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WETPIXEL Whalesharks - 2012


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#1 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 04:34 AM

Welcome to Mexico!

This is the official thread for the Wetpixel Whaleshark Expedition to Isla Mujeres. Open to all to contribute. I'll also try and add something each day.

I've arrived in Mexico for the Wetpixel whaleshark bonanza (hopefully). That starts tomorrow. And signs are good too - it has been a great season for sharks so far (as anyone on Facebook can tell you) - and we met a group of German photographers at the Cenotes yesterday who had just come from Isla Mujeres with tales of great viz and hundreds of sharks every day last week. It is exciting.

MEX12_am-10155.jpg

Anyway, a few of us (me, Eleonora, Suzy and Mike) are down here early for a couple of days of cenote diving with Dive Aventuras, thanks to Mario for guiding us. For me it is just a recce trip - to better understand the diving here. I don't yet have my main dome port, nor any remote strobes - but the cenotes are really wonderful. I can't wait to come back here on a dedicated shoot.

MEX12_am-10779.jpg

On the first day we visited Chac Mool, which was amazing scenery and I liked all the freshwater creatures too:

MEX12_am-10583.jpg

Aargh - having internet connection problems... So this will be brief. Curious locals:

MEX12_am-10848.jpg

MEX12_am-10947.jpg

Will flesh it out a little when connection reliable!

Alex

Attached Images

  • MEX12_am-10329-2.jpg

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#2 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 01:37 PM

Sorry for the lack of updates. Lack of internet access while travelling.

Day Two saw me, Eleo, Suzy and Mike diving again in the Cenotes with Mario from Dive Aventuras. It was a chance to play with the light beams in the Taj-Mahal cenote and then head to Eden, which turned into a fish-fest! Although Eleo and I had to share the only macro lens we brought.

Below are some shots of the light beams, taken with Nikon D4 and Sigma 15mm, Nauticam housing and tripod.

MEX12_am-11373.jpg

MEX12_am-11460.jpg

I like this one because of the refraction in the rays, I'll be using this in all my talks about dome ports from now on!

MEX12_am-11517.jpg

Then off to Eden - which was amazing fro fish, but I was stuck on wide angle. I really liked it though - there were so many cichlids with babies. I love freshwater fish because their life cycles are so different to marine one.

Alex - fish sucker
MEX12_am-11532.jpg

Cave at Eden.
MEX12_am-11616.jpg

Cichlids with babies:
MEX12_am-11696.jpg

More cichlids with babies (taken with 60mm, when Eleo lent me her camera for a few mins:
MEX12_am-11814.jpg

In the evening we headed up to Isla Mujeres and met up with the group, who are:
Alex, Eleo, Neil, Catherine, Mike, Suzy, April, Tom, Ryan, Carlos, Brian, Catherine and Jaxie. Hopefully some of them will be posting their thoughts and more importantly images here soon.

Alex

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#3 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 01:47 PM

Day Three (or officially Group 1, Day 1).

Unbelievable. I see why people go on and on about this place. First morning. Straight out of port into sharks. Captain reckoned 300-400 whale sharks in flat calm, blue seas.

I've never seen anything like it. Pictures to follow - hopefully from more of the group.

Here is a very brief taster - a vertical of whaleshark with sunrays. Nikon D4, Nikon 16mm, Nauticam housing, Zen 230 dome.
MEX12_am-12525.jpg

And the scene in reception, with everyone on the wi-fi, me, Brian and April (this was taken from the main sofa where most people were)

mike.jpg

Alex

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#4 Steve Williams

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 02:56 PM

Keep them coming Alex!!! Glad you hit the weather. Have a margarita for me.

Cheers,
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#5 ChefDude

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 06:15 PM

Possibly out of order, but here's a shot of the drop in point for the Cenote, Taj Mahal


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Taj Mahal Cenotes by michael_toye, on Flickr

#6 ChefDude

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 08:31 AM

Day 1, Boat 2 Posted Image, leaving for the 'Big Fish'


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_MG_9486 by michael_toye, on Flickr

Day 1, Suzy
Posted Image
_MG_9494 by michael_toye, on Flickr

Edited by ChefDude, 01 August 2012 - 08:35 AM.


#7 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 12:47 PM

As well as scouring the ocean for whalesharks, we've also been making a dedicated survey of the ice-cream shops in Isla Mujeres for the best quality. Below is one of the dedicated team of experts.

MEX12_am-13600.jpg

ISO 6400 on D4, BTW.

Alex

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#8 karant

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 02:30 PM

Whale sharks and cenotes......a dream vacation! Ya'll have fun:)

#9 ChefDude

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 12:19 PM

Day 3 - remember I'm a landscape photographer...


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Whale Shark by michael_toye, on Flickr

#10 AndyBarker

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 12:33 PM

Hi Mike,
just because you are a top side photographer it does not stop takin great shots have a great time.
Take care.
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#11 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 01:16 PM

Sorry for the lack of news. Each day is quite samey. Get up, swim all day with 100s of whalesharks, stop when totally exhausted. Eat dinner. Sleep.

And, yes, we're completely loving it!

Alex

Yesterday, Day 3 - we celebrated Swiss Day with Jaxie and Catherine. Must get the photos from Ryan.

Alex

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#12 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 01:27 PM

There really is so much to share from this trip - but we've limited time on land and then limited internet access.

As well as the sharks, we've had lots of mobula rays too. Small groups mainly - although Neil has the record for the most in a shot. Hopefully he'll share it. Below is one of mine of them from today.

MEX12_am-15638.jpg

And here is Eleonora photographing a shark yesterday:

MEX12_am-13957.jpg

Alex

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#13 MIKE POWELL

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 01:37 PM

Well done Alex....Awesome shot of the WS with light rays!

I just returned and had a blast! Hope you don't mind if I post a pic of mine....never as good as yours of course !!

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Edited by MIKE POWELL, 02 August 2012 - 01:38 PM.

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#14 MK2

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Posted 03 August 2012 - 07:43 PM

Hope the second group gets some great pics quick as " Ernesto" is a coming.... I have a whale shark tour monday then buttoning down things here in Cozumel as it is expected to arrive wed....

http://www.nhc.noaa....-daynl#contents

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#15 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 04 August 2012 - 03:24 AM

The days just keep getting better - more and more sharks. Yesterday they were so dense in the morning that you couldn't focus on shooting one as another would run you down from the opposite direction.

I was in the water and had about 25 sharks around me in an area of a couple of tennis courts. The whole water surface was churned up with whalesharks. There was more water than sharks. Would have been amazing from the air - hard to capture from the water as a still video - only three sharks in this dull shot:

MEX12_am-16779.jpg

We've had amazing days all week and with hours and hours with the sharks ideas are quickly exhausted. Many people have been trying split levels, despite it being slightly choppy - and not ideal conditions - in the middle of the day. But the struggle is not getting the split, but having anything of interest in the above portion of the images. There are no clouds and the only above water subject matter are the boats. So still not found a decent wildlife image as a split:

MEX12_am-17211.jpg

It is nice and calm in the mornings, but then there is too much light difference between above and below to get a shot right in camera. Of course it is easily fixed in Photoshop. But when you have whalesharks on tap - it is too tempting to want to get it right in camera.

With 100s of passes each day you do struggle to do anything different after a while. And I know that when people do find a fresher image they may not share it online because they are reasonably easy to copy! I have been enjoying the topside shooting too, especially as one of our boats has a tall tuna tower, giving the options of very high or low shots.

MEX12_am-17401.jpg

Suzy brought a kite to fly her GoPro, but it just hasn't been windy enough. Which is ironic with the storm Ernesto possibly heading this way. Yes, we're watching the storm track as avidly as the sharks. Not a big storm at all (yet), but a direct pass would spoil a day or two of whalesharking. Fingers crossed for a change in route.

Alex

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#16 MK2

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Posted 05 August 2012 - 12:20 PM

Looks like Ernesto is heading south towards Belize.....

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#17 StephenFrink

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Posted 05 August 2012 - 12:32 PM

Alex - is there any thought that some of these whale sharks might have stayed in the Gulf, if the Gulf was the same as before BP? I have no opinion one way or another, beyond curiosity. Just wondering if scientific community has weighed in on why numbers of whale sharks are so high, and localized.
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#18 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 05 August 2012 - 07:03 PM

Pleased to say that Tropical Storm Ernesto looks like its staying away and we'll be out every day on Week 2 as it stands now. Met up with all the group and we're all excited for the morning.

Here is a quick vid I shot on Saturday, in between taking photos. Shot with a GoPro (without screen!).

[vimeo]46985517[/vimeo]

Alex

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#19 loftus

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 05:57 AM

Alex - is there any thought that some of these whale sharks might have stayed in the Gulf, if the Gulf was the same as before BP? I have no opinion one way or another, beyond curiosity. Just wondering if scientific community has weighed in on why numbers of whale sharks are so high, and localized.

Steve; I don't believe this is a new phenomenon, rather just a more recent discovery, at least for the photog community. My understanding this is purely related to the bonito spawning in this area at this time of year. I guess it is possible though that food is more sparse elsewhere than before so they are tending to concentrate more. Be tough to assess without historical data of previous aggregations.

Edited by loftus, 06 August 2012 - 05:59 AM.

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#20 johnspierce

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Posted 06 August 2012 - 08:16 AM

I would agree; nothing has really changed in the Whale Shark migration, we just didn't know about it Posted Image. Apparently scientists have been studying the Holbox/Isla Mujeres migration for about 10 years, but Mexican fisherman have known about it for decades. Since it's kind of out in the middle of nowhere, it's not surprising nobody knew it was an annual occurrence.

We went last year and it's one of the coolest things I've ever done. Definitely a bucket list item. Do it before the Mexican Government bans it or starts charging tax on each Whale Shark or something.

We should just be glad it's not in American waters, it would probably be a Disneyland ride by now and you would have to rent saddles. Heh....

Edited by johnspierce, 06 August 2012 - 08:21 AM.

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