Magic in the Midriff Islands.

Last summer I lead a trip for Bluewater to the Sea of Cortez. An incredible week aboard the Rocio del Mar liveaboard diving these unique and incredible waters. Here’s my trip report from this fantastic trip (adapted from what I wrote up for Bluewater’s website).

Welcome to the Sea of Cortez. Dubbed by Jacques Cousteau as the “World’s Aquarium” this living sea definitely lives up to the name. Abundant life swimming through warm waters provides a unique diving experience where temperate and tropical worlds collide. From the tiniest skeleton shrimp to the giant whale shark, the Sea of Cortez offers a variety of marine encounters and incredible diving.

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Anilao Wide Open.

The beauty of Anilao is found in the diversity. When your eyes get tired of hunting for the minuscule among the sandy muck or hiding within the folds of a crinoid you can simply change lenses and open your eyes to the full scene. Lush coral reefs abound around the area offering colorful fish by the hundreds and incredibly scenes to try to capture. Here are a few of those scenes from my first trip to the Philippines back in 2013.

ID Insanity.

One of my favorite aspects of diving is looking up the fish and critters I photographed during the dive to learn what they are. While I’m not great at retaining the knowledge, especially with places I only visit infrequently (or just once), I enjoy knowing what I saw. I also try to log the names as keywords in Lightroom so I can reference them later.

Of course there are always those critters that don’t quite match the options available in my book and you start to wonder. Could it be? Maybe it’s? Hmm, I wonder….

Luckily for me, we live in a digital age, where I can upload a photo into google image search, add a keyword and bring up all the similar images floating around the interweb… mystery critter no longer!

This was the case for one of my nudibranch from the 2013 Anilao trip. In my book there were a few possibilities, but none of the photos matched. My nudi had white bumps when all of the pictures had orange or yellow bumps. Another species had major variation with either orange or white bumps, but I dismissed it because it still was not quite what I had seen. Turns out I was wrong. That last species was the winner, thanks to a google image search which brought up several matching nudis, more than one of which was labelled Phyllidia ocellata. While you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, I feel pretty confident that its a good ID. I guess I should have put more faith in the first two words on that entry in my Reef Creature Guide…. “Highly Variable”.

Hello Phyllidia ocellata.

Phyllidia ocellata

Phyllidia ocellata

Cruising Catalina.

Its always nice to escape with friends on a relaxing dive. Jessica and I hopped on a last minute boat out to Catalina for a couple of advanced dives, hitting some new sites I hadn’t had a chance to dive before. We started at Blue Caverns, though sadly were not pointed in the right direction and did not find the awesome large cavern. After that we spent a long dive at Bird Rock, one of my favorites with varied terrain. Lush kelp, a large wall drop off and shallow rocky reefs surround this low lying bird crap encrusted island. Lastly we dove Sea Fan Grotto with the small room with sea fans descending from ceiling. I enjoyed a really nice day of diving, and despite not really devoting the dives to photography came away with a few shots that I liked.

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Valiant Voyage.

In February I revisited a wreck I had dove once before, and discovered just how much some added valiant2experience can change a dive adventure. The first time I hit this wreck was with a friend in 2010, visibility was limited and neither of us felt extremely comfortable wandering far through the site. We happened upon part of the wreck, but did not realize it extended deeper down into the depths and was as large as it actually was. Three years later, with much more diving experience under my belt I found myself at the wreck of the Valiant again and experienced an entirely different wreck. A long sprawling body with a huge sweeping hull, the Valiant was a 162′ yacht which sank due to fire just off Catalina outside Avalon Harbor.

Visibility on this second dive was a bit better allowing us to see more of the wreck, and after realizing just how much we had missed the first go round, I’d love to get back over there and dive it again!

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Electric Encounter.

One of the diving best days on Farnsworth Banks, off the back side of Catalina Island – clear skies, warm weather and water, with visibility stretching on and on and on! Among the many wonders this large ocean pinnacle holds we enjoyed a sighting of a Pacific Electric Ray – or Torpedo Ray. This guy was lazily swimming along and allowed us to approach, swim near and snap a few pics. These guys usually hang out at Farnsworth, in deeper water and can offer a bit of a jolt if you get too close!

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Long Time.

Hello dear readers! There are apparently some of you that haven’t given up hope in light of my silence over the last few months… there seems to be an average of a whopping 3 views per day with weird spikes like 112 views on Sunday, April 7th. Perhaps that was because I was supposed to dive, but it was cancelled for weather. Regardless, thanks to the faithful, I hope to earn your readership back as I plunge forward once more.

I apologize for the silence… its been a combination of things that have kept me from updating, namely Ironman training. What’s that you ask? Just a small little race of insanity that has completely overidden my life. (you can read all about my previous IM adventure here). Due to the IM training I’ve been in the water only a handful of times this year, and I’m surely missing it. We’re 10 weeks out from the race and things are ramping up. Work has been super busy as everyone starts gearing up for their summer holidays, however this little blog, and my joy of sharing my underwater photography activities has always been in the back of my mind. I have a little catch up to play, and I hope that I can get a few posts up here over these next 10 weeks, to revive this little site and keep sharing my favorites! Here’s a little sneak peek of what’s ahead…. so for now, hello! Goodbye! I promise it won’t be so long next time.

BB-Goby

This Blue Banded Goby was hanging out at Casino Point in Catalina. I used a Sola 800 Photo light with the red light on to be able to sneak up on him. Took this on a day I was out diving solo testing three new lenses for the store. It was a perfect day, with great visibility, calm conditions and lots of little fishes for my macro tests.

Award Winning!

I submitted my eight photos to the SoCal Shootout after the amazing weekend full of diving in the middle of September. To recap, i spent three solid days diving off the Los Angeles coast with probably the best conditions I have ever seen. It was amazing. I realize I am WAY behind in updating you all on my dive adventures, but instead of starting back at the beginning and moving forward through time, I’m going to jump ahead to the results of the contest. They were announced last week and much to my surprise and excitement I got third place in two different categories! Shooting on my new OM-D, a mirrorless camera I had to compete in the “Open” categories with all the big gun dSLR folks, so placing at all made me really happy. The first was a third place in the Wide Angle category with my photo of a female sheephead on one of the oil rigs off the coast of long beach. If you read my previous post, you can see just what amazing visibility we experienced that day. It was incredible.

The second picture that I placed with was in the Portrait category. I was swimming back to the boat after one of the dives off Santa Barbara Island when this huge lobster came cruising up from below. My guess, it was startled from a hidey hole by someone or something, and we crossed paths at just a perfect time. He shot past me into a growth of kelp and disappeared. Intrigued, I followed and found him clinging to a strand of kelp, upside down, just hanging there. The colors and the way he clung to the  strands of kelp. I really liked it because the lobster stands out, since you never find lobster in the kelp, and the blues of the water, greens of the kelp and reds in the lobster create a bold palette. Apparently the judges liked it too!

I came away from that weekend of diving with many good images, but these two were definitely my favorites, which furthered my excitement that they were chosen as winners. I’m working to get the rest of the pictures from that weekend up and shared with everyone, followed by a day of diving at Casino Point with a couple of the nice macro lenses for the micro four-thirds cameras and my latest adventure, another night dive (2) on the wreck of the Palawan… deep in the Redondo Bay. Too much diving and too little time to sit in front of a computer!