Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weekly Series Part 4: My Favorite Images as an Underwater Photographer

Before my San Blas experience, as an undergraduate, I had taken a marine invertebrate and then a marine ecology course at Hopkins Marine Station.  So I knew the area around Monterey offered good diving (albeit cold water).  I decided to spend the summer of 1984 diving around the Monterey Peninsula in a 10-foot Avon.  I convinced my friend Spencer Yeh to spend two months with me, diving every day in the cold but astoundingly rich waters of Monterey Bay.  I don't know how we swung it, but we rented a house together with another Hopkins student for 10 weeks, and although we were penniless and unemployed, we went out diving every day in that little Avon.  Thanks, Spencer. 

I was limited by funds to using a Nikonos IV camera with extension tubes.  Some of the macro images that I took with this setup were among the best I've ever shot.  It must have had something to do with the limitations set up by using this closeup gear.  You had to manipulate a physical framer, which was basically a thick wire showing three sides of what would be in the image, around your subject.  This forced you to ignore subjects that could move, like fish, and concentrate on finding subjects that you could put your framer around. 

Juvenile Crab in Pelagic Jelly (Pelagia colorata):

I remember taking the below image very well, even though I took it in 1986 -- almost 30 years ago.  My friend Matt Murphy and I were diving at Point Lobos State Park one day, while I was working as a "systems analyst" for Daisy Systems Inc in Silicon Valley.  Matt was a fellow engineer who also dove.  We fast became friends.  On this dive, hundreds of giant purple jellies had floated into Bluefish Cove at Point Lobos and become stranded there.  Most of these jellies had dozens of these commensal, or perhaps juvenile, crabs that lived within them.  The crabs were probably protected from predators by living with the jelly's bell.  

I clearly remember coming across these jellies and Matt very patiently handling the jellies while I photographed them.  I was limited by the frame of my Nikonos-and-extension tube combination.  Out of 36 images, this one jumped out at me on the light table.  Thanks, Matt. 

A juvenile slender crab crawls unharmed among the bell of a purple oceanic jelly.  One large jelly can harbor hundreds of these small crabs, which ride along with the jelly, then drop off in shallow waters, to develop into larger, heavily armored adults.  Monterey, California.

This image was published a bunch of times.  It was a difficult image to get just right when published.  Outside Magazine published a bunch of my images in their Exposure section when I was getting started.  That was nice, but then the photo editor lost one of my favorite and most valuable original transparencies that he requested for a cover (one of my best shark images at the time).  I never did much work for them after that.

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