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!
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!
Half hidden under the subtropical shrubs in the Penjerrick ‘jungle garden’, this moss-covered coral is believed to have been a gift from Robert FitzRoy, captain of HMS Beagle, the ship that sailed Charles Darwin around the world for almost five years.
The Beagle landed here in Falmouth the 2nd of October 1836, but Darwin did not bother to stay around and immediately caught the Royal Mail coach back to Shrewsbury.
P.S. A rare occasion I could put my fisheye lens to use on land!
Two weeks ago we werelucky to spend a mid-week on St. Martins, one of the Scilly Islands. The Scillies are a group of tiny inhabited and uninhabited islands 28 miles off Lands’ End (before I moved to Cornwall eight years ago, I had never even heard of them…). The water over there is bluer, the sand is whiter and the viz much (much) better than in ‘mainland’ Cornwall, so a true paradise for snorkelling. I tried to get underwater as much as I could, in-between exploring the island (and going to the one pub). As we did not have much time, I mainly snorkelled in the seagrass just off Par Beach. It does not really look like England does it!? The seagrass was teeming with stalked jellyfish. However, because of the great viz I stuck with my fisheye lens, which meant it was tricky to photograph them. This species is Calvadosia campanulata, a protected and generally uncommon species, so worth recording (which I will get on when work is quieter and the weather is crappier). The ID was confirmed by expert David Fenwick, have a look at his excellent site on stalker jellies stauromedusae.co.uk (and his general site for marine species in the SW of the UK aphotomarine.com). Dave also pointed out some other organisms growing on the seagrass seen on these pics: the small red algae Rhodophysema georgei and the slime mold Labyrinthula zosterae (the black bits). As always, I learned something new talking to Dave. Snakelocks anemones were abundant on the seagrass, and the sand inbetween was full of Daisy anemones and Red-Speckled anemones Anthopleura balli (one of my favourites, they do well in my aquarium). As always, I bother crabs by sticking a lens in their face. Bigger Green Shore Crabs Carcinus maenas can get a bit feisty and attack the dome port (maybe because they see their own reflection). Finally a juvenile Straight-nosed Pipefish Nerophis ophidion (about 3 inches), a new one for me. I am always facinated by piepfish (and hope to one day see a seahorse). Unfortunately the shot is not in focus, I really needed a macrolens for this one. Still, you can marvel at the white sand and blue water! Some photos are allright, but I could do a lot better with a bit more time. Luckily we rebooked for a stay in spring already!
Rumours had it that the viz was great at the North Coast last weekend, and as it was pretty bad at the south Coast, I found some time to drive up to St. Agnes (buying new fins on the way) with the fisheye lens+dome. I was not disappointed: look at that blue sea! The water was clear, the sand was white and the seaweeds were waving on the rock faces. I saw flounder, mullet (thicklipped and red), seabass, sand eels, corkwing wrasse, sand smelt and most interestingly: weeverfish. Swimming above the sand with yellow fins and burying themselves so only the eyes are visible. I saw one half a meter deep on the beach, so it is advisable to wear surfshoes (see here). Unfortunately I could not get a good photo. I tried to take photos with the strobe but that did not really work so all photos here are natural light, trading off ISO, shutterspeed and depth of field to get the right exposure. There were Blue jellyfish around (small, 2-4 inches), and I tried to shoot them over-under but that was a bit too ambitious. Some easier shots instead. I hope to find some big Barrel jellyfish in the coming weeks, as they will be a lot easier to shoot!As the fish proved a bit too fast, and the over-unders a bit too difficult, I tried to take some shots of seaweeds instead. Although I mainly knew it from more sheltered locations, there was quite a bit of Mermaid’s tresses Chorda filum on this exposed coast. There was a lot of discoid forkweek Polyides rotundus on the sand but also on the rocks, and often covered in Falkenbergia. Other species that were abundant were Hairy sandweed Cladostephus spongiosus and Desmarestia ligulata. Hope to return soon!