scuba

Spiny Skinned and Symmetrical: California’ s Sea Urchins

My introduction to sea urchins — on my first scuba dive — was a learning experience. I learned how easily their sharp, brittle spines pierce human skin. Most importantly, I learned to avoid contact with sea urchins, which is easy because the animals are sedentary, slow moving and not aggressive. Sea urchins are classified as Echinodermata, which means “spiny skinned”. The 6,000-member phylum also includes sea stars, brittle stars, sea lilies and sea cucumbers.  Five is a magic number when it comes to echinoid body […]

Welcome to the Second Golden Age of Diving

I attended the 43rd San Diego Underwater Photographic Society (SDUPS) Film Festival recently. Held at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the event showcases still photographs, slide presentations and videos from SDUPS club members.  We were treated to one fantastic image after another. We saw it all from nudibranchs and squids to sharks and whales. The imagery came from destinations as distant as the Solomon Islands and as close as La Jolla Shores, a popular dive site well known for wintertime squid runs that is only […]

The Spice of the California Diving Experience

Mention California diving and the first thoughts of divers around the world are likely to be about our kelp forests. Their reaction is proof that just seeing a photograph of shimmering rays of sunlight dance through a golden undersea forest can get you hooked on California diving. And as so many California divers know, exploring a kelp forest in real life is a magical experience.   More than 800 species have been documented to inhabit a healthy forest of giant kelp. Those creatures include the […]

The Scuba Chef: The Magical Flavor of Fresh Sea Urchin

When I was 13 my father took me camping at Rosarito Beach on the Pacific side of Mexico’s Baja peninsula. We set up our tent right on the beach. The next day a local fisherman took us on his small wooden boat to a shallow reef just a half-mile off the coast. It is a day I’ll never forget — it was the day I discovered the magical flavor of sea urchin fresh from the ocean. The bright orange roe was firm and possessed a […]

Aggregating Anemones: Gangsters of the Sea?

Imagine what Hollywood would do with a film about anemones. Take aggregating anemones for example. They are relatively small, but these carnivores are well armed and can be surprisingly aggressive toward their neighbors, so you might imagine they’d be cast in a gangster movie — with lots of special effects like fiery explosions and crash scenes. Their tentacles can fire venomous miniature harpoons that repel potential predators including anemones unlike themselves. Mother Nature is perfect for the “good cop” role of peace negotiator. In real […]

Dive Boat: Spectre

For more than 26 years the dive boat Spectre has consistently offered excellent service to the divers of Southern California. Their loyal following of customers provides irrefutable evidence regarding their longstanding commitment to excellence.  The Spectre hails from Ventura Harbor Village dock and caters to divers on trips to Anacapa Island and the east end of Santa Cruz Island in the Northern Channel Islands. These destinations are stunning both above and below the water, and are part of the Channel Islands National Park. Almost all […]

Giant Sea Bass: Are They Really Back From the Brink?

My first giant sea bass encounter occurred off San Nicolas Island in the 1970s. I sensed something overhead and looked up. A gigantic Goodyear blimp hovered over me.  A cartoon I‘d seen recently popped into my head. Two large fish were face to face. A scuba diver’s legs and fin-clad feet protruded from the puckered mouth of one wearing a sour expression. The other fish was saying, “I told you to peel them first.” I was a new diver and didn’t know if giant sea […]

The Cold, Dirty, Truth: How to Get Good Photos in California Waters

Talk with underwater photographers about shooting in California and it probably won’t take long before you hear some comments about how much more challenging it is to produce compelling photographs in our home waters than it is in clear tropical water. I don’t disagree. But I will say that with some forethought, practice and good shooting techniques it is possible to create strong macro and wide-angle images in California waters much of the time. It’s simply a matter of employing the best shooting techniques to […]

Effective Underwater Modeling

You can be a good dive buddy in many ways, but there is nothing more precise than being the buddy of a photographer. It is essential that you plan your dive and know exactly your objective. Photographers are tricky beings and you need to stay out of their way when you need to, and help them create incredible photographs when they need you. Before we discuss anything, I want to remind you about buoyancy. Obviously, as a diver you will better enjoy any underwater activity […]

Swell Sharks

What can I say? I am a sucker for cute and interesting faces underwater (other than divers, of course). And fortunately, for California underwater photographers we have many. But for me, I am especially drawn to our bottom dwelling sharks, specifically horn sharks and swell sharks. What fascinating faces! Of these two sharks I find the swell sharks to have the most interesting faces. Especially striking is the metallic golden colored eyes. Their flat heads spread out their funny “smiles” underneath. “Nostrils” just above the […]

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