One of my dear friends and photography idols is Tony Wu. He is a pleasant individual who is sometimes fun to be around. We have done a number of trips together over the past decade, most of which he works hard to forget. Anyway, years ago I saw some of his brilliant images of the red snapper spawning aggregation in Palau which inspired my own desire to photograph schools of fish having sex during my 2019 visit. The spawning only takes place a few days each month in the early morning hours the few days before the full moon. I planned my trip to coincide with these dates. Because the diving was going to happen before sunrise, I knew that it was going to be quite dark underwater. I was going to need my bulky underwater strobes and get as close as possible to the action. As I dove into the dark water and descended to the bottom, there were probably 8000 fish balled up together. I knew my air supply was going to get used up fast based on the depth I was diving to and my need to swim as fast as possible whenever they rocketed back to the surface to spawn. Needless to say, I did not have a very long dive, but was fortunate to come away with this fantastic image of an inspiring wildlife spectacle.
One of my favorite subjects to photograph underwater are clown anemonefish. I can spend an entire dive photographing them as they dart about in a comical, yet exasperated state. I encountered this red and black anemonefish while visiting Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands in 2019. While trying to create an image like this, I am dealing with multiple issues that my non-underwater photography friends are probably unaware of. I have to be aware of my surroundings, pay attention to the amount of air left in my tank, control my buoyancy, adjust my cumbersome camera equipment, and then hope that some of my images are properly exposed and in focus. Every once in a while, I get lucky and capture a moment like this. I like how the fish was off center while staring directly at me. I think it is especially amusing that it had one eye looking up and the other eye was looking down.
One of my false clown anemonefish images was published on the October cover of Sport Diver! I photographed this clownfish while visiting the Misool Ecoresort located in Raja Ampat, Indonesia in March 2011. (Man, was that trip really almost 5 years ago?) I had always wanted to photograph these charismatic fish ever since watching Finding Nemo a thousand times with my older daughter when she was little. When I returned from the trip, I recall one of my good dive buddies telling me that clownfish images were a dime-a-dozen and I would never publish them. Surprisingly, I have proven him wrong and published them widely.
I photographed this pink anemonefish during my recent scuba diving expedition to Fiji. I love photographing clown anemonefish. They have a lot of character as they swim about in the tentacles of their host anemone. I like how it is looking right at my camera with an comical expression of indignation. I took hundreds of photos during this dive trying to get the fish to look directly at me as the anemone’s tentacles all were going the same direction in the current.
I am incredibly excited to have 2 of my new acrylic face mount prints on permanent display at Etheridge Family Dentistry in Seattle, WA. The 35×50 Laguna de los Tres Sunrise 5 print above is from my trip to Patagonia last January and the 35×50 False Clownfish 23 image below is from my trip to Raja Ampat last March. They look absolutely stunning (even with Dr Ty standing in front of them). Both of these acrylic face mounts were created by West Coast Imaging. WCI offers several paper options. I chose the Epson premium glossy paper, because it most closely matched the colors of my own Epson printer. They are mounted directly to 1/4″ acrylic, backed with a white dibond backer, a metal hanging system is attached, and the edges are flame polished. I have not finalized my price list for these spectacular prints, but they will cost about 2 to 3 times the price of my current Museo silver rag prints. To celebrate the 2011 holiday season, I will offer these ready to hang prints at the introductory price of 2 times my current print prices. It takes about 3 weeks to create them, so all orders that are placed no later than next Friday December 2 will be guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas.
What else needs to be said about clownfish, other than they are iconic and adorable? There are also many different types of clownfish, like this skunk anemonefish. As my regular readers can probably tell, I had a plethora of photographic opportunities while scuba diving during my visit to the Misool Ecoresort. This yellow anemone was aesthetically appealing to me and the skunk anemonefish was less agitated than most of the false clown anemonefish that I photographed. Heck, this one even has a slightly less dour frown on its face. Do I even sense a smile because it knew that I was going to make it famous? I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII and 100mm f2.8 macro lens in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with dual Ikelite DS160 strobes set on TTL. This image required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
I left the Misool Ecoresort in Indonesia 3 weeks ago today, but it still feels like it was just yesterday. It was probably my favorite photography trip that I have ever done and I can not wait to return. I’ll likely lead a photo tour there in the fall of 2012. I am only about 1/3 of the way through editing my images, but I already have a few favorites. Take this comical picture of a juvenile clown anemonefish. I spent a lot of time photographing these aggressive little fish during 2 weeks of scuba-diving. They constantly darted around, hiding in the anemone’s tentacles, but every once in a while I photographed a perfect moment where the fish had clear eye contact with the camera. Unfortunately, I could not do much about it’s “frowning” face, but hopefully it contributes to the humor of this image. I looked for patterns of consistent form and texture of the tentacles and waited until the fish swam into the most aesthetically pleasing sections. Also, I was surprised to learn that this type of clownfish, which most people recognize from the movie Finding Nemo, is actually called a false clown anemonefish. A true clown anemonefish has more pronounced black bars on it’s body. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII and 100mm f2.8 macro lens in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with dual Ikelite DS160 strobes set on TTL. This image required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
WOW! That is a very short summary of my recent trip to the Misool Ecoresort in Raja Ampat, Papua, Indonesia. I am still getting over my jetlag, but starting to process my new images. I shot a variety of subjects from wide-angle soft coral underwater landscapes to above water remote beach sunsets, but some of my favorite images are of the anemonefish. I have wanted to photograph them ever since I first saw them underwater during my visit to Indonesia in 2000 and later while watching “Finding Nemo” hundreds of times with my daughters. It took me a few years, but I finally had the opportunity during this trip. These fish are constantly darting around in an agitated state while having a cute expression on their face, which makes them very frustrating to photograph. I spent 20-30 minutes patiently waiting for this clownfish to move into the most aesthetic position, all the while I photographed a hundred or more pictures that required immediate deletion. This image resonates with me for the head-on pouty expression on the clownfish’s face as well as the symmetry of the color and texture of the anemome around it. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII and 100mm f2.8 macro lens in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with dual Ikelite DS160 strobes set on TTL. This image required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.
I spent last Thursday and Friday photographing the sockeye salmon migration on the Adams River in central British Columbia. It was a miraculous sight to behold! Every 4 years the salmon return in huge numbers. However, they had not returned in as great a numbers as this year since 1910. The relatively short life cycle of the salmon is amazing when you consider that when they are born they swim in Shuswap Lake for a year before descending the Fraser River, migrating to the North Pacific Ocean, and finally returning to the river of their birth by swimming past orcas, fisherman, and the city of Vancouver to lay their eggs before dying. Though the young salmon never meet their parents, the accumulated biomass of their decaying parents nourishes the lake and thus the young salmon in their first year of life. The epic journey of the salmon is a story about determination and rebirth.
During my previous visit to the Adams River in 2002, I was just beginning my photography career. I had no idea what I was doing with an underwater housing. Plus, I was limited to only 36 exposures on a roll of film, which made it a real pain getting out of the water to change film. Using my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with an 8″ dome port and dual DS 160 strobes, I am now able to create over 600 exposures on my 16GB Sandisk Extreme cards. My recent shoot was no longer limited by technology, but more by my patience and willingness to sit on my knees in the middle of the river while wearing my drysuit for hours at a time. I perfected my technique of shooting “blindly” by positioning myself in the river so that an eddy formed downstream of my body where the salmon could congregate and then I lowered my housing into the water to fire away at 4fps without looking through the viewfinder. Clearly, there was a lot of room for error in my positioning of my camera in this manner, because I had to delete a lot of images. I was inspired to create this image as the sun was just starting to rise over the tops of the trees in the late morning. The salmon were backlit, so I used my strobes for a bit of fill-flash. I did not have all my correct strobe arm parts with me, so I attached one strobe to my housing in the vertical position on the left side and hand-held my other strobe against my knee with my right hand. I was able to push the shutter release button with my left hand while balancing my housing against the river bottom. My strobes were set to -3 and the rest of this image was just pure luck that I guessed correctly of how to angle my camera. I do not like to do very much post-processing, but I had to digitally remove a significant amount of backscatter that was caused by my strobes illuminating the particulates in the water. My overall point in this long description is that there was a lot of technical challenges as well as blind luck required to create this beautiful image.
Update on 10/23/10-For anyone who might be concerned about my photography interfering with the salmon, I had a permit from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) that allowed me to be in the water.