False Clown Anemonefish 23

False Clown Anemonefish 23

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.

Boo West Soft Corals 2

Boo West Soft Corals 2

Of all my photos that I created during my recent Indonesian adventure to the Misool Ecoresort, this is the one that I had most envisioned. Indonesia is well known for its spectacular reefs, and Raja Ampat is considered to have some of the most pristine in the world. I was not disappointed. Before my trip, I was anxious about my learning curve to create an image like this. I think that every photographer should try taking a picture outside of their comfort zone once in a while. I initially struggled with balancing an ambient light exposure with fill-flash from my powerful underwater strobes, but I overcame these limitations after my first few days of diving. Freeing myself from the technical aspects of underwater photography allowed me to focus on composition. Once I figured out where to look for soft corals on the side of boomies (underwater pinnacles), I was able to realize my creative vision. Clearly the focus of this image is the neon soft corals surrounded by tropical fish, but I added texture to an otherwise featureless blue background by angling my camera up towards the surface. The clouds in the sky above also added color. I find it interesting that clouds play an important role in underwater landscape photography just like they do above water. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens with a +3 diopter in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with dual DS160 strobes set to -3 power. This image required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Batbitim Palm Tree Reflection 1

Batbitim Palm Tree Reflection 1

During my recent journey to the Misool Ecoresort in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, my main ambition was underwater photography. I created most of my images while scuba diving at a depth of 10-20m. However, I made this dramatic image in the shallow water located between the dive center and restaurant. This beautiful tropical lagoon was composed of a white sand beach and teemed with baitfish and baby blacktip reef sharks. I had originally intended to photograph these creatures, but when I discovered the reflection of the coconut palm trees on the surface I turned my attention to photographing this instead. I was also drawn to the spectral refraction patterns on the sandy bottom, but the surface reflection is really where any good wide-angle underwater image can be found. I created this image without looking through my viewfinder through trial and error until I figured out how far back to angle my camera housing while it rested in the sand. I used my Canon 5DmkII and Canon 17-40mm f4 lens with a +3 diopter inside of my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with my 8″ dome port. This image required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

False Clown Anemonefish 1

False Clown Anemonefish 1

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.

Blythe's Hornbill 1

Blythe’s Hornbill 1

This bird I did find in the guidebook. It is called a Bythe’s Hornbill. Pretty wicked looking dinosaur of a bird. This one is the resident pest at Sorido Bay. When I first approached it, I was unaware that it was kinda tame. I took one look at that bill as it was coming at me and considering my past luck with getting bit by exotic critters, I backed off. Some of the locals then came over and showed me that they could actually touch it. I’m still not sold that I’m going anywhere near that beak, but I am quite pleased that I got to use my camera today and came away with some respectable images.

Paradise Kingfisher 1

Paradise Kingfisher 1

Update on 11/25-I figured out that this bird is a Kingfisher of Paradise.

Today started out very early. I am staying at the Waiwo Field Station of Conservation International. They are kindly putting me up for 2 nights before I start diving tomorrow with Papua Diving. I am trying to photograph the incredibly rare Wilson’s Bird of Paradise. I had to get up very early and hike a long way up hill through the jungle. I wore my sandals and was covered in mud by the time we got to where my guide had scouted the bird. I actually got a glimpse of it twice, but did not get off a single frame. I spent about 4 hours in my blind waiting with all manner of bugs crawling over me and biting the hell out of me. I am taking an anti-malarial drug, so I hope that it works because I’m gonna need it after that trek. Sitting on my knees in the mud in the jungle of Papua, what a treat! I am going to try again tomorrow. This bird is not a BOP, but rather something kinda cool that is not in the field guide that I have been looking through all evening. At least I took some pictures today that I can feel good about.