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

Archive for February, 2014

Feb 28, 14     Comments Off on Free-diving with Dolphins, Underwater Dolphin Video

Hey gang, it’s finally Friday!! I’ve been in the sea almost all morning photographing free-divers and dolphins out on the reef, talk about a total blast! This is Aimee with a very curious and whimsical baby dolphin, I’ll let you fill in the caption for this shot! Later this evening I will have Aimee write more for you about this cool shot we got this morning.

Alright! It is now evening, and this is Aimee behind the keyboard and the smile on my face is still as big as it was during this fun snorkel session with my BFF Alita! In the past you have heard many stories about Ritina, and this is her daughter. Alita is almost 2 (her birthday is March 12) and she is the funnest and most adorable creature on the planet. And, this is coming from someone that spends her life around dolphins! I have been in love with Alita since the day we did an unltrasound with Ritina and found out she was pregnant, and the last 2 years have been filled with me teaching her things and her teaching me things. On most days it is a pretty even trade.

Barry and I tried doing a snorkel with Ritina and Alita last week, but when they saw this scary, spider-looking camera in my hands they took off like bullets! They quickly made me understand that I was not going to just jump in the water with this new Ikelite housing and GoPro camera and start shooting. No way Jose! So, back to basic training…..I did some short sessions just holding the camera and rewarding and through time they relaxed more and more. With a bit of patience and some food and fun, they no longer seemed to care about my new human toy. As luck would have it, along came today and as soon as I got in the water, Alita and Ritina showed right up and had absolutely no signs of fear. Instead, Alita was just terribly curious and wanted to hang out and play. Well, game on! As momma Ritina kept a close eye on us, Alita and I started diving and just having a blast and doing all sorts of fun poses. We were in heaven!  There were times when she would just pause, touch my hand with her pectoral fin and wait for the camera. I was laughing and laughing. Next we tried this fun pose…face to face! I would dive under (about 3-4 meters), wait for her and with some hand targets and quick on the fly training got her in the correct position in front of me. Then I gave her the signal for “open mouth” and presto! That little smarty-fins just did it! I was literally laughing underwater. We raced to the top, me hollering and telling her how smart she was, and she was jumping and screaming all around me in excitement. I am not sure who was having more fun!

So, to say the least; what a great morning and what a great day. Getting to spend the day with the finned friend you love is surely something special.

All smiles,

Aimee and Alita

Have a wonderful weekend, Barry

Feb 27, 14     Comments Off on Curacao Fishing Boats, Lionfish Sign, Curacao Marina’s
Feb 26, 14     Comments Off on King Helmet, Cassis tuberosa, Queen Helmet
Feb 25, 14     Comments Off on Dolphins Underwater, Dolphins, GoPro, Ikelite, Snorkel

Good morning gang, so sorry again for the late mail but it has been a very busy morning! I did two dives already this morning and am now finally back inside where I can chill out and relax for the rest of the day or at least until 4:30, then it’s mountain bike time!!

By request I have another fun swimming with dolphins photo for you all today and YES, just for the record this is as fun as it looks!! This is one of our top trainers Zenzi doing two things at once, holding her breath and trying to keep up to the dolphins and filming them at the same time with the new state of the art Ikelite video tray and strobes made just for your GoPro. This is not as easy as it looks either, this girl can swim!!! What I usually do as I said yesterday is just kneel on the sand with a chosen background and wait for her and the dolphins to come to me, that way I’m not swimming around stirring up dust and scaring any dolphins. We did have a few babies in the lagoon I was in as well and they were so funny as they raced by me as if to say “lets see who can get closest to the scary diver man! The babies are also very vocal underwater and at times it’s so loud it hurts my ears, I know they are right behind me trying to kill me with their echo location! Most of the dolphins here at Dolphin Academy have been born in captivity and they all get trained to go out onto the open reef to do as they wish, no nets, no gates no nothing and yes they always come back! Why you ask, it’s simple, their family or pod is here and like us need socialization on a regular basis.

Sorry so short, lots to do like “Google, How to do a rain dance”!!! It’s so dry!

See you soon, Barry

Feb 24, 14     Comments Off on Free-diving with Dolphins, Snorkeling with Dolphins, Ikelite
Feb 21, 14     Comments Off on Yellow Frogfish, Longlure Frogfish, Frogfishes
Feb 19, 14     Comments Off on Resting, Hiding, Sleeping Balloonfish, Diodon holocanthus

Good evening friends, I finally got a blog done at night, I am sooo happy!! I found this resting balloonfish today on our dive and thought it would be something of interest.

This is a sleeping or resting Balloonfish, Diodon holocanthus. We see this quite often and folks that are with me always ask afterwards, “what was the deal with the Balloonfish”?? Was he dead? Was he sick?? Nope, just resting I always say. It takes a lot of effort for a bulky awkward fish like a Balloonfish to stay in one place for any length of time as their bodies are like a floating bag of air with spines! So what do they do, they wedge themselves in between two rocks or under a big rope (above) where they can then just lay there and chill without having to fight to stay in one place. These fish are not the best of swimmers and rarely will be seen if there are rough conditions above. If the ocean is angry they will always find a cave or something to wedge themselves under like the one above and will stay there all day unless bothered. So divers keep your distance, you don’t want to scare one out of it’s hiding place, he may not go back and may have a hard time finding another place to hide.
Here are some fun facts.

The eggs of balloonfish move smoothly over the water surface at almost 96 hours before young ones are produced.

The adult balloonfish prefers to be alone while the juveniles stay in groups.

If threatened it has the ability to change colors or shades of light to dark.

They have big eyes that allow them to lurk for prey in the dark.

Their diet consists of hermit crabs, snails, coral polyps, sea urchins and mollusks.

It is a night-time/nocturnal predator that likes to stay out of sight during the day.

There are 19 different species of porcupinefish, a class under which balloonfish fall.

The entire body structure is imbued with coffee color spots while the unique tan coloring around the eyes is the hallmark of balloonfish.

When a balloonfish encounters danger and the attack is imminent, it responds with a display of magnificent spiny armor and fills its stomach with water. This process continues until the stomach bulges and the spines stand vertical. That is why it is known as a balloonfish because it turns itself into a balloon when it is scared.

Off to bed, have a great day!!

Barry

Feb 19, 14     Comments Off on Peppermint Goby, Coryphopterus lipernes, Gobies

Hi friends, late start again today, I really have to get back to doing the blog in the evenings, would be so much easier! I just got back from a fun but cold dive with my friends from Sweden. I took my 105 macro out this morning and worked on searching for just brain corals and then looking for more “coral letters” for my growing collection. Today I finally found a “J, X, O, and a B” so I officially have about half of them. Almost every colony of coral I looked at had at least one of these tiny, one-inch Peppermint Gobies parked somewhere on it, you just had to really stop and look. Their distinctive features include a yellow-gold to translucent body, a beautiful electric blue wash on snout and several pale lines ranging from red to olive found behind the eye and on forebody. This is a common fish seen perched on coral heads in the Florida Keys, Bahamas, and the Caribbean. Usually when I first approach these little fish they will swim off to another part of the coral but if you stop and wait they will always come back, they are very curious.

The gobies form the family Gobiidae, which is one of the largest families of fish, with more than 2,000 species in more than 200 genera. Most are relatively small, typically less than 10 cm (4 in) in length. Gobies include some of the smallest vertebrates in the world, such as species of the genera Trimmatom nanus and Pandaka pygmaea, which are under 1 cm (3/8 in) long when fully grown. Some large gobies, such as some species of the genera Gobioides or Periophthalmodon, can reach over 30 cm (1 ft) in length, but that is exceptional. Generally, they are benthic, or bottom-dwellers. Although few are important as food for humans, they are of great significance as prey species for commercially important fish such as cod, haddock, sea bass, and flatfish. Several gobies are also of interest as aquarium fish, such as the bumblebee gobies of the genus Brachygobius. Phylogenetic relationships of gobies have been studied using molecular data.

The most distinctive aspects of goby morphology are the fused pelvic fins that form a disc-shaped sucker. This sucker is functionally analogous to the dorsal fin sucker possessed by the remoras or the pelvic fin sucker of the lumpsuckers, but is anatomically distinct; these similarities are the product of convergent evolution. Gobies can often be seen using the sucker to adhere to rocks and corals, and in aquariums they will stick to glass walls of the tank, as well.

Lots to do, Barry

Feb 18, 14     Comments Off on Hidden Fish, Animals that Blend in, Scorpionfish

Hi friends, we are back!! Many of you noticed and sent a mail off to me yesterday saying the site was down and could not be opened and for that I say thanks!! So what has happened is we moved our site from one host to another in hopes of better customer service and now as many of you noticed we are live thanks to Hostmonster!!

What did you all do this weekend?? Feel free to actually answer that question, we love to hear from you guys and gals! My weekend was filled with 3 things, mountain biking, trail building and baby turtles! Ah, that last one caught your attention didn’t it?? Some of you know we have four baby Red Footed tortoises and I finally built them a new outdoor sanctuary! For a year or more we have had these cute little 4-6 inch baby tortoises upstairs on our balcony in two different wooden boxes. The boxes are filled with dirt and have great caves and of course a pool for each one. Well, we found out through research that the dirt we have been using is too dry and can cause them to have breathing problems so upon reading that we decided to just re-do the boxes and build them a fun outdoor park of their own. Syijn helped me all day Sunday. He made a beautiful protective cover with metal screen and a wood frame that will keep dogs or Iguanas out while I worked on framing the area in brick, making a pool, building caves and bringing in lots of fresh soil and mixing it with leaves, it looks great and they love it! Since they are still small I will bring them upstairs every night before dark and put them back into their little protective homes for the night. These turtles have turned out to be a whole lot of work and have to be watched closely. Our biggest fear is having them flip over and not be able to get back on their feet, I seriously don’t know how these things survive in the wild?? And yes, I know I have promised to get photos for you, so hang in there a little longer, I will get them out for a photo shoot!

I have a mega camouflaged Scorpionfish for you all today that I found the other night, this one was very hard to see!

Scorpaenidae, the scorpionfish, are a family of mostly marine fish that includes many of the world’s most venomous species. As the name suggests, scorpionfish have a type of “sting” in the form of sharp spines coated with venomous mucus. The family is a large one, with hundreds of members. They are widespread in tropical and temperate seas, but mostly found in the Indo-Pacific. They should not be confused with the cabezones, of the genus Scorpaenichthys, which belong to a separate, though related family, Cottidae.

Most species are bottom-dwellers that feed on crustaceans and smaller fish. Many inhabit shallow waters, but a few live as deep as 2,200 metres (7,200 ft). Most Scorpionfish, such as the stonefish, wait in disguise for prey to pass them by before swallowing, while lionfish often ambush their prey. When not ambushing, lionfish may herd the fish, shrimp, or crab in to a corner before swallowing. Like many perciform fishes, scorpionfish are suction feeders that capture prey by rapidly projecting a suction field generated by expansion of the fish’s buccal cavity.

Have a great day!

Barry

Feb 14, 14     Comments Off on Local Curacao Boy Flying a Kite, Curacao Toys

Here is a young local Curacao boy flying his little kite, talk about fun to watch!! Because of our normal non-stop wind, kite flying is the #1 most popular hobby with the kids here, and most of the kites are handmade.

Sorry so short, more later.

Barry

Feb 13, 14     Comments Off on Colorful Punda, Curacao Art, Curacao Roadside Art

Hi all, I get more requests for “local topside” photos than anything else but for some reason never have a camera with me when driving around. So last evening at around 4:30 my friend Rebekka and I took off equipped with our trusty cameras and headed down to an area near downtown Curacao called Punda. Curacao is one of the oldest, most historical places I personally have ever been to, everywhere you look is dripping with history and local culture. The unique paintings we found along the streets all had something to do with slavery, chains and freedom which stems from hundreds of years of this island being the main port for slavery. Half the paintings we encountered we couldn’t even figure out what we were looking at but they were colorful and very interesting.

The island of Curaao was discovered by the Spanish in 1499 by Alonso de Ojeda, one of Christopher Columbus’ lieutenants. There are different explanations for the origins of the word Curaao. The most likely is that the Spanish called the island Corazon (heart) at some point. The famous Portuguese mapmakers of the time adopted this word into their own language as Curaau or Curaao. Today, the locals know the island as Korsow.

The island remained Spanish until the Dutch conquest of 1634. In the 17th century, the Dutch became leaders in the international slave trade. Africans were enslaved from their homeland and transported to Brazil and Curaao where they were sold to wealthy plantation owners from across the Americas. At that time, Curaao was one of the largest slave depots in the Caribbean. Today, however, the slave site is home to the Kura Hulanda museum, a remarkable exhibition on the horrors of the transatlantic African slave trade.

From the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century, there was a good deal of trading places between the British and the Dutch, with the French also trying to take over the island. The French came close to succeeding, but left after extorting a healthy ransom. In 1815, the Dutch regained control of Curaao, which had been in British hands since 1807. It wasn’t until the 1920’s and 1930’s that the largest influx of worldwide immigrants came and turned the island into the multicultural melting pot that it is. The colonial status of Curaao and the other islands of the Dutch Antilles changed in 1954, when the islands became completely self-governing within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Over the years, the interaction between the Indian, European, African, Asian, and Arabic cultures has influenced and brought about the development of Curaao’s unique society.

Lots to do, see you tomorrow.

Barry

Feb 13, 14     Comments Off on Ikelite Go-Pro Accessories, Ikelite VEGA Lights

The sea was beautiful yesterday, we swam around from one beautiful subject to another and hated to leave! You folks who have never shot video or photos underwater before will find a whole new World waiting to be recorded down there, it makes diving so much more fun and educational.

Have a wonderful day, Barry

 

Feb 11, 14     Comments Off on Different Color Patterns on Young French Angelfish

Good evening friends, so, so sorry about the mega-late blog today, way too much going on!! Aimee and I had to go to our local heath insurance provider called SVB this morning and sit with sick people for hours waiting for them to call our number. I was there to pick up my new card and Aimee who was actually sick needed them to verify she is sick so her work (Dolphin Academy) will pay her for the few days she has missed, it’s a major mess!!

I met some divers that said they saw two different species of French Angelfish, both about the same size but they each had different markings. So upon hearing this I nicely said; “there is only one French Angelfish” but as you have pointed out, it has many different color phases. As little babies, (juveniles) they are all black with neon yellow stripes and at this age are considered one of the top cleaning fish on the reef. As they get older the beautiful neon stripes slowly disappear (fish on the right) until one day the stripes are gone replaced with hundreds of yellow elongated spots like the fish of the left. As the fish enters adulthood, (terminal phase) the face will become a beautiful blue color, the body and fins will become black and it will be covered in those cool yellow, odd shaped spots. Color change is very common in many reef fish making it very hard to identify the juveniles from the adults.

The French angelfish is common in shallow reefs, occurs usually in pairs often near sea fans. It feeds on sponges, algae, bryozoans, zoantharians, gorgonians and tunicates. Juveniles tend cleaning stations where they service a broad range of clients, including jacks, snappers, morays, grunts, surgeonfishes, and wrasses. At the station the cleaner displays a fluttering swimming and when cleaning it touches the clients with its pelvic fins.

The adult background coloration is black but the scales of the body, except those at the front from nape to abdomen, are rimmed with golden yellow. Furthermore the pectoral fins have a broad orange-yellow bar, the dorsal filament is yellow, the chin is whitish, the outer part of the iris is yellow, and the eye is narrowly rimmed below with blue. Juveniles are black with vertical yellow bands.

This species is oviparous and monogamous. Spawning pairs are strongly territorial and usually both partners defend vigorously their territory against neighboring pairs. During the day you will mostly see these fish out and about, but come night they seek shelter in their designated hiding spot where they return every night.

Sponges constitute 70% of the species’ diet and since sponges are plentiful the fish is normally well fed. It covers sponge pieces in thick mucous to help digestion.

Have a great evening, more tomorrow, Barry

Feb 10, 14     Comments Off on Dolphin Tattoo, Dolphin Body Art, Bottlenose Tattoo
Feb 7, 14     Comments Off on Hermit Crabs in Fossil Sea Shells, Curacao Crabs

 

Hi gang, one of the benefits to living on a Caribbean island is all the hermit crabs we find just about everywhere we go! In fact I have been known to stop my car on some of the busiest roads in Curacao and run out in the middle of the street with traffic stopped, just to save a crossing hermit. I found this guy above at my watering hole in the desert this morning and brought him to work for a quick photo shoot. What makes this one unique like so many others here is the shell he is wearing, it’s a real fossil!!. Our island is packed full of beautiful, extinct, fossil shells, you can find them coming out of the dirt just about anywhere you look on the island so if your a hermit crab or a fossil collector this is a good thing! During the dry season, these hermit crabs survive by digging themselves under the soil, hiding in caves or under rocks and are never seen during the day. During the wet season they are super active and can be found walking everywhere even during the day. The other night Aimee and I went out to the desert to our water station with flash-lights and counted over 100 hermits in one small area, which is crazy because during the day one would never even know they are there!

Hermit crabs are anything but hermits. They’re called hermit crabs because each one carries his shelter with him. In reality, hermit crabs are social animals that thrive in the company of other hermit crabs. They’ll climb over each other for fun and sleep in piles. In the wild, they live in large networks that facilitate the trading and sometimes outright stealing of each others shells.

The primary purpose of a hermits shell is to protect his or her soft abdomen, but it also helps them regulate their body fluids and hydrate their gills. Yes, hermits has gills, not lungs, so they don’t breathe like we do. Because of this, they require humid air to breathe, or they will slowly die of suffocation.

Sometimes a crab will decide they want another crab’s shell, instigating a shell fight. When a crab is looking to upgrade his shell, he’s most concerned with the shell’s opening size. He’ll test this by reaching inside the shell with his large claw. If the shell works, he’ll roll the shell around to dump out any debris and then start his transition which can take just a few minutes.

The life expectancy of hermit crabs is five to 15 years, but 25 years is not uncommon and some have lived in captivity for up to 40 years. Crabs who come home from the pet store only to live in small containers have much shorter lives, sometimes just a few months. Hermit crabs living in a suitable crabitat have a much greater chance of living long, healthy lives.

Crazy busy day at Substation today, dive, dive, dive!!!

Have a wonderful weekend, Barry

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