I had a few rock pooling sessions recently to play with my new camera (and wide angle lens). The main one was a workshop with North coast-based Thomas Daguerre of Hydro Motion Media (facebook). I am just a beginning photographer and so learning the ropes from an experienced hand proved immensely valuable. The session started with going through some of the basics (white balance, focusing etc), after which we headed out to the rock pools to put some of the theory in practice. We headed down to Thomas’ stomping ground of south Fistral Beach (I visited once before). Although the timing was not the best tide-wise, it was a beautiful day. This was the first time I actually submerged myself in rock pools to take photo’s; of course, being able to look through your view finder is the only way to do it right. It is hard to not stir up sediment though and in some pools salinity gradients made for bad viz. I used Thomas’ G16 setup with video lights and a strobe on a tray (something like this; should have taken a picture of it) which was very difficult! As a result of all the experimentation I ended up with few blog-worthy photos, but this session made clear that trying to capture ‘rock pool scapes’ is what I would like to focus on, the variety of seaweed species, colours and shapes I find especially cool.I really need to try to go back to these pools and try to get better photo’s. I also will arrange a second session with Thomas later in the season to start learning how to post-process RAW files. What was very interesting to see is that the pools here teem with Giant gobies Gobius cobitis, a protected species in the UK. We saw two lying side by side in a crevice but they are shy and it was hard to get a good shot. Thomas has recently made an excellent series of short films highlighting various charismatic local marine species, and one of them features the Giant goby (see the Hydro Motion Media site for the other eleven films):
I helped out last Friday at the University of Exeter – Cornwall Campus event ‘Science In The Square’ (see for a short description my work blog ‘coastal pathogens‘). Briefly, the aim was to set up several small plastic trays and tanks with interesting local rock pool creatures and explain some fun facts to the general public (specifically kids). For instance, in one exhibit showing amongst others coralline algae, star ascidians and barnacles you had to guess which organisms were plant and which were animal (glossing over the fact that algae are not technically plants but OK). In another display (‘who’s the daddy’) we explained that it is the males in worm pipefish that are pregnant, not the females. In another display we explained that tunicates have larvae with a tail and spinal chord and that they are evolutionary more closely related to us than are for instance crabs, snails or starfish, something that is not very obvious when looking at the adults:
The star ascidian Botryllus schlosseri. (For some pictures of the related colonial ascidian Botrylloides leachi, see a previous post.) We had a couple of small tanks filled with a variety of animals and seaweeds:
A Giant goby Gobius cobitis, first time I saw one, almost 20 centimeters, quite impressive!
Went to Castle Beach in Falmouth after work this week for a bit of rock pooling. I saw a beautiful grey-red Sea scorpion Taurulus bubalis; I could not tell the difference) or but it was gone before I could even attempt to catch it. Below the much easier to spot Shanny Lipophrys pholis Giant goby Gobius cobitis (after lifting up a rock):
I spotted a small Eel Anguilla anguilla for the first time on the beach; it was quick but I could scoop it up from a very shallow sandy pool. Nice, but not of interest for the aquarium!
Also spotted for the first time: a European sting winkle Ocenebra erinacea. This I took home for the aquarium:
A tiny white Edible crab Cancer pagurus. I do not know if it is an albino or whether juveniles are generally white. I had a bigger one in the aquarium (carapace width 6 cm or so), but every night the light went out it came out of its burrow and started to rearranging the tank, knocking big rocks against the glass. This one is only one cm so I hope it will be better behaved: