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 August, 2016
Aug 26, 16 Comments Off on Dominican Slit-Shells, Dominican Sea Shells
Good morning friends, I have two rare, deep-sea slit-shells for you all today that were found a few months ago by our crew on the island of Dominica. These were found with our submersible called the “Curasub” at depths ranging from 350 to 600 feet.
Here’s a small note from a pleurotomariid expert that wrote in this morning… “the bright colors in some shells and animals from deep water are astonishing…but don’t forget that yellow and red/pink colorations are the first to be filtered out by the light (wavelengths) reaching those depths….and thus are a kind of hiding colors in these depths for predators …..there’s also a hypothesis that particular color pigments present in the encrusting sponges, which form the mean diet in most slit-shell species, are incorporated into the outer prismatic layers during shell development (and those yellow and red encrusting sponges are found around the same habitat where adansonianus lives, in the same depth cline).”
These are the shallowest occurring and most commonly collected pleurotomariids in the Western Atlantic with a range that extends from Bermuda to Southern Brazil. Slit Shells of this species live at depths of 180 feet to 700 feet so it’s safe to say that not many folks will ever see one while out diving! In the rest of the Western Atlantic, there are three species of pleurotomariids that co-occur in any given area, but they are not sympatric as they occur at different depths. It’s safe to say that most shell collectors will cry when they see this, these shells are a thing of beauty! Once again I find myself asking why is everything so colorful at such deep depths?? I mean it’s really dark down there, why are fish and shells so colorful?? We are one of the first companies ever to not only find these in their natural habitat but we are also able to study them and find out how they live and what they eat plus photographing them in their natural surroundings. On any given sub dive with Substation Curacao you have a very good chance of seeing a Slit Shell in person, so come on over and see us for a ride you won’t soon forget.
I am off to the sea…
Aug 25, 16 Comments Off on Sea/Ocean Plastic, Micro-Plastics, Sea Pollution
Good morning all, as you can see Curacao just got hit with another major wave of floating ocean plastics!! This was caused after a week of strong winds and big waves bringing large amounts of trash to the shores of countless Caribbean islands, not just here. From my observations of looking through pile after pile of trash I noticed that this plastic and wood has been out to sea a long time and I bet your wondering how I came up with that?? Well, almost everything I found was covered in live barnacles meaning it was out floating in the open sea a long time. The big question now is; how in the world can this be cleaned up! I must say it’s enough to keep you up at night if you could see this mess in person, I personally felt very helpless just looking at it last night and even made a failed attempt to clean some of it up. I will for sure go back and do my best to attack some of it because for me doing nothing is for sure not the answer, right??
Hope all is well out there, getting packed for our three day trip to Bonaire next week, I will be taking photos non-stop!
See you soon…
Aug 24, 16 Comments Off on Caribbean Reef Octopus on Top of Star Coral
Hi gang, I have an extra beautiful Caribbean reef squid clinging to a colony of mountainous star coral for you all today that I found late at night on our house reef.
The Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus) is a coral reef marine animal. It has eight long arms that vary in length and diameter. The mantle is large and chunky in comparison (up to 60 cm long). This species is difficult to describe because it changes color and texture to blend into its surroundings, using specialised skin cells known as chromatophores. Its color range is very large; it can change from crimson to green, and bumpy to smooth. It weighs around 3.3 lb or 1.5 kg.
The Caribbean reef octopus lives in warm waters around coral reef environments and grassy and rocky sea beds. Their biogeographic regions are as follows: the Nearctic region, Neotropical region (Central and South America), oceanic islands and the Pacific Ocean.
The Caribbean reef octopus lives in hidden, rocky lairs that are difficult to locate. Their lairs are usually created in shallow warm waters. O. briareus is not a social animal, and stays at a safe distance from other octopuses of the same species, except for mating. If faced with a predator, a Caribbean reef octopus, like most other octopuses, sucks up a volume of water then expels it quickly in the form of a jet to propel itself away. To further deter predators, it can eject ink to mask its escape. This octopus does not live in its lair for its entire life; instead, it moves often except when caring for eggs or young.
Aimee and I might fly over to Bonaire next week to photograph our sea-glass collection for a possible book idea we have in mind so be aware if you don’t hear from us for a few days that is where we are. I know your asking why fly to Bonaire to do this when we have beaches here?? Well, our Curacao beaches face north and south and in Bonaire it’s east and west making it perfect for photos any time during the day.
Have a wonderful day all!!
Aug 22, 16 Comments Off on Blue-Light Photo Taken with a Tripod Underwater
Good morning friends, last week I did my first underwater blue-light photo with a tripod and I know most of you are wondering why?? These rare, endangered Staghorns don’t glow as brightly under blue-light like the star corals or brain corals making it almost impossible to get a shot with my normal camera and flashes. So I took out a heavy tripod weighted down with dive weights and just my camera in the housing (no flashes) and set it up underwater and did a 30 second exposure. During the 30 seconds (while the shutter is open) I’m painting the corals so to speak with two hand-held blue lights to achieve the desired brightness and depth of field you see above. If any of you are wanting to do this make sure you have a super heavy tripod, avoid nights with surge or current and use your timer, I hope to get better at this down the road. The hardest thing I found to do was to carry out all the stuff needed for this shot by myself, next time I will get some help, that was not a pretty sight.
So how was your weekend?? Mine was so busy and today I am paying the price with a sore lower back. Saturday after taking all the dogs to Saint Joris bay at 5:30am I helped my neighbor move truckloads of boxes out of an old apartment and into a smaller one, this consumed most of the day and was not fun at all! Yesterday I left the house at 6:00am and rode my mountain bike back out to Saint Joris and along the north coast getting home three hours later, that’s around 30 miles. Then after eating I loaded the bike onto the car and went back out to Saint Joris AGAIN and did another hour and a half of riding and taking photos of plastic washed ashore from the past week of high winds and monster waves. I had a good week of riding with around 85 miles, that’s a long ways on a mountain bike.
Not sure if I told you but we found a box along the road with 6 new born kittens and of course we took them home. Aimee found homes for three of them already, we just have three left, any takers out there???
That’s about it for me, what are you all up to??
Have a great Monday…
Aug 18, 16 Comments Off on Dolphins in the Open Ocean, Dolphin Academy
Hi all, it’s finally friday!! We had a busy week at Substation meaning I just can’t find time for blogging but am still able to do my Tweet. If you do have Twitter and want to find me and follow that page check me out @SquidLover3 it’s for sure a much faster way of blogging.
So as some of you already know Dolphin Academy is taking their dolphins out onto the reef and leading by boat to the reef in front of Substation and in front of Mambo beach everyday at around 2:00. This is Caiyo doing a behavior called a Cannonball out in the open ocean with the mega pier and Punda in the background. When I say open ocean I mean there are no nets, no fences, no barriers, no nothing, just open ocean and the dolphins can do what they want, it’s quite the sight to behold. During this 15 minute excursion the dolphins stop out in front of Mambo beach for hundreds of tourists on the beach to observe, that is if they are observant enough to notice what is going on?? Most days I have observed tourists grabbing their fins and mask and swimming out into the sea to try and get a better view but if they get to close the boat will just lead the dolphins away from the people, I mean really folks have a little respect out there.. Any ways, I am enjoying the free show and will continue to try and get some new shots, maybe Aimee can do an open ocean rocket ride for us??
Have a wonderful weekend..
Aug 16, 16 Comments Off on Two French Angelfish, Large, Colorful Reef-Fish
Hi all, we had such a crazy day here yesterday…. I was in the water three times with our submersible and went home completely wiped out. For me it’s not the three dives that is so tiring but the running around in-between dives doing photoshop and getting my gear and camera ready to go for the next run, the day goes by super fast!
These are two of my buddies that live on our reef and are usually out there to greet us each day showing very little fear and a whole lot of curiosity!
Sorry so short, I am headed out to photograph some rare Elkhorn corals, I will talk to you later..
Aug 15, 16 Comments Off on Queen Angelfish, Colorful Reef Fish, Angelfish
Good morning friends, we have a busy day on tap and I was already underwater once this morning. I often tell folks that some fish can be spotted from a long ways away as is the case with todays photo showing a very colorful Queen angelfish. I spotted this beauty while photographing the submersible which was quite a distance from the reef out in the deep blue. Once finished with our customers I turned around and in seconds re-spotted our little Queen and slowly dove down to his or her level and took this shot from from around 15 feet away. As I have said for years to those of you listening, these Queen angels are scared of their own shadows and can be very difficult to approach and chasing them is just a plain waste of your time and air! There have been only a few cooperative Queens that I can even remember in the past 12 years and those are some of the best shots I have in my collection.
So how was your weekend?? I spent countless hours watching the olympics and found myself on the edge of my seat more than once watching our US ladies gymnastic team, good grief those girls are talented!! I missed the mens 100 meter race last night but pretty much know who won, I am betting on BOLT!
Have a great day out there, i have to get back in the water soon…
Aug 12, 16 Comments Off on Blue Light Coral Photo, Bluelight Brain Coral
Good morning friends, I have a glowing section of brain coral for you all this morning as seen under blue light late at night. Most of the coral are very fluorescent especially the mountainous star corals and these brain corals come in at a solid second place. When we are out there at night with our blue-lights you can see these corals glowing from a long ways a way making it very easy to decide which one will be photographed first.
Fluorescence is the name for the absorption of light at one wavelength and its re-emission at another wavelength. What that boils down to is that some things will glow when you shine the right light on them. The right light’ can be different for different targets. We are most used to seeing fluorescence produced by ultraviolet light, often called black light because we humans can’t see it.
Fluorescence is kind of magical, especially at night and underwater. You point one light at a target and a totally different color comes out. One of the characteristics of fluorescence is the intense, highly saturated colors. We are used to seeing things illuminated by white light, which contains all the colors of the spectrum. When something fluoresces it usually emits only a narrow range of colors, making it appear like a pure color. There are fluorescent items around you all the time. Highlighter pens, orange traffic cones and safety vests, and bright plastics for children’s toys are just a few examples of the way fluorescence is used. The fluorescence of these products is what makes them appear especially bright.
Have a wonderful day….
Aug 11, 16 Comments Off on Green Iguana, Curacao Reptiles & Animals
Good morning folks, our resident green iguana (above) is MIA, we haven’t seen him now for two day?? We are thinking he may have been harassed by kids and either was chased away or jumped into the sea and swam away to safety, either way we sure hope he is alright. I took this shot above two days ago just after feeding him and that was the last we have seen him?
Yesterday was super busy with submersible runs and today is looking like the same, I will be in and out of the water all day. I am planning on doing a bike ride tonight as well if I have the energy, I guess time will tell.
Not much else going on, we sure wish it would rain again, the little bit of green we got from the last downpour is quickly disappearing…
See you soon.
Aug 9, 16 Comments Off on Endangered Elkhorn Corals, Healthy Corals
Hi friends, we had a dive with the submersible early this morning so I was running around getting my gear ready and looking for our pet iguana at the same time. I did find our iguana but he was pretty far away from his normal spot so I encouraged him to go back to his area by gently herding him across some rocks and across our Substation patio, he wasn’t so happy about that. Once he found his home area I took him out a nice pile of fruit in hopes of making up for having to herd him back home, I think it worked.
I have a beautiful, and I mean beautiful, outcrop or colony of rare, endangered Elkhart coral for you all today that I shot a few weeks ago on a very calm and clear day. As many of you already know this coral grows only in shallow water so you can imagine all the problems associated with that. Like, storms knocking it over, shallow water becomes warm and kills it, runoff from storms, plastics, pollution, divers and snorkelers and on and on, it’s tough to be a coral in this day and age!
Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) is considered to be one of the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean. This species is structurally complex with many large branches. The coral structure resembles that of elk antlers. These branches create habitats for many other reef species, such as lobsters, parrot-fish, snapper shrimps and other reef fish. Elkhorn coral colonies are incredibly fast-growing, with an average growth rate of 5 to 10 cm (2.0 to 3.9 in) per year and can eventually grow up to 3.7 m (12 ft) in diameter. The color of this coral species ranges from brown to a yellowish-brown as a result of the symbiotic zooxanthellae living inside the tissue of this coral species. Zooxanthellae are a type of algae which photosynthesize to provide the coral with nutrients. The zooxanthellae are also capable of removing waste products from the coral. Historically, the majority of elkhorn coral reproduction has occurred asexually; this occurs when a branch of the coral breaks off and attaches to the substrate, forming a new colony, known as fragmentation. The degree to which local stands reproduce by fragmentation varies across the Caribbean, but on average, 50% of colonies are the result of fragmentation rather than sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction occurs once a year in August or September when coral colonies release millions of gametes by broadcast spawning.
Have a great day!!
Aug 8, 16 Comments Off on Endangered Staghorn Corals under Blue-Light
Good morning friends, how was your weekend??? I went for a quick night dive on friday with my blue-light set-up and went out only to find and photograph these rare, endangered Staghorn corals that you see above. Aimee went with me but didn’t get in the water, she only helped me get in and out of the water. The camera set-up I use is so big combined with three flashes making it almost impossible to enter and exit by myself, I think it weighs about 20 pounds!! This is the first time I have ever photographed these rare corals because the areas I usually dive with blue-light doesn’t have them. I jumped in the water at around 8:00 and swam directly out to the corals and found a safe place to lay in the sand to take this photo. To my surprise these corals unlike many others (like the brain corals and star corals) were not very fluorescent and I had a very hard time getting enough light on them, even with three flashes. Because of this problem I thought “why not take out a tripod and do a long exposure??” So that’s what I’m working on here at the shop this morning, I’m getting a big, heavy tripod ready to take down and do a re-shoot, I will let you know how it goes.
I did get in a short two hour bike ride yesterday with my neighbor but both of us have been too busy to stay in shape and cried the whole way, yep grown men do cry!
Have a wonderful week…
Aug 5, 16 Comments Off on Endangered Corals, Endangered Staghorn Corals
Good morning friends, I’m back in Curacao after a week of dining like a King and driving around Miami, it was fun while it lasted. I must say I was surprised to find so many Spanish speaking folks in Miami, at one point when I was at Walmart I thought I was back in Mexico and really felt out of place, kind of like I do here in Curacao. I can now that we are all going to have to learn Spanish if we are to exist in the States any more, I had a hard time just ordering a coffee and food at Dunkin Donuts.
I have an old colony of rare, endangered Staghorn coral for you today that has new growth popping out over the old colony. What I find interesting about this is, I thought it was all dead because the last time I saw this colony it looked brown and black and was all covered in moss, amazing how it found a way to hold on and now has all this new growth.
The dominant mode of reproduction for staghorn corals is asexual, with new colonies forming when branches break off a colony and reattach to the substrate. This life history trait allows rapid population recovery from physical disturbances such as storms. However, it makes recovery from disease or bleaching episodes (where entire colonies or even entire stands are killed) very difficult.
Sexual reproduction is via broadcast spawning of gametes into the water column once each year in August or September. Individual colonies are both male and female (simultaneous hermaphrodites) and will release millions of gametes. The coral larvae (planula) live in the plankton for several days until finding a suitable area to settle; unfortunately, very few larvae survive to settle and metamorphose into new colonies. The preponderance of asexual reproduction in this species raises the possibility that genetic diversity in the remnant populations may be very low. These uncertainties as to recruitment/recovery potential and genetic status are the bases for increased demographic concerns for this species.
Since 1980, populations have collapsed throughout their range from disease outbreaks (primarily White band disease), with losses compounded locally by hurricanes, increased predation, bleaching, and other factors. This species is also particularly susceptible to damage from sedimentation and sensitive to temperature and salinity variation. Populations have declined by up to 98% throughout the range, and localized extirpations have occurred.
Have a great day..
Aug 2, 16 Comments Off on Whitespotted Filefish, Filefish, Odd Shaped Fish
Good morning friends, still in Miami but will be back in Curacao tomorrow. I will for sure miss all these wonderful US comforts like the food, not seeing any trash and the kindness I have found everywhere I have been, it has been a fast but fun little trip. We sent all our personal belongings to Miami in a 20 foot container about a month ago in preparation for moving back to the States sometime in the next year or so, this is one big/expensive thing we won’t have to worry about later. I’m staying in the Doral area here in Miami and folks it is beautiful! There has been on and off rain just about every day and last night we had some serious thunderstorms starting at midnight waking everyone up in Miami! I did drive out to the Everglades on Sunday which took around 5 hours but didn’t find much to do. There are air-boat tours just about every mile but other than that you can’t really go out for a hike because of all the alligators and snakes. I drove into some beautiful little remote lake areas but every 20 feet there was a “beware of alligators” sign so I did what any smart tourist would do, stayed in the car and just kept driving. I did find one area with a one mile boardwalk through the cypress tree swamps and it was so beautiful, that was the highlight of my trip. If I do this again I will for sure book a tour with a canoe or kayak company, that looked like the best way to see the Everglades, up close and personal.
I have a Whitespotted filefish for you all today, one of the coolest fish on the reef and usually found swimming around in pairs.
I have to return my rental car, see you soon…