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 December, 2014
Dec 31, 14 Comments Off on Happy New Year! Designs in Brain Coral
Happy New Year all!!! I’m off tomorrow so I won’t be posting, I will most likely be diving and hopefully doing a little cycling! Tonight will be crazy beyond belief here in Curacao and it must look like the island is being bombed from space! Our plan is to have the fan, air-co and t.v. going all at the same time to TRY and drown out some of the noise to help comfort the dogs a little but I’m sure it will be a very long night with very little sleep! A big thank-you goes out to my fans of the blog for making this another fun year of learning for us all! Our friend Kathy in South Dakota is the hands down winner of the most blog comments and my mom, my aunt Shari and Nancy Thompson win with taking the time to print all my blogs out and keeping them in folders, talk about dedication. A big thank-you goes out to all my fun sponsors like Ikelite and our favorite coffee supplier Dark Canyon Coffee who have kept us living in the lap of luxury and without them we would be lost! We of course would just be spinning our wheels without the help of the greatest photographer in the World, Thomas Wiewandt of www.wildhorizons.com he has done so much for us and we are so thankful to have him in our lives!
Above is one of the fun projects we have been working on this past year. We have done countless dives in search of brain corals and staring at them for hours looking for “designs in nature” as you see above. Most of these numbers and letters we find are only about an inch or two in height and come in a wild array of beautiful colors! For those of you visiting the Smithsonian Institution in 2015 you will be able have your name printed out in coral and then have it framed on your wall, what better way to show your support for our coral reefs!
Aimee and I are headed out to look for more coral letters, the I and the Z are turning out to be very difficult to find!!
Happy New Year……..
Barry and Aimee
Dec 30, 14 Comments Off on Open and Closed Christmas Tree Worm Photo
Hi friends, I have a fun “now you see it, now you don’t” kind of photo for you all today that I took during my resent search for brain corals. This is a very odd colored (but beautiful) Christmas Tree Worm, Spirobranchus giganteus shown in the top photo as “open” and the bottom photo shown as “closed”. Christmas Tree Worms are of the Class; Polychaeta, Order; Sabellida and Family Serpulidae. Serpulids build hard, calcareous tubes which are often hidden in the rock, coral, or, occasionally sponges. Their extended crown of colorful radioles form spirals and whorls. Like fan worms, the radioles are used to catch food, and will instantly retract when disturbed (bottom photo). A hardened structure, called an operculum, covers the tube opening when the worm withdraws. Horn-like growths that often extend from the operculum are useful in species identification. Christmas Tree Worms grow to about a an inch and a half in height, can be found from 10-100 feet and are one of the most common creatures found in the Caribbean.
We are back to getting rain almost every day which is needed to carry this island through the dry months ahead.
Fireworks went on sale a few days ago which means it has been crazyness starting at around 10:00am every day! Inca (our Dalmatian) is so freaked out now with every explosion that we can hardly get her to go outside to go pee, will be a horrible week for pets and wild animals! Here in Curacao as you can imagine there are NO firework regulations at all! This means China sends fireworks that would be illegal anywhere else on the planet and you don’t need a parent to buy them! Most of these fireworks are like small sticks of dynamite and the noise is insane, I am sure the hospitals will be busy this week!
Hope all is well out there, lots to do!
Dec 29, 14 Comments Off on Whitespotted filefish, Cantherhines macrocerus
Good morning friends, just two days away from 2015, can you believe it?? How was Christmas out there?? Did Santa bring you all something wonderful?? My Santa was awesome!!! I scored a super cool, handmade “mountain bike tire belt” which I can hardly wait to wear, a fun shirt with two dinosaurs playing the game of Twister, two fun and very colorful animal carvings from Oaxaca Mexico (we collect them) and a giant canvas with three of our photos from Peru printed on it. After shredding presents and eating like Kings I took off to meet Mark and Suzi from the World famous Dive Bus Hut for their annual Christmas dive. Aimee was not feeling well enough to join so she stayed home and chilled with the dogs. We did our dive on the west side of the Aquaelectra plant and once in the water swam to the east and back. While the others hunted lionfish I swam from one brain coral to another (which were all different colors and sizes) in search of interesting designs and shooting them with the macro lens. While focused on an interesting brain coral design this very curious Whitespotted Filefish swam right up to me as if to say “what’s ya doing”?? Wow, you want to talk about a curious fish that has zero fear, well your looking at him! I actually had a hard time getting him to leave me alone, not sure if he saw his reflection in the lens or if he had just never seen a diver before but it was a pretty cool encounter! All in all I think I did around 6-7 dives these past four days mainly working on our brain coral project which you guys will see more in the coming days.
Still not feeling well and haven’t been able to ride much, not a very fun December.
Hope all is well out there!!
Dec 24, 14 Comments Off on Merry Christmas from Curacao! Christmas Tree
Merry Christmas one and all!! Aimee and I just drove down to Punda at dusk and photographed the reflection from a floating Christmas tree adrift on a floating platform of sorts. This is just the reflection the tree was casting into or onto the water, pretty cool is I do say so myself! Have a wonderful day tomorrow and please be safe out there!
Barry and Aimee
Dec 24, 14 Comments Off on Erect Rope Sponge, Coral Reef Photo Scene
Good morning friends, we are headed out tonight to do our annual walk around downtown Curacao/Punda and photograph all the beautiful Christmas lights so hopefully I will have something fun for you tomorrow. Can you believe it’s the day before Christmas?? I am sure many of you are still running around trying to get your last minute shopping done or at least stop by the grocery store and load up for the weekend. Everything here in Curacao will be shut down for two days, Christmas and the day after so we have to get to the stores today. Like I mentioned yesterday we are going diving tomorrow at around noon if anyone wants to join, it’s kind of an annual event for us as we don’t get to do many “fun dives” much anymore.
I had a request for a beautiful “coral reef scene” from one of my winter locked friends in the States who needed a reminder of what he should be doing this holiday season. This is a beautiful six-foot tall Erect Rope Sponge that I encountered with some friends at around 75 feet! When these sponges are introduced to flash they really explode with color and the reef just come alive!
I have to get the camera and dive gear ready for tomorrow, have a GREAT evening and a wonderful Christmas Day!!
Have fun and be safe….
Dec 23, 14 Comments Off on Bluestriped Grunt, Haemulon sciurus, Grunts
Good morning friends, we are waking up to light rain and overcast skies today which is normal for this time of year. Many of you Curacao natives know we are way behind on the amount of moisture needed to carry this island through another year, so any rain is good rain!
I did two cold dives yesterday in search of more brain corals but I really didn’t find very much. Aimee and I have been working on a brain coral project for over a year and we still have a bunch of searching to do. We are planning on diving on Christmas day during the afternoon at Pier Baai after taking the dogs on a fun outing somewhere along the coast, so if your wanting to join give me a ring.
I did come across this very calm and very colorful Bluestriped Grunt on my dive yesterday and couldn’t resist the urge to stop and take his photo. These fish are so mellow and have such beautiful electric blue stripes, (thus the name) and can reach 18 inches in length! Here is Curacao you normally only see these fish alone hanging out under a coral ledge or near the entrance to a small cave. The common family name is derived from the unusual “grunt” sound produced when teeth grinding deep within their throats is amplified by the air bladder. Grunts are closely related to snappers but are generally smaller (normally between 12 and 18 inches), with more deeply notched tails. They also lack the snappers sharp canine teeth.
I really can’t believe Christmas is days away?? Geez where did this month go?
Starting to really rain now, and I mean it’s coming down!!! I need to go check on my turtles!!
Dec 22, 14 Comments Off on Stony Finger Coral Polyps Open and Closed
Good morning gang, three more days till Christmas, can you believe that?? I’ve been running around like a crazy person as of late trying to get a million things done that got put on hold while I was sick, and the list is long!
I have a cool photo for you today showing how coral polyps open and close. This is a section of Finger Coral, Porites porites with the top photo showing the “open or extended” feeding polyps and the second photo showing them “closed or retracted”. The delicate polyps you see in the top photo are often extended even during the day, giving the colony a fuzzy looking appearance and sway back and forth with every passing wave (called surge) or move in the current. Brittlestars, sea urchins, crabs, shrimps, small fish and chitons often live among the tightly compacted branches of finger corals.
Finger coral colonies form smooth branches with embedded corallites and grow in several configurations (morphotypes) that were originally described as three separate species. As more research became available scientists concluded that the morphotypes were variations of one species, caused by different environmental conditions. They were then synonymized as one species, Finger Coral, Porites porites. However, recent genetic evidence now suggests there are three separate species and the re-described scientific and common names are as follows…
Clubtip Finger Coral, P.porites, has stout, irregular, stubby branches with blunt and often enlarged tips (above).
Branched Finger Coral, P. furcata, has finger-like, tight compacted branches.
Thin Finger Coral, P. divaricata, has finger-like, widely spaced branches that often divide near the tip.
The different colors of these corals range from beige to yellow-brown, brown, gray and gray with purple overtones. Branched and Thin Finger Corals are fragile while Clubtip Finger Corals break only under pressure.
I have way to much to do and our dog Indi is home sick.
Dec 18, 14 Comments Off on Bottlenose Dolphin Photo, Dolphin Photos
Hi friends, I’m in and out of the water today photographing tourists going down in the submersible and you might be able to see us at www.seesubmarine.com just remember there is a one hour time delay in what your seeing.
For my poor neglected dolphin friends out there I have a beautiful bottlenose diving out in the open ocean for you today. Many who have been connected with us from the start (2004) remember the days of me sending out dolphin photos just about every day and for sure every week. But since I moved over to work with the submersible (4 years now) the dolphin photos are getting less and less, I just don’t take the time to go over and swim with them like I used to, that’s Aimee’s job!
Having a busy day!!
Dec 17, 14 Comments Off on Deep Sea Pipefish, Syngnathidae, Pipefishes
Good morning all, I have an extra special creature for you all today called a Pipefish found by our crew here at Substation Curacao at 560 feet! Because this fish was close to 8-inches in length I was unable to photograph him in a single shot so I took seven photos and stitched them together in Photoshop. To see the panoramic photo you will need to click on my “GALLERY” link on the left side of the home page, it was too long to post on my normal blog page. I have been told this is a rare find and that there is little known information on this deep dwelling pipefish, the Smithsonian scientists were very excited. In the four years we have been diving with the submersible (over 1000 dives) we have never seen one of these so it once again goes to show there is so much yet to be discovered.
Here’s a link to one of the shallow pipefish I found living in 15 feet of water right under our submersible dock months ago remember him??
These strange beautiful little fishes all have trumpet-like snouts and small mouths. Their bodies are encased in protective bony rings which are quite apparent. Pipefish are in the same family as seahorses and we have about ten shallow species swimming around the Caribbean, good luck finding them! Seahorses are vertically oriented, and have a cocked head. Their finless, elongated tail base is often coiled around a hold-fast. Pipefishes are elongated, snake-like bottom dwellers with heads that extend straight from their bodies, and have small tail fins, both are slow swimmers and masters of disguise!
Slowly getting over my mosquito illness, not something I wanted for Christmas!
Have a great day all!!
Dec 16, 14 Comments Off on Fish Faces, Stoplight Parrotfish, Sparisoma viride
Good morning all, I’m in recovery mode from my chikungunya but still a long ways a way from recovered! This horrible stuff cons you into thinking your felling better then knocks you back down, so much fun!
I am still chasing fish around every chance I get trying to get some new “face shots” but this has turned out to be one of the most difficult tasks ever! This parrotfish will go through three major color transformations with the above photo being his or her last and final color called the “Terminal Phase”. As a cute little juvenile they have three rows of widely spaced white spots that run the whole length of their bodies and have a mossy green head with a pinkish belly. As they get older they enter the “Initial Phase” and look nothing at all like the photo above, in fact most divers don’t even know the two fish are one and the same. In the initial phase the fish will have a beautiful red belly and tail and the rest of the fish is different colors of green looking almost camouflage, again it’s hard to believe they will go from this phase to what you see above. In their “Terminal Phase” (above) they are emerald green with salmon to yellow markings on head and fins with a crescent shaped tail.
We are having a quiet week, the Smithsonian is gone and the deep-divers have left, only a few runs later this week with the submersible.
Countdown to Christmas is on!
Dec 15, 14 Comments Off on Dicranodromia sp., Deep Sea Crabs, Carrier Crabs
Good morning all, I have another super-cool find compliments of our friends from the Smithsonian Institution and Substation Curacao for your viewing pleasure today. This is a small 2-inch crab (Dicranodromia sp.) they found at 982 feet walking around carrying a sponge on it’s back, how cool is that?? Because this little beauty has a soft shell and in general is without defense it needs to carry items like this piece of sponge on it’s back to keep it hidden from any and all would be predators. The sponge was held in place by an extra arm or claw that lays on his back, you can see it well in both the second and third photos. His or her little arms and antenna are covered in tiny hairs that are almost impossible to see under the naked eye. I’m guessing this crab carried this same piece of sponge around for a long time as the inside was perfectly molded to just his body, it was like a custom piece of foam molded just for him.
Feeling a little better today but that seems to change every three hours, such a weird illness.
Lots to catch up on today, can’t believe Christmas is only 10 days away??
See you soon..
Dec 12, 14 Comments Off on Hidden Reef Scorpionfish, Natural Camouflage
Hello all, most of you have already guessed, I am CRAZY sick!! And not just with a cold or a flu, I have joined the other 11,500 people on Curacao with an illness called…Chikungunya, one of the hands down worst bugs (no pun intended) I have ever had! This is a mosquito transmitted illness and because this is the rainy season it’s the price some of us pay for living in paradise!
I have a super hidden very camouflaged reef scorpionfish for your viewing pleasure today that we found a few weeks ago on our house reef in front of the Substation. This is the same scorpionfish that we found about a month ago at night that was so beautiful under blue-light but if you remember I only had a macro lens at the time and was only able to photograph his eye. We have been searching like crazy for this guy again (at night) but every time we are out looking for him we never can find him. These scorpionfish rely on the ability to blend in with their environments and have the patience to not move all day. Most divers never even see these fish, that’s how well they blend in. You can swim inches over them and they will not move which is also how many folks get stung by stepping on them, they didn’t get the nickname “stonefish” for nothing.
It’s back to bed for me, if you don’t hear from me it’s because I am still down!
Hope your holidays are going better than mine!
Dec 10, 14 Comments Off on Deep Juvenile Toadfish, Chaunax sp., Sea Toad
Good morning friends, I have a small, super beautiful, live 3-inch juvenile Toadfish/Sea Toad for you all today that was found at 810 feet by our friends from the Smithsonian Institution. On just about every deep-dive with the submersible (past 800 feet) we see at least one toadfish laying out in the open all by himself. They are usually partially buried in the sand or rubble just sitting there in complete darkness waiting for food to pass by. This is the first small one we have seen, usually they are quite larger up to a foot in length. If threatened this animal can fill it’s belly with water and become a floating ball making the animal very hard to eat! Once the threat has passed the animal will expel the water and go back to laying in the sand watching little fish pass by all day. He also has a “lure” in between his eyes that he can use to attract fish, once raised it looks like a little tree of sorts and is very effective. I added a second photo to better show you his “lure” which is in the lowered position. Yeah I know, talk about a face only a mother could love! You will also notice he is standing on his two super cool pelvic fins which he or she uses for standing and walking around, it’s like some spooky fish that escaped from Area 51.
Toadfish is the common name for the sluggish, bottom-feeding fishes of the genus Opsanus, found in the shallow waters from New Jersey to the Caribbean. Toadfishes feed almost entirely on crustaceans and small fishes. The head of a toadfish is broad and flat, with barbels and fleshy fringes, sharp gill covers, and spiny protrusions on the cheeks; the mouth is enormous and has many sharp teeth. The scaleless, slimy body tapers to a slender tail. Toadfishes grow to 1 ft (30 cm) in length. The eggs, sometimes laid in empty shells or tin cans, are guarded viciously by the male. The midshipmen (Porichthys species) of the same family are deepwater fishes of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with many small luminescent organs on the underside of the body. Other members of the family are found in tropical waters and have venomous spines. Toadfishes and their relatives are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Batrachoidiformes, family Batrachoididae.
Still sick as a dog but going to the doctor Saturday.
Dec 9, 14 Comments Off on Deep Sea Stars, Linckia nodosa Perrier
Good afternoon one and all, sorry about the late post but I have been in the deep-water labs all morning photographing a bunch of new specimens found by the Smithsonian Institution on their submersible dive yesterday. I spent the morning shooting a juvenile 4-inch toadfish found at around 800 feet, a beautiful hermit crab, two more slit-shells and this giant 12-inch tall sea star you see above. We think this is a Linckia nodosa Perrier but until we know for sure I will just say “don’t quote me on that”. Unlike brittle stars that are so fragile and can move so fast, this sea star is hard and moves super slow! I watched this thing for an hour and was amazed at not only how slowly it moved but how much suction those arms have, such an amazing creature! How deep was it found you ask?? Close to 750 feet!! Are you as amazed as I am that all this stuff is not only for the most part unknown but it’s so colorful and resides deep below the Earths surface? It hurts my head to think about all the creatures and fish that no no human will ever find, there is so much down there yet to be discovered and like they say…so little time!
Echinoderms are members of the phylum Echinodermata, from the Greek words for spiny skin. This group of marine animals lives only in salt water and includes sea lilies, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, sea urchins, and starfish. Though not all echinoderms actually have spiny skin, in most cases it does have a very rough texture, and some species also wield toxic spines as a defense mechanism. These complex invertebrates possess many distinctive features.
An adult echinoderm has a body made up of equal sections, usually five or a multiple of five, that surround a central point. In starfish and brittle stars, each of these sections is in the form of an arm-like appendage that points away from the center like a wheel spoke. Often each body section will house a duplicate set of internal organs.
Echinoderms possess the remarkable ability to regrow lost limbs or other body parts, even internal organs. When attacked, many will gradually regenerate a damaged or severed limb after the wound has closed up. Also, some species can use regeneration to reproduce by deliberately breaking themselves apart, after which each piece will grow into a whole new organism.
Still fighting my weird sickness, I feel good for a few hours and then WHAM” I get hit with it all over again, meaning sick to my stomach and my back starts hurting, so bizarre!
Two weeks till Christmas and we haven’t even put up our driftwood Christmas tree or any lights, talk about waiting till the last minute!
I have to run…
Dec 8, 14 Comments Off on Ocean Surgeonfish Aggregations, Acanthuridae
Good morning all, I hope your weekend was better than mine! First off, I came down with some kind of crazy, wacked out Curacao sickness about a week ago and it just seems to be getting worse! Not only did I miss the big extreme race this weekend that I have been training for all year, I had to spend the whole weekend in bed, not fun at all. My symptoms include a stomach that feels sick all the time, burping, back ache, headache and minor joint pain, any ideas out there? I had to come into work today to get some photos prepared for the Smithsonian group but after this note to you I am headed back home.
Last week our team found a beautiful pipefish at 560 feet and I spent friday in the lab photographing it, talk about a thing of beauty. As some of you know there is very little known about deep-sea pipefish and very little to no photos exist so again being the first to see a possible new species and photograph it is quite the honor. The pipefish was around 8 inches in length and I ended up shooting him in a sequence of 7 photos and stitching them together in Photoshop, not sure how I will be able to post a photo so long?
I have three photos for you today showing a common behavior in Surgeonfishes called Aggregations. We have three different surgeonfish here in Curacao, the Blue Tangs, the Ocean Surgeonfish (above) and Doctorfish all of which can be seen swimming in these large aggregations. The top photo shows our Ocean Surgeonfish swimming in a school, the second and third photo show them stopped picking at algae. They do this behavior non-stop all day, swim in a big school seconds later dive onto the reef and eat algae and they could care less about any divers watching and taking their photos.
We see these large groups called aggregations on the reef here every single day and I still never seem to get tired of it, they are just so beautiful. Adult surgeonfish have three social modes: territorial, wandering, and schooling. Territorial adults defend their home rage from other members of the species. Schooling adults are not aggressive. Wanderer adults are not aggressive nor do they interact with other individuals like schooling fish do. Wanderers are mostly chased by other fish including blue tangs and damselfishes. Occasionally, Blue Tangs will join in on the fun forming large multi-species aggregations with other surgeonfishes as seen above.
Blue tangs and ocean surgeonfish may benefit from forming schools for two reasons. First, individuals may experience lower rates of predation when feeding in large groups. Second, by feeding in groups, fish might be able to work together to overcome the territorial defenses of other fishes. For example, a single blue tang is easily chased away by an aggressive damselfish defending its territory. However, when a large school of blue tangs and their schoolmates try to feed on algae in a damselfish’s territory, there is little that the damselfish can do. When this occurs, the damselfish frantically, but ultimately fruitlessly, attempts to chase away their more numerous attackers while the school consumes all of the algae in their territories.
All three Surgeonfish species are active during the day, hiding in crevices on the reef at night to avoid predators.
I can hear Christmas music in the background playin on the radio, hard to believe it’s that time of year already!!??
Back to bed….