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.
Archive for March, 2011
Mar 31, 11 Comments Off on Juvenile Spotted Drum, Bonaire, Bari Reef
Goedenavond all! There’s a rare Dutch Good evening for you all tonight, and please don’t ask me to tell you how to correctly say that word, I have a hard enough time with English. Not a whole lot to report today, I just got home from a bike ride, had a great dinner and getting ready to call it a day. Many thanks for all the compliments on yesterday’s photo, just a case of finally being in the right spot at the right time!
Here is another little treasure that Sal, the “finder of cool things” found for me in Bonaire a few weeks back. This is a beautiful little Juvenile Spotted Drum or Equetus Punctatus if you wish, I think we found this one at Bari Reef. Baby Drums are one of the top 25 cool things to find on any given dive and being that they are so small, nocturnal and spend their days under overhangs or ledges, or near the entrance to small caves, so one really has to be searching the reef to find one. This little treasure was only about an inch and half in length and with luck could get as big as 6-9 inches as an adult. These fish are commonly mistaken for the Jackknife fish which has a vertical black dash on the nose, the Spotted Drum has a black spot on his. On many night dives we see these little guys come out of hiding and feed out in the open apparently unafraid of anything!
I have to run, see you tomorrow, Barry
Mar 30, 11 Comments Off on Fighting Lionfish, Fight to the Death, Lionfish Behavior
Hey gang, here’s something you won’t see on many sites, this is a pair of adult Lionfish apparently fighting to the death!! Let me start from the beginning. I came into work this morning and Jonny said, “I found you a really cool sponge with a black crinoid attached to the lip”, but it’s at 159 feet! I immediately started foaming at the mouth, everyone around here knows I am a sponge freak! Aimee and I are trying hard to have the finest collection of sponge photos from the Caribbean and that’s not an easy task!! So we made a plan and at 1:00 headed out, swimming on our backs to the drop zone as we call it. By swimming out over to a selected area your going to dive you save so much air and when your going down to 159 feet this is very important! So with an OK at the surface we both dumped our air and swam head first straight down to the sponge with the crinoid which sat on the sand at 159 feet. Because we only had 3 minutes I shot away like there was no tomorrow and about a minute into the shoot Jonny starts yelling underwater! I was literally laying on the sand and he pointed to these two Lionfish which were just a few yards away from us locked in mortal combat! I quickly and carefully turned my body and slowly got as close as I dared but to our disbelief they could have cared less! I shot as fast as I could, time was running out, we only had about a minute and a half left and we HAD TO leave! We both just laid on the sand and watched as they, time after time tried to kill each other, this is not mating, it must be a “to the death territorial dispute or something”! Both fish were very cut-up, look close and you will see their wounds, it’s all light colors on the sides of their bodies! They both had multiple puncture wounds, broken spines, open cuts everywhere and there was no sign of this stopping until one was dead! At times one would have another pinned to the ground and using their sharp barbs or hooks on the sides of the faces would start dragging them over the others body tearing new pieces of flesh, it was the hands down craziest thing I have ever seen! I shot as many photos as I could, unfortunately I had my 16mm because of the sponge but still they came out alright. When we lifted off the sand they were still twirling around in circles biting and clawing each other, I really would be surprised if either lived thru this, it was something I won’t soon forget!
Curacao is so windy right now, this is the time for you windsurfers and kitesurfers to get out there and do your thing, I bet Lac Bay in Bonaire is full these days!
Take care, Barry
Mar 30, 11 Comments Off on Caribbean Slate-Pencil Urchin Facts, Eucidaris Tribuloides
Good morning friends, waking up tired and a bit sore after a fast but fun mountain bike ride last night with Super-Kid! Before we left the house we put a little air in our tires which turned out to be a major mistake for me as I ended up crashing hard on a tight loose corner because of the tires still being too hard. Before my little crash we had stopped twice and did let out air but still not enough, I guess my old air pump that I brought down here is no longer reading the air pressure correctly? So after picking myself up of the ground and checking out all the colorful red spots on my body we again took off to continue the ride which in the end helped the recovery a lot. I will again be at Saint Joris early this Saturday to continue work on trying to get that new trail re-opened, I think we are about half ways now.
Here’s a Sea-Urchin that is very hard to find and photograph as they spend their lives living deep in the reef. This is called a Slate-Pencil Urchin, or Eucidaris tribuloides. This sea urchin got it’s name because its spines were used as writing utensils for slate boards, and kids, that’s way back when the Earth was still cooling down. These unusual animals provide an endless source of fascination. They are closely related to sea stars, sharing the same five-fold symmetry, and they too move about on hundreds of hydraulically operated tube feet. Sea stars and sea urchins are from a group known as echinoderms, a word meaning â€˜spiny skins’. Sea urchin eggs have properties that make them important for medical research. Compounds extracted from marine organisms are initially tested to see whether they inhibit the production of rapidly dividing sea urchin eggs. If so, they may have potential to provide cures for AIDS, cancer and other diseases. Sea urchins are most common in intertidal habitats and on shallow reefs, but have been found as deep as 7000 meters.
They feed on kelp and other kinds of seaweeds. Due to their ability to reproduce rapidly when conditions become favorable, they can reach plague proportions, only to die in huge numbers when they eat out their food source. In other parts of the world, people are one of their main predators. In some parts of the world, sea urchins are believed to be powerful aphrodisiacs. The roe is a prized delicacy in Japan, in islands of the Pacific and in European countries such as France, Italy and Greece. Urchins use the spines on the underside to move around, making them look like they are walking on stilts. Some tropical species, such as the flower urchin, have venom-tipped spines that can cause severe pain to careless divers.
Off to work, have a wonderful day, Barry
Mar 28, 11 Comments Off on Local Kids of Curacao, Curacao Lifestyle
Here’s a photo for all my sailors out there who quite often request boat photos and remember, “beggars can’t be choosers”!! This photo reminds me of how simple life was a child, wake up, eat, and entertain yourself till lunch or dinner and try to stay out of trouble! I remember as a kid living on the Wisconsin river and how much fun we had making things to float on, fishing and trying to be home by dark, it’s the simple things in life that seem to have passed us all by! They say; “necessity is the key to invention” and really this is a pretty well made boat, I mean it carries two! I love the dolphin sail which is a sun-screen from a car window and the mast is an old shovel handle, heck they should sell these at Wal-Mart! Over the years I seen the kids in Curacao do some pretty crazy things and still at the top of the list is the young man we saw recently riding his bike down a really busy street, riding a wheelie with one hand and texting with the other! I am still looking for that kid to do it again for me on film!!
Curacao has been VERY windy as of late, not looking forward to the bike ride in it tomorrow evening, I hate riding into the wind! I did one relaxing dive with the sub today and spent the rest of the day working on housings and photographing deep water fish.
Sorry so short, I have lots to do this evening, Barry
Mar 27, 11 Comments Off on Newborn Baby Dolphin, Baby Bottlenose Dolphin, Curacao
Good evening everyone, Barry says his dolphin fans have been screaming for another dolphin baby photo, so here we are! This is an old photo from several years ago. This is a brand new little one and quite the shot! There are several fun things I would like to point out to you about baby dolphins. First is; you will see how dark this baby is! Babies are always born pretty dark, and remember Papito, (he is now 6 years old), he was practically black. Well, they are born dark and then over about 2-3 weeks become blotchy as they begin to “sluff their skin” and get a lighter color; more the “normal grey” that we are all used to. You can slightly see the fetal folds on this little one if you look closely. They are the light stripes going from the belly to the back. As the baby is tucked in momma’s tummy they are curled, or folded up; similar if you bend your arm and get a bit of a sunburn, as you open your arm up it looks as if you have a stripe. Well this is what happens to the baby, they are folded up and when they are born, they have these light stripes, called fetal folds. As the baby gets lighter they actually become the same color as those stripes. This little one is right beside the mother’s dorsal fin in the “slip stream”. This helps direct the baby, keeping it safe from any obstacles as well as it is energy saving. Consider if you are driving a car and drafting a larger truck, it is the same thing, you sort of get pulled right along. It usually takes 3-4 weeks before the calf becomes pretty independent and is swimming farther away from momma on its own, but it quickly gets back into this position at any time for both safety and comfort. The baby will be only nursing for many months, usually for 5-20 seconds a couple times an hour, around the clock. At around 6 months they usually begin eating a bit of fish here and there, but will keep nursing for several years. When the female is once again pregnant and far along in the pregnancy, she will begin to break away from her calf (now several years old), in preparation for the new one coming. Well, there you have a few fun facts, hope you like it!
We miss you all, keep in touch, Aimee
Mar 26, 11 Comments Off on Tiger Grouper, Soapfish, Spanish Hogfish, Salt Pier Bonaire
Hi friends, Aimee and I are just sitting here winding down from a fast paced fun day, we thought it was late but it’s only 8:00? I left the house early this morning with the dogs and continued work on our overgrown trail project at Saint Joris. At 8:00 our friend Mike showed up and joined the fun and got a little taste of trail building and maintenance. Unfortunately my new clippers broke and that left us with only a hand saw which really wasn’t much fun to use, we both have the scratches to prove it. Mike had even asked me if he should bring tools but I told him I had everything, which I did, how was I to know it would break so early in the game? And like I have said before, our brush bites back!! Everything out here has thorns and many look like massive pins and needles! We ended up just doing what we could, meaning we cut the big stuff, did some raking and a bunch of sweeping (with a big push broom) but still need to go back again to cut the small stuff we missed.
I love this shot, it has a beautiful striped Tiger Grouper in the middle, a sleeping Soapfish (with just his tail hanging out) below and a yellow and purple Spanish Hogfish snacking on the encrusting sponges that cover the walls of the Salt Pier. I called it, the three for one special!! I tell ya, there is nothing like finding a Tiger Grouper, they are such a cool fish and by far one of my favorites in the Sea Bass family.
Hope your all having a pleasant weekend, I am leaving early in the morning for a 2-3 hour bike ride and will take the dogs somewhere fun later in the afternoon! Bye all, Barry
Mar 25, 11 Comments Off on Queen Angelfish Facts, Salt Pier Bonaire, Cleaner Fish
Good evening readers, I bet your glad it’s Friday, I know I am!! I found a young little Queen Angelfish for your viewing pleasure tonight, this was once again found under the Salt Pier in Bonaire. The Queen Angelfish is very shy, is sometimes curious, and is usually found in pairs. Males are very territorial. Holocanthus Ciliarus are very thin; they can turn quickly and can maneuver down into narrow cracks between the corals to hunt their prey. They swim by rowing with their pectoral fins. The adult Queen Angelfish feeds on a variety of marine invertebrates including sponges, tunicates, jellyfish and corals, as well as plankton and algae. The Queen Angelfish has never been bred in captivity. Cases of toxic poisoning have been reported from people eating this fish. The illness is serious and symptoms (gastrointestinal discomfort, general arm and leg weakness, and a reversal in being able to determine the difference between hot and cold) may last for several weeks. Over the years I have found that photographing these fish can be extremely frustrating because of their need to lead divers on a wild goose chase!!! I can’t even count the amount of times I have tried to follow one of these beautiful fish but it always ends in the Queen entering a cave of some sort and not coming back out until we either give up or run out of air! Yes, many of you know exactly what I mean, I speak the truth! And no, in this case it doesn’t matter if you remain calm and pretend your not interested, the second they see divers they usually take off, so unlike the French Angelfish who immediately come to you for attention. I have had the best luck over the years photographing the young ones like this one, they seem to be way more curious, so forget the older ones, stick to these little guys, they seem to love the camera.
I had two sub dives today, both went well and everyone seemed to real happy! Tomorrow I am taking off to Saint Joris to work on my trail first thing in the morning, I should be there by 7:30. I hope you all have a great weekend, if you get bored or have a moment drop us a line!!
Curacao regards, Barry
Mar 25, 11 Comments Off on Juvenile Golden Coney, Sea Bass, Bonaire Salt Pier
Good morning from the land of flip-flops and skimpy swimwear! Here’s on I haven’t found or sent out in a long time, this is a juvenile Golden Coney and I again found him under the Salt Pier in Bonaire. This fish will soon loose the orange coloring on the top of his body and turn completely yellow and look even more brilliant in the days to come. Coney’s which are in the sea bass family are normally found in shades of reddish brown to brown, (most common), but there is also a bicolor variation (upper dark and lower pale), and as you see here the uncommon brilliant yellow-gold variation, with scattered small brilliant blue dots. Coney’s are one the those fish that are a complete joy to photograph as they usually just sit there like groupers do and let you do your thing, acting completely unafraid. Obviously groupers are the best known members of the sea-bass family but they all have strong, stout bodies and large mouths. One can normally always find sea-bass and Coney’s lurking in the shadows of the reefs, ledges and wrecks where larger species blend with the background. Because of the large mouths these sea-bass have fishes or crustaceans are drawn into their gullets by the powerful suction created when they open their large mouths making them dangerous predators.
Curacao is still getting rain and lately the diving hasn’t been so great but at least the corals are now almost all back to normal after the worst year ever of coral bleaching.
Off to work, by gang, Barry
Mar 23, 11 Comments Off on French Angelfish Facts, Salt Pier Bonaire, Colorful Fish
Good evening readers, here is one of the most beautiful and gentle creatures of the sea, the French Angelfish. The adults, as seen here are black with yellow on the pectoral fin and around the eyes. Its face is light blue with white around the chin and mouth. The French angelfish is distinguished from the butterflyfish by the spine on its gill cover. Each male defends a territory containing 2â€“5 females and at times performs courtship displays by gently nuzzling the female. French Angelfish exhibit apparently permanent monogamous breeding pairs. During these spawning cycles these pairs are highly territorial. The French angelfish changes color as it ages. When it is young, it is black with five vertical yellow bars; but as it ages, it loses the bars. Its black scales develop yellow edges. The juveniles serve as a symbiotic cleaner fish, feeding on the ectoparasites of other fish species. Yes, you read that right, they eat parasites that are using a number of other fish as hosts. For this reason the juvenile French angelfish is not attacked or harmed while performing this service. A young French angelfish is dark brown to black with fluorescent yellow bands that curve across the head and body and very hard to photograph. The diet of these fish consists almost solely on sponges but will also eat, algae, bryozoans, zoantharians, gorgonians and tunicates. I discovered this beauty under the Salt Pier in Bonaire and to my surprise he or she let me take countless photos without ever really moving from this spot, it was fantastic! Most French angelfish are fairly calm so if your patient or willing to go the distance one can usually always bring home a nice shot. I tell everyone with a camera, never chase fish or sea creatures, especially turtles, they will win every time!
For those of you who had a chance to see our new website and sent in comments, thank-you so much, for you others if you have a chance please check it out and send us your feedback, it’s www.wildhorizons.com
We had a film crew at the sub today filming an episode of the Batchelor, it’s a reality show on television for those of you who have never heard of it, the stuff we watch on t.v.??
Bye now, Barry
Mar 23, 11 Comments Off on Stoplight Parrotfish in Terminal Phase Colors in Bonaire
Good morning friends, yesterday when I got into work my buddy and co-worker Jonny said; “lets go get those Lionfish off the tugboats”, and of course I said; sure thing, give me a few minutes to get ready. We have two tugboats sunk out in front of the Aquarium but they are deep. They rest on a sandy ledge at around 160 feet and are just meters from a rock ledge, if they ever move again and slip off this ledge they will most likely never be seen by anyone again!! The tugs are also a main stop in the mini-submarine and we usually park, turn on the lights and let people enjoy all the fish, big and little not to mention our resident giant green moray eel that lives inside the boat. Well lately the invasive Lionfish are taking over and starting to eat all our little fish that’s why we want them out. The dive was great, we swam out on our backs till we were over the spot and down we went and within a minute we were down on the wrecks. Jonny took care of business while I explored the tugs and 4 minutes and 9 Lionfish later we were on our way back to the surface. On the way back up we stopped at a place called Gordy’s Wall and found 2 more Lionfish and from there combed the reef all the way back up, it was super fun and was a big success.
Speaking of a big success, I would like to invite you all to our new website which just opened this week with a brand new look! Please take the time to go to; www.wildhorizons.com I urge you all to spend some time browsing through our content and please give us your feedback, it’s very important. And really folks, be it positive or negative we need to know if you experience anything that frustrates you as users, such as text that isn’t clear or dead links. You can send comments to me or directly to email@example.com As Tom said in a note to me, “bringing this site to fruition has been more work than you could possibly imagine”!! Also, when looking for that perfect gift this year please remember all photos are for sale, nothing says Love like a colorful hanging print that will be enjoyed 365 days of the year, you can’t say that about chocolates, flowers or cards!!
Below is a Stoplight Parrotfish hiding in a beautiful gorgonian. Believe it or not this is a hard photo to get. I have tried in vain many times to get this shot in the past but almost every time ends in failure. Fish feel very protected when parked inside these gorgonians and many I believe think they are so well hidden that nothing can see them. After taking this one picture he knew he was discovered and took off, most likely to find a better spot where some pesky diver with a scary camera won’t discover him. It’s hard to believe these fish like others start out one color when born, then change to a red and green with spots in their Initial phase and will end up looking like this in their Terminal phase, way to cool!
I better get to work, talk soon, Barry
Mar 21, 11 Comments Off on 1000 Steps Dive Site in Bonaire, Best Dives in Bonaire
Hi friends, because of all the pictures from Bonaire I have been sending out, someone asked me today, “what is the most popular dive site in Bonaire”, and I answered 1000 Steps, and yes that’s my personal opinion. 1000 Steps is one of the most renowned beaches in Bonaire, and it’s also one of the island’s top dive sites. A Thousand Steps dive is something that the most seasoned of divers won’t forget, and even if you don’t engage in underwater exploration, a visit is bound to prove memorable. The hike down to the beach is part of the reason why a 1000 Steps visit is hard to forget. From the main road, visitors will have to negotiate the 67 steps that lead down to the beach. There might only be 67 steps that lead down to this beautiful beach and dive site, but it can feel like 1000 on the way up. This is how 1000 Steps got its name. If you want to go diving at 1000 Steps, there is no way to avoid the fact that you’ll have to get your gear both up and down the 67 limestone steps. Some divers make multiple trips to try to lighten the load, while others load everything up and try to make it in one trip. Once it comes time to enter the water, the entry from the shore should be relatively easy. The swim to the drop off is a short one, and there is an excellent reef to explore. The Bonaire marine Park goes to great lengths to protect its reefs and area waters, and this reef is teeming with life. In addition to an array of colorful fish, anyone on a Thousand Steps dive can also admire colorful coral and sponges. In addition to scuba diving at 1000 Steps Bonaire, visitors can also go snorkeling. The waters are usually relatively calm, not to mention relatively shallow until the drop off. Thanks to the clarity of the water, it’s not necessary to dive deep to admire the marine life. As for the beach at 1000 Steps, it’s a small strip of sand that is backed by dry cliffs and shrubs. Cacti, which are abundant on the island of Bonaire, are scattered about, and the overall atmosphere is very inviting. The view from the top of the limestone steps is particularly impressive. 1000 Steps is located on the west coast of Bonaire about five miles north of Kralendijk. Even though this beach and dive site is renowned, it manages to stay relatively deserted, so it can be an excellent place to simply kick back and take a break from it all. As for some of the other top rated Bonaire dive sites that you might consider, they include Karpata, Tolo, Salt Pier, Invisibles and Hilma Hooker just to name a few.
I just heard the dinner is ready yell, I am out of here!! Barry
Mar 20, 11 Comments Off on Erect Rope Sponge, Smallmouth Grunts, Bonaire, Salt Pier
Good evening readers, I am back!! It was pretty much a day and a half of the fastest, most fun diving I have done in a long time and like always can hardly wait to get back again!! We stayed with our friends from the States, Sal and Patty who have been there on vacation for the past, “are you sitting down?” THREE MONTHS!! Yeah, talk about two lucky folks! Those two took care of Stiyn and I like you can’t imagine this weekend starting with being picked up from the airport then shuttled around to dive spots, some good o’l home-cooked food, personal dive guides and on and on and on!! Many thanks again you two, I promise to make it up to you when you get to Curacao in the fall, hint, hint, hint!! We only had time for 4 dives as we had to fly back early this afternoon but the dives we did do were great! I think this is a very unusual Erect Rope Sponge below with a giant school of Smallmouth Grunts passing by, we found this at, and under the World famous Salt Pier. A few weeks back when we went to Bonaire on assignment for Sport Diver but we really didn’t see that many schools of fish or anything out of the norm! Well, that’s because they are all hanging out by the thousands under the Salt Pier where they must feel safe and sound, it was one of the best dives I have done in Bonaire! One of my missions on this trip was to find some nice macro material and or medium frame stuff like you see here. I used the trusty 28-70 Nikon again for this shot and still swear that it is my favorite and most used underwater lens, it’s like one stop shopping!
It’s late and I am beat, have a great Monday!! More tomorrow, Barry
Mar 19, 11 Comments Off on Green Moray Eel, Karpata Dive Site, Bonaire
Good evening from Bonaire!! It’s 10:00 and time for bed, just wanted to say we had a super great day of diving!! We first went to a dive spot called Karpata where we found this giant Green Moray eel at 75 feet cruising around the reef looking for food!! I followed this big boy all around for as much time as I had, he was really on a mission!! Later in the day we went to the Salt Pier for our second dive which was by far one of the best dives I have done in Bonaire, it’s a photographers dream location!! The Salt Pier is a big area underwater but I ended up staying in the first spot I came to because of the amount of fish I discovered there, I still have so much area to yet explore! In the evening we did a night dive down town and I found a big seahorse in 10 feet of water clinging to a piece of rope, how cool is that?!
The day was great with lots of great photos, see you tomorrow, Barry
Mar 17, 11 Comments Off on Wakeboarding in Curacao, Caribbean Water Sports
Hi friends, for any of you who have ever wondered what sub pilots do on their free time I have the answer, they go wakeboarding! This is Bruce, one of our mini-sub pilots flying high in the sky out in front of the substation a few days ago when the ocean was so calm! It seems like our whole clan at the Substation is into this sport and I can see I will eventually have to hand over the camera and jump in and try it myself! For those of you still not clear about just what is going on here, it’s almost the same as waterskiing except you have just one big ski and of course your being pulled behind a boat a top speed! As you can also see, Bruce is in great shape along with the rest of our crew, everyone either surfs, bikes, dives or does the wakeboarding just to name a few activities, we all take our free time very seriously!!
Well, I am off to Bonaire tomorrow, be watching the www.coralreefphotos.com site, I will post something every night. Thanks for all the great letters, you all are great! See ya, Barry
Mar 16, 11 Comments Off on Caribbean Architecture, Kralendijk, Bonaire History
Good evening friends, I had a request yesterday for some Caribbean Architecture and just happened to have this shot from my last trip over to Bonaire. This was taken in downtown Bonaire or Kralendijk as it is called. I found this cool site called “Virtual Bonaire” http://www.virtualbonaire.com/Kralendijk.html and it has 360 degree views of the whole area this building is located in, if you have a second check it out. Kralendijk is the capital city and main port of the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean Netherlands. The language spoken in the town is Papiamento, but Dutch and English are widely used. In Dutch, Kralendijk means “coral reef” or “coral dike”. The Papiamentu name for the town is Playa or “beach”. The current population is around 10,000 and I believe there are about 25 dive operators on the island with Americans being the #1 folks that visit. Off the coast of Kralendijk lies the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire, a diving and snorkeling paradise. This small island can be reached by water taxi, or, for divers, by practically all of the local dive operators Fort Oranje was built in 1639 to defend Bonaire’s main harbor. The fort was extensively modified during the end of the seventeenth century. The English settlement of “Playa” was established adjacent to the fort in 1810. The town was renamed “Kralendijk” by the Dutch colonial rulers in about 1840. On May 10, 1940, 461 Dutch and German citizens were transported to Bonaire and interned in a camp just south of the fort. After World War II, this camp was converted into a hotel, which is now the Divi Bonaire.
This building is also currently being featured as the cover shot for Nights Bonaire magazine, it’s the same magazine that Aimee was on the cover on a few years back free-diving in Curacao, any of you remember that one?? http://www.nightspublications.com/index.php
Lets pray that things in Japan don’t get any worse! Take care, more tomorrow, Barry