Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last 12 years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest.
Sep 30, 16 Comments (0)
Good morning all, Hurricane Matthew passed by last night with almost no activity here in Curacao?? At 5:00am it was hitting Aruba and the tail was hitting Bonaire but so far we are good other than rough seas and overcast skies and very little rain.
I have a macro shot of the beautiful root-beer colored polyps on an Endangered elkhorn coral that I shot right out in front of the Substation. We have only one live elkhorn on our small reef, it sits clinging to side of a boulder at around 25-30 feet and I see it overtime I head out for a dive with the submersible.
Sep 28, 16 Comments (0)
Good morning friends, yes more trash, I just can’t walk or ride past it anymore without doing something. This has been an on-going project for the past month which I have been doing mostly on and during my weekly mountain bike rides to Saint Joris bay. The top photo I took about a month ago and since then have been bagging it up and stacking it in the bushes away from the water. Then once I get it ready I call Mark from the world famous “The Dive Bus” and as always no questions asked and he comes to the rescue helping me to clean-up yet another trashed area of Curaçao. The bags I used are 55 gallon just to give you an idea of how much trash we are talking about and this is only a tiny little area. My big fear right now is once Hurricane Matthew passes in a few days what this place will look like then, I am sure I will be back for part-2!
Thanks again Mark, have a great day!!
Sep 26, 16 Comments (0)
I have a few new macro blue-light shots for your viewing pleasure that Aimee and I found late at night on the Sea Aquarium house reef. This whole blue-light thing is still proving to be a major challenge because of not having much light to work with. By that I mean not only are you underwater in the darkness but now instead of having white lights to see and focus with I now have a dark blue light to see and focus with, which is major difficult! I used my macro 105 lens for the above close-up shots of these beautiful large cup star corals and every colony is a different color. My other major obstacle is if you put too much light on these corals all at once or for too long the polyps will close and you would not see the pinks and purples, it would just be green. This is a work in progress, I will keep trying…
Have a great day!
Sep 23, 16 Comments (0)
Good morning friends, last night was the first of three nights of coral spawning for the month of September. I completely missed the August spawning but never the less this month is usually always the best. Like every year 7 days after the full moon corals around the world all release eggs and sperm into the water column in hopes of growing new corals and insuring it’s species will survive. The downside for me is the time in which this all happens, I mean I am usually fast asleep by the time this event is just starting. Aimee went with me last night but only for shore support and to help me get my giant camera in and out of the water, it’s impossible for me to do alone as it’s so cumbersome and heavy. I jumped in at 9:30 by myself and off I went in search of any possible star-corals that might spawn but ended up finding everything but those. I went in hopes of doing some blue-light photos but after not finding what I was looking for I kind of gave up. The coolest thing I found was millions of brittle stars out spawning laying all over the reef at around 9:45 but because I had the blue-light set-up and brittle stars don’t fluoresce I ended up with nothing but memories and swam back in early. I told Aimee about the brittle stars and she said lets just take all the blue-light stuff off your camera and get you back out there to shoot those, what a great idea as I still had 2000 psi left in my tank. By the time I got back out to the reef (only 10-15) minutes had passed, every single brittle star was gone?? You really can’t imagine my total disappointment! The up side to this second dive was now all the Starlet corals were spawning and really going crazy (above photos). This is again something you have to see in person to believe, every single Starlet corals was pumping out sperm and eggs, so much in fact I had to do an emergency accent as I couldn’t see the hand in front of my face and ended up getting lost! Once I surfaced I saw shore and took a bearing, then went back under and made a bee-line for home but first taking as many shots as I could of all this spawning madness. Aimee and I are headed out again tonight, this should be a much better night, wish us luck!
We had no internet here yesterday so I wasn’t able to do much, this is Curacao…
Sep 20, 16 Comments (0)
Good morning from Curacao. Many have asked me over the years if I have ever found a real message in a bottle and I tell them, YES, just once. Some of you out there who save these blogs will recall the year and date but at this very moment I for sure can’t remember. I found my real “message in a bottle” at Saint Joris while collecting driftwood and I still remember the day I found it and that mysterious feeling of not knowing what would be written inside. Turns out it was a note written by a Dutch couple onboard the Insulinde traveling back from Klein Curacao and they thought that their “message in a bottle” would at that time travel the seven seas. Little did they know that the Curacao currents would carry that bottle straight back to Curacao and into Saint Joris bay and then be found by me just a few weeks after tossing it overboard.
Here is the short video we shot this weekend that I told you about on friday, it’s called the “Secret Trail” and it’s one of our most technical trails we have on the island. The goal with this trail or challenge is to not set your feet down or touch anything, I had a good run but Hans had a little trouble.
Have a great day out there…
Sep 19, 16 Comments (0)
Good morning friends, another weekend has passed leaving me again wiped out and wondering why I try to do so much on my precious days off?? Saturday morning I left at 6:30 and took Indi and Joy (Inca has sore feet) to Boca Tabla East at Koral Tabac and we cleaned trash for “Coastal Clean-up Day” which is a nationwide event, except in Curacao…. I picked this spot because I ride by here so much on my mountain bike and I get sick of looking at all the trash, it’s really a major mess! During my collection I found thousands of plastic soda caps which as you can imagine takes longer to pick because of their size. I also found some dead baby sea-turtles that were just born and must have come ashore in the sargassum and got smashed on the rocks and all the driftwood, it’s no wonder so few turtles survive especially around here where there are only a few beaches. Because of the heat here we had to leave by 8:30 because it’s just too hot for the dogs and both of ours are black. Once home and getting the dogs to bed, I raced water and food out to our birds and iguana’s in the desert and then took my bike into the shop for new tires. After that I spent the rest of the day painting an apartment next door to ours trying to make some extra $ to help get us out of here in the coming months.
On Sunday I went on a fun three hour mountain bike ride with my neighbor Hans and I did shoot a short video clip of us riding the “Secret Trail” which I am trying to upload into Youtube as I type and will send you a link once it’s posted.
Hopa all is well out there, I have to run.
Sep 13, 16 Comments Off on CIEE Bonaire, Scientific Programs for School Kids
Good afternoon all, we just finished with the kids from the CIEE Research Station in Bonaire, we had 12 kids total meaning we did two submersible runs yesterday and one this morning. For years you have heard me me say “we have the kids from Bonaire coming today” well finally I have time to throw a short post out there for you all. So what does CIEE mean?? I actually had to look it up as my guess didn’t even come close.. It means “Council on International Educational Exchange” and folks this is a big organization, here is the link… www.ciee.org
CIEE is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, CIEE is the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization. Since 1947, CIEE has helped thousands of people gain the knowledge and skills necessary to live and work in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world by offering the most comprehensive, relevant, and valuable exchange programs available. They began nearly 70 years ago with a mission to help people gain understanding, acquire knowledge, and develop skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. It’s an undertaking they have been proud to pursue for seven decades. Today, they serve more than 340 U.S. colleges and universities, 1,000 U.S. high schools, and 35,000-plus international exchange students each year and claim “We change lives; our alumni change the world”.
The CIEE mission is to provide outstanding educational opportunities to students in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation. We strive to provide interdisciplinary marine research opportunities for CIEE students as well as visiting scientists and their students from around the world. Collaboration with ongoing local research and conservation efforts is basic to our mission as is our commitment to provide scientific data, analysis and support to Bonaire’s environmental, educational and governmental entities.
The two girls above, Haley and Danielle were part of the 12 LUCKY kids that got to jump in our 2.5 million dollar submersible this week and take a ride deep into the deep Curacao abyss. I personally love having these kids visit and enjoy photographing them in the sub, they always bring a much needed breath of fresh air into our lives and end up re-charging our whole group with their fun, positive energy! Keep in mind, these are the kids that we hope will be able to fix, repair or heal the oceans with new ideas and ways to save our fragile liquid environment, we are all counting on them…
Have a great day, check out their website.
Sep 8, 16 Comments Off on Baby/Juvenile Flying Gurnard, Colorful Reef Fish
Good morning readers of the blog, yesterday when I jumped in the water at Substation on my way out to photograph the sub, I found a tiny little 2-inch flying gurnard in the sand right below our floating platform. This is for sure the smallest gurnard I have ever seen and I still can’t believe I found it, he or she is so cute! Because I had the wide angle with me yesterday I had to get back in hours later with my macro lens and find him again which wasn’t hard to do, he was in the same spot. This morning I took off 1st thing in search of him again and since baby fish tend to stay in the same area for months he was fairly easy to find again. When I go out to do a shoot I usually just stop and watch for awhile and learn a little bit about their behaviors, this can make my job a lot easier. I did have a very hard time getting a front view of his or her face as they never stop swimming and always keep their faces away from you.
The flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans), also known as the helmet gurnard, is a bottom-dwelling fish of tropical to warm temperate waters on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. On the American side, it is found as far north as Massachusetts (exceptionally as far as Canada) and as far south as Argentina, including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. On the European and African side, it ranges from the English Channel to Angola, including the Mediterranean. Similar and related species from the genus Dactyloptena are found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
When excited, the fish spreads its “wings”, (top photo) which are semi-transparent, with a phosphorescent bright blue coloration at their tips. These are designed to scare away predators, but they don’t enable the fish to glide in the air as do the fins of flying fish. The fish also has large eyes. It reaches up to 50 cm (20 in) in length and 1.8 kg (4.0 lb) in weight.
The fish’s main diet consists of small fish, bivalves, and crustaceans.
Have a wonderful day…
Sep 6, 16 Comments Off on Sea-Glass, Beach Glass, Caribbean Sea Glass
Good morning friends, I have a Caribbean sea-glass photo for you all today that we shot in Bonaire last week on our two day mini-vacation. Sea glass is a unique thing, it first went from being discarded trash thrown into the sea or on the beach and then “presto” many, many years later it’s now a collected treasure, I wish all trash could be reused like this. If your in Bonaire and looking for sea-glass check out the beaches on Klein Bonaire, you will have to take a water taxi to get there and keep in mind its HOT so take plenty to drink. Klein Bonaire also has very little to no shade so take hats and sunscreen, if you wanting to walk around the whole island that will take around two hours.
Not a lot going on these days, we kind of lost our winds and it’s trying to rain, very strange time of year. They are still predicting warmer seas for this area some time this month which could cause coral bleaching, I am watching…
I hope you all are well out there, keep in touch.
Sep 5, 16 Comments Off on Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire, Animal Rescue Bonaire
Good morning all, as most of you know Aimee and I took off to Bonaire last week for the worlds fasted mini-vacation/business trip which mainly involved me taking photos on the beach all day. We were only there for two days and on the last day we passed by the Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary and of course we had to stop! For most people when you say Bonaire they think of trouble free diving, kite surfing or flamingos but for the most part are unaware of the donkey sanctuary.
As the story goes, In 1993 Marina Melis (top photo) and her husband Ed Koopman, both from Holland established a donkey sanctuary on Bonaire for sick, wounded and orphaned donkeys. This wonderful sanctuary not only provides help to donkeys in distress, but strives to offer a protected life to all the donkeys on Bonaire. They also distribute information among the local community, schools and tourists, helping to raise awareness and understanding. Hundreds (600 to date) have found shelter here, they are provided food and water and medical care if needed. The sanctuary is located on route to Lac Bay and opens at 10:00 every day seven days a week. Donkeys have been living on this tropical island for hundreds of years originally brought over by Spanish to use for hard labor.
Finding a long-term solution for the feral donkeys on Bonaire, and in other places with similar challenges, is complex. For the past 21 years, the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire has been responding to nearly all donkey emergencies on the island and taking care of its sick, injured and orphaned donkeys. However, a sanctuary is only one aspect of feral donkey management. Part of The Donkey Sanctuary’s new strategy is to learn from good practice in the management of feral donkey populations and it is by helping to share this information, along with open discussions with residents, locals vets and representatives of the Bonaire Government, that the long-term welfare of Bonaire’s donkeys will be safeguarded.
Aimee and I had a total blast here as you can see from the above photos starting with a visit to see a new born (photo #2) that was so cute and playful. Aimee instantly fell in love with this little one and asked me countless times if we could take a donkey home?? We had a great intern from Holland that gave us the grand tour showing us not only the new born but also some of the sad cases like photo #3 showing what happens when a donkey and a speeding car collide… Photo #4 shows the name collars for the original donkeys many years ago, Aimee’s name is one of them, I didn’t see mine. The remaining photos I shot during our one hour drive around the 165 acre loop, it was super fun. Aimee bought carrots and fed them to all who came to our window “which was a lot”, we needed more carrots! You can also buy a bale of hale and sit on your tailgate and feed and drive, it’s a great way to get closer to them. During the driving tour you can stop anywhere and go hiking, the donkeys will follow you and almost all of them let us pet them, such fun creatures! Before we left we stopped into the gift shop and filled out papers to “adopt a donkey”, it sure goes to a great cause…
Here’s the link, check out the adoption page.
Have a wonderful day..
Sep 2, 16 Comments Off on Pokemon Sign in CURACAO, Don’t Pokemon!!
Good morning friends, we are back from our three day mini-vacation to Bonaire, it was fun while it lasted! On our way to the airport in Curacao last tuesday we passed this “DON’T POKEMON and DRIVE” sign and I had to stop to take a photo! I’m pretty much lost for words on this, have we taken a giant leap backwards in human evolution?? I thought Pokemon was a child’s game and now we are telling grown adults to not Pokemon and drive?? Someone out there please help me with this one….
Our Bonaire trip was filled with ups and downs starting with Insel Air being our first down. We got to the airport two hours early and just before boarding for our 15 minute flight to Bonaire they changed our departure time to another two hours, so we sat there for over four hours, I guess we should have just gone with Divi-Divi or rented a kayak? We stayed at Ocean Breeze apartments right across from the airport and it was great, it had all the comforts of home and more. We spent most of wednesday photographing sea-glass on the beach at our favorite dive site called Invisibles, it was such a beautiful place to hang out. On thursday we finished up on photos at the same place and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary, I will post photos and a story tomorrow of that adventure. Our trip went fast, we found out Bonaire has become very expensive to do anything except for the Donkey place that was only $7, next time we will eat all our meals at home.
Hope all is well out there, tons to do!!
Have a great weekend.
Aug 26, 16 Comments Off on Dominican Slit-Shells, Dominican Sea Shells
Good morning friends, I have two rare, deep-sea slit-shells for you all today that were found a few months ago by our crew on the island of Dominica. These were found with our submersible called the “Curasub” at depths ranging from 350 to 600 feet.
Here’s a small note from a pleurotomariid expert that wrote in this morning… “the bright colors in some shells and animals from deep water are astonishing…but don’t forget that yellow and red/pink colorations are the first to be filtered out by the light (wavelengths) reaching those depths….and thus are a kind of hiding colors in these depths for predators …..there’s also a hypothesis that particular color pigments present in the encrusting sponges, which form the mean diet in most slit-shell species, are incorporated into the outer prismatic layers during shell development (and those yellow and red encrusting sponges are found around the same habitat where adansonianus lives, in the same depth cline).”
These are the shallowest occurring and most commonly collected pleurotomariids in the Western Atlantic with a range that extends from Bermuda to Southern Brazil. Slit Shells of this species live at depths of 180 feet to 700 feet so it’s safe to say that not many folks will ever see one while out diving! In the rest of the Western Atlantic, there are three species of pleurotomariids that co-occur in any given area, but they are not sympatric as they occur at different depths. It’s safe to say that most shell collectors will cry when they see this, these shells are a thing of beauty! Once again I find myself asking why is everything so colorful at such deep depths?? I mean it’s really dark down there, why are fish and shells so colorful?? We are one of the first companies ever to not only find these in their natural habitat but we are also able to study them and find out how they live and what they eat plus photographing them in their natural surroundings. On any given sub dive with Substation Curacao you have a very good chance of seeing a Slit Shell in person, so come on over and see us for a ride you won’t soon forget.
I am off to the sea…
Aug 25, 16 Comments Off on Sea/Ocean Plastic, Micro-Plastics, Sea Pollution
Good morning all, as you can see Curacao just got hit with another major wave of floating ocean plastics!! This was caused after a week of strong winds and big waves bringing large amounts of trash to the shores of countless Caribbean islands, not just here. From my observations of looking through pile after pile of trash I noticed that this plastic and wood has been out to sea a long time and I bet your wondering how I came up with that?? Well, almost everything I found was covered in live barnacles meaning it was out floating in the open sea a long time. The big question now is; how in the world can this be cleaned up! I must say it’s enough to keep you up at night if you could see this mess in person, I personally felt very helpless just looking at it last night and even made a failed attempt to clean some of it up. I will for sure go back and do my best to attack some of it because for me doing nothing is for sure not the answer, right??
Hope all is well out there, getting packed for our three day trip to Bonaire next week, I will be taking photos non-stop!
See you soon…
Aug 24, 16 Comments Off on Caribbean Reef Octopus on Top of Star Coral
Hi gang, I have an extra beautiful Caribbean reef squid clinging to a colony of mountainous star coral for you all today that I found late at night on our house reef.
The Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus) is a coral reef marine animal. It has eight long arms that vary in length and diameter. The mantle is large and chunky in comparison (up to 60 cm long). This species is difficult to describe because it changes color and texture to blend into its surroundings, using specialised skin cells known as chromatophores. Its color range is very large; it can change from crimson to green, and bumpy to smooth. It weighs around 3.3 lb or 1.5 kg.
The Caribbean reef octopus lives in warm waters around coral reef environments and grassy and rocky sea beds. Their biogeographic regions are as follows: the Nearctic region, Neotropical region (Central and South America), oceanic islands and the Pacific Ocean.
The Caribbean reef octopus lives in hidden, rocky lairs that are difficult to locate. Their lairs are usually created in shallow warm waters. O. briareus is not a social animal, and stays at a safe distance from other octopuses of the same species, except for mating. If faced with a predator, a Caribbean reef octopus, like most other octopuses, sucks up a volume of water then expels it quickly in the form of a jet to propel itself away. To further deter predators, it can eject ink to mask its escape. This octopus does not live in its lair for its entire life; instead, it moves often except when caring for eggs or young.
Aimee and I might fly over to Bonaire next week to photograph our sea-glass collection for a possible book idea we have in mind so be aware if you don’t hear from us for a few days that is where we are. I know your asking why fly to Bonaire to do this when we have beaches here?? Well, our Curacao beaches face north and south and in Bonaire it’s east and west making it perfect for photos any time during the day.
Have a wonderful day all!!
Aug 22, 16 Comments Off on Blue-Light Photo Taken with a Tripod Underwater
Good morning friends, last week I did my first underwater blue-light photo with a tripod and I know most of you are wondering why?? These rare, endangered Staghorns don’t glow as brightly under blue-light like the star corals or brain corals making it almost impossible to get a shot with my normal camera and flashes. So I took out a heavy tripod weighted down with dive weights and just my camera in the housing (no flashes) and set it up underwater and did a 30 second exposure. During the 30 seconds (while the shutter is open) I’m painting the corals so to speak with two hand-held blue lights to achieve the desired brightness and depth of field you see above. If any of you are wanting to do this make sure you have a super heavy tripod, avoid nights with surge or current and use your timer, I hope to get better at this down the road. The hardest thing I found to do was to carry out all the stuff needed for this shot by myself, next time I will get some help, that was not a pretty sight.
So how was your weekend?? Mine was so busy and today I am paying the price with a sore lower back. Saturday after taking all the dogs to Saint Joris bay at 5:30am I helped my neighbor move truckloads of boxes out of an old apartment and into a smaller one, this consumed most of the day and was not fun at all! Yesterday I left the house at 6:00am and rode my mountain bike back out to Saint Joris and along the north coast getting home three hours later, that’s around 30 miles. Then after eating I loaded the bike onto the car and went back out to Saint Joris AGAIN and did another hour and a half of riding and taking photos of plastic washed ashore from the past week of high winds and monster waves. I had a good week of riding with around 85 miles, that’s a long ways on a mountain bike.
Not sure if I told you but we found a box along the road with 6 new born kittens and of course we took them home. Aimee found homes for three of them already, we just have three left, any takers out there???
That’s about it for me, what are you all up to??
Have a great Monday…