Florida's West Palm Beach has great diving and an active diving community. My first visit to West Palm several years ago was for Goliath Groupers and sharks. I was surprised at how much fun the diving was and from that time forward, i've come back many times. One of the things that has attracted me is the blackwater diving that is offered by a couple of the local charters. 

What makes WPB unique for BW diving is the Gulf Stream. West Palm Beach is on the Atlantic side of Florida where The Gulf Stream flows within 5 miles of the coastline and with it a huge variety of marine life. The gulf stream is aprx. 40-50 miles wide and stretches from the Equator through the Caribbean sea,  past Florida and makes its way up the eastern coastline towards New Foundland, then across the Atlantic towards the UK. Warmer waters flow east'ish and cool near the poles before pushing their way back down past Europe and back towards Africa before completing its loop. This is a Global current that mixes, cools and churns the Oceans of the greater Atlantic basin, exchanges salinity and basically acts like a giant blender. Like a huge river within the ocean, The Gulf stream controls weather and temperature and plays a vital roll on our planet. So, I suppose its needless to say that Blackwater diving in the Gulf Stream is an experience unto itself. Its not uncommon to travel 5, 6, even 9 miles on a dive without even knowing that you've really moved much underwater. 

The blackwater diving in WPB attracts a loyal local crew of photographers that have been able to witness and document a plethora of exotic Zooplankton on a very regular basis which in turn attracts visitors like myself that are fascinated with this type of diving and the opportunity to photograph these incredible subjects.  

I prefer to keep things simple when shooting in open ocean and have come to rely on using my 60mm on either my D500 or my D850. I dont use diopters but i do fancy my wide angle conversion lens mounted on a flip adapter as you never know when a wider angle of view will come in handy.

Scalloped Ribbonfish (Zu cristatus)- Nikon D850|60mm+KRL90s

Out of air and swimming back to the downline i spotted this very large Ribbonfish. Its rumored that these are of the order, Oarfish or lampriformes, and can reach upwards of 20-30 feet. This was really a "hail mary" style shot but i did manage to hand it off to my buddy Walt and as he took over, i made my way to the surface to exchange tanks. The elaborate fins or appendages resemble siphonophore jellyfish and do nothing to assist it in swimming. Swimming is actually accomplished by using a smaller dorsal fin that runs the length of is body. 

Larval Tripod Fish (Bathypterois grallator) Nikon D850|60mm

The adult Tripod fish settles in extremely deep water, 2500-15,000 feet to be exact. They form three bony rays or elongated spines that are used to keep themselves planted into and perched well above the soft muddy substrate on the bottom. They feed while facing into the current and waiting for something to come into range. This beautiful little guy is another example of a deepwater subject that migrates vertically in the water column to feed in the shallows. 

Sea Butterfly-Pteropod Cavlonia tridentata, Nikon D850|60mm
While this incredible animal gets its name from the trident shaped shell, its the leafy appendages and long streamers that grabs my attention. Why, would a subject that spends its entire lifecycle underwater evolve to appear as if it has terrestrial features? nature is incredibly amazing. This one is also casting some kind of mucus nest which can be seen faintly in the top right portions of the frame.

Aristeid shrimp Zoea (Cerataspis monstrosa)-Purple people eater | Nikon D850|60mm

Crab Zoea can be quite redundant in appearance but this one is actually a shrimp! Its ornate body shape give it protection against predators, the beautiful deep violet coloration might even help it from being detected, i've never seen anything like it. Crabs and some shrimp go through several stages developing in the plankton prior to settling on the sand. This is smaller than a dime, buzzed around like a bee and began spinning in circles once my lights were on it. Infact, i took about 5 shots of its butt before i figured out what was going on.

Jack in the Thimble jelly

The boats typically "Hot drop" divers right at the ball at the start of the dive. On this particular night we probably had 80 foot of visibility or better and as we were gliding downwards adjusting gear, there were countless thimble jellies flitting about. Several of them also had these super cute little jackfish sheltering inside of them. Once the divers were all in the water and finding subjects, the strobe flashes in the distance reminded me of fireflys in a meadow on a dark summer night.

A pink Spotted Ribbonfish described as Desmodena polystitctum  

Finding subjects on blackwater dives is almost like collecting baseball cards.... Every time you see something new, there is always another player that you would like to add to you collection. 
The diving in West Palm Beach offers some of the best warm water places to go to in the US, not only for blackwater diving but for wrecks and larger animals too!

All images were shot with :
Nikon D850 | Sea and Sea YS-D3 Strobes using either flat or domed diffuser and set at 1.2 crop ratio
The first ribbonfish was shot with the 60mm + Kraken wide angle conversion lens
and Kraken Hydra 3500s Focus Light