Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Scuba Diving Cape Town: Macro Photography

Camouflaging orange sea star
 Scuba Diving Cape Town: Macro Photography

Diving in the cold waters around Cape Town mean reduced visibility and low light, but a lot of life. Macro photography, a kind of specialized close up photography, is wonderful for these conditions. Most point and shoot cameras can do this, it is the little flower symbol on the round dial, but to get professional quality shots some more specialized equipment is needed. I use a canon 5d mark ii, with Ikelite Housing, and a canon 100mm macro lens with the corresponding underwater lens port. I also use an Ikelite DS161 underwater strobe to bring light down into these dark places.

Janolus nakaza nudibranch on the reef
Tambja capensis
  Working very close to your subject means that you don't have to worry about your flash hitting all the suspended sediment and bouncing back at backscatter. Plus your light reveals the hidden colors where normally these colors can't be seen this deep. Imagine looking at something very dark at night, taking a picture with a flash, and it shows up on your screen as bright orange! This unveiling of true color and the surprise that can come with it is one of my favorite things about scuba diving with a macro setup. Also it makes me slow down and appreciate the small things. I start to look more for colors, patterns, and animal life that I would otherwise swim right past.

Polycera capensis
  This is why searching for nudibranchs has become such an obsession of mine. Heidi and I have traveled from Florida, to Hawaii, to the Philippines, to Indonesia, and now to Africa looking for new and crazy sea slugs. I believe that you could find almost any color and pattern you could dream of and a few new ones if you look for these creatures long enough. And the nudibranchs around Cape Town are some of the rarest in the world, because most can only be found in this region. In fact, every species of nudibranchs that we found was endemic to the Cape region. And as you can see it is like an underwater treasure hunt.

Electric blue on the reef
  Life covers every square inch of the underwater coastline of Cape Town. Fish abound but it is the invertebrate life that brings so much color to the rocky reefs. I was shocked to see electric blue, vibrant pink, and hot red colors on the reef as I swooped my light over them. You would think with these colors the nudibranchs would be easy to find but they are surrounded by so much color that it can be hard without a trained eye.

Breeding nudibranchs surrounded by color

 There are many rocky reefs available from each side of the cape peninsula. All are covered in life and nudibranchs. My best nudibranch photos can be found here, http://www.daimarsphotos.com/Wildlife/Nudibranchs/

 If you are a fan of the small things or just want to go on a nudibranch treasure hunt then Cape Town is the destination for you. Whether you use Ollava Dive or Pisces or another shop they will no doubt be able to find you nudibranchs to photograph. Or if the conditions are right you can grab your own gear, rent a tank, and head to some of the locally popular shore dive spots like Long Beach of A-Frame. Over 70 species of nudibranchs have been recorded from the Cape Town area on www.nudipixel.net.

Polycera capensis
  With the cold water keeping the crowds away it is often just your small group on the reef. But as you are focusing on the little things and searching every nook and cranny for your next great macro subject, don't forget to glance around you. On our last dive we apparently had a southern right whale about 40ft away from us but none of us knew. With less than 20ft visibility though it may not have been possible to see the whale unless he blocked out the sun filtering down. Next time!

A baby shy shark
Shark egg cases abound

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