Archive for April, 2012

Pea Soup at Porteau Cove

Longhorn Decorator Crab

A Longhorn Decorator Crab, posing nicely on a retracted plumose anemone.

Perhaps “Pea Soup” is a bit of an extreme description of the visibility at Porteau today, as I’ve seen worse in some deep mountain lakes, but after a long surface swim Josh and I dropped down on the Granthal to enjoy a nice dive with only 5-10 feet of visibility with plenty of particulates in the water. (This cleared up to a solid 10 feet of visibility below 50 feet or so.) It looks like the spring algae bloom has arrived.

Regardless of the visibility, we had a couple of great dives, with plenty of things to see. Some of the highlights included a huge number of decorator crabs, both Longhorn and Graceful. Plenty of nudibranch and other critters made appearances, including many Lingcod (some guarding egg masses). It never ceases to amaze me just how much life you can spot in the “muck” if you slow down and look carefully. Even on days with poor visibility, there is a lot to see.

Opalescent Nudibranch

An Opalescent Nudibranch. There were several of these out and about, including some very tiny ones.

Due to the large amount of particulates in the water, I struggled with backscatter on any of the larger subjects (such as the Lingcod) or subjects where I tried to get black background. (In retrospect I should have adjusted the aperture to blur the background and try to hide the backscatter). I think the photos turned out pretty well. Try to spot the individual limbs on the very well camouflaged Graceful Decorators!

It’s been a great month for diving so far, hopefully I can squeeze in yet another couple of dive days before the month’s end….

See all the photos below:

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Easter Sunday dive at Britannia Beach

Squat Lobster

Squat Lobster!

Grunt Sculpin

A Grunt Sculpin. Usually these guys live in barnacle shells, but this guy was hiding under the wreck.

A Fish

I like the focus on this shot.

Britannia Beach is currently one of my favorite dive sites, as the wrecks harbour an amazing amount of life in a concentration that I haven’t seen elsewhere locally yet. (Although I suspect Porteau should be similar now that I’m getting better at spotting critters.)

With all the nooks and crannies, the site is home to various types of crabs, including several types of decorators, squat lobsters, varius sculpins, shrimp and much much more. The best part is that the dive is relatively shallow, so I can manage long dives on a single tank. The first dive we stayed down for 60 minutes, the second was somewhat shorter.

I took the opportunity on this dive to experiment with aperture settings on my camera primarily to get different focus effects, but some other results came out of this, notably green backgrounds. Even with the small range of apertures available on my Powershot G10, going from small to large meant the difference of black backgrounds to green backgrounds, and a large change in depth-of-field.

Several treats for me popped up on this dive. First, I found a squat lobster which posed nicely for me. Next, while searching under the hull of the Ready, a colourful rock moved and caught my eye. Upon closer inspection, it was a Grunt Sculpin, the first I’ve seen. Unfortunatley it was a couple of feet away under the hull, so I had to put my single strobe out to the side to try and fit the camera under the hull and avoid back-scatter from the silty water. I managed to get some good shots as he hopped around the bottom. Afterwards, Paul found a Buffalo Sculpin which posed very nicely as I took many a photo, adjusting camera settings each time.

There were also several Lincod faithfully guarding egg masses around the wreck. I gave them all a wide-berth to not agitate them and give them reason to chase me away….

I also came across a couple of male Tanner Crabs fighting over a female Tanner Crab for mating rights. I took a video of the end of the fight: (The video is a bit green from the water, I didn’t set up the white-balance before taking the video, since I was in still-photography mode..)

This was one of my best dive days in a long time. I really enjoy the diversity of life at this site, and seeing new and cool animals is always a highlight of a dive!

See the rest of the photos below:

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Whytecliff in April

Another Rockfish

A Copper Rockfish posing

I hoped on for a couple of dives at Whytecliff, the first dive to the usual Plumose Gardens, the second dive we hopped in on the far side of Whyte Islet and swam around back into the bay. Since there was a rather large interchange going in from low to high, part of the dive was a great drift dive with some great current pushing is around and back towards the bay (usually).

The weather itself cooperated very nicely, with the sun popping out to warm us up during our surface interval. This proved far nicer than the cold, rainy, windy surface intervals of the winter.  Looks like summer is on it’s way at long last.

A Cool Fish

This shot turned out well. Usually the small fish don't pose nicely.

I managed a couple of decent photos on this trip, including a couple of snaps of a Rhinoceros crab. It’s funny how you can go so many dives without seeing a specific type of animal, but once you see it and know what to look for, you see them everywhere. There was even a hairy spined crab, but it scurried away into a crevice before I could set up a good shot…

The second dive around the Islet proved to be interesting, with the currents of a very low tide starting to come back in. First it was pushing us around the Islet towards the bay, then it seemed like we were fighting it to get back in towards the bay (although not quite as strong that time). It was a fun dive, though. It probably would have been more of a struggle if we didn’t time it roughly with the tides given the day’s interchange.


Onto the photos:

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Copper Rockfish in a Sponge

A Copper Rockfish hiding in a sponge.

After having dove Kelvin Grove for the first time in the fall when I was between camera cases, I’ve wanted to return with my camera to try and snap some photos. I was glad to hear one of my usual dive buddies wanted to dive there this weekend.

Unfortunately, the visibility wasn’t great. I’m assuming the spring run-off and/or algae bloom is starting, which will mean reduced visibility for the while. In the first 60 or so feet, the visibility was often worse than 10-15 feet, but opened up to 20-25 feet of visibility at around 80-90 feet deep — Luckily my camera does well for small, close-up subjects so poor visibility isn’t too much of an issue!

Cockerell's Nudibranch

A Cockerell's Nudibranch? Or.....

Lots of interesting subjects around, so I managed to get some decent photos. Several unique nudibranchs were out and about, including some I haven’t seen before like a large Orange-Peel Nudibranch that Paul found. Also another one of interest is what I beleive to be a Cockerell’s Nudibranch (Although something inside of me still believes it may be another kind of invertebrate).

Not all the subjects were cooperative, as several sculpins and a gunnel decided they didn’t want to wait around as I tried to maneuver around them to compose a nice shot. Having drastically improved some of my fine propulsion skills (i.e. Back-kick) in Fundies did help, however ultimately something about a large creature blowing massive bubbles was enough to scare the timid fish away.

On the topic of uncooperative subjects, there was even an octopus hiding deep inside of a crack, taunting me with a tentacle which he pulled away before I could get set up for the shot…

Anemone eating a starfish

A very slow struggle of life and death, this anemone appears to be eating the starfish.

I played around with Darktable some more to process these images, and I identified a number of mistakes I made in the first batch of photos I processed which left them looking “dull” for lack of a better term. Improving upon that in these photos, I’m very pleased with the results. I even managed to rescue some poorly exposed photos, including the photo of the Rockfish in the sponge. (After my first shot, he moved before I could increase my strobe’s intensity for another shot). Overall I’m impressed with the capabilities in Darktable, and the best part was the price-point (Free!). I’m still learning the finer points of post-processing so I’m expecting the “Style” of my photos to waver a bit over the next little while, but hopefully I’ll get it dialed in nicely in the end.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to take photos well enough in the first place that I don’t need much post-processing, but I’m not quite at that skill level yet. I guess I’ll have to do some more diving and keep taking more photos. I think I can handle that…

See below for all the photos:

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