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Ambon Night Safari 2010

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The Wetpixel Ambon Night Safari is underway in full force; we are doing 3 night dives each evening here at Maluku Divers and are enjoying being immersed in a soup of the bizarre creatures that inhabit the waters of Ambon, including discarded diapers, tampons and other desirable subjects. Unfortunately, the nasty stuff thrown into the bay is part of what creates such an interesting underwater habitat.

 

Most of our group is shooting with standard macro rigs, but there are 3 insect eye relay lenses here at the resort. Julian and I are both shooting INON lenses, and Tony has a custom job from Japan. They can be incredibly frustrating to use, but successful images often describe scenes that have never before been seen. The photo in this post is a screen grab from HD video taken with my Canon 7D and insect eye lens. The main subject, a mass of eggs from a panda anemonefish (Amphiprion polymus), is normally photographed using a super-macro setup. Using an insect eye lens, I was able to capture video of both the tiny eggs and attentive parent fish. Each egg houses a late-stage baby anemonefish, an in the video, you can see tiny hearts beating and eyes moving.

 

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The most well-known dive site in Ambon is called Laha. Laha is known as “Twilight Zone” by the folks who first dove it – and for good reason: its mucky slope is packed full of the strange and outrageous. When we came here in April of 2009, we enjoyed the site so much that we spent 6 full days diving its mucky slope.

 

The new moon is approaching, and everywhere in Ambon, animals have aggregated to spawn. In a single large hole in the reef, we saw 4 large stonefish fidgeting about with their heads nearly touching. Many of the critters we are finding down there are stuffed full of eggs. During a midnight dive last night, I spotted a pregnant harlequin swimming crab (Lissocarcinus laevis) hiding under some sort of tube anemone. After a few minutes, the crab walked out slowly from under her protective umbrella and extended her brood pouch – a sure sign that she was about to release eggs. After 4 minutes of gentle egg aeration, she sprang into the water column without warning, releasing all of her eggs in a few seconds of spastic gyration. This photo was taken moments before she released her eggs.

 

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Coleman’s shrimp (Periclimenes colmani), a beautiful commensal shrimp that lives in pairs on fire urchins (Asthenosoma varium), are fairly common in Ambon. Fire urchins are typically found here at depths of 60-90 feet, and about one out of 20 will have at least one of three kinds of commensal crustacea living on them.

 

Using the INON insect eye lens (Underwater Micro Semi-Fisheye Relay Lens UFL-MR130 EFS60), I was able to capture two Coleman’s shrimp in a valley of fire urchin spines. Shots taken with traditional lenses cannot capture the colorful environment in which these shrimp live.

 

 

(Maluku Divers just got their internet up and running!)

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A juvenile paper nautilus still in its salp-like egg casing. Ambon, Indonesia.

 

During our dives here in Ambon over the past few days, we have been accompanied in the water by large salp-like chains of floating paper nautilus eggs. Before I knew what they were, I assumed that they were just some sort of jelly, and as I do with most jellies, I avoided them. But on a night dive a few days ago, Lea Moser photographed a newly-hatched paper nautilus stuck to our dive guide's finger. We quickly realized that the floating "salps" were actually paper nautilus eggs. I gently took one into my hand as it floated by, and it has quite a lot of structure to it (unlike jellies). An internal flap pulses, giving the egg sack propulsion, and a golden brown paper nautilus baby is protected within.

 

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Eric,

 

Thanks for the wonderful pictures and stories. Those shots (and experiences too, it seems) are really one of a kind! Look forward to hearing more updates and seeing more pics.

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Agreed!

 

These shots are pretty amazing, and showcase some pretty amazing experiences.

 

Keep them coming. More, more, more!

 

Steve

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Great stuff Eric!! Love the insect eye, the Coleman Shrimp image has a fantastic perspective.

 

Look forward to seeing what you come up with in Raja Ampat!!

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Eric,

 

Marvelous images! Thanks for sharing them with us.

 

I captured an image of a Coleman Shrimp when I was in Bali, but mine pales in comparison to yours.

 

Enjoy your diving in that fantastic region of the world. :)

 

Ellen

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Hola,

 

I'm here in beautiful Bali heading home tomorrow while (most of) the rest of the crew heads on to Toraja and then Misool. It was an amazing trip with critters o' plenty! Along with innumerable eels, ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp, and the aforementioned fire urchin denizens, it was a frogfish festival! I personally counted 18 different individuals in my time there. Ridiculous!

 

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The coup d' grace was when Kozy, one our keen-eyed compatriots, spotted not one, but FOUR juvenile hairy froggies in less than 5 feet of water. After a little time, one of them was kind enough to oblige me :)

 

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I finally had a chance to try out my new Sola light and Eric brought several more for other folks to try. Some dives the slope was simply awash in red light! The red option proved invaluable for many of the night critters, especially shy crustaceans like Saron shrimp

 

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Lots more pics and stories, but that'll have to wait until a better internet connection and when I go through the rest of the pics (despite being diligent and a bit ruthless in culling, I still have a couple hundred keeper images worthy of further consideration!). Thanks to Eric, Tony and everyone else for being great, sharing knowledge and making it a fantastic trip. Extra special kudos to Maluku Divers for putting up with us, especially when we were diving until 2 a.m. a couple nights. More to follow...

 

Phil

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We're in Toraja now with the remainder of the wetpixel group. It's beautiful out here. Finally access to the interwebs, sort of. Here's a few of my images from the trip.

 

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This tiger shrimp was battling a brittle star, and the tiger shrimp was obviously winning.

 

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Trying out my snoot. First subject to shoot with it was a hairy frogfish.

 

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Caught this flamboyant cuttlefish catching a shrimp.

 

It was an awesome trip! And the new Maluku Divers resort is very nice.

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Here's a few pics from me, also shot with the insect eye lens. Eric persuaded me not to leave it at the bottom of the ocean, as I was totally frustrated with it, and I'm glad he guilted me into giving it another go.

 

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We are in Toraja now shooting all sorts of strange and wonderful things and then onto Misool!

 

Can't wait....

 

Julian

Edited by JACohen

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Wow guys, some truly spectacular shots there. Please keep them coming. Julian, I love the perspective and selective lighting in your shots. Love the xeno crab!

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Great work everybody!!

Spectacular images! :)

Keep them coming!

 

Cheers

Karel

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Here's a few more, while we still have somewhat functioning interwebs (although I had to set up a proxy on my server so most people could actually upload stuff).

 

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Actually managed a decent image of a black/juvenile ribbon eel.

 

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There were many harlequin shrimps. With and without sea star arms in their claws. I liked this one.

 

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This is what the Coleman shrimps look like with one of those old fashioned macro rigs :)

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Here's a couple more.

 

This juvenile harlequin crab is about half a cm long

 

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This is what a skeleton shrimp looks like with one of those new fangled macro rigs...

 

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Back at home and jealous of the rest of the group heading on to Misool, but thought I'd post a few more. With all the great photographic vibe amongst everyone on the trip, I got inspired to give some new things a go, trying to get away from my typical macro mode of blasting away at full power and f22. I tried a bunch of different strobe settings and lighting as well as shallow depth of field. Despite my fine collection of Home Depot plumbing parts, snooting was still mostly an exercise in frustration, but some of the other stuff worked well, I think.

 

Leaf scorpion backlit with only a dive light

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Shallow depth of field

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The rest of my pics are at http://www.philsokol.com/Underwater/Ambon-1110

 

Once again, thanks to everyone for a fantastic trip and I can't wait to see what they come up with in Misool!

 

Phil

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Wow Phil, what great shots and subjects. Bravo! Thanks for sharing those. What the heck is that thing in picture #35? Just added Ambon to my list.

 

My favorites are:

#5 - peak of the action!

#34 - I'm still hoping to see one of these

#45 - what incredible decorations and the orange in the bottom left matches the shrimp's patches

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Great shots from everyone.

 

The shots coming from that Inon Lens are pretty spectacular.

 

And Phil that is a superb collection --> the backlit leaf scorpion fish is a great shot

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Amazing works!

 

It's my honour that i can meet so many excellent photographers in this trip! :)

Thanks to Eric and Tony for organizing this wonderful trip! :)

 

This is my slideshow from Ambon:

my slideshow link

 

All images were taken by D700 with 105mmvr+1.4xTC or 105mmvr+2xTC.

 

Thanks for your viewing and comments. :)

 

cheers,

 

Jenny

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Truly wonderful images folks! Unbelievable diversity of subjects. So tell me about the dive area you covered in a typical dive. Where you spread out across a large area? I can just imagine what it must have looked like to the locals. All those strobes lighting up the ocean everynight. They will probably remember it for years. I'm betting you guys will too.

 

Stunning collection of images!

Steve

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A few photos I took with the Totomega lens:

 

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I'll be uploading more to my blog in the coming days.

 

Here's some information about the lens if you're interested:

http://www.tonywublog.com/20101119/totomeg...hotography.html

wow tony those pics are out of this world. i love how that lense really makes the eyes pop and looks so big. a really interesting and unique perspective.

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Tony .

Pic #1, 3 and 5 - are they new species? :D

 

I almost can't recognize this very common lembeh critters.

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Pic #1, 3 and 5 - are they new species? :D

 

Ha ha! That was the challenge of using this lens. Not to find unusual animals per se, but depict normal animals in an unusual way. Incredibly frustrating, but fun when it works

 

Cheers,

 

Tony

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Thanks for the pics and the blog, Tony. Those pictures are fantastic and made me laugh. I love the perspective - it is so unique and special.

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I just posted a video of some of the photos and video clips I've taken in Ambon.

 

[vimeo]

[/vimeo]

 

Not all the images are from this most recent trip, but all the video clips are, and all the wide-angle macro shots as well.

 

The music is a local song called Panggayo, which Michael performed for me. Michael picks up guests at the airport for Maluku Divers

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