Just a really quick post featuring two characters I encountered last week. Above a Topknot (Zeugopterus punctatus), a little (<10 cm) flatfish. Below a Seahare (Aplysia punctata), an ophistobranch mollusc which is enjoying a bit of a population boom at the moment. Been in a bit more lately with so-so results but hope to post more soon.
new lens: Panasonic Leica 9mm
Sorry for you non-photography geeks, this is a short post about a lens, the “Panasonic H-X09E Lumix LEICA DG SUMMILUX 9mm F1.7 Lens” to be precise… During the spell of bad weather I was practically forced to browse, and yes, spend money on photo gear. I had long wanted a lens suitable both for landscape and street photography, but especially one that allowed me to focus on say a reptile or amphibian and still have the habitat in the background. A fisheye lens can do this a bit (see the previous post), but on land it results in distortions that just look unnatural. This is a lens that can do the job, as it has a minimum focusing distance of about 10 cm – resulting not in real macro shots but being able to come pretty close, combined with a wide angle background. After having it taken out this weekend for the first time I must say I am really happy with it.
The bank holiday Monday warranted a morning visit to one of our favourite haunts Windmill Farm to do some ‘herping’. Adders and slow worms were found after lifting up corrugated iron sheets, but they slithered off before I could take any good shots. However, there was a toad that sat nice and still so I was able to take multiple shots, camera in one hand, diffuser in the other. For a first try, I was pretty happy with the result. Next, we took a walk from nearby Lizard Point to Housel Bay. The weather was absolutely glorious, with many wild flowers on the cliffs and fulmars, choughs and pipits flying around. The water was blue and crystal clear – you could see the seals swimming underwater! A small part of me was cursing that I was not in the water myself to take photos, but it was a fantastic day on land too.
P.S. annoyed that the Windows photo software straightening tool is not very precise – the horizon is not straight!
Cave of Dreams
I cheekily ordered a larger dome port last week (8 inch instead of 4 inch), which should suffer less chromatic aberration (unsharp corners), but also make it easier to compose splitshots (or ‘over-under’ shots) where the top half is above water and the bottom half below water. I played around with this type of shot a bit before with the small dome (e.g. see here and here) but it should be much easier with a larger dome. Anyway, the weather was such that I did not immediately have a go at it, but this Tuesday I figured I could give it a try at Fistral Beach in Newquay, which has some good rockpools that are not directly connected to the sea at low tide and might be still enough. It was bloody hard to get a decent shot in the deeper rockpools I tried first, as the difference in ambient light above and below water really necessitates the use of strobes to result in an even exposure, As I struggle with strobe lighting for normal shots, this was a bit too much to ask. My fallback was the ‘cave of dreams’ a rather grandiose name for a small overhang containing scarlet and gold cup corals (Balanophyllia regia) and Yellow hedgehog sponges (Polymastia boletiformis) (amongst other sponge species). (Check out THIS OLD POST on the cave of dreams with some decent pics I took with my old Canon Powershot camera.) Crouching down, I could barely fit under the overhang. The picture above looks like it is a substantial scene, but I could only submerge my domeport halfway! Using strobes would have been too finicky and probably result in quite unnatural light, so I bumped the ISO to 400, lowered the shutterspeed to 1/30 and used a 6.3 F-stop to get sufficient exposure using my micro four thirds Olympus camera. I needed to go down to a shutterspeed of 1/25 and a 5 F-stop for the close-up shot below. Here is to more experimenting this spring/summer!
P.S. the sponges have been going strong for a good while, see these pics from 2014/2015!
We have had some sunny spells but generally the weather has been disappointing lately, especially with regards to wind and waves. I did some snorkels with the fisheye lens to try to capture the seaweeds but the viz was such that I did not even bother to copy the images from my camera to my laptop….A crying shame as it means I have to wait a whole other year to capture the seaweeds in their full glory! (although even when most seaweed species are in decline, with good viz and some sun the pools can still look fantastic later in the season, see for example HERE or HERE). Anyhow, instead of taking my fisheye lens underwater, I tried it out on land instead, specifically on the muddy foreshore of my village Flushing. (A wide angle lens would have been better for this – no warped horizons etc – but I don’t have one.) I had a go at this a while back, before I really knew about softboxes to disperse flash light….what can I say, I am a slow learner… I recently bought a flash and a trigger so I can hold my flash in a softbox near subjects which is the way forward for these types of shots. Although not home to the most spectacular animals or backgrounds, it was fun playing around a bit. Top left: Montagu’s Breadcrumb Sponge (Hymeniacidon perlevis), top right: something that looks superficially like Elephant Hide Sponge (Pachymatisma johnstonia), although the colour and texture are off. (This specimen will be sampled by David Fenwick for a close look at the spicules (if it is a sponge and not a seasquirt!)
There are many oysters here too, mostly the invasive Pacific oyster (Magallana gigas) (pictured above), but also the native oyster (Ostrea edulis). I hoped to get a shot of an eel, but the ones we caught were small and a bit too active. We also found rocklings, shannies, rock gobies, a sea scorpion and interestingly a dragonet and a painted goby (I had not seen one of these before). Although there are quite a lot of interesting species to be found in the mud, I hope I’m able to go snorkeling in some clear blue water very soon!
‘Portfolio’ sounds a bit pretentious so ‘Photo Gallery’ it is…. check the page link on top for some of my better pics. These also feature on my instagram account ‘@an_bollenessor‘.
A while ago I played around with taking pics of the underside of a buoy, which was fun, and so i wanted to practice this some more. My mistake the first time (see here) was to use a fast shutterspeed (the buoy was bobbing about after all) which made the water look unnaturally dark. I tried again this weekend and it went a bit better, although I already know I can improve things. This time I thought it would be nice to put some names to the amazing fouling biodiversity (I did this before for some seaweed images, see here). Crustaceans (tube-dwelling Jassa), Sponges, Bryozoans, Seaweeds but especially a lot of Tunicates (seasquirts; both solitary and colonial species). David Fenwick (of AphotoMarine fame) had a quick look to help with some IDs; there is a more there but this was not meant to be exhaustive. I have underlined species that are invasive. Anyway, I am sure I will post more of these types of images: the buoys are always there and these organisms do not swim off when you try to take a photo!
a Phyllodocid Worm
Had a nice snorkel yesterday; the weather was good and with the seaweeds growing I was tempted to go for the wide angle lens but in the end I was cautious and went for macro (where the visibility is not as important). Lots of stalked jellyfish and some nice chameleon prawns but I had trouble aiming the strobe right somehow. I turned over some rocks and found a large ‘worm ball’ wriggling frantically. It was hard to estimate its size but might have been 10-20 cm. It is a Phyllodocid worm, possibly this one. I also managed a closeup which really shows off the lovely green and blue colours.
Happy Holidays Everyone!
I realized this week that I have been blogging on my marine biology adventures for a decade now! Worth a quick self-congratulatory post surely. After living in landlocked places for years (in Germany, the UK and The Netherlands), the move to Cornwall rekindled my love for the seashore. I started this ‘nerd blog’ (with a name no one ever remembers!) shortly after as a way of documenting my adventures for myself, and the occasional stranger stumbling upon it. This had led to some unexpected opportunities, such as recently contributing to the second issue of the magazine ‘Fish – A literary celebration of scale and fin’ with a little piece on snorkeling in Cornwall. I can highly recommend this once-yearly magazine to anyone who is interested in fish – a true labour of love by Nathan Hill of Practical Fish Keeping fame (ahem). The blog topics have changed somewhat over the years, with less focus on rockpooling and my coldwater marine aquarium and more photography-based posts (you can click on specific tags in the cloud at the bottom of the page). The photography has improved (I hope), from using my iPhone and point and shoot camera to a much nicer Olympus micro four thirds camera. The shot above was my favourite from this year (see here for an explanation of what you are actually looking at). Thanks go out to my sister for touching it up in lightroom since (btw, if you are looking for ocean-themed jewellery, please check out her webshop laguna treasures). I think the Links page can still be useful to fellow enthusiasts, although I need to update it (this is for instance a great resource for coldwater marine tank keepers that needs to be added). Anyway, I’ll just say I hope to do a lot more underwater photography in the new year and post it on the blog!
A rare sunny interval on Saturday meant I grabbed my gear for one last snorkel this year before returning to The Netherlands for Christmas. The visibility seemed good the last couple of days (judged by peering down the quay) and there was no wind, but I was quickly disappointed when sticking my head underwater at Flushing beach (also had major brain freeze!). I headed to the nearest buoy to practice some close focus wide able shots with my two strobes (one just arrive back from Japan for repairs). This proved difficult but fun. Lots of adjusting positions; outward when they created back scatter and inwards when the middle of the photo was not lit up. As the buoy was bobbing about I used a fast shutterspeed which resulted in dark water but that too has its charms. Lots of diversity, including the solitary seasquirt Cione intestinalis, colonial seasquirts Botryllus schlosseri, Diplosoma listerianum, Didemnum (maculosum?), bryozoans Watersipora subatra and Bugula and/or Bugulina species, the purse sponge Sycon ciliatum as well as tufts of red seaweeds and green Ulva. There are an enormous amount of tiny critters such as worms and snails hidden between all these species as well. It will be a nice project for next year to take a better wide able pic and complement these with macro pics of individual species.
Corals at Porth Mear Cove
I met up this Friday with Tom from Hydro Motion Media to look for Scarlet and gold star corals (Balanophyllia regia) in a cove that was new to me: Porth Mear, between Newquay and Padstow. It was a beautiful day, sunny and crisp, but with frost on the ground. Tom was keen to capture timelapse videos of feeding Snakelocks Anemones using his GoPro. (Follow him on instagram @hydromotionmedia to see his videos.) I was keen to get some photos of the beautiful yellow coral polyps. We met recently on Fistral Beach in Newquay to look at this species in the ‘Cave of Dreams’ (see here for an old post) but I did not get any good shots that time. Tom knew exactly where to find the corals in a shallow gully. These corals are solitary but they occur in small clusters. I saw several dozens of polyps; a few stood out by being fluorescent yellow instead of the normal orange and yellow. They are tricky to photograph, awkwardly located under overhangs and with an ugly greyish ‘animal turf’ for a background. The cove was very pretty and had some really good rock pools; I will definitely try to come back here!