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 July, 2014

Jul 30, 14     Comments Off on Baby Green Iguana, Iguana iguana, Curacao Reptiles
Jul 29, 14     Comments Off on Night Diving Photos, Night Diving with a GoPro
Jul 28, 14     Comments Off on Diving the Superior Producer Wreck in Curacao

Good afternoon friends, I apologize for the late posting but this Caribbean boy has been really busy these past few days! On the home front I’m building a big bird cage for our poor little parakeet that was hit by a car a few weeks ago, we don’t think he will be flying any time soon but then again you never know. I spent the weekend mountain biking and working on maintaing the trails, a job that honestly never seems to end!! Our Dalmatian Inca is still unable to walk after having rocks thrown at her by a local Curacao guy out on the trails I built?? I guess next I will be posting signs that say, “if you don’t like dogs, stay off the trails”! Yes, still major upset! The island is getting small amounts of scattered rain which has helped immensely and we are so thankful for every drop that falls! We continue to take large amounts of food and water out to the desert each day for the birds and iguanas in an effort to do something to help our wild friends. Since our battery was stollen out of the car a week ago I have been trying to figure out how to secure the hood or the battery to make it more difficult to steal. Well tonight, Dutch (owner/creator/boss) of the Sea aquarium and my co-worker Bruce took matters into their own hands and drilled a hole through the top of the hood and welded a big hitch lock in place!!! So now the hood will not open without a key, it may not look pretty but it will work!!

This morning Mark, from the World famous “The Dive Bus” (link on the left side of my home page) called and asked if I wanted to go with him to the Superior Producer (big sunken ship) for a morning dive and I of course said yes!! Mark is friends with some of the top tech guys and gals at GoPro and they had just sent him a new box of goodies to take out to the water to test and play with, again, it’s not what you know it’s who you know!! Word! I quickly assembled my Ikelite D-800 setup with double DS-160 strobes and the Ikelite/GoPro tray with 2-Vega video lights (seen above in Marks hands) and rushed to get down to the Dive Bus. We quickly loaded up his truck joined by two other friends and took off to the dive site which is located on the West side of the Mega Pier. Once parked we all kept busy setting up our own gear and within minutes we were on our way to the water. I wish you could have seen Mark, he looked like a human GoPro Christmas tree!!! He had one attached to his chest, one on a cool extendable GoPro pole with tripod (for selfies), and two dangling from his BC for backup and topside shots, GoPro would have been proud! The visibility was pretty great today which makes this particular dive that much better. To make a long story short the four of us had a total blast! We filmed our two friends exploring the wreck and I shot some photos of Mark. I mainly used my Ikelite/GoPro setup with a red filter over the lens which we found out doesn’t work that great below 75 feet but it’s amazing from 0-75. The Ikelite Vegas (strobes) are so powerful they lit up everything and lasted well over an hour, if you don’t have these yet, put them on the list, it’s a must have for a GoPro or any DSLR with video capabilities. Ikelite link again is on the front of my home page. I wish I could tell you about all the cool things I saw on the dive but all I saw was Mark through my little “live view” screen on the GoPro, a small price to pay for a killer clip of adventure one can watch over and over and share with the World. We did encounter some current today, something this dive site is well known for but we managed to kick our way right through it. We are planning another trip there soon and I will try to post a video clip for you all to see just what your missing out on!

Still lots to do, see you tomorrow……..

Barry

 

Jul 24, 14     Comments Off on Blue-Light Photos, Blue-Light Photography
Jul 23, 14     Comments Off on Swimming with a School of Baby Reef Squids

Hi friends, yes, more squids!!!! Aimee stopped by this morning and joined me for a fun dive with the baby Caribbean Reef Squids which are still hanging out in our little secluded bay. Aimee took the Ikelite/GoPro setup to shoot some video and I took the Nikon D-800 SLR setup to take photos of her shooting video. We decided to leave the Ikelite Vegas (video strobes) on the dock as the sun was shining and we were only in 5 to 10 feet of water, meaning we had plenty of natural night. The squids are getting very used to me and the big camera and the continuous flash doesn’t seem to bother them. During our fun little photo shoot the squids swam right up to my camera, I think they could see their reflections in my wide angle dome. I’m pretty amazed at how fast these guys are growing, they must be catching live fish all day long! I’m not sure if you can see it or not but behind Aimee there is a large school of small bait fish, these are what they love to eat and seem to have no problems with catching them.

Not much else going on, the bird and turtles are doing well, Inca is still not able to walk from the rock that was thrown at her and I am getting in a bunch of mountain biking. The island is still getting small isolated showers and many areas have greened up a bit, we could still use more!

That’s about it, have a great day out there!

Barry

Jul 22, 14     Comments Off on Finger Corals, Artificial Coral Reefs, Stony Corals

Pencil Coral 1

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Pencil Coral 2

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Pencil Coral 3

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Pencil Coral 4

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Pencil Coral 5

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Pencil Coral 6

Good afternoon all, I had a ton of requests asking to see my “tire coral” project that I have been blogging about these past few weeks so today I finally went down and got some explanation type photos. Ok first off this is Yellow Pencil Coral, Madracis mirabilis and it’s one of the most fragile of all the stony corals. It can be found in shades of light yellow, cream or pale brown. Yellow Pencil corals have branching colonies and the corallites are widely separated, sometimes angular in outline with a solid conical columella. Usually ten septa are present and these are fused with the columella. The coenosteum has fine spinules which sometimes form a ridge between corallites. Tentacles are extended day and night giving them a constant “fuzzy look” and will quickly retract if disturbed.

So what’s going on is, the delicate pencil corals are being ripped out of their colonies by these terrible little Bicolor Damselfish, Stegastes partitus, photo #2 and #4. Yes these little fish build homes down inside the corals!! In order to get inside the corals they need to first build an entrance if you will by grabbing pieces of live coral (with their mouths) and pulling it out!! Yeah that sounds impossible right?? Well today I took the pieces of live coral from around the hole in photo #4 and placed them back inside the hole to try and fix the damage these fish had already done. Within seconds four little damselfish with anger in their eyes swam over and tossed all the pieces back out, I see I will have to get this on video as well so you can see this for yourself! So all the pieces they rip out I am now taking over to my tire in photo #6. Photo #3 shows what healthy pencil coral should look like but the second a damselfish decides he wants to move in it will look like photo #2, here you can even see him coming out. See the piece of tossed out coral in photo #2, well it’s pieces like that I am gathering to put in tires, at least they will be safe in there. The top photo shows a larger area that has been wiped out, there are 20-30 little fish living around this mess and tossed out corals are everywhere! If the corals land into sand they will die, if they lay on top of the corals the corals under them will die. Photo #5 shows tossed out corals that I picked up months ago from either on top of the corals or in the sand and I placed them into holes on the reef, as you can see these are doing very well. So your thinking why don’t I just continue to place the tossed out corals into the reef instead of using a tire?? Well, I have run out of rocks to put them onto, and I can’t lay them on anything that is alive!! I am open to any ideas you all have out there, I will try anything to help corals! The corals in the tires are doing very well, they have been out there for weeks now and I haven’t seen any problems yet. Besides the crazy coral killing fish, the corals are also under attack by boat anchors and all kinds of different diseases, you would’t believe some of the stuff I’ve seen underwater. I can’t even count the number of photo dives that have been aborted due to finding a newly destroyed colony of pencil coral! I usually will just put the camera down and one by one start turning the flipped corals over and finding new homes for them, this can eat up an hour dive real quick!

Lots to do, I have to go!

Later, Barry

Jul 21, 14     Comments Off on Baby Caribbean Reef Squids Video, Teuthoidea

Good morning friends, how was your weekend???? I did a hard 45 mile mountain bike ride on saturday and spent the rest of the day recovering and sunday worked on a multitude of weird jobs. Saturday afternoon Aimee and I took off to Saint Joris Bay for a wonderful late afternoon walk with the dogs and to do a bit of trail work. Upon our return we all climbed into the car and with a turn of the key realized our battery had just been stolen! Talk about a feeling of overwhelming helplessness! Unfortunately this is a very common practice here in Curacao and it’s partially my own fault for #1 not locking the car and #2 not having anything locking the battery into the car, it was there for the taking! The crime rate here has gone through the roof over the past few years and it seems to be getting worse and worse. So what do you do when you find yourself vulnerable and trapped without a car and darkness is falling?? Yep, you call your friends at the World famous Dive Bus Hut (Mark and Suzi) and beg them for help! I love having friends that just say….”where are you and we will be there in a few minutes”, talk about the most calming words a person can say in a time of need!! So after talking to Mark we pushed the car out of the area it was at and got it more out in the open for our safety and so Mark could easily find us. Within 15 minutes our rescue vehicle had arrived and to our complete surprise they brought with them a spare battery which worked perfectly! We didn’t even think of having someone bring out a battery, we just figured we could get someone to pull the car back to our house, talk about your smart fellers (not fart smellers Mark!) So once again driving back home with a bad situation made good we both said and acknowledged how great it is to have good friends, thanks again guys, ribs next week!!

I have another fun squid video for you all day, these are my 35 or so baby Caribbean reef squids that are living in our tiny bay, they are super cool!! These squids range in size from one to six inches with the majority being around three inches in length. As you can see they are super calm and a complete joy to be around, it’s like swimming with aliens!

I have to run, making a battery holder for the new battery with a lock on it!

Barry

Jul 18, 14     Comments Off on Pederson Cleaner Shrimp with Eggs, Crustaceans
Jul 17, 14     Comments Off on Blue-Light Diving, Blue-Light Underwater Photos

Good morning from Curacao! Once again we got a little rain this morning which as many of you now know, that’s a big deal! Our little island was severely suffering from a 6 month drought but is now slowly starting to green up again and we love it!!

So yesterday I ended up doing three dives again, one before 9:30am, one at noon and one starting at 8:00 last night. I had spent much of the afternoon preparing for my night dive which involves setting up the camera with blue-filters over the strobes and a yellow filter over the lens to capture fluorescence on the reef at night. This new kind of night diving is called “blue-light diving” and it’s a total blast! I wear a yellow pair of flat glasses over my mask and carry a powerful handheld blue-light that I use to search for my subjects. Once I locate a selected specimen I turn on my three Ikelite DS-160 strobes that have blue-glass filters over each one and the camera has a screw-on yellow filter over the lens so anything I shoot will be in fluorescence. The color I see the most is green but I do find orange, yellow, red, blue, and pink as well. If you look at the bottom photo this is a little three inch Maze coral, Meandrina meandrites with a tiny glowing red fish laying right in the middle, I never even saw him until I got back and looked at the photos. The top photo is the same coral but during the day, I just went down and shot that about an hour ago just so you can see the difference in the two under two different kinds of light, natural and man-made. During the dive last night I found so many beautiful corals that were fluorescing and found it difficult to pick a favorite, I guess I just need to go back down and do it again! I did see tons of lionfish as well last night, for sure the most I have ever seen and NO they do not fluoresce.

Fluorescence as you may or may not know is the emission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation. It also occurs when molecules are excited to higher electronic states by energetic electron bombardment. For example, in the natural aurora, high-altitude nuclear explosions, and rocket-borne electron gun experiments. In most cases, the emitted light has a longer wavelength, and therefore lower energy, than the absorbed radiation. However, when the absorbed electromagnetic radiation is intense, it is possible for one electron to absorb two photons; this two-photon absorption can lead to emission of radiation having a shorter wavelength than the absorbed radiation. The emitted radiation may also be of the same wavelength as the absorbed radiation, termed “resonance fluorescence”.

The most striking examples of fluorescence occur when the absorbed radiation is in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum, and thus invisible to the human eye, and the emitted light is in the visible region.

Fluorescence has many practical applications, including mineralogy, gemology, chemical sensors (fluorescence spectroscopy), fluorescent labeling, dyes, biological detectors, and, most commonly, fluorescent lamps.

Lots to do, have a wonderful day!

Barry

Jul 16, 14     Comments Off on Baby Caribbean Reef Squids, Sepioteuthis sepioidea

Good morning friends, I jumped in the water early this morning with camera in hand and photographed our school of baby Caribbean Reef Squids that have been living here since they were born. The squids range in size from around three to six inches and I counted around 35 of them. The squids seem very relaxed and they let me get very close and at times they were hovering around me and the camera, it was fantastic! Although the photo is small you can still see all their crazy iridescent colors which they have the ability to change in the blink of an eye, truly one of the hands down coolest creatures in the sea! I have found out that photographing these animals can be very difficult because of their eyes, too much light and it ruins the eyes and too little and the body is too dark, this was hot at 160-F13 making the squids colors perfect with no over-exposed eyes.

The Caribbean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea), also known as just the Reef Squid, is a small (20 cm) torpedo-shaped squid with fins that extend nearly the entire length of the body and undulate rapidly as it swims. The squid has recently become notable when it was discovered that it could fly out of the water; a discovery which finally led to identification of six species of flying squid.

The Caribbean reef squid is found throughout the Caribbean Sea as well as off the coast of Florida, commonly in small schools of 4-30 in the shallows associated with reefs. The habitat of the Reef Squid changes according to the squid’s stage of life and size. New hatchlings tend to reside close to the shore in areas from 0.2″1 meters below the surface on or under vegetation. Young small squid typically congregate in shallow turtle grass near islands and remain several centimeters to two meters from the surface to avoid bird predators. Adults venture out into open water and can be found in depths up to 100 m. When mating, adults are found near coral reefs in depths of 1.5“8 m. The Caribbean reef squid is the only squid species commonly sighted by divers over inshore reefs in the Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean region.

This species, like most squid, is a voracious eater and typically consumes 30-60% of its body weight daily. Prey is caught using the club-like end of the long tentacles which are then pulled towards the mouth supported by the shorter arms. Like other cephalopods, it has a strong beak which it uses to cut the prey into parts so that the raspy tongue, or radula, can be used to further process the food. It consumes small fish, other molluscs, and crustaceans.

Caribbean reef squid have been shown to communicate using a variety of color, shape, and texture changes. Squid are capable of rapid changes in skin color and pattern through nervous control of chromatophores. In addition to camouflage and appearing larger in the face of a threat, squids use color, patterns, and flashing to communicate with one another in various courtship rituals. Caribbean reef squid can send one message via color patterns to a squid on their right, while they send another message to a squid on their left.

Like other cephalopods, the Caribbean reef squid, is semelparous, dying after reproducing. Females lay their eggs then die immediately after. The males, however, can fertilize many females in a short period of time before they die. Females lay the eggs in well-protected areas scattered around the reefs. After competing with 2-5 other males, the largest male approaches the female and gently strokes her with his tentacles. At first she may indicate her alarm by flashing a distinct pattern, but the male soon calms her by blowing water at her and jetting gently away. He returns repeatedly until the female accepts him, however the pair may continue this dance or courting for up to an hour. The male then attaches a sticky packet of sperm to the female’s body. As he reaches out with the sperm packet, he displays a pulsating pattern. The female places the packet in her seminal receptacle, finds appropriate places to lay her eggs in small clusters, and then dies.

We have a submersible dive in a few minutes, I have to go!

Cheers, Barry

Jul 15, 14     Comments Off on Stove-Pipe Sponges, Aplysina archeri, Sponges

Good morning from cloudy Curacao. I just got out from my first dive of the day and discovered we have around 25 baby/juvenile Caribbean reef squids living under our floating submersible platform, how cool is that?? I want to go back out immediately and do photos and video but the water is not so clear today due to high winds which in turn causes rough stirred up seas. I did swim down to around 60 feet and finish up my little yellow pencil coral experiment that I’m doing with used car tires. There are so many broken pencil corals on our reef mostly due to an overwhelming “infishtation” (my own word) of little black damselfish! What they do is tear out a hole or section in the delicate pencil corals and make themselves a home down deep in the coral, it’s really a mess! And because all the big reef fish predators are gone from overfishing the damselfish numbers have increased 1000 fold! I’m placing all the broken pencil corals in the tire so they at least can stand upright and hopefully have a chance at growing, I guess we will see. As I left the tire filled with corals I watched as a big damselfish came out of hiding and already started pecking at my poor corals, I tell you those little fish are downright monsters!!

I have a super beautiful cluster of multi-colored Stove-Pipe Sponges, Aplysina archeri for your viewing pleasure today. This cluster was discovered by our friends Sal and Patty while diving at 1000 steps in Bonaire a few years back. I remember he had sent me a photo he took because he knows I love sponges and that was enough to get me packed and on my way to Bonaire.

Aplysina archeri (also known as stove-pipe sponge because of its shape) is a species of tube sponge that has long tube-like structures of cylindrical shape. Many tubes are attached to one particular part of the organism. A single tube can grow up to 5 feet high and 3 inches thick. These sponges mostly live in the Atlantic Ocean: the Caribbean, Bahamas, Florida, and Bonaire. They are filter feeders; they eat food such as plankton or suspended detritus as it passes them. Very little is known about their behavioral patterns except for their feeding ecology and reproductive biology. Tubes occur in varying colors including lavender, gray and brown. They reproduce both by asexual and sexual reproduction. When they release their sperms, the sperms float in water and eventually land somewhere where they begin to reproduce cells and grow. These sponges take hundreds of years to grow and never stop growing until they die. Snails are among their natural predators. The dense population of these sponges is going down because of toxic dumps and oil spills.

Have a great day, I’m off to play with the squids….

Oh yeah, Inca is doing better after her shot yesterday!

Barry

Jul 14, 14     Comments Off on Night-Diving in Curacao, Giant Porcupinefish
Jul 11, 14     Comments Off on Brain Coral Man, Symmetrical Brain Coral
Jul 9, 14     Comments Off on Underwater Photographers Camera Gear During Travel
Jul 9, 14     Comments Off on Highhat Drum, Pareques acuminatus, Juvenile Highhat

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