Thursday, April 25, 2013

Olowalu Sea Turtle Over Under Photography

  Continuing on my theme of wide angle underwater photography exploration around the island of Maui I enlisted the help of underwater model specialist Heidi as well as a few Hawaiian green sea turtles to add a little extra to these shots from Olowalu reef. The water cleared up nicely as we snorkeled offshore and the coral here is just incredible. I was hoping for flat calm conditions to try some over under shots with the camera lens half in the water and half out. This is a very delicate art form especially when you have some waves added to the mix.

I picked Olowalu for this because to make a good over/under picture you have to have interesting things both above and below the water. The reef is always amazing, especially if you have a turtle or snorkeler in the shot, and here at Olowalu the above water scenery is breathtaking. The west maui mountains loom in the background. They are nearly always covered in clouds. At over 5,500ft tall they create their own climate zone and have an annual rainfall of over 350inches of rain a year!

I would love to go back and try this again on a really flat day but some of the shots came out great and the challenge itself was very fun. It's always good to try to expand your capabilities and sometimes you just have to learn by doing.

natural colors of Olowalu
Heidi in a high contrast black and white shot

My underwater model pumped after a solid days work

Monday, April 22, 2013

Maui Sea Turtle Diving at Wailea Point

Turtles galore! Along the south shore of Maui anywhere you see black lava rocks at the shoreline you have a good chance of finding sea turtles nearby. They have been making a great recovery as a species. However I have not often gone out with the sole purpose of photographing these reptiles of the sea since those same rocky habitats often house nudibranchs as well. But I wanted to change that so I headed to a spot called Wailea Point.

I was a little worried at first, only having one encounter as I kicked all the way out to the deepest part of the reef. But as I went farther out into the halimeda grass beds to find the satellite reef I found the turtle mother load. One turtle swooped in and pulled its best ostrich move by sticking its head into a crack in the rock. Shortly after another swam over from the blue but quickly left, only to be replaced by another, much friendlier turtle. This new turtle obviously wanted the same "hiding" spot as the first one and let it know by nipping at the exposed hind flippers! But the first turtle would not be moved. So this new feisty turtle turns toward me, takes a big bite out of the sea grass, then starts trying to get its mouth around my fins! It was pretty cute. In the picture it looks like the turtle is resting its head on my fin but check out the open mouth...he was trying to eat it!
After watching the turtle shenanigans out off the reef I headed back to find the turtle cleaning station. This little turtle pictured on the left plopped down at the station and soon had a couple of little fish picking algae growths off its shells and flippers. The last turtle I encountered was this beauty swimming over the sand.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Macro Critters Galore at Five Caves, Maui

  This morning I grabbed my macro setup to try and find some small underwater wildlife to photograph. Sometimes when you slow down and really look it can be amazing how many little creatures start showing up. I went to a dive site called five caves, aka five graves. It is a spot very famous for sea turtle encounters which means these little animals get passed over even more often than most.

  Nudibranchs, harlequin shrimp, scorpion fish, and even peacock flounders showed themselves on this dive. It wasn't until I saw a couple of neon yellow juvenile frogfish that I knew who was going to steal the show. Surrounded by a cloud of tiny plankton the frogfish would open its mouth and gobble up some of the goodies.

  These are Commerson's frogfish and will grow to about the size of a volleyball if they get old enough. Right now they could easily fit into the palm of my hand. Once they get bigger they will graduate from eating plankton to eating fish. They are one of the only known predators to lionfish anywhere in the world.

Some animals were out and about on the dive but a few were peeking from the shadows like this dwarf moray eel. I stopped to photograph a nudibranch and glanced over to my delight to see this eel poking its head out. I also thought this baby yellow-tail coris hiding behind this sea urchin with his little white spotted toby friend was pretty cute.

Hawkfish Mug Shot
Rosy Phyllidia

Red Spotted Nudibranch

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Breaching Humpback Whale Panoramic

Breaching humpback whale, (Megaptera novaeangliae) in front of Ma'alaea Harbor, Maui, HI
 Photography can be a job for some and a way to make memories for others. While it is partly both for me the true draw of it is the challenge. Getting the lighting, focus, and other settings right is a challenge that can always be bettered. Going underwater unleashes all new challenges for a photographer with less light and suspended particles to deal with. But a nature photographer takes all of this to the next level of difficulty. When your subject is a scared fish, or stalking lion, or a lightning fast humming bird all of the other challenges of photography have to be mastered before you can really come home with some good pictures. But even with a great mastery of the basics, getting to know the animal you are photographing is essential if you want to be ready to capture that apex moment.
 Whales are one of my favorite animals to photograph. They are very difficult to capture since they only spend a fraction of their time at the surface. Luckily humpback whales are known for their incredible acrobatics which gives me a fantastic opportunity to capture a moment like this when an 80,000lbs whale seems to glide effortlessly out of the water. This panoramic picture has Ma'alaea harbor making up the backdrop for a breaching humpback whale. Ma'alaea is the harbor I have been running whale watches out of for the past three winters here in Maui. This picture was taken in late April, 2013, when most of the humpbacks had already migrated back to their summer feeding grounds up around Alaska.
 Because it is such a challenge to photograph these unpredictable whales, when I do capture an image like this it is very rewarding.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Twin Falls at Dusk All To Myself

Reflection of Twin Falls, Maui

Sometimes when you live in a place like Maui finding inspiration for pictures can be quite easy. Twin Falls at dusk, a perfect time to have it all to yourself. I enjoyed playing with long exposures with the fading light. This also happened to be the calmest and lowest water level I have ever seen here which gave the pool a mirror like quality casting not only the reflection of the twin water falls but also giving a transparent quality not often seen here. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Second Cathedrals, Lanai

Enter the dimly lit cavernous world of Lanai scuba diving. Filled with lava tubes, arches, caves, and caverns, the coast of Lanai is an adventurous scuba divers playground. Unusual creatures hide out in the overhead environments here and can be quite common while eight miles away on Maui are rarely seen. We took a trip with Lahaina Divers out of Lahaina to explore some of Lanai's underwater sights.

  I had dove out here before but never at Second Cathedral. A huge coral covered mound from the outside, once penetrated you see that the mound is hollow and filled with openings and exits, giving it an eerie swiss cheese appearance from within. Outside the water is a beautiful aqua blue but inside the cavern a dusky haze permeates like twilight. It is a very beautiful light to work with as a photographer and I always leave dives like this wishing I could go back and shoot more.

Giant schools of ta'ape, or bluestripe snappers circle the outside of the dive site. Gold lace nudibranchs and Fellow's nudibranchs were found in abundance as well as different moray eels hiding out. Some divers don't like going into overhead environments but to me it is one of the most beautiful sights you will ever see.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Carthaginian Wreck Dive by Kayak From Shore

The ghostly visage of the tallship Carthaginian
Heidi, Mary and I planned an adventure almost too big for one car, to kayak out from the shore with all of our scuba and camera gear and dive the wreck of the Carthaginian. The Carthaginian is an old tall ship that I've written about a couple of times on this blog. Feel free to search for the other post/dives done here using the search feature on the website. Located about 90ft down on a sandy bottom this ship is mostly visited by tourists remaining dry aboard the local submarine which zooms around the wreck and nearby waters. I expected to see the sub at some point on this dive and it showed up out of the blue right when we descended to deck level on the wreck.
  While the submarine is quite loud with its electronic propellers it still took Heidi a while to figure out it was right behind her. She was much too determined to find the elusive frogfish rumored to be hiding out on the wreck to look for a huge underwater ship coming at her. She did finally see it to which I chuckled into my regulator. However her determination paid off as she found some of the most beautiful frogfish I have ever seen. Take a look at the coloration these Commerson Frogfish have adopted.

All in all it was a spectacular dive. Yellow noumea nudibranchs were also found on the wreck near their bright yellow egg ribbons. Lots and lots of fish and even a little late season whale song also made the time fly by. Pretty soon it was time to start ascending since it is a rather deep dive. I captured a few pictures of the full side view of the wreck with my 10mm super wide angle camera before it was lost again into the deep blue.

Friday, April 5, 2013

First Summer Swell of the Season: Dumps Go Pro

  On a hunch I booked it down to Dumps yesterday after work just in case there were waves big enough to surf. Dumps is a beautiful wave with turquoise water that forms a steep left of shallow reef. It works on big south swells sent up from storms in the southern hemisphere so it is mainly a summer time wave. During the winter everyone flocks to the north shore to catch big waves sent down from big storms up near Japan and Alaska.
  You can imagine my exuberance as I walked around the last corner of the path to Dumps just in time to see a set of three perfectly formed, head high lefts peeling into Dumps....and one guy out! I literally ran the rest of the way over the lava rocks to get to the entry before jumping in the water and furiously paddling out to the lineup. I couldn't believe my luck. The other surfer did say that was the biggest set he had seen yet, but luckily I was in for a lot of luck during this early south swell surf session!

 Making friends in the lineup, riding glass, beautiful lefts, and avoiding all the shallow coral really made my day. Not to mention spending a couple of seconds in what we surfers call the "green room." That is when the wave curls over your head, blocks out the sun, and give you a rare view from within a barreling wave. I think it will be a great summer here in Maui.