Green is the new Black

Over the last few weeks, we've been getting out and exploring the open ocean again off the Southern California Coastline. Were diving over terrain that is 1000+ feet below us but obviously, were not going to the bottom. This style of diving has been dubbed blackwater diving, even though were diving during the daytime in California the water is still very dark. 

In California, once your below the 80 foot mark, the penetrating light from the sun drops off significantly and even with a relatively slow shutter speeds, the water can be pitch black.  

The best part of this style of diving is that you never know what your gonna see. It can range from alot of WOW ! with the turn of the head, as the last few dives have proved.

Larval Starfish
Nikon D850 | 60mm | 2 Sea and Sea YSD-3 strobes | Kraken Hydra 3500s

Looking small is always rewarding as some of the most interesting things you see on the substrate begin  their life drifting as plankton. Some of these planktons undulate a little while others do not. The ones that do move on their own give away their presence while others are a little harder to tell apart from the drifting "snow". The snow actually plays a huge roll in our ecosystem by carrying carbon to the substrate but thats a different story.

Hyperiid amphipod-Phronima sedentaria
Nikon D850 | 60mm | 2 Sea and Sea YSD-3 strobes | Kraken Hydra 3500s

The Phronima is an interesting parasitoid creature that as rumor has it, was the design for the creature from the movie "Alien". The female attacks and kills a salp using its jaws and claws and once the interior has been properly prepared, she then lays her eggs inside and uses the salp's tough barrel for protection. They have 4 eyes, massive hooked claws and with their tail hanging out, push their nursery through the water column until the babies are hatched and released. 

Pyrasome and squid
Nikon D850 | 60mm | 2 YSD-3 strobes | Kraken Hydra 3500s

Back in Feb. we did a "true" Blackwater dive near Catalina and while the dive was a tad slow we did manage to see some cool squid action. Squids are voracious predators that are fast and cunning . They make great photo ops because they will ink and create smoke puffs, in addition to snatch fish right out of the water column. In this image, the squid is using a pyrasome for security.

Siphonophore and larval flatfish
Nikon D850 | 60mm | 2 YSD-3 strobes | Kraken Hydra 3500s

Siphonophres are some of the longest jellyfish on the planet. In Anilao, they aren't quite as colorful as the ones we see here. The ones we've been seeing lately are a stunning brightly colored orange/yellow with a smaller opaque head or bell. They sting like heck but also offers a great form or protection for planktonic larval fish. This jelly was aprx. 15-20 feet in length, lazily curled around in two giant circles.

Purple striped jellyfish and diver
Nikon D850 | 60mm + Kraken wide angle conversion lens | 2 Sea and Sea YSD-3 strobes

On one of our dives, we encountered a massive purple striped jellyfish. Its hard to accurately gauge the size but i would say a conservative 20-25 foot. Swimming with it were medusa fish which made for an exciting encounter. Using a conversion lens on these dives adds a new dimension as i can capture true 1:1 Macro or a wide angle scene.

Dive Buddy photographing medusa fish
Nikon D850 | 60mm + conversion lens | 2 YSD-3 strobes | kraken hydra 3500s

The medusa fish rides along and feeds from the scraps of the prey that the purple jelly sting and consumes. The medusa fish are immune to the toxic venom of the purple jelly. The frill hanging down are regarded as oral arms. 

Sea butterfly and sunball
Nikon D850 | 60mm + conversion lens | 2 YSD-3 strobes | Kraken Hydra 3500s

Sea butterflies are a gelatinous plankton called Thecosomata or pelagic sea snail and use their wings to move through the water spending their entire life adrift. This one was shot aprx. 30 below the surface with the sun in the background.  

Small Mola-Mola
Nikon D850 | 60mm + conversion lens | Kraken hydra 3500s

Then this happened. With the turn of the head i saw something grey from the corner of my eye. As i came around, i was happy to see a small Mola Mola. The Molas feed on jellyfish and were very curious as to what we were. Two of them made several passes on us then finally vanished into the dark waters of California.

Gear used:

  • Nikon D850
  • 60mm lens
  • Kraken Sports wide angle conversion lens Conversion lens link
  • 2 Sea and Sea YSD-3 Lightning strobes
Special thanks to Kraken Sports, Ultralight Control Systems, Sea and Sea and The Giant Stride Dive Boat.