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 June, 2014

Jun 30, 14     Comments Off on Coral Reef Scene, Elkhorn Corals, Stony Corals

Good morning friends, did you have a great weekend out there??? We sure did because our prayers have finally been answered, WE GOT RAIN!!! Yes our 6 month drought is finally over!! We woke to rain about 3:30 in the morning friday and it was still going into the daylight hours, it was fantastic!! Aimee and I were up at around 5:30 sitting out on our porch that overlooks the whole area drinking our Highlander and watching the show, it was an all out real tropical downpour!!!! At one point it was coming down so hard that I had to run out and cover the baby box turtles with a tarp and a piece of plywood, I came back in soaked to the bone! A rain like this will now produce the much needed vegetation that so many animals depend on for food.

So our month of June has turned into “bird rescue month”! I think I told you all about the beautiful wild green parakeet we found a week ago on the road that was just hit by a car. We stopped traffic to get that poor thing out of the middle of the road and rushed it to our local animal hospital. It has multiple fractures in one wing and it is now back home living with us. The wing is in a bandage for 2 weeks and time will tell if he will ever fly again. We have him in a cat crate with driftwood, he is eating really well and chirping all day, so far so good!! Then saturday evening on our dog walk we found a big ring-eye pigeon out in the desert hanging from his feet??? He had somehow gotten what looked like black sewing thread around his feet and that was now tangled in the thorn bushes, talk about a mess! Aimee quickly grabbed him and I broke the twig he was hanging from. I then had to race home while she stayed there to find something to cut all this string away, it was on there so tight it was cutting his little feet! So to make a long story short we got the thread off and one lucky bird was released. Also, not bird related but on my bike ride this weekend Dorian and I found a little dog (white terrier) out lost on the trails. We tried to get close but it just took off back up the trails and all we could do was to follow. The dog eventually popped out onto a busy road and ran ride down the middle of the road causing traffic to have to stop. It finally stopped in front of this house where I finally grabbed it and tied it to the side of the gate. I sat there for 30 minutes with the dog waiting for Dorian to go back and search for anyone looking for a dog but he retuned with no luck. We knew the dog was special as he had a micro-chip collar and another tag with an e-mail so it was not a wild dog. So as luck would have it the dog started barking and a lady from behind the gate started calling the dog?? Yes I was confused! Apparently the little dog had run all the way back home and woman had no idea he was even missing, she was as shocked as I was. In the end it was great to see the dog back home, what a smart little thing, not sure my dogs would be able to do such a feat!

I spent the weekend building a very technical free-ride course down on the salt pans for a few of us crazy mountain bikers. One of my inventions is a plank going up to a big boulder and then you drop down the other side on a pallet, it should be super fun, just a little worried about the crazy cross winds down there.

I have a coral reef scene with a beautiful Elkhorn coral for your viewing pleasure today that was taken right out in front of the Curacao Sea Aquarium on what is known as “Shipwreck Point”.

Have a great day all!!

Barry

Jun 26, 14     Comments Off on Entemnotrochus adansonianus, Pleurotomariids
Jun 25, 14     Comments Off on A Rare, Deep-Water Saber Goby, Antilligobius nikkiae
Jun 24, 14     Comments Off on Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax funebris, Eels

Good morning friends, I did yet another night dive last night with the GoPro/Ikelite setup and again came back with some great videos! As luck would have it the first thing I found last night after just entering the water was a full size adult Caribbean Reef Squid hanging out in the shallows. Upon seeing this I pretty much dedicated my dive to just letting this curious squid get used to me which in the end means better photos and better videos! Since I was only using one Ikelite VEGA strobe (with a diffuser) I was able to get very close because the light was not overwhelming, and by close I mean less than a foot!! As soon as I figure out how to upload videos onto my site/blog I will post this one from last night, it was such a great experience! I think I ended up spending around 20 minutes with the squid just slowly following her all around the sandy basin here at Substation. On many times during the event she would swim up and grab the camera or just hover in front of the light and let me pet her, it’s dives like this that keep me going back for more! After saying goodbye which I hated to do, I moved out onto the deeper reef and again was immediately met by the sight of lionfish on every other rock! I filmed one trapping a poor fish and eating it while others just hung out upside down on the side of rock paying no attention to me at all! Other animals I filmed last night included two different cowfish, a cute little spotted trunkfish, a big hermit crab in a super old crusty shell, sleeping parrotfish, blue tangs, arrow crabs and a cute little baby spotted drum. I saw the giant green moray eel (above) but he was under some big boulders and was out hunting, he wanted nothing to do with me! The photo above was taken earlier in the day after photographing the submersible and I was on my way back into our lagoon. As I ascended to the top of our rock pile where the entrance is to our exit, Mr. Grumpy (above) was out hunting and surprised me beyond belief when I crested the top, he pretty much said, “get out of my way or I will bite you”!! I of course popped off one shot in surprise and gave him all the room he needed for his escape, this animal is 6 feet long so you surely don’t want to upset him!

I just got out of the water from a submersible photo shoot and am busy getting those photos ready for our returning guests.

Lots to do, please send some rain our way!!

Cheers, Barry

Jun 23, 14     Comments Off on Corkscrew Anemone, Bartholomea annulata, Anemones

Good morning from the hands down windiest place in the Caribbean!! I’m officially really starting to hate the wind, this is just plain ridiculous! On my three hour mountain bike ride yesterday I had the wind at my back for an hour and a half and flying like Superman but when I turned East into the wind at Porto Marie it was like a big kick in the face!! Today it’s way worse and the sky is just brown from dust, not a great time to visit Curacao!

Saturday evening I did my 3rd night dive in a row and again had such a great time. This time I took just the GoPro/Ikelite setup with my 2-Vega video strobes but found out that at night you get best results by using just one of these lights. I even went as far to zip tie an old diffuser to the front of one of the Vegas and got even better more balanced light and kept it on the lowest power setting, remember this works great at night but for daytime I use both strobes. During the dive I got a killer clip of a big lionfish trapping a small cardinalfish and eating it or so I thought. With a second look the cardinalfish escaped and I have no idea how?? I also shot a clip of an octopus trying to grab a lionfish? Yeah, I think an octopus will eat anything if they can catch it! And the coolest thing….. I saw our deep water starfish that I posted a few days ago!! The last time we saw him was months ago. This is a starfish that we brought up from 850 feet with the submersible and somehow escaped out of our collection basket. He now lives under the sand all day and at night can be found walking around feeding, it’s so cool! I shot a bunch of different clips of him on the sand and eventually burying himself because of my lights.

I had a request for a Corkscrew Anemone and found this shot I taken a few weeks ago right out in front of our submersible platform.

Bartholomea annulata is a species of sea anemone in the family Aiptasiidae, commonly known as the ringed anemone or corkscrew anemone. It is one of the commonest anemones found on reefs in the Caribbean Sea.

The ringed anemone can reach a diameter of 30 centimetres (12 in) when fully extended. The column is short and wide and the oral disc with its central mouth can be 12 centimetres (4.7 in) across. There are about two hundred long, translucent tentacles ringed with whorls and spirals formed by groups of cnidocytes. The general colour is grey or brown with the cnidocyte area cream coloured. The anemone contains symbiotic zooxanthellae, single-celled algae that live within its tissues. During the day these use energy from the sun to manufacture carbohydrates by photosynthesis. The sea anemone benefits from this and the algae have a safe lodging free from the likelihood of predation.

The ringed anemone is a common species in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Its range extends from Bermuda, Florida and Texas to the northern coast of South America. It is found on reefs and on soft substrates such as coral rubble or sand at depths down to about 40 metres (130 ft). It usually occupies a hole or crevice or lives under a rock, drawing back out of sight if disturbed. It has been found using the empty shell of the queen conch Lobatus gigas as a home.

Some of the ringed anemone’s nutritional needs are supplied by the zooxanthellae. It also feeds by extending its tentacles to catch zooplankton and small invertebrates. These are immobilised by the cnidocytes and transferred by the tentacles to the mouth.

Reproduction may be by pedal laceration. In this process, part of the basal disc of the sea anemone gets detached as the anemone moves over the substrate, and this piece is able to grow into a new individual. The anemone can also reproduce by liberating gametes into the water column. After fertilization, the eggs hatch into larvae which are planktonic and drift with the current. After further development they settle on the seabed and undergo metamorphosis into juvenile anemones.

My new carbon SCOTT Spark 27.5 mountain bike arrived last night from Florida and I can hardly wait to get it put together.

Have a great day, please send some rain our way if you can!!

Barry

Jun 20, 14     Comments Off on Free Swimming Caribbean Reef Octopus, Curacao
Jun 19, 14     Comments Off on Night-diving with Ikelite/GoPro Video Camera

Good afternoon from sunny, windy, dry Curacao!! Last night I had a fantastic evening of underwater adventure with my two friends Tessa (above) and by new diving buddy Gitland. I had already spent hours of getting ready for this dive during the day by setting up two full DSLR Ikelite housings, one with a D-200 and the other a D-800. Tessa was the lucky recipient of getting to use the new state of the art Ikelite/GoPro video camera with the duel VEGA Video lights, talk about a sweet looking underwater outfit!

http://www.ikelite.com/lighting/2107.2-vega-dual-kit-gopro-flex.html

Like three navy seals on a mission we entered the sea in all it’s darkness at around 8:00 and took off straight down to around 75 feet! We instantly discovered a pretty big Caribbean octopus out hunting on the sand and proceeded to pull up along side for a few photos and a little video. He was super cool and climbing all over everything and could have cared less about us, he just kept on hunting. At one point he jumped up onto a big coral head and then tried to grab Tessa as she swam by, I have a photo and will send that later, it was really cool! After loosing sight of him we moved on and up to around 70 feet and “PRESTO” we found another smaller Caribbean octopus, this night was off to a great start! This one proved to be harder to shoot as he or she was deeper in the reef , that’s why I love finding octopus in the sand, you don’t have to worry about delicate corals! Next we found a pretty big spotted moray out hunting and minutes later found another that was even bigger. As I was shooting the second eel I noticed he wasn’t moving and was just parked in one spot under a big beautiful gorgonian? Well with a closer look we saw there was a third spotted eel poking it’s head out of a little cave, a possible mate perhaps?? I guess the night is not just about trying to find dinner! After the eels we took back towards Substation and that’s when we ran into this giant prorcupinefish, Diodon hystrix. These beautiful pufferfish can reach 3-feet in length. We followed this one around for quite awhile last night during which he took us back down to around 70 feet! I really love these giant, gentle creatures, they are just so much fun to watch and have such great expressions! Soon after taking this photo by dive buddies alerted me that they were now running low on air and it was time to make tracks back to the dock. On our return we spotted numerous lionfish out hunting and some were really big, funny because you don’t see as many during the day! Our last adventure was with a hiding cowfish and we hung out with him for as long as we could, I will send those to you as well. So another great, fantastic night dive in Curacao, I swear night diving is just one of those things that never gets old, kind of like eating chocolate and drinking Highlander Groog! (my favorite coffee, see logo link on the homepage, Dark Canyon Coffee).

Lots to do, have a great day!

Barry

Jun 18, 14     Comments Off on Yellowline Arrow-Crab, Stenorhynchus seticornis
Jun 17, 14     Comments Off on Deep Sea Astropecten, Deep Water Starfish

Here’s a note from our buddy Dave Pawson/Emeritus Senior Scientist at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution……Nice image of a starfish of the genus Astropecten. I can’t tell you the species name for sure, but it looks like A. duplicatus Gray, which can be common in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, to depths of around 1800 feet. There are at least 7 species of this genus in the Caribbean, (which are currently being descibed by John Lawrence in Florida, but it may take a few more years!). Astropecten and Luidia often live buried, and they may come out at night to forage. They’re predators, often swallowing prey whole (clams, even sand dollars), and spitting out the shells when they’re done. They’re among a small group of starfish that don’t have an anus.

Starfish or sea stars are star-shaped echinoderms belonging to the class Asteroidea. Common usage frequently finds these names being also applied to ophiuroids, which are correctly referred to as “brittle stars” or “basket stars”. About 1,500 species of starfish occur on the seabed in all the world’s oceans, from the tropics to frigid polar waters. They are found from the intertidal zone down to abyssal depths, 6,000 m (20,000 ft) below the surface.

Starfish are marine invertebrates. They typically have a central disc and five arms, though some species have more than this. The aboral or upper surface may be smooth, granular or spiny, and is covered with overlapping plates. Many species are brightly colored in various shades of red or orange, while others are blue, grey or brown. Starfish have tube feet operated by a hydraulic system and a mouth at the centre of the oral or lower surface. They are opportunistic feeders and are mostly predators on benthic invertebrates. Several species have specialized feeding behaviors including eversion of their stomachs and suspension feeding. They have complex life cycles and can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Most can regenerate damaged parts or lost arms and they can shed arms as a means of defense. The Asteroidea occupy several significant ecological roles. Starfish, such as the ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus) and the reef sea star (Stichaster australis), have become widely known as examples of the keystone species concept in ecology. The tropical crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) is a voracious predator of coral throughout the Indo-Pacific region, and the Northern Pacific sea star is considered to be one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

Have a great day all!!

Barry

Jun 16, 14     Comments Off on Invasive Lionfish in Curacao, Caribbean Lionfish Photo
Jun 13, 14     Comments Off on Curasub, Curacao Mini-Sub, Deep Submersibles
Jun 12, 14     Comments Off on Underwater Video Made Easy with Ikelite VEGAS!
Jun 10, 14     Comments Off on Ikelite VEGA Video Lights, Underwater Go-Pro
Jun 9, 14     Comments Off on Deadly/Poisonous Siphonophore, Portuguese Man O’ War
Jun 6, 14     Comments Off on Phutuq K’usi, Phutuqk’usi, Putucusi Trail Peru

Good morning friends, sorry about the no blog yesterday but we are super busy trying to get our Peru photos out and ready for sale. As I mentioned earlier we shot around 400gb worth of photos meaning we have a lot of work to do! The places we photographed include but are not limited to; Aquas Calientes, Chinchero, Cusco, Las Chullpas, the Putucusi trail (above), Machu-Picchu, Mares, mountain biking, Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Pisac Ruins, Sol Y Luna, stone carving, Ollantaytambo Quarry and Uruabamba to name a few! The photo above is near the base of the World famous Putucusi trail and was our first introduction into a real jungle setting. This trail starts near the the town of Aguas Calientes behind the train station where you buy your bus tickets to Machu Picchu. To say this was the most beautiful trail I had ever been on would be an understatement, it’s breath taking in more ways than one! This is the trail with the insane 100 foot ladder sectons that we climbed and at the top is a spectacular view of Machu-Picchu that few get to see, it’s worth the effort! Aimee and I stopped every feet yards to photograph the ferns, flowers butterfies and birds, it’s a photographers dream trail!

Phutuq K’usi or Phutuqk’usi (Quechua phutu bud, -q a suffix, k’usi a cucurbita species, a small zucchini or cucurbita pepo, “budding zucchini (or cucurbita pepo)”, hispanicized spelling Putucusi) is a round-shaped mountain located on the opposite side (northeast) of the Urubamba River to Machu Pikchu in the Cusco Region of Peru. Reaching approximately 2,560 metres (8,400 ft) above sea level at its peak, the mountain offers epic views of Machu Pikchu and the surrounding Urubamba River valley.

Phutuq K’usi, Machu Pikchu (“old peak” in Quechua) and Wayna Pikchu (“young peak”) are considered apus or holy mountains by the local Quechua people.The view of Machu Pikchu from the summit requires a 1.5-hour trek up the mountain, with approximately 1,700 wood and rock steps. A recently discovered Inca Trail, the path lies just 10 minutes west of Aguas Calientes following the train tracks along the Urubamba River. The entrance is free.

The first half of the journey is jungle trail, and involves several very steep vertical wooden ladders, the largest of which scales over 100 feet (30 m). The second half presents views of Aguas Calientes and the Urubamba River valley, as the trail ascends the eastern face of Phutuq K’usi in switchback fashion. The train passes through native flora including pisonayes, q’eofias, alisos, puya palm trees, ferns and more than 90 species of orchids.

In spring 2011, floods wiped out the vertical ladder section of the climb, making an ascent impossible without professional climbing gear, but by August 2012, all the ladders had been replaced.

Well gang, have a wonderful weekend, we have a three day weekend!

Cheers, Barry

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