Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last 12 years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest.
Archive for March, 2016
Mar 31, 16 Comments Off on Trumpetfish Shadowing Behavior w/Different Fish
Good morning from Curacao!
I have two photos for you today showing a behavior we see quite often called “Shadowing or Shadow Hunting”. This is a unique hunting technique that usually involves a trumpetfish (the long fish) slowly swimming behind or on top of a large herbivorous fish, using the larger fish as camouflage, then coiling its body into an s-shape and rapidly lunging at prey when an opportune moment to strike presents itself. Trumpetfish seem to select a shadowing fish based on color but this doesn’t always hold true as you can see from the photos above: red-brown trumpetfish tend to shadow brownish fish like grouper, blue-grey trumpetfish shadow schools of blue fish like blue tang, and occasionally even scuba divers.
Trumpetfish are carnivores that feed on fish and crustaceans. They are ambush predators so they rely on camouflage and stealth to allow them to get close to potential prey. They often assume a head down position among the branches of soft rods or sea whips and their bodies sway back and forth in the current with the flexible branches in an attempt to hide from their prey. This vertical posture allows them to blend in with sea pens, sea rods and pipe sponges, providing useful camouflage. Trumpetfish capture their prey by quickly opening their large mouth to create suction that pulls in their prey. Because they are capable of opening their mouths as wide as the diameter of their bodies, they are capable of capturing large prey.
Have a wonderful day and again please send some rain down here!!
Mar 30, 16 Comments Off on Glowing Giant Star Coral Polyps Under Blue-Light
Good morning from the super HOT Caribbean!! I have some wild, “open for business” glowing Giant Star Coral Polyps for you all today that I found the other night at around 70 feet. Each one of these single polyps is about half inch in size and what makes this photo really cool is they are all open! Why’s that so cool you ask when all coral polyps are open at night?? It’s because for once I got a photo of it! When polyps are open (usually at night) they are mega sensitive to light and will close in about 5-10 seconds and then re-open again later once they sense the darkness. So what yours truly has to do is spot these from a distance and swim in and take the picture very quickly and get out, it’s a case of “one shot one kill for sure”!! After this one shot they all closed up and didn’t re-open for around 15 minutes, way to long for me to stick around.
Lots to do, have a wonderful day!!
Mar 29, 16 Comments Off on Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus, Long fish
Good morning friends, did you all have a wonderful Easter vacation??? I had a four day holiday and was busy from sun-up till down-down every single day with watering my baby agaves, dog walks, diving and mountain biking, that seems to my World in a nutshell!! Stijn and I did fun night dive Sunday evening, he went in search of lionfish while I worked on more blue-light images. Near the end of the dive Stijn franticly signaled me to come over and help him with a seven foot long green moray eel that was wrapped around his lionfish bucket. These eels have such an incredible sense of smell, you think sharks can smell blood, heck I think eels can smell it even better! I ended up chasing him off with my light and using my fins to create a surge of sorts that he felt immediately.
I have a dark colored Trumpetfish for you all today pretending he is part of the gorgonian. This is one of the most common hiding/resting places for these long fish, if you don’t see them swimming around on the reef start looking inside the soft corals, this is home sweet home for them!!
Have a great day and please send some rain down here!!
Mar 24, 16 Comments Off on Underwater Blue Light Images Curacao/Bonaire
Good morning one and all, I suppose you have already figured out this is “Blue-Light Photo-Week” and today instead of one I have two glowing creatures for you!!! Stijn showed up last evening around 7:00 and by 7:30 we were underwater and on our way. The very first thing I spotted was a little 4-inch Bandtail Puffer hiding from the night in a massive pile of sea-weed. I first saw him or her with my white light and thought, “I wonder if he fluoresces under blue-light??” I quickly turned off the regular light and turned on the blue-light and almost screamed with joy underwater when I saw him under the UV light, is that amazing or what??? Stijn then noticed I had found something and swam over to my side and watched and helped light it up with his hand-held blue-light, what a cool little fish! After snapping a bunch of shots we put him back to bed and continued on our way finding glowing lizardfish and goatfish just about everywhere we looked (buried in the sand) but really nothing else, not even one scorpionfish?? At the half-way point Stijn signaled me to come have a look at this lobster he had just found, it was covered in glowing yellow spots and was on the move. I thought, “how hard could it be to photograph a lobster” but friends it was tough, I ended up chasing him all over the reef trying to get a good photo, he or she was not a big fan of our blue-lights! At one point near the end of our dive, Stijn ended up getting distracted by how many lionfish he was seeing and wondered why we left the spearguns in the shop?? I told him he can go back out friday and clean-up if he wants. For those of you wondering about my attraction with the blue-lights, I sell quite a few of these photos to dive magazines! Why, because it’s new and fun. Night diving is great but put on a pair of yellow glasses and grab a blue-light and you will never be the same, it’s a whole new World under there!!
I’m off tomorrow, have a great holiday weekend all, I’m sure you deserve it!!
Cheers from the Caribbean…
Mar 23, 16 Comments Off on Underwater Blue-Light Giant Hermit Crab Photo
Hello from one of the driest places on Earth!! I remember years ago before we moved here I had thought Curacao would be lush and green with waterfalls and streams but man-o-man were we ever wrong!! This place is lucky if it gets rain 10 times a year and right now it’s bone dry, even the cactus are suffering! During these droughts we see an increase in birds of prey like the American Kestrels and the Cara-Cara’s, for them this is easy hunting as there becomes less and less places to hide for the lizards and rabbits. I’m still taking out as much water and bird seed as I can carry to the desert every day and by early afternoon it is always gone.
I have yet another fun blue-light photo for you all today that I found right in front of our Substation lagoon. If you remember a few days ago I sent you the blue-light scorpionfish? Well, this Giant Hermit crab in his old crusty shell was just inches away from him to the left of this photo, I almost didn’t see it. It always amazes me that such a small crab can drag such a big shell around and I mean this old Queen conch shell is big and heavy! I was pretty astounded at how fluorescent these crabs are under the blue-light, I would have never guessed they would be yellow?? I think Stijn and I are headed out again tonight to explore the reef sometime after 7:00, we are still searching for something new and ultra beautiful!
I have to run, send us some rain if you can…
Mar 22, 16 Comments Off on Fish that Glow Under Ultraviolet Blue-Light
Good morning friends, I have a goatfish for you today that really glows under blue-light and stands out on the reef at night like a sore thumb! When we went to Tugboat Sunday night we found these guys and Lizardfish all over the sand, some were buried while others were swimming around apparently looking for food. I still have no idea why some fish are so fluorescent while others have no apparent reaction to the blue-lights at all but as you can see these goatfish are spectacular! Our goal for these blue-light dives is to continue to explore the reef and find anything and everything that glows, it’s such a fun adventure that has changed the way i now look at the reef forever.
Goatfishes are characterized by a pair of chin barbels, which contain chemosensory organs and are used to probe the sand or holes in the reef for food. Their bodies are deep and elongated, with forked tails and widely separated dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin has 6-8 spines; the second dorsal has one spine and 8-9 soft rays, shorter than anal fin. Spines in anal fin 1 or 2, with 5-8 soft rays. They have 22 vertebrae. Many goatfishes are brightly colored. The largest species, the dash-and-dot goatfish (Parupeneus barberinus), grows to 60 cm in length; most species are less than half this size. Within the family are six genera and about eighty-six species.
The dreaded Curacao winds are back, I sure did enjoy the week of calm water and no winds but I guess that is over now….
Have a wonderful day out there!
Mar 21, 16 Comments Off on Blue-Light Scorpionfish Photo, Ikelite UV
Good morning one and all, how was your weekend??? Mine was so busy that it would be impossible to re-cap everything I did in the last two days but here it is a nutshell. Saturday morning I took the dogs and picked up Syijn and we built a sweet new pallet climb over a section of sandy single track and it came out great, now everyone will be able to climb this horrible section. Then later in the day I left the house at 3:30 in the blazing heat and hurricane force winds and met Pere for a super fun ride to north coast and back. One of the first trails we did was the Secret Trail which Stijn and I worked on earlier and got to be one of the first up the new pallet climb, it was super fun. I ended up being on the bike for around three hours and by the time I got home I was done. Yesterday morning I went back to the Secret Trail with the dogs and did a major clean-up for those riders brave enough to ride this trail and in a few weeks we will shoot a movie for all you to see.
I spent a good part of yesterday getting ready for a blue-light night dive we did last night at Tugboat. I hired a security guard to watch our cars and invited Stijn to help search and even though the water was cold and the visibility wasn’t so great we still had a great time. I am once again getting in a bunch of ultraviolet blue-light dives and have found some amazing things lately! Above is a giant Scorpionfish I found friday night in front of the Substation lagoon, is he beautiful or what?? We also found glowing Goatfish and lizardfish and of course tons of beautiful anemones and corals, Tugboat could be my new favorite place for blue-light diving.
I have a ton to do, have a wonderful day….
Mar 18, 16 Comments Off on Pink Longsnout Seahorse on a Gorgonian
Good morning from Curacao. I get a lot of mails asking for more seahorse photos so like a good little diver, here you go! This little pink beauty was found at a dive spot called “Small Wall” and to this day is still one of my favorite spots to explore. This is normally a boat dive but for those of you willing to throw a little caution to the wind it can be done from shore, here’s how you do it. Drive to Directors Bay, set up your tanks and walk down to the beach and remember not to leave anything of value in your car as it most likely won’t be there when you return. From the beach head south-east (on your backs at the surface) following the curvature of the reef wall from Directors bay. Does that make any sense?? What we do is float on our backs putting our heads underwater every few minutes and follow the outline of the reef away from Directors Bay to the south-east, not towards tugboat which would be west. You will follow it for around 15 minutes south and then it will turn east, this is Small Wall and where you can submerge and enjoy the dive. This is a reef that doesn’t see a ton of divers so it’s kind of like a little east-point diving action. We always find seahorse’s here as there are so may little gorgonians and great places for them to hide, you will quickly see why this is a fantastic diving spot.
I had a great three hour mountain bike ride last evening with my friend Pere, boy can this kid ride!! Tomorrow my buddy Stijn and I are going to go make some trail improvements to the “Secret Trail” which is currently in horrible shape. I took a load of pallets out there already to use for one of the tough sand climbs that no one can make and where I crashed hard last week.
Doing another blue-light night dive tonight, will have something for you soon to show.
Have a wonderful weekend…
Mar 16, 16 Comments Off on Bandtail Puffer Camouflaged in Sand, Pufferfish
Hi all, off to a late start. I’m getting the underwater camera ready once again for another attempt at a blue-light dive and this time I do have the +4 filter screwed onto the front of the lens.
I have a little four inch Bandtail Puffer for your viewing pleasure today that I found buried in the sand on one of our many night dives. So many people ask me “what happens to the reef fish at night”? Well, from my observations each species does it’s own thing but for the most part they all find a safe place to hide. For instance the parrotfish sleep everywhere sometimes very hidden and sometimes right out in the open while wrasses and other fish wedge themselves deep down into the coral crevasses and fire corals. During the day these Bandtails swim around without a care in the World but at night they bury themselves like the lizardfish and flounders, pretty smart if you ask me.
Sphoeroides spengleri is widely distributed in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts (USA) southward to Santa Catarina (Brazil), including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, at depths ranging from very shallow waters to 45 meters. It is found in a variety of coastal and island habitats including reefs, seagrass beds and turbid waters with low visibility. Sphoeroides spengleri is considered common, however not abundant, as they are generally solitary fish and considered to be highly toxic.
I had a fun, very fast bike ride with my neighbor last night, it was only 10 miles but was a great way to end the day.
See you soon…
Mar 15, 16 Comments Off on Adult Spotted Trunkfish. Lactophrys bicaudalis
Hi all, we had a failed blue-light photo night dive due to yours truly forgetting to put the very important “+4 magnifying filter” over the the front of the 28-70 zoom lens, without this little piece of glass the lens can not focus underwater. We were about 10 minutes out last night when I realized something was wrong with the lens, I thought the auto-focus was just broken on the lens and never even realized it was the dumb little filter until this morning, what a drag! That’s kind of the down-side to blue-light photos, there is so much preparation and so much stuff one needs to carry to get good shots and it is for sure a two person job. Now a days when I see something I want to shoot Aimee will help light it up with a hand-held blue-light attached to a VEGA this way I can better see what I am shooting and the camera doesn’t have to work as hard trying to focus. Once we realized the mistake we called it a night and swam right back in, will try again tomorrow evening.
I have a super gentle, Spotted Trunkfish for you all today that we found a few years back under the pier at Caracas baai. I post pictures of the Smooth Trunkfish all the time and those are common and fairly un-shy but these are the complete opposite. We rarely see this species out free swimming like it’s cousin and doing it’s own thing, they just want to be left alone and watch the reef pass by from the safely of their little caves.
The Spotted Trunkfish is a member of the family Ostraciidae. It can be found in reefs throughout the Caribbean, as well as the south eastern Atlantic Ocean. The species gets its name from the black spots it has covered over its yellowish golden body.
The spotted trunkfish, like all trunkfish of the Genus Lactophrys, secretes a colorless toxin from glands on its skin when touched. The toxin is only dangerous when ingested, so there’s no immediate harm to divers. Predators however, as large as nurse sharks, can die as a result of eating a trunkfish.
Hope you all are well…
Mar 14, 16 Comments Off on Destroyed Clubtip Finger Corals, Anchor Damage
Good morning one and all, I have your weekly “how are the corals doing update” and once again the answer will be… NOT GOOD! The top photo shows a healthy area or colony of super delicate, Clubtip Finger Corals right here on the Sea Aquarium house reef and the two bottom photos show what happens to them when an anchor is dropped on them for an extended amount of time! Talk about total destruction!! Most of the time when anchors are dropped by the local fisherman they don’t just land on the reef and stay in one place, they move around and just keep destroying the corals as you see here and will eventually create a monster sized crater pulverizing the corals to dust, it’s so sad. What can be done you ask?? I wish I had the answer for you. We have tried in vain to ask the fisherman to not drop their anchors on the reef and supposedly there is a law but impossible to enforce. Many times we have called the Coast Guard and they will come over and make them pull the anchor up but the second they leave the anchors get dropped back in, how do you deal with that I ask?? I think I will personally print a bunch of these photos and hand them out to the fisherman so they can see for themselves what is going on underwater and why there is a law about anchors. Most of these coral colonies are hundreds of years old and are home to thousands of creatures and fish and in just seconds we destroy them??? Crazy I say!!!!
Had a great three hour ride yesterday with my new student Pere, we rode over to Coral Tabak and rode the Secret Trail where I fell over big time but was saved by landing on my camel back.
Hope you all are doing well, I think Aimee and I are doing a blue-light dive tonight so I need to get ready for that.
Mar 11, 16 Comments Off on Two Sharpnose Puffers, Caribbean Puffer Fish
Good morning friends, I bet your glad it’s friday!! I told you all yesterday about our wonderful little rain shower that helped all the nature and animals on this island get a much needed bath and drink, it was wonderful! I went riding last night with one of my students and we got stuck in some of the worst mud I have ever been in down around the salt pond, maybe even worse than last years extreme race! It was so bad we had to carry and push our bikes through it and then make a detour to the aquarium to rinse off, it was horrible!! Our mud here consists of 100% salt and bird poop, could be the smelliest stuff I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. Once our bikes were rinsed we continued our ride but found due to the rains everything was soft and difficult to ride on.
I have two super cute, male (on the right) and female Sharpnose Puffers for you all today that I found hanging out deep down inside a colony of sponges. From a distance it looked like some kind of pre-mating ritual as they gently swam around each other and the male gently kissed the female and if fish could talk they would have asked me for a little privacy!! These little puffers are only a few inches in length, they are super colorful with their neon striping and are by far some of the most gentle creatures on the reef, I really love them…
Have a great weekend out there.
Mar 10, 16 Comments Off on Spotted Moray Eel, Curacao Underwater Photos
Good morning all, guess what, it’s raining!!! It started last night at around 6:30 and lightly rained on and off most of the night, we are dancing in the streets! As most of you know I have been hauling water out lately around the clock to water our baby agave plants and we still had days left of work to do but now they are all safe!
Yesterday we got our electricity turned back on but that took all day and at around 5:00 we hauled all our food and sleeping stuff back home from the Substation, talk about the little things we all take for granted.
I got in one nice dive yesterday and once again the water was crystal clear. How many of you remember the coral bleaching photos I sent out to you years ago back when the reef was dying from warm seas?? Well yesterday I went out to find some of those old colonies I had photographed and re-shot them to show how they are doing now, wait till you see the difference, some are doing well while others are dead. While out exploring I ran into Mr. Grumpy (above) who is one of our resident five foot long Spotted Moray eels. These are by far the most aggressive of all our eels. They will take lionfish that we have caught and eat them one after another, they will follow divers and bite if they get to close and don’t seem to mind being out hunting during the day. Of all the eels we have on the reef this one I have the most respect for and it’s easy to see why the locals are so scared of these animals.
Lots to do, have a great all….
Mar 9, 16 Comments Off on Diving with Bottlenose Dolphins on the Reef
Good morning, Aimee here. I have a fun and wonderful photo of Tela and Serena on our open ocean dive yesterday. I have spent the last several months working on this with them and now we are all enjoying the “fruits of our labor”! Almost every day, before the sea gets too rough, we take them out for their boat following, on the reef just alongside Dolphin Academy. The idea is that every session we travel just a little bit further, getting them used to the area and letting them map out the reef in their memory. It is very similar to how you would explore a new neighborhood you just moved in to. Many times Tela, being a good momma, surveys the area, scanning out to the deep, and Serena gets to hang out and chase fish and explore the area with me. Tela is now 15 and if you remember from many years ago used to do this dive with her son, Pasku. Serena is almost 4 years old, and is not nearly so brave as Pasku, and until recently has not been bold enough to want to dive on the reef. Well, Serena has recently changed her mind and is now ready join in the fun. It is very exciting and we all love it. Lucky for me, yesterday Barry was available to dive and take some photos of my beautiful ladies.
We came home yesterday to find our power had been out all day and apparently won’t be turned back on until we go down to see what is going on. So we moved everything out of the fridge and freezer to Substation and spent the night there on the floor! This is just one of thousands of weird things one must adapt to if you want to live in the Curacao, we call it…dysfunctionally at it’s finest!
Have a great day!
Aimee, Tela and Serena
Mar 7, 16 Comments Off on Coral Reef Scene, Vertical Gorgonian Image
Good morning all, our winds have finally died and we are having some beautiful days with crystal clear water. I dove in yesterday at around 11:00 to check on the Elkhorn coral we found a few days ago with all the trash on it, we wanted to see if the area where the plastic was would heal or if it was for sure dead. At first look I had thought it was healing because it was a yellow color that matched the coral but with a closer inspection I could see it was now covered in algae meaning that small area where the plastic was is now dead. We are now wondering if this algae infection will spread to the rest of the colony, stay tuned because I will be keeping a close eye on it.
I have another beautiful reef scene for you all today that I took in an area we call the “gorgonian forest” located on the east end of the Sea Aquarium house reef.
Alcyonacea is an order of sessile colonial cnidarians found throughout the oceans of the world, especially in the tropics and subtropics. The name “Gorgonacea” is no longer considered valid and Alcyonacea is now the accepted name for the order. Gorgonians are also known as sea whips and sea fans and are similar to the sea pen, a soft coral. Gorgonians are closely related to coral. Individual tiny polyps form colonies that are normally erect, flattened, branching, and reminiscent of a fan. Others may be whiplike, bushy, or even encrusting. A colony can be several feet high and across but only a few inches thick. They may be brightly coloured, often purple, red, or yellow. Photosynthetic gorgonians can be successfully kept in captive reef aquariums. Gorgonians are classified in the phylum Cnidaria, class Anthozoa, alongside the orders Alcyonacea (soft corals) and Pennatulacea (sea pens). There are about 500 different species of gorgonians found in the oceans of the world, but the are particularly abundant in the shallow waters of the western Atlantic, including Florida, Bermuda, and the West Indies.
I’m doing a dolphin dive in a few minutes with Aimee out on the reef, I have to run…..
have a wonderful day!