient tool, set to noise to create the rays of light streaming down into the water. I then used the radial gradient set to reverse and from solid to transparent to created a black layer on the bottom, to fade the rays out as they stream down. The ripples on the surface were created using the filter tool. First I used the cloud filter, then plastic wrap and scaled it down to simulate the ripples on the ocean surface. Finally I added lens flare and painted in a little more light, for the moon.

I generally do not like to manipulate my photos in Photoshop, but it is still pretty cool what you can create!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

June OCUPS Photo Contest. "Reproduction"

Somehow I had this written, but slipped through the cracks before being posted, so a little untimely, but I wanted to share, as shooting interesting marine life behavior is a highlight of underwater photography for me.

One of these interesting behaviors was featured in this past months photo contest theme for the Orange County Underwater Photographic Society meeting, which was "reproduction". Many photos were entered showing behavior such as mating, egg laying, egg carrying, spawning, etc. I was fortunate to have won second place in the advanced shooter category for this image of a nudibranch, Chromodoris willani, laying a ribbon of eggs. The photo was taken in Puerto Galera, Philippines. 

Nikon D90, 60mm Nikkor Micro Lens, Sea & Sea YS110a Strobes. ISO 200, 1/200 sec, f/18.

...AND I won first place for this image of a Ring-tailed Cardinalfish, Apogon aureus. As I'd mentioned in a previous post, these male cardinalfish hold their brood in their mouths until the fry are ready to hatch. This image was taken in about 60 feet of water, within the remains of a ship at the Sebang Wrecks in Puerto Galera. We did a dive on a wreck where I observed this behavior, but was unable to get close enough to get a decent shot with my 60mm macro lens, so when we returned the next day, I was prepared with my 105mm macro lens to get this shot. 

Nikon D90, 105mm Nikkor Micro Lens, Sea & Sea YS110a Strobes. ISO 200, 1/100 sec, f/16. 

Details of how I got this shot and some natural history of this behavior can be found at the Underwater Photography Guide.    

Monday, February 21, 2011

Underwater Photos from the Philippines

I have finally posted the photos from my recent trip to Anilao and Puerto Galera on the site. The homepage will showcase about 40 of my favorite shots on the slideshow for the next several weeks. Please take a look in the Philippines Gallery to view the complete set of photos. 


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Underwater Photography Guide to Photographing Mouthbrooders

Male Ringtailed Cardinalfish with eggs in its mouth.
Check out my article on understanding behavior of mouthbrooders, like the Ringtailed Cardinalfish and tips for how to photograph this behavior. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Emperor Shrimp Photo

Emperor Shrimp, Periclimenes imperator
It's the second meeting of the year and I am excited to have my second 1st place win for this image of an Emperor Shrimp, Periclimenes imperator, taken on my recent trip to Anilao Philippines, during a night dive at the Anilao Pier. This rarely seen shrimp is usually found hitching a ride on the backs of sea cucumbers or large nudibranchs.

More photos from our incredible trip to the Philippines to be posted in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A First

I have been a member of the Orange County Underwater Photographic Society for nearly a year now. There are some really amazing photographers in the group. Each month there is a photo contest based on a set theme. This months theme was "yellow". Tonight was a proud moment when I took my first 1st place win for this photo of a seahorse, taken on my recent trip to Roatan Honduras. Yay!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Inspiration, Impulse

 My warm water wetsuit has been hanging dry in my closet for about 8 months now. Other than a few local outings, my camera rig is begging to be pushed a little for use. I can feel the familiar pull. The itch. The need to get in my zone. Me, my camera and a beautiful reef in warm clear blue.

A few weeks ago I was invited by an accomplished underwater photographer to join a small group to explore what is becoming known, within the circle of underwater photographers, as one of the most productive areas in the world for photographing rare and unusual marine creatures. Places like PNG and Lembeh are already legendary for the amount of bizarre critter encounters found there. But this was something different. This was Anilao and Puerto Galera, Philippines. And the images I've been seeing and types of creatures being photographed there were stunning. With curiosity piqued I wondered, how would it stack up?

Though I have a lot to be thankful for, 2010 was a rough and difficult year for me, for a number of reasons. So, with everything going on, when I was given this sudden and last minute opportunity, it was very difficult for me to find a way to commit, on such short notice. It was a photo safari to some lush reefs and critter rich muck sites with a small group of top-notched photographers. It was a chance for me to learn and shoot in my favorite region in the world, the coral triangle of the Indo-Pacific. But it was a big decision to make, with too many factors to consider in a short period of time. I spent a week or two of researching, pricing flights, crunching numbers, discussing, working out logistics, going back and forth, never being able to find a good reason to just throw caution to the wind and just go for it.

Then one afternoon I was channel surfing and came upon a documentary film called "Edge of Never". The film was about big mountain skiers and Kye, a 15 year old boy who's father, an extreme skier, died on the treacherous slopes of Chamonix, France. Kye heads to Chamonix to be mentored by several of the worlds top extreme skiers to conquer the same slopes that took his father just 9 years before. The film follows several passionate and legendary skiers and a young boy who is given the opportunity to learn from these same icons that his father had utmost respect for and to enter into their world, allow them to take him under their wing and to share their passion.

I realized that this was an opportunity for me to share an experience and to gain and exchange knowledge with a group of respected and seasoned underwater photographers, divers and naturalists in a place considered to be a haven for U/W photographers. So as 2010 came to a close, I decided that 2011 should begin with a much needed kick start. An intense diving experience with people sharing a similar focus. And for me, my camera and the warm clear blue.