Saturday, August 24, 2013

Now thats a mouthful

Egg brooding critters like fish, crabs, shrimp and more make for some very compelling photos. Taking your time with each subject will allow the photographer the opportunity to really capture some unique behaviors

   Parenting for marine animals takes specialized skill and strategy that only Mother Nature herself could have designed. Unlike humans, the expecting parents of marine animals must deal with extenuating circumstances at all times. In a risky numbers game the survival rate for individuals is extremely low and the constant threat of survival is always present for the parents and the babies.
Several factors come into play once the eggs have been fertilized that have forced the evolutionary process to provide. The most obvious first, the host parents must seek nourishment during the incubation period or risk peril from weakness and starvation. Leaving the defenseless eggs alone is never an option as they provide a tasty source of protein for other animals and therefore must be protected at all times. Additionally, during the incubation period the eggs must also be continuously aerated to ensure the proper flow of fresh water and oxygen or the eggs will die. So just how do the parents successfully protect their precious eggs while staying alive and perform all of these other vital duties? The answer is as different as the animals themselves. For instance, it’s the male that carries the eggs for common Pipefish and Seahorses while the female carries the eggs for the Ornate Ghost Pipefish. Sea Mantis males and female have both been known to share a brood of eggs and will carry or use a burrow to incubate their young.

Brooding Ringed Tail Anthia-Orange and yolky, these eggs are nice and freshly fertilized

Ring tail Anthia-These eggs are well developed at approximately 8-10 days

Fish on the other hand like the Jawfish or Cardinal fish males mouth brood their eggs until the babies begin to hatch. While other fish actually lay the eggs on a nearby rock or tunicates then tend to them in much the same way. Whatever method is used to accomplish the task, one thing is for sure, its a risky numbers game and survival of the fittest

Yellow headed Jawfish with fresh and yolky eggs

Yellow Headed Jawfish with well developed eggs
Photos were shot using my Nikon D300s-105mm macro lens and a subsee +5 Diopter

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nocturnal Lights Review

Mike Bartick
How i made this sequence:
Gear used:
Nikon D300s
Continuous lighting using 2 of the Nocturnal M700 I , lights
Settings ISO 800
F18 @ 1/125
I set my camera on 3 frames per second to capture the action,
Exposure is critical for color, and sharpness so I Increased my ISO settings and shutter speed.  Using the single spot focus I moved the pixel over the eye composed, shot a photo to adjust the exposure then adjusted the lighting. After that I waited for the frogfish to do his part, which actually didnt take very long..
Choppin and Shoppin- (cropping or photo shopping)
I adjusted the colors with white balance in lightroom, exported to photoshop and removed some backscatter and thats about it. There wasnt any need to crop, infact i nearly lost the the subject as its mouth hit the apex of its yawn, in the lower 3 frames.

Nocturnal Lights Review

Nocturnal recently released the new M700I- Ultra Compact LED video light to the Underwater Photography and video lighting community. I’ve had the opportunity to use two of these compact lights extensively over the last 6 months logging over 200+ dives on them so far. We used the lights in a variety of conditions including intense ambient light to night dives and found them to be very effective from one end of that spectrum to the other. In addition I have also assigned them to my guides for use with guests for locating critters on night dives.
The lights are smaller in size but provide excellent output. They are lightweight for travel come with spare O-rings, 2 proprietary CR123 batteries (can be purchased world-wide) and a 110-240 charger which allows charging in almost any country.
The torch head employs a twist on/off mechanism to power up and with a quick twist can also change the output from full to half power. The design is also a heat sink that absorbs heat for working topside or for helping on the boat at night etc. My style of macro shooting demands quick focus and the brilliant white LED output helps my AF to lock on quickly, ultimately allowing me to capture photos as they unfold.
I normally use 1 light on night dives as my modeling /night diving light mounted on the top of my housing. The single battery consistently provided more than 1 hour of solid burn time on full power then slowly began to fade, over a 15 minute period.
I decided to try using two lights for a continuous lighting series and worked on several different ideas. The yawning frogfish was shot at 3 frames per second and I was able to capture the sequence nicely with excellent contrast and sharp edges.
With an explosion of modeling lights on the UW Camera market these days choices can get very confusing and very expensive, very quickly. The qualities that admired the most about tis light are
·         The size and weight
·         Output and quality of light
·         Ease of use and charging
·         cost
I will continue to use the lights to see how much more abuse they can withstand over the next several months, So far I’m impressed..

Mike Bartick

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Secret World of Frogfish: Part 2

Very few creatures on earth are as amazing and diverse as the frogfish. The discovery of one on a dive can excite any self-respecting diver or photographer as everyone want’s to get a chance to see it.  At first glance the frogfish remains motionless, appearing as a large headed globose and scabby creature that could hardly fend for themselves. But in reality the frogfish is a calculating and veracious predator that has truly mastered their domain. But what makes them so unique isn’t just their coloration, size or texture or the ability to remain motionless for hours at a time. It isn’t even the little jets behind their legs that helps them swim, what makes them truly unique is that they are all a type of anglerfish that come equipped with a fishing rod and lure. If that isn’t enough to grab a photographers attention then im not sure what is, so lets take a quick peek at a few more uncommon facts of these amazing critters in the secret world of frogfish.

 A colorful Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculata) is caught in the act hunting for its next meal. Frogfish use their rod and lure to excite and attract their prey by repeatedly extending and flicking their lure creating an irresistible appearance of an easy meal. Its the unique rod and lure that describes all frogfish in the order of Lophiiformes and according to research this suborder of antennae bearing fish comprises 14 genera and more the 46 species worldwide

Ranging in color even within the same species is not uncommon making them tough to identify. This yellow warty is squaring off with my lens port evidently having had enough of my presence. Looking closely you can see that the lure has sustained damage and is now bent to one side.

The most common of the bunch is also the largest which makes sense as they are probably the easiest to spot. The commersons (commersoni) can grow up to 45 centimeters tall when fully grown and prefer reefs and walls. I speculate that these two are probably males that haven’t reached maturity. They cohabitated on the same coral head in 30 meters of water for over a year and perhaps settled here during their larval state

The smallest fully grown frogfish is the miniscule pygmy frogfish (tuberosi) which when fully grown will reach a maximum size of 1.25 centimeters. Found living amongst rubble in the shallows near runoffs and estuaries.

Mating and Spawning
Caption 5-  Manny, Moe and Jacky (Two male book ends, female in the center)
Mating involves a selective process of courtship, mate blocking and a powerful pheromone released by the female to attract her suitors. But the actual act is accomplished by cast spawning. The process usually occurs during a full moon and accompanied by a moderate current to help ensure a maximum survival rate of the eggs. The female swims towards the surface as the male assists by pushing her with all his might. As the gelatinous egg mass is released from the female it begins to unroll forming a loose ribbon. The excited male releases his sperm creating a milky cloud that binds with the sticky egg raft. From there, the eggs will drift until they begin to mature becoming less buoyant and settling on the substrate. There are even two subspecies that brood their young and
From the roughly 45,000+- eggs released very few are successfully fertilized and even less make it to the through hatchling stage often being consumed by their siblings.

Soon after the juveniles emerge from their eggs they begin to hunt, consuming mycid shrimp from the sand for quick energy. The bright orange coloration could mimic poisonous flatworms to help them survive immediate predation.
Camouflaged hunters, the Hairy Frogfish  (Antennarius striatus)  are amongst the most sought after critters worldwide and are considered a holly grail find for photographers and divers alike.  They can range from pink to black in color but typically have visible lines or stripes on their body. The A. striatus is normally found on the substrate or perched just above it. They will live out their entire lifecycle here and have adapted some very unique survival tactics in the process including an oversized worm like lure, the use of pheromones to hunt and its namesake hairy appendages. Yawning amongst all frogfish could be a show of stress or aggression or even an attempt at appearing larger than what they really are to ward off the paparazzi.


The Black version of the hairy frogfish is considered rare and was a treat to see. It proves how adaptive frogfish fish can be even within the same species. The black coloration helps it to blaend with the black sands of the region.

                                                                  Courting A.striatus
The male is attracted by an irresistible pheromone produced by the female.

Antisocial Behavior in frogfish is often seen before a mating cycle has begun. The pushy male just wont take NO! for an answer and assuming the female was a little more than irritated by the male suitor, she let him have it. There isnt any exterior organs or markings to tell a male frogfish apart from a female but the behavior can sometimes give it away.