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 the ‘Coral Reefs’
Feb 9, 17 Comments Off on The Last Brain Coral, Bonaire Corals, Dying Reefs
Good morning all, you can ask any seasoned diver who has been to Bonaire or the Caribbean in the past 10 years “what did you think about the reef on your last dive” and they will all say, “it’s not the same reef as we remember”. Due to years of massive tropical storms, overfishing, dragging nets and anchors, trash and runoff from shore our poor coral reefs are disappearing right before our very eyes and there is little we can do to stop it. On my last trip to Bonaire a few weeks ago I spent more time underwater shooting dying or dead corals than I did photographing fish or coral reef scenes, I must say it’s very alarming. I found colony after colony of wiped out endangered Staghorn coral and only a few brain corals like this one in the shallows, 14 years ago they were quite abundant.
I’m keeping busy these days working on the truckload of photos I shot for the Smithsonian a few weeks ago, I need to get a ton of shots ready in case they need to use them for promotion or science.
Hope you all are doing well ..
Nov 7, 16 Comments Off on Damselfish Garden, Endangered Staghorn Corals
Good morning all, how was your weekend out there?? I pretty much just laid around feeling tired after doing an 80k mountain bike ride Friday with the Dutch Navy and Army guys and gals, talk about an “in shape” group of people! We started at 7:00am from the airport and rode a giant loop that took around four hours and half of it was through mud and water sometime up to a meter deep! Sounds fun right??
I have a new “coral problem” for you all today that I found last Thursday out on our house reef. See the little damselfish in the middle of the coral head? He did this damage on purpose to this beautiful endangered Staghorn coral, it’s called a Damselfish Garden. My friend Nick who is a coral expert explains below just what your looking at, it’s very interesting so read on. Nick writes, the story with the damselfish is that they find a bit of coral they like and peck off the living coral tissue. The exposed skeleton becomes overgrown with algae that the damsel fish like to eat. The fish defend these little farm territories so aggressively that they will even chase off larger herbivores like parrotfish that would quickly clear away the algae (I have definitely had them bite my fingers while working with the corals & once had one hit me right between the eyes good thing I had a facemask on). Apparently with the decline of larger predatory fish on reefs worldwide, these little guys have become much more abundant and can be a real threat to reef health. The photo you took is a great example, where you have what appears to be a perfectly healthy coral missing tissue only on that patch at the top where there is a thick mat of green algae growing on the white skeleton. All the green moss you see is where the little fish destroyed the living coral, there is only around 50% or less of the live coral left. Most of you out there already know how crazy endangered this coral already is, so if the fisherman’s anchors and coral bleaching doesn’t kill it, these little fish will, all due to overfishing and having no big fish left to eat the little fish, so sad!
Lots going on today, I have to get moving…
Nov 2, 16 Comments Off on Coral Reef Scene, Sea Fan, Shipwreck Point
Good morning all, yes I know, long time!! Well, we have lots going on these days, we had the Smithsonian here for two solid weeks and that kept me busy around the clock plus we are crazy busy getting our house packed and ready to leave Curacao. I had to fly to Miami last week for one day to get us a car and put it in storage and then race back here the same day, that was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I’m still riding a lot trying to maintain my 100 miles a week but the weather has been really horrible! We have had 100 degree days for almost the whole month of October, combine that with little to no wind and it makes life a living hell. I did a reef dive yesterday with my trusty 16mm and went in search of new coral reef scenes like you see above. The water has been so clear these past few weeks making the diving some of the best we have had all year, it’s like swimming in an aquarium.
Sorry so short, just checking in…
Sep 26, 16 Comments Off on Underwater Blue-Light Photos, Giant Star Corals
I have a few new macro blue-light shots for your viewing pleasure that Aimee and I found late at night on the Sea Aquarium house reef. This whole blue-light thing is still proving to be a major challenge because of not having much light to work with. By that I mean not only are you underwater in the darkness but now instead of having white lights to see and focus with I now have a dark blue light to see and focus with, which is major difficult! I used my macro 105 lens for the above close-up shots of these beautiful large cup star corals and every colony is a different color. My other major obstacle is if you put too much light on these corals all at once or for too long the polyps will close and you would not see the pinks and purples, it would just be green. This is a work in progress, I will keep trying…
Have a great day!
Sep 23, 16 Comments Off on Siderastrea siderea, Starlet Corals Spawning
Good morning friends, last night was the first of three nights of coral spawning for the month of September. I completely missed the August spawning but never the less this month is usually always the best. Like every year 7 days after the full moon corals around the world all release eggs and sperm into the water column in hopes of growing new corals and insuring it’s species will survive. The downside for me is the time in which this all happens, I mean I am usually fast asleep by the time this event is just starting. Aimee went with me last night but only for shore support and to help me get my giant camera in and out of the water, it’s impossible for me to do alone as it’s so cumbersome and heavy. I jumped in at 9:30 by myself and off I went in search of any possible star-corals that might spawn but ended up finding everything but those. I went in hopes of doing some blue-light photos but after not finding what I was looking for I kind of gave up. The coolest thing I found was millions of brittle stars out spawning laying all over the reef at around 9:45 but because I had the blue-light set-up and brittle stars don’t fluoresce I ended up with nothing but memories and swam back in early. I told Aimee about the brittle stars and she said lets just take all the blue-light stuff off your camera and get you back out there to shoot those, what a great idea as I still had 2000 psi left in my tank. By the time I got back out to the reef (only 10-15) minutes had passed, every single brittle star was gone?? You really can’t imagine my total disappointment! The up side to this second dive was now all the Starlet corals were spawning and really going crazy (above photos). This is again something you have to see in person to believe, every single Starlet corals was pumping out sperm and eggs, so much in fact I had to do an emergency accent as I couldn’t see the hand in front of my face and ended up getting lost! Once I surfaced I saw shore and took a bearing, then went back under and made a bee-line for home but first taking as many shots as I could of all this spawning madness. Aimee and I are headed out again tonight, this should be a much better night, wish us luck!
We had no internet here yesterday so I wasn’t able to do much, this is Curacao…
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 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 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…
Jul 15, 16 Comments Off on Pillar Corals, Coral Reef Scene, Coral Reef Photo
Good morning readers, it’s almost weekend time!
Today I have an insane colony of Pillar Corals for your viewing pleasure that I shoot on yesterdays dive. The conditions yesterday were close to perfect which is so import for those of use taking expensive electronics underwater and hoping to capture something beautiful. When I saw this from a distance it was like the heavens opened up and guided me to it and once there it was glowing with an almost spiritual light, it was really one of those dives I will never forget! Not sure if you can tell from the small photo but there are fish everywhere, this is what a healthy coral reef should look like, all I can say is “Wowzers”!
Pillar coral forms an encrusted base from which grow vertical cylindrical, round-ended columns. This coral can grow to a height of 3 m (10 ft) with pillars more than 10 cm (4 in) wide but is usually much smaller than this. The corallites from which the polyps protrude are smaller than 1 cm (0.4 in) in diameter and arranged in shallow meandering valleys with low ridges in between. The skeleton of the coral is not usually visible because the polyps are typically extended during the daytime, unlike most other coral species. The mass of undulating tentacles gives the coral a furry appearance. This coral is usually some shade of beige or brown.
Pillar coral is a zooxanthellate species, with symbiotic dinoflagellate algae living within the tissues. In sunlight these undergo photosynthesis and most of the organic compounds they produce are transferred to their host, while they make use of the coral’s nitrogenous wastes. These algae give the coral its brownish color and restrict it to living in shallow water into which the sunlight can penetrate.
Pillar coral is a slow-growing, long-lived species. A number of columns grow up from a basal plate; if the whole colony is dislodged and topples over, new cylindrical pillars can grow vertically from the fallen coral. Some specimens have been found where this has happened more than once, and the history of the colony can be deduced from its shape. If a pillar gets detached and becomes lodged in a suitable position, it can continue to live, sending up new pillars from the base and other parts of the column.
Each pillar coral clonal colony is either male or female. Sexual reproduction takes place with gametes being released into the water column where fertilisation takes place. The larvae that hatch out of the eggs are planktonic and drift with the currents before settling on the seabed to found new colonies.
I was out trying to get some new shots of our pet iguana but he is getting more and more shy, I guess that’s a good thing, it may keep him alive longer.
Have a wonderful weekend…
Jul 13, 16 Comments Off on Coral Reef Photo, Live, Healthy Corals, Soft Corals
Hey gang, I have a BEAUTIFUL coral reef scene for you all today that I took in around 25 feet of water in front of the Sea Aquarium or Shipwreck Point as it’s known around here. This is a mixture of soft and hard corals with the centerpiece being the soft coral gorgonian surrounded by the orange fire corals on the right and massive colonies of starlet corals on the left and in the middle. This is a great example of what a healthy coral reef should like and I pray it stays this way even though scientists are predicting warmer seas here later in the year which could end up bleaching everything.
Lots to as usual.
Jul 12, 16 Comments Off on Curacao Corals, Healthy Corals, Living Corals
Good morning all, I had a fabulous dive out in front of the Sea Aquarium yesterday and for once the seas had calmed down and the visibility was insane! My mission was to photograph as many healthy corals as I possible could in one dive using my trusty 16mm lens. The reason for this out of the blue dive was there are predictions that Curacao like other countries this year will experience warmer seas than normal creating another round of “possible” coral bleaching. So just in case this horrible event is headed our way I wanted to shoot as many live corals as I could before they become bleached later in the year, kind of a before and after scenario if you will. After an hour and a half I ended up shooting around 200 photos and was very impressed by the shape of the reef and how great the corals are looking, I pray we don’t get hit with another round of warm water like we had a few years back, that was horrible!
How are things going out there?? I haven’t heard from many of you in a long time, guessing it’s just summer keeping you all busy!
Have a great day!
Jun 28, 16 Comments Off on Smashed Yellow Pencil Corals, Coral Damage
Good evening all, what a day!! I went with the Sirenas sponge group to Fuik Bay today (aboard a Boston whaler) and photographed some new sponges in shallow water that were attached to mangrove roots, talk about a fun adventure, I’ll post a photo tomorrow.
Your photo today is a giant colony of Yellow Pencil corals that just got destroyed by a careless fisherman tossing his anchor overboard onto these fragile corals, what a major disaster! Below is an older photo from last year of the exact same colony before it got destroyed, what a difference….
Sorry so short, have a great evening…
May 31, 16 Comments Off on Underwater Blue Light Photos/Images
Good morning from way down South!! I have a new Blue-Light collage for you all today that we (Aimee and I) shot a few weeks ago with Stijn at a dive-site called Tugboat. This has turned out to be one of the hands down best spots in Curacao for finding cool stuff with the blue-lights. Not only do you have the pier to search under which is a blast in itself, you have the tugboat, huge concrete pilings, a sandy bottom filled with tons of giant anemones, glowing goatfish and lizardfish and beautiful coral heads just about everywhere you look. I have been trying to get all of us over there again for another dive but with all the cycling I am doing right now there just doesn’t seem to be enough time. Remember if you go night diving here there are no lights at all and no security, don’t leave anything of value in your cars! The last time I went I took my homeless guy (his name is Erik) with us to stay with the car while we went diving, this worked really well.
I have to get moving, be safe out there…
May 24, 16 Comments Off on Laughing Chewbacca Mask Lady (Full Video)
Good morning friends, I was super busy yesterday diving with the sub and had no time to post the blog so I’m getting it done now. I did end up doing the 63k East to West race this weekend and it was awesome!! This is about a 40 mile race from one end of our island to the other and I did it in a little over 2 hours, is that crazy or what?? I managed to hold 6th position for around 35 miles and then got passed by riders who went the wrong way and didn’t do the trails they were supposed to, so I ended up finishing around 10th overall, not bad for an old guy!! Below is a link my buddy Hans sent me of the course we did and the times, I never in a million years would have guessed I could have done this in the time I did, I’m still shocked! The course was mostly rough two-track jeep roads that span alongside our whole north coast, the scenery was beautiful!
Also, I’m sure most of you have seen this but if not take 4 minutes out of your busy life and turn up the volume, this clip has been seen over 101 million times in the past few days, I laughed so hard I cried, it’s fantastic!!
Have a great day out there….
Apr 21, 16 Comments Off on Underwater Blue-Light Photos, UV Photos
Good morning friends, we had another super fun blue-light diving adventure under the pier at Caracasbaai last night and didn’t end up getting back till around 10:30, that’s late for me! Our evening started out with our clutch quickly going out on the car and after the dive we just barely made it back home, thankfully Stijn followed us the whole way. Aimee and I left the house at around 7:30 with all the dive gear and met Stijn at the tugboat dive-site at around 7:45. The whole area was completely deserted last night (pitch black) and we had major doubts about leaving our cars there unattended in the dark. As we were unloading our stuff we found out that there is a security guy and his dog that stay in the little house there at the pier and he will watch your stuff for a few guilders, that could not have worked out better. I think we got in the water around 8:15 and managed to hang out under the pier for close to an hour and although the water was cold there was a ton of cool stuff to look at. One of the first things we found was a juvenile inch and a half long Goatfish laying in the sand waiting out the long night, talk about brave little things. If anyone out there wants to photograph fireworms under blue-light this is the place, we saw them everywhere we looked in every shape and color you can imagine, they are so beautiful! The second photo is a close-up of some tiny star corals with open polyps, they look just like a field of glowing flowers. The bottom photo shows an ultra tiny quarter inch long blenny or goby with glowing orange eyes that we found hiding from the night in the grooves of a brain coral, talk about cool! I tried and tried to shoot some new orange cup corals but not one of them came out sharp, I may have to start using a tripod or find some way to keep the camera more still, it’s for sure a tough form of photography. A big thanks to Stijn again for helping me get the monster camera in and out of the water and following us home, I’ll take friends like him all day long!
Hope you all doing well, have a great day!!