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Alex_Mustard

BALI - October '04

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I'm just back from a very brief visit to Bali. The trip was a recce for a group trip I am leading for UK dive travel agent Divequest (www.divequest.co.uk) next September.

 

Bali is often an very underrated dive location. This is partly because Bali is so great on land - beautiful volcanic scenery, Hindu temples and friendly people - that people can't believe it has great diving too. And partly because you have to pick your sites careful to get the good ones - most of the tourism is in the South and the coastal diving round here is mediocre. But get away from the touristy south and it is awesome.

 

My visit also allowed me to meet up with and go diving with fellow Wetpixel member Frogfish (aka Robert Delfs). It was great to meet Robert (although I was made to feel v. jealous looking at his photos - he is very lucky to be based in SE Asia) and benefit from his local knowledge of the island. Oh, and my short trip was cut by a day when Malaysian Airways were kind enough to lose my camera case. Nice. This stopped me getting up to Menjangen and Secret Bay.

 

Anyway I started with a night dive in Padangbai. Interesting site - with a different mix of critters to north (Tulamben). I was shooting the 60mm and concentrating on larger critters - large sponge crab, spearing mantis, 4 spanish dancers etc.

 

Then up to Tualmben area. The USAT Liberty wreck is just awesome for fish photography. With everything you could ever want there. The only downside is the Viz which starts the day at 15-20m and drops to 10-15m as the day goes on. Good critters too - e.g one seafan with 13 pygmies on it - all much bigger than the ones I snapped in Lembeh earlier in the year. I dived with just about every operator I could - as research for next year's trip. All were good actually, and the cost per dive is pretty cheap out there.

 

Another favourite site in the area is Seraya Scuba's house reef (volcanic sand slope). Amazing site for Nudis. Michael Aw saw 41 species in one dive here earlier in the year. On one night dive at this site I photographed 5 froggies, 3 boxer crabs, found the first bumble shrimp ever seen here, + skeleton shrimps, tozeuma shrimps, nudis etc etc. There is also an unusual type of frogfish here (with transparent portholes in its fins that may be a new species (although I feel it is just a variety of A. pictus).

 

What I like about the muck diving in Bali is that there is a slightly different mix of creatures to other areas like Lembeh. Stuff that is rare or absent in Lembeh, for example, is common here. And to be fair vice versa. If you have never been to Lembeh you should go there. But if you have been there once, go to Bali next and fill the gaps in your critter portfolio.

 

After the fish photog and muck diving I went to meet Robert and we went out to Nusa Penida (an offshore island between Bali and Lombok) with Robert's favourite dive centre BIDP. The currents can be hazardous here and you must go with an operator you completely trust. BIDP are this. And with their local knowledge we hardly had any currents on any dives. We were after Mola mola and Mantas and by the end of the second dive BIDP had provided both on a plate. We were a bit unlucky with the Viz on that day - but awesome to see all the big boys.

 

Here is Robert with one of the Mantas:

bali5.jpg

 

Then whoosh - I was home again.

 

Alex

 

Read about the trip (although pretty much the same as above):

http://www.amustard.com/?page=pro&ext=bali...age=news&size=s

 

See a gallery of my images from these few days:

http://www.amustard.com/bali/

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Here are a few of my pix.

 

Pygmy seahorse with long exposure:

pygmy_blue.jpg

 

I used a long exposure (hand held while free swimming) to burn in the blue background on this shot. 1/15th @ f32. Pygmies are so well photographed I think you have to try and do something different with them.

 

Lionfish with short exposure. I did everything I could to try and keep the background black on this free swimming juvenile lionfish. I had the camera pushed right into the sand to get underneath him because he was only about 2 inches above the bottom. I had to clean the background a bit - as with only a 1/180th top synch speed I couldn't get a completely black background.

 

lionfish.jpg

 

I took this sweetlips using the telephoto technique I described in UWP 20. The wreck makes fish photography so easy.

 

sweetlips_remora.jpg

 

And finally, this picture really sums up diving in Tulamben for me. Seasquirts everywhere and wherever you look closer you will find even more life. Like the porcelain crabs climbing on them:

 

crabs_squirts.jpg

 

Alex

 

The rest of the images are at http://www.amustard.com/bali/index.htm

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Awesome critters.....makes me want to go back :) We used Bali as a stop off to get to Wakatobi....we'll definitely stay and dive next time

 

Karl

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Great photos. My hubby and I did a similar trip in Sept with Graham Abbott diving Tulamben, Seraya and Secret Bay. Didn't see the frogfish at Seraya but got the Harlequin shrimp which was on my list of must have. Just goes to show you can dive these sites over and over and see different critters every time. There was lots of surge at Seraya when we were there which made it a little difficult getting out of the water. Bali diving is great!

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What can I say...WOW!!! Your images have a very film-like (is that a bad thing here at Wetpixel) quality, what's your secret? Is it the Subtronic strobes or some post processing that achieves the snappy look you are getting?

 

Larry

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Karl, I agree. I do think a lot of people go to Bali en route to Wakatobi or Komodo and ignore the diving there. It is well worth investigating, even for just a couple of days.

Alex

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Larry, you raise an interesting point.

 

I was diving with a lady in Bali who was also shooting a D100 (although hers was in this enormous bulky Seacam thing!). And we were often comparing our RAW files at the end of the days diving. One of her main comments about my images were how punchy and saturated they were straight out of the camera - (and these were the RAW previews in Nikon View - so unmanipulated).

 

I put it down to lighting technique. Light is crucial in all photography. And in macro where light is mainly from our strobes - strobe aiming and positiioning and power are all very important. I think because it is easy to get a macro picture to come out, people can get lazy (I know I do). As long as we get a good shot we don't persevere and refine our macro techniques until we are producing something very special.

 

That said, I do tend to up contrast and saturation a bit in RAW conversion - although I made this web gallery on my laptop while on the plane - so it is mainly batch processed.

 

Alex

 

p.s. I only had one subtronic on this trip. One of my Subtronics broke (shock, horror) while I was in Cayman. But while it is being serviced Ocean Optics lent me a Inon 220. So I was shooting with one Subtronic and one Inon. Although I am happy with my pictures, I must admit that I did not really fall for the Inon. I don't have any specific complaints about the Inon. It is just I prefer the Subs. In fact the Inon battery life was very impressive 13 dives on one set of Energiser Lithiums (average dive time 76 minutes, 100+ shots per dive). But typically it ran out of juice at a crucial time (you can see the left side of this picture is in shadow because the Inon had just died!):

moray_shrimp.jpg

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Alex,

Fantastic pictures (like always)! I really like your work. :)

I noticed that you used the 105 lens with +1 and +4 diopters. I imagine you used this set up for the really small critters (e.g. the tiny frog fish and shrimp). I would like to know which type of diopters did you use (reccommend) and if it was hard to focus and get a good reading with the 105 plus the diopters?

Thanks again for sharing the great pics!

Peace,

David.

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Nikon's T series dioptres are the ones that are best for super macro work with the 105mm.

 

Mine are not T series - but seem to work fine at 6MP. When I get a higher res camera (my D100 and hosuing are for sale) I may find that I notice a lack of sharpness compared with a very high quality dioptre. But for now I am happy.

 

In low viz water I often routinely use the 105mm with a +1 on most dives.

Alex

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Alex,

Do you find much better using a +1 or +4 diopter than using a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter (also called duplicator) as the Kenko PRO series?

 

Matetes

 

F100, 16,17-35,24-85,60,105mm in a Seacam housing. Two Subtronic Alpha Pro

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I've always preferred dioptres to teleconvertors on a long lens like the 105mm - because I like being able to get closer to the subject. Also the dioptres do not reduce light and therefore do not affect AF performance.

The AF of the D100 is not as good as the F100.

Alex

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Hi Alex,

 

Fantastic shots as always. Getting a blue background on a pygmy seahorse is an interesting problem. This is perhaps one case where a low noise ISO 1600 setting would come in handy.

 

I once saw a photographer with an extra slave strobe covered with a thick blue piece of plastic. He was going to have a helper hold that on the other side to get the blue background. I thought that was cheating.

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Herb,

 

The extra filtered strobe was the approach I was planning earlier in the year - I just never got round to it. It just seemed too much like hard work! British photographer Mark Webster (who is a wetpixel member) is one of the few peope to write about this technique - it is in his book:

http://www.photec.co.uk/Books.htm

 

UWP editor Peter Rowlands once build a backlighting contraption (back in the 1980s) where he could slot in different coloured sheets of perspex (blue, green, red, yellow) in front of a strobe. The main use he put it to was comedy - doing the whole "and here is the same fish in the Red Sea, Yellow Sea etc etc".

 

I did a lot of long exposure macro practice earlier in summer in Cayman (while diving with Giles and James). And this meant I had a good idea what I could get away with, once I was on the pygmies in Bali. Here is one of the practice shots of the face of a Caribbean Triplefin:

macro_triple3.jpg

 

I prefer long exposures to high ISO to get blue backgrounds (but maybe that is because I own a noisy Nikon!!).

 

Alex

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What's the american equivalent of perspex? I've seen it mentioned as a good background for taxonomic shots but the guys at the plastic shop didn't know what it was.

Thanks, Leslie

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Hi Alex

 

Just returned from Wakatobi and on route back we spent a week in Bali mostly around Tulamben. Also really enjoyed the muck diving. Will go back if every I pass through Bali.

 

Paul

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I did a lot of long exposure macro practice earlier in summer in Cayman (while diving with Giles and James). And this meant I had a good idea what I could get away with, once I was on the pygmies in Bali. Here is one of the practice shots of the face of a Caribbean Triplefin

 

Just curious, what was the lens and settings used for this shot ? 180mm ?

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