Yet another solo dive (I know, I know, not ideal) this Thursday morning before the easterlies are kicking in. Actually, the water was already choppier than I expected, but for macro photography the viz is not as important. I did not get ‘the’ shot but it was a nice dive all around. I discovered a little swim-under and saw lobster, rock lobster (craw fish) and a huuuuge conger eel. I was focusing on a little tunicate when I looked up and saw it looking back at me from not very far away at all. Its head was as big as mine. I slowly swam backwards, thinking of this encounter…..overall they do seem to be aggressive towards people though, and with my fisheye lens this could have been a really good shot. This later happened again, this time a smaller individual but still sizable. I did not stick my macro lens up its nose but grabbed a halfhearted shot with a passing by Twospot goby almost in focus to give an idea: Some macro shots: again a Twin fan worm Bispira volutacornis and a new one for me, a big bright red Protula tubularia. It would be nice to get some abstract close-ups but these are excellent living motion-detectors so it is difficult. There are some amazing colours under the rock overhangs and I would like to try some more abstract photos such as this Spiny starfish or this Didemnun colonial seasquirt and other encrusting animals (and plants). No diving/snorkelling this weekend because of the wind, but glad I could put a couple of dives in these past weeks, and I will make an effort to go a lot more weather permitting!
A solo dive early evening at the Silver Steps site. It was a couple of weeks I last went, and this time it was already dusk when I entered the water. My intention was to find cup corals and other small creatures growing on rock overhangs below the kelp line. The viz was good and sure enough I found what I was looking for: Devonshire cup coral Caryophyllia smithii, a solitary stony coral which is relatively common. They are very beautiful and the right size for the macro lens. I will definitely go after them again. Other finds were a golfball sponge Tethya aurantium, a baby Longspined seascorpion (this shot had potential, but it swam away unfortunately), a tunicate and a Painted topshell (very common). At the end of the dive unfortunately it was getting too dark to find objects or too properly focus; I need to sort out a dive light!
I will keep this post short, as my third Silver Steps shoredive of the year was a week ago. As you can see above, my dive was made by encountering the beautiful nudibranch Antiopella cristata (although I prefer the old name Janolus cristatus…). My camera battery strangely gave up straight after taking these pics (argh!), otherwise I would have bothered it for at least another ten minutes! The 60mm lens is great. Look at the European cowrie Trivia monacha below which is less than a centimeter in length. Not a great shot but it shows that it is possible. Finally, a common Phoronid worm Phoronis hippocrepia (Thanks Allison, please check out her great blog Notes from a California naturalist). I hope the wind will die down and I can go back soon.
Another Silver Steps shore dive with @shannonmoranphoto and her fellow student Chris on Friday. The conditions were not as good as last time: low viz and a bit of a swell. I had set my camera to a longer focal range to try to take pics of cuttles or larger fish but that did not work out (with better conditions it still might not work out!). I could still shoot macro so that is what I did. Above to Devonshire cup corals Caryophyllia smithii. Pretty decent, but I know I can get a better close-up; I will try again Monday! I will have another go at the one resident Cray (or Craw) fish, which lives very shallow. I will also try the Twin fan worm Bispira volutacornis again, as I think a shot filled with just the fans (and not assorted bits of seaweeds etc) could be really nice. I might try free-swimming fish if they come close, as did this Poor cod Trisopterus minutus. Below some before- and after postprocessing. Just the jpegs in Windows Photos, nothing fancy. A bit of cropping, increasing clarity and contrast works wonders. Only when I have a really good photo I will invest time processing raw files in Photoshop. First the best photo of the dive: a Black-faced blenny Tripterygion delaisi (a female or possibly a non-breeding male). Next, a common Edible crab Cancer pagurus and finally a Twospotted goby Gobiusculus flavescens.
Finally a shore dive yesterday evening, it has been a long time. I partnered up with buddy Shannon via instagram (@shannonmoranphoto). Instagram has been a really nice way to learn about photography from likeminded folks (such as @danboltphoto and @malcolmnnimmo). We dived (dove?) Silver Steps in Falmouth, about which you can find a bunch of old snorkelling and diving posts on the blog if you are interested. Shannon was the ideal buddy: relaxed and really into photography, so we kept the same tempo. It was a very shallow dive (maybe 5 meters), so we were only limited by getting cold, which was after an hour. I chose to use my 60mm lens, but not to use the 1:1 macro setting, but the 0.19-040 focal range to try my hand at slightly larger objects such as fish. I was thus lucky in a sense that I did not encounter any beautiful nudibranchs of which I would not be able to to take a good shot. (Edit: actually, I since learned that 1:1 is still possible using this focal range). It was however unfortunate that I could not get a good shot of a cuttlefish that hovered about two meters away, rapidly changing colour and catching a wrasse! Next time I will perhaps change settings again to try my hand at (cuttle)fish swimming a bit further away. However, I was very happy with sticking to Leopard-spotted gobies Thorogobius ephippiatus. They do not stick their little faces out of nooks as do most blennies, but usually lie on and under ledges. The trick was to approach very slowly, shooting until they swam off. For some reason, I managed to position my strobe right and did not have backscatter issues. I used Windows Photos to postprocess. See below for a before and after example: Two other common organisms below: a Squat lobster Galathea rugosa and a Twin fan worm Bispira volutacornis. And finally an out of focus, but fun photo of a tiny tiny clingfish very aptly clinging to Shannon’s housing. This was one of the most fun dives in ages and I hope to repeat it sometime soon!
Last Wednesday I went for a quick dive at Silver Steps in Falmouth, good viz and the water is no longer cold. Buddy Chris (above) and I rummaged around the U-boat wreckage (less impressive than it sounds) and unfortunately did not see any cuttlefish. What was new was a largish Topknot Zeugopterus punctatus which was gone before I could take a decent photo. I also saw seacucumbers for the first time diving (have seen them before when rock pooling, including parasitic snails). They could be Pawsonia or Aslia, but with the bodies wedged in the rocks and only the feeding tentacles visible it is not possible to tell. Sand eels were abundant and Sand smelt Atherina presbyter were also present at the surface. I hope to go back soon to practice with the strobe. I did a second dive in Flushing with Thomas too. Enjoyable but not too many great shots. I included one of Sand mason worms Lanice conchilega and fan worms Megalomma vesiculosum.
Finally, time for a (solo)dive last Saturday, at probably the most accessible local site: Silver Steps in Falmouth (you can just make out the steps in the photo above). The sun and high tide had attracted quite a lot of other divers too, including University of Exeter and Falmouth University students learning the ropes. I was very keen to get in the water and take photos but my approach is probably not the best: I just shoot whatever happens to be in front of me. Better results could be obtained to specifically look for macro subjects, to stay in the water column and search for jellies, befriend the Ballan wrasse or stay put in front of a Leopard-spotted goby hide-out (or check out seaweeds of course). I’ll do one of these things next time, for now, some random shots. I spotted several Spider crabs; these are always shy and try to quickly retreat, except for one. This big crab came after me as soon as we spotted each other. I should have tried more shots, as unfortunately he did not fit the frame. You can see in the short movie why I didn’t!
The viz was not great (I find it hard to estimate it in meters though). In the water I noticed a small hydrozoan Leuckartia octona. The underside of some wreckage harboured Light bulb sea squirts (see previous post) and some were predated on by Candy striped flatworm Prostheceraeus vittatus. (I brought my new LED light with me to help bring some colour out but I just ended up with combinations of glare and shadows so stuck to my normal natural light pics.) Next, a curious Ballan wrasse Labrus bergylta. Finally, some not so clear shots that nevertheless give a good impression of how tall the invasive Wireweed Sargassum muticum are growing. Hopefully more dive posts soon!
Summer is really over and the water temperatures are down from around 17°C to 13°C. We have not made it to any of the wrecks or rocks off The Lizard and the last set of dives was just of the good old Silver Steps in Falmouth. We had set ourselves some goals though: Chris needed Snakelocks anemones for his student projects and I wanted to catch myself some Leopard-spotted gobies for the aquarium. The Snakelocks were collected quite easily as they are so abundant. For the fish, I had bought a cheap foldable trap. The idea was to set it up in a little overhang housing the gobies, weighing it down with some rocks and come back the next day to take it back out. For bait, I had brought a chickenbone leftover from someones lunch at work. Below, a crappy pick of the trap wedged between rocks and below that a snap of some of the catch the next day (I had a two-piece websuit and in combination with an almost empty tank I was getting too buoyant to take decent photos): Three nosy Tompot blennies and also a small Conger eel; no Leopard-spotted gobies. So at least I know that in principle next year I can try trapping fish, but it might be hard for the gobies as they are very reclusive and do not barge into nets as Tompots do. The first dive, the visibility was OK(ish) and we saw a Cuttlefish Sepia officinalis. Although I have seen them before, you never get tired of them!
No other special finds. The place was absolutely swarming with Spiny starfish and most Snakelocks seemed to have multiple Leach’s spider crabs underneath them. I saw another Blackfaced blenny. Next year it is high time to dive further and deeper and also to finally get some gobies into the aquarium!
Went on a good dive at Silver Steps in Falmouth yesterday.The visibility wasn’t that great, but for the most part we were rummaging under overhangs in gulleys just off the coast. Sweeping aside the kelp reveals many fine red seaweeds, sponges, bryozoans and small Devonshire cupcorals. We saw the ubiquitous Tompot blenny Parablennius gattorugine as well as a Bib (or Pout) Trisopterus luscus. Overhead there were many Sandeels as well as some relatively large Pollock Pollachius pollachius hunting them:However, there was a much more remarkable fish we spotted, namely the Black-faced blenny Tripterygion delaisi. We first saw a male, bright yellow with a black head and beautifully skyblue-lined fins. Only after a while we noticed the inconspicuously coloured female. The male is coured this way only in the breeding season. (We later saw another larger male, no female, although that was probably closeby.) My fish guides tell me that this Mediterranean species was first spotted in the UK in the 70s and that it is currently present in only two or three locations on the South West coast. Some browsing on the web has told me that in recent years they have been recorded in more locations but they still must be relatively rare (and I therefore won’t be attempting to catch them). Global warming will likely extend the range of this species more firmly northwards; one of the very few positive effects of our addicition to carbon… Lastly, I now managed to get a shot of the Candy striped flatworm Prostheceraeus vittatus:
Last weekend I went for a snorkel of Silver Steps at Pendennis Point in Falmouth. Visibility was bad because of the plankton bloom, but this also meant that I could admire the many small jellies floating about. Very hard to get a good shot of these though; might be worthwhile to collect some in a beaker and photograph them in my cuvet back on land next time. My eye was drawn to a giant Barrel jellyfish struggling against the rocks, but then I noticed something a lot cooler: the beautiful nudibranch Facelina auriculata. I was so eager to get in to the water that I had forgotten to put my weight belt on so it was a struggle to dive down and hold still for a macroshot, but this one is relatively sharp (if you want to see beautiful pictures of native nudibranchs I recommend joining the NE Atlantic Nudibranch facebook group). Also spotted the large and beautiful flatworm Prostheceraeus vittatus but did not manage to get a shot, will go back this weekend to try to find them both again!