new camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II + M.ZUIKO 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

Santa Claus was very generous last year and I am now the proud owner of an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II mirrorless camera! A big step up from my Canon Powershot G16 compact camera (which I still find a great little camera btw). Apart from a better sensor, greater dynamic range, more pixels etc, the main reason for going for a so-called micro four thirds camera was that I can use separate lenses. By that I mean lenses that actually go on the camera rather than wetlenses that are attached to the camera housing. The wetlens approach has the problem that air bubbles can form on three surfaces rather than one, and also, water seeps out from between the lens and housing every time you lift it out of the water (which I tend to do a lot in rockpools less than a meter deep). I first thought of going for an SLR, but these are much more expensive (the housings at least), require looking through a viewfinder which seems annoying to me and also they are considerably bigger, which is also not handy in rock pools. Luckily I learned that mirrorless cameras also existed! I bought an M.ZUIKO 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens as well. I have not been in the water yet, as the weather has been grim, but took the camera out for some above-water rock pooling last weekend. The first day I did not take the separate flash, which demonstrates my ignorance (to maximize the depth of field, a small aperture is needed which lets in little light, resulting in long shutter times and high ISO). The photos were not great, but the next day with flash it went a lot better. Above a Broad-clawed porcelain crab Porcellana platycheles and a Long-clawed porcelain crab Pisidia longicornis. Next time I will bring a ruler to show exactly how tiny these crabs can be (these are juveniles).

Above a flat worm (check the eyespots!) and a Thick top shell Phorcus lineatus. A main problem is that all subjects are covered with a film of water, resulting in glistening highlights when using the flash. Another issue is the shallow depth of field. The next time I might try to do some photo bracketing/stacking, merging images of a different focal depth (I need a tripod for this). The great thing is that there is no shortage of subjects: turning over a single rock can reveal multiple species each of echinoderms, molluscs, crustaceans, bryozoans, worms, flat worms etc. Below a selection of chitons, I have not had time to check out which species; there are not that many here but they are tricky to identify from photographs. I will check Ian Smiths fantastic photo resources on flickr to do so.

 

low tide finds at Flushing

The day after the very low tide excursion in Falmouth, I had a look in Flushing as well. This site is less pretty, more silty and estuarine, and has a slightly different fauna as well, especially on the muddier areas below the rockpools. (I have written a post about ‘mud pooling’ before.) Lots of sponges, Variegated scallops, European cowries, Hooded prawns and Common squat lobsters. This time I noticed that Hairy crabs Pilumnus hirtellus are common here too. Two diffently coloured Long-clawed porcelain crabs Pisidia longicornis:

IMG_8030A pretty sponge Aplysilla rosea (determined using the Aphotomarine page as it was not featured in my otherwise excellent Collins guide):

IMG_8041I had seen one before, but with this low tide I found several Sea lemons Archidorus pseudoargus, large sponge-eating nudibranchs. A large one and a small one together (on the right side of each you can see the ‘naked gills’ which are not extended above water):IMG_8098

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Another, bigger individual (European cowries and Thick-lipped dog whelks for scale) again with a smaller individual half under it:

IMG_8073You can see some tiny juvenile Variegated scallops Chlamys varia too. I found my biggest one to date:

IMG_8082They can be much prettier than that though!

IMG_8026I could not resist taking some stuff home to my aquarium, even though I was still waiting for the chiller and new lights (they both have since arrived, that’ll be my next post). There were loads of Painted top shells Calliostoma zizyphinum, which are very pretty and moreover do not often emerge above water so they might be better behaved in the aquarium, and I took some of those home. I also took a pair of Butterfish Pholish gunnellus and some Sea lemons, mainly to observe them for a week or so and then release them again before starting fiddling with the tank. This was not a great succes unfortunately: both Butterfish died within a couple of days. I had acclimatized them to room temperature and I don’t know what the reason could have been. Clingfish, mullet, a rockling, gobies and blennies have never died in my aquarium. I felt really bad about it; definitely no more Butterfish in my tank!

IMG_8115One of the Sea lemons managed to get caught by a Snakelocks anemone….however, it produced copious amounts of slime and it was eventually spat out!

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