ABOUT

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.

General

Feb 9, 17     Comments (0)

Good morning all, you can ask any seasoned diver who has been to Bonaire or the Caribbean in the past 10 years “what did you think about the reef on your last dive” and they will all say, “it’s not the same reef as we remember”. Due to years of massive tropical storms, overfishing, dragging nets and anchors, trash and runoff from shore our poor coral reefs are disappearing right before our very eyes and there is little we can do to stop it. On my last trip to Bonaire a few weeks ago I spent more time underwater shooting dying or dead corals than I did photographing fish or coral reef scenes, I must say it’s very alarming. I found colony after colony of wiped out endangered Staghorn coral and only a few brain corals like this one in the shallows, 14 years ago they were quite abundant. 

I’m keeping busy these days working on the truckload of photos I shot for the Smithsonian a few weeks ago, I need to get a ton of shots ready in case they need to use them for promotion or science. 

Hope you all are doing well ..

Barry

Feb 4, 17     Comments Off on Fossil Sting-Ray, Heliobatis Radians, Asterotrygon, Fossils

Good morning friends, Aimee, the three dogs and yours truly just returned from the annual 2017 Tucson Gem and Mineral show. Now that I have spent years underwater I find myself more attracted to the underwater fossils more than ever and when I found this rare sting-ray I of course went crazy and had to photograph it! This was a large ray measuring around or close to 24 inches from top to bottom and cost around $10,000, more than I had with me… We spent days walking around looking at gems, minerals and fossils from all over the world but most pieces were way out of our budget, I think Aimee ended up with a sterling silver ring with a tiffany jasper (lavender) cabochon and I bought a colorful tripod bag from Tibet. 

While in Tucson I went out to help the SDMB association “Sonoran Desert Mountain Bike” help build a new trail at Star Pass which should be open sometime this year. I got up early two mornings in a row at 7:00 and rode the bike “burrrrrrrr” to Star Pass and met a group of around 40 other volunteers and worked swinging a pick for four hours each day, it was super fun and very rewarding. We found Tucson to be very unfriendly place for dogs meaning cacti cover every square inch of this area, rough rocks, dogs have to be on lease on any and every trail and you have rattlesnakes and coyotes everywhere, no thanks! With that said the mountain biking is tops!

Heliobatis is an extinct genus of ray in the Myliobatiformes family Dasyatidae. At present the genus contains the single species Heliobatis radians.

The genus is known primarily from the Early Eocene, Wasatchian stage, Fossil Lake deposits. Fossil Lake is part of the Green River Formation in southwest Wyoming. Heliobatis is one of only two known rays to have been found in the Green River formation; the other species, Asterotrygon maloneyi, was only recognized and described in 2004.

The genus was described from a single incomplete holotype specimen, number YPM 528, currently residing in the collections of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. The specimen was collected from an outcrop of Fossil Lake and presents a dorsal view of the fish. It was first studied by prolific American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh. He published his brief 1877 type description in the American Journal of Science. Two years later Edward Drinker Cope, rival to Marsh, published a description for a ray specimen giving it the name Xiphotrygon acutidens. though the description by Cope is more complete and includes an illustration of his type specimen, the old name Heliobatis has seniority. In 1947 Henry Weed Fowler published a very brief description of a ray genus he dubbed Palaeodasybatis discus based on a partly restored Academy of Natural Sciences specimen, number ANSP 89344. The specimen, which was subsequently lost, was noted for having a more rounded or disc like body than Heliobatis. The genus was synonymized with Heliobatis based on illustrations of Fowler’s type specimen, characterizing the more rounded appearance as an artifact of the incomplete nature of Marsh’s holotype.

The generic epithet Heliobatis is a derivation of the words helios meaning “the sun” and batis, meaning “skate” or “ray.” The derivation of the specific epithet radians is not mentioned in Marsh’s description.

Heliobatis ranges from 8 to 90 centimetres (3.1 to 35.4 in) in length, with an average of between 30 and 40 centimetres (12 and 16 in). As in modern stingrays the genders are dimorphic, with males possessing claspers. Heliobatis individuals have up to three modified dermal denticles, forming barbed stingers, on their tails, though individuals are often found with less than three. The genus is considered to have been demersal in nature. As in the modern skate genus Raja the teeth of Heliobatis are small and closely spaced. The teeth are triangular and shaped for feeding on small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Heliobatis is notably abundant at the same site on Fossil Lake where the only Green River Formation crayfish, Procambarus primaevus, and prawns Bechleja rostrata are found. The genus has a long tail which is very slender, often missing the tip, sporting small spines along the dorsal midline. The tail provides up to half of the total body length.

Lots to do…

Barry

 

Jan 27, 17     Comments Off on Ogcocephalidae, Batfish, Deep Sea fish, Odd Looking Fish

Good morning friends, I have a wild looking deep-sea creature for you al today called a Batfish, for sure one of the oddest animals on the planet! This was again found deep off the coast of Bonaire by the scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in collaboration with Substation Curacao who have the mini-submersible that dives to 1000 feet. 

Batfish consist of about 60 species of fishes of the family Ogcocephalidae (order Lophiiformes), found in warm and temperate seas. Batfishes have broad, flat heads and slim bodies and are covered with hard lumps and spines. Some species have an elongated, upturned snout. Batfishes grow at most about 36 cm (14 inches) long. They are poor swimmers and usually walk on the bottom on thickened, limblike pectoral and pelvic fins. Most live in the deep sea, but some inhabit shallow water.

Batfishes are members of the group known as anglerfish and are equipped with a “fishing pole,” tipped with a fleshy “bait” to lure prey close enough to be eaten. The apparatus is located above the small mouth and, unlike that of other anglers, can be drawn into recess when not in use.

Hope all everyone is ding well out there, have a wonderful weekend!

Barry

Jan 26, 17     Comments Off on Decodon, Deep Sea Fish, Rare Fish, Deep Wrasses

Good morning Amigo’s, I have another Insane colored deep-sea fish for you all today that was found in Bonaire hundreds of feet below the surface by the folks from the Smithsonian Institution using a mini-submersible owned by Substation Curacao. This is a Decodon sp. which is a genus of wrasses found in the western Atlantic, the western Indian and the Pacific Oceans. Because of the rareness of this fish there is very little know about it, in fact you may be looking at a brand new species never before seen by man. The Smithsonian will now do DNA testing to see if this and others are either a known species or if they have something new, stay tuned for that answer…

Wrasses have protractile mouths, usually with separate jaw teeth that jut outwards. Many species can be readily recognized by their thick lips, the inside of which is sometimes curiously folded, a peculiarity which gave rise the German name of “lip-fishes” (Lippfische.) and the Dutch name of “lipvissen”. The dorsal fin has eight to 21 spines and six to 21 soft rays, usually running most of the length of the back. Wrasse are sexually dimorphic. Many species are capable of changing sex. Juveniles are a mix of males and females (known as initial phase individuals), but the largest adults become territory-holding (terminal phase) males.

The wrasses have become a primary study species in fish-feeding biomechanics due to their jaw structures. The nasal and mandibular bones are connected at their posterior ends to the rigid neurocranium, and the superior and inferior articulations of the maxilla are joined to the anterior tips of these two bones, respectively, creating a loop of four rigid bones connected by moving joints. This “four-bar linkage” has the property of allowing numerous arrangements to achieve a given mechanical result (fast jaw protrusion or a forceful bite), thus decoupling morphology from function. The actual morphology of wrasses reflects this, with many lineages displaying different jaw morphology that results in the same functional output in a similar or identical ecological niche.

Have a wonderful day, it’s almost Friday!!

Barry

Jan 24, 17     Comments Off on Decondon, Deep Sea Fish, Deep Wrasses, Colorful Fish

Good morning, here’s one of the most beautiful fish found last week by the Smithsonian Institution and Substation Curacao, it’s name is Varicus laurae. The fish was named after the wife of the owner of the Curacao Sea Aquarium and owner of the submersible used to collect this beautiful fish. I get asked a lot about size and because there is no way to put a roller next to the fish when photographing it one never really knows the length of the specimen by looking at the photo, this gem is only about an inch. This one was found in Bonaire while the original “new species” was found a fews ago in Curacao and they are found hundreds of feet down in the darkness. Getting these fish to the surface alive is sometimes very difficult because of the depth and water temperatures. Most fish are filled with air when they get to me on the ship so we carefully take a small needle and release the air in their stomachs and most of the time this is all they need. Then they get placed in cold water and rushed into me and dropped into waiting aquariums filled with natural substrate from their home areas, we always try to make the photos look like they were taken at depth.

I hope you all are doing well out there, I know most of you are wrapped in blankets and sweaters this time of year!

Take care, Barry

Jan 23, 17     Comments Off on New Species, New Fish, Deep Sea Fish, New Goby

Good morning friends, I am back from Bonaire! In short, I was picked up from the airport a week ago by Carole Baldwin from the Smithsonian, jumped onto a waiting research vessel called the Chapman from Curacao and spent the week photographing new and exciting finds discovered by the Smithsonian scientists and Substation Curacao. Substation has a mini-submersible that can be loaded and unloaded into the water from the ship by way of a giant crane and it can dive to a depth of 1000 feet. Most days the submersible did two, 3-4 hour dives and brought goodies up for me to photograph each dive, I was one busy hombre!! Above is just one of the hundreds of insane beautiful finds, this is a possible new species of goby seen for the 1st time right here on this little o’l blog, how cool is that?? I have so many photos to clean up and get ready in Photoshop and once ready I will get them on here for you to see. Bonaire’s weather was a mixture of off and on rain and many days of giant swells creating not so good diving conditions meaning, I only was able to get in the water twice with the camera. On my last day, after we packed up and called it quits, our good friends Sal and patty collected me and my piles of luggage at the docks and took me to their beautiful Bonaire condo. I offered up a suggestion to head out and try to photograph all the yellow “dive rocks” which are located at the entrance to each and every dive site, a project I have wanted to do for years and Sal and Patty were game for anything. So we took off with camera in hand and raced to just about every dive site on the island getting most of them photographed before dropping me off at the airport at 2:00, it was such a fun day and I will post some of those shots in the near future. 

That’s it in a very small nutshell, I will write more soon when I catch up…

Barry

Jan 11, 17     Comments Off on Ranch Kids, Cowgirls, Red Rider, Farm Kids, Country Life

Good morning all, we are in New Mexico at the moment hiding from the crazy cold winter storms that are in the states above us, until things get warmer up there we will park it right here. I will be leaving Saturday morning for Bonaire shooting photos for the Smithsonian Institution and will be there for a week, will be good to get my now dry skin back in the water. 

The day before I left Curaçao I went to Klein Curacao and accidentally flooded my Nikon D-800 camera and 105 macro lens and not the way you all are thinking… I was laying on the sand shooting photos for my sea-glass book when a monster wave came out of nowhere and covered me and the camera! I knew immediately there would be no way to save the camera and lens so I went looking for the sea-glass that got washed away instead but lost a bunch of that as well, good thing we had insurance. I just replaced the D-800 with the newer D-810 and so far I am loving it!!

So to help pass the time here in New Mexico I have been photographing two super cute kids that we know out on their ranch in the middle of nowhere! Ranch kids/cowgirls have such a different life than city kids, for instance, no electricity, just solar power and the house is heated by a wood stove and kids still love the o’l Red Rider wagons as you can see above. These kids live about 40 miles from town near the white sands missile range and have horses, chickens, dogs and ducks to play with and only sometimes do they have the luxury of internet, most kids wouldn’t know what to do under these conditions. 

Not much else to report, all is well, stay tuned for new finds from Bonaire in a few days!!

Keep warm…

Barry

Jan 6, 17     Comments Off on Godzilla Goby, Science in the News, Rare, Deep Sea Fish

Good morning all, my photo of the now famous Godzilla Goby is in the 2017 issue of Science in the News. This was one of the many new finds by the Smithsonian Institution in collaboration with Substation Curacao using a mini-submersible that can go to depths of a 1000 feet. Luke Tornabene and Carole Baldwin were the two scientists working on describing this beautiful new fish species which I believe was found off the coast of Curacao. 

Jan 2, 17     Comments Off on Happy New Year, Secretary Blenny, Cute Reef Fish

Happy New Year out there!! I’m super busy these days getting ready for a trip to Bonaire on the 14th, I will be there for a week aboard the Chapman shooting photos for the World famous Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The plan is, the scientists go down in a mini-sub for 3-6 hours at a time and I wait on the ship, cameras loaded and tanks ready to photograph whatever they may find. The Smithsonian is very selective about what they collect, they don’t haul up everything they see and have a shopping list of sorts of what they hope to find or that they are looking for. I have two cold water tanks waiting on the ship with the camera sitting on a giant tripod, I will try to recreate the scenes from below making the photos look like they were taken in the deep. Keep checking in, I’m not sure what kind on internet connections we will have in Bonaire on the ship but I will try to keep in touch, especially for my friends on Twitter.

The Secretary Blenny (Acanthemblemaria maria) is a small, tube-dwelling blenny (suborder Blennioidei) that is identified by its brownish to green delicate patterns and free moving eyes. Averaging at a size of around one inch in length, Secretary Blennies are difficult to spot when hidden in their burrowed homes.

Although a variety of blenny species are commonly found in shallow reefs around the globe, Secretary Blennies are mostly distributed throughout the Bahamas and other regions of the Eastern Caribbean. These blennies are most often found resting inside their tubed dwelling, usually burrowed into pieces of dead coral or reef, with their tiny heads bobbing in and out of the hole and can be found at a depth of 5-25 feet.

While the Secretary Blenny is most comfortable in the protection of its home, these fish are often seen poking their heads out of the hole –a head approx. the size of a pea- and will rarely venture far unless jumping out for a bite to eat. This species is most recognizable by its sharp skeleton-shaped jaw and eyes that can move independently from each other.

Great info from our friends at www.divephotoguide.com

Have a wonderful day out there….

Barry

Nov 24, 16     Comments Off on Christmas Tree Worm, Night Diving, Macro Image

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Good morning friends, sorry about the lack of blogs as of late but I am way too busy these days to post. My last day of work was on the 11th and we leave Curacao on the 16th on December so as you can image we are busy! I have a long list of last minute photos that I am trying to get done but it seems like I have taken on more than I can chew. The rainy season has finally hit and this alone is making it very hard to get my topside shots finished because of the lack of sun these past few days but I am trying. I have been doing a lot of cycling getting ready for the 80k Curacao Extreme race which happens on the 4th of next month “weather permitting”. I’ve been taking my bike and camera gear into Punda these past days shooting as much architecture as possible to use for Curacao slide-shows back in the States, this has been a fun project but super exhausting. Getting around on the bike is so easy compared to walking or driving, I can photograph so much more in a short amount of time. I am also doing a ton of diving as many of you have seen on my Twitter account, if your interested just go to Twitter and put SquidLover3 in the search box. The dogs are fine, Inca has good days and bad, her hip is really starting to bother her but all in all she is doing well.

I have a super beautiful Christmas tree worm for your Thanksgiving viewing pleasure today that I shot on last nights super fun night dive.

Spirobranchus giganteus, commonly known as Christmas tree worms, are tube-building polychaete worms belonging to the family Serpulidae.worm is aptly named, both its common and Latin names refer to the two chromatically hued spiral structures, the most common feature seen by divers. The multicolored spirals are highly derived structures for feeding and respiration.

Spirobranchus Gianteius Peniez is similar to most tube-building polychaetes. It has a tubular, segmented body lined with chaeta, small appendages that aid the worm’s mobility. Because it does not move outside its tube, this worm does not have any specialized appendages for movement or swimming.

The worms’ most distinct features are two “crowns” shaped like Christmas trees. These are highly modified prostomial palps, which are specialized mouth appendages. Each spiral is composed of feather-like tentacles called radioles, which are heavily ciliated and cause any prey trapped in them to be transported to the worm’s mouth. While they are primarily feeding structures, S. giganteus also uses its radioles for respiration; hence, the structures commonly are called “gills.”

One major difference between Christmas tree worms and the closely related sabellida fan worms is that the latter do not have any specialized body structures to plug their tube holes when they withdraw into them. S. giganteus, like other members of its family, possess a modified radiole, usually called the operculum, that it uses to secure its hole when withdrawn into its tube.

As an annelid, S. giganteus possesses a complete digestive system and has a well-developed closed circulatory system. Like other annelids, these worms possess well-developed nervous systems with a central brain and many supporting ganglia, including pedal ganglia, unique to the Polychaeta. Like other polychaetes, S. giganteus excrete with fully developed nephridia. When they reproduce, they simply shed their gametes straight into the water where the eggs (and spermatozoa) become part of the zooplankton to be carried by the currents.

Have a great holiday!!

Barry

Nov 10, 16     Comments Off on Texture/ New Growth on a Giant, Deep Vase Sponge

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Nov 9, 16     Comments Off on Double Giant Vase Sponges, Deep Reef Scenes

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Nov 9, 16     Comments Off on Mated Pair of Scrawled Filefish, Odd shaped Fish

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Nov 9, 16     Comments Off on Giant Vase Sponge with Lionfish, Deep Reef Scene

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Nov 7, 16     Comments Off on Damselfish Garden, Endangered Staghorn Corals

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Good morning all, how was your weekend out there?? I pretty much just laid around feeling tired after doing an 80k mountain bike ride Friday with the Dutch Navy and Army guys and gals, talk about an “in shape” group of people! We started at 7:00am from the airport and rode a giant loop that took around four hours and half of it was through mud and water sometime up to a meter deep! Sounds fun right??

I have a new “coral problem” for you all today that I found last Thursday out on our house reef. See the little damselfish in the middle of the coral head? He did this damage on purpose to this beautiful endangered Staghorn coral, it’s called a Damselfish Garden. My friend Nick who is a coral expert explains below just what your looking at, it’s very interesting so read on. Nick writes, the story with the damselfish is that they find a bit of coral they like and peck off the living coral tissue. The exposed skeleton becomes overgrown with algae that the damsel fish like to eat. The fish defend these little farm territories so aggressively that they will even chase off larger herbivores like parrotfish that would quickly clear away the algae (I have definitely had them bite my fingers while working with the corals & once had one hit me right between the eyes good thing I had a facemask on). Apparently with the decline of larger predatory fish on reefs worldwide, these little guys have become much more abundant and can be a real threat to reef health. The photo you took is a great example, where you have what appears to be a perfectly healthy coral missing tissue only on that patch at the top where there is a thick mat of green algae growing on the white skeleton. All the green moss you see is where the little fish destroyed the living coral, there is only around 50% or less of the live coral left. Most of you out there already know how crazy endangered this coral already is, so if the fisherman’s anchors and coral bleaching doesn’t kill it, these little fish will, all due to overfishing and having no big fish left to eat the little fish, so sad!

Lots going on today, I have to get moving…

Cheers, Barry

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