Wakatobi: Nudibranchs

Nudibranchs are a photographers’ dream. For one, they come in so many different colours. Two, and more crucially, they are fairly stationary and do not shy from the camera. They are fantastic subjects for practising underwater photography on, such as this chromodoris (possibly a chromodoris willani).

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More colourful is the chromodoris magnifica. It looks as if it’s been invented by a kid drawing with a marker pen, with its bold colours and simple design.

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It also makes for stunning portraits, like this slightly pensive one.

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Making equally pensive photos is the chromodoris kuniei in solo.

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In a pair, though, they lose the pensiveness and from further away are surprisingly hard to spot with deep blue flecks on yellow and purple backgrounds.

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This last nudibranch I can’t seem to identify. Please tell me if you know. I like this photo a lot: it came out quite well even though the fella was in an awkward position in the shade. Naturally, I didn’t get a good shot and DC got a great one. His flash lit it up just enough to show the details and to keep some parts in slightly mysterious blur.

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This last specimen I think doesn’t belong to the nudibranch, or sea slug, family. Apparently it’s some kind of worm. Again, please say if you know what it is.

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Last, but definitely not least is my very favourite sea slug that sits atop DC’s head while diving. The cutest thing about it is that the gills of the nudibranch (the bit towards the back looking like a brush head) expel bubbles! It’s definitely not true to the original because I’d never seen a bubbling nudibranch before DC started wearing one on his head!

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Wakatobi: Getting in Close

Wakatobi is a great place for macro shots. If you have a good camera like DC, you could get right in on some of the creatures, including this warty frogfish. It looks uncannily like a bright yellow plastic toy covered in coral muck.

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It’s of course quite easy to get in close when it’s soft coral. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t run away, I like how the textures really show up when you go in closer. Check it out.

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With coral, sometimes you don’t have to go in too close. DC pointed out this barrel sponge which is typically round but this one was heart-shaped! How sweet!

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Other ways of getting in close include catching a fish unaware, like how DC did with this poor fella in a barrel sponge. It must’ve been so relieved to get away once he was done with the shot!

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Another way is to try getting in under the creature, like with this reef cuttlefish. It looks quite different from the bottom, with its blowhole clearly showing.

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Otherwise, just tackle it head on. The cuttlefish will definitely start its aggressive display, which is quite interesting to watch as it changes its colour and pattern, and lifts its tentacles threateningly like so.

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Another creature worth getting close to is the anemonefish. This Clark’s anemonefish peers out furtively from the stinging anemone…

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… while this clown anemonefish merely looks up in mock surprise, his smaller counterpart taking confidence in the protection of the anemone.

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Wakatobi: Pygmy Seahorses

One of the holy grails of diving is the pygmy seahorse. For some, simply seeing one is good enough, but for others, the coveted prize is a good close up picture of the little fella. For us, we only got halfway to our golden chalice: we got pictures alright, just really crappy ones. This common pygmy seahorse below is the most common and is generally easy to spot. If you can see it, look right in the centre of the photo for the slightly different shade of pinky-red against the rest of the sea fan. It is turning away in a huff, grumpily looking away from the camera.

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Then there’s the Denise pygmy seahorse, which lives on a slightly different type of sea fan. It’s more slender and less knobbly than its commoner relative.

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It also looks more pensive and on this trip, seemed much less standoffish.

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What really astonished us was a third kind of pygmy seahorse. On most trips, dive guides would speak of the common and the Denise with great awe, as if spotting a rare treasure whenever they find one. Here, our guide pointed out the Pontohi pygmy seahorse without much fuss and patiently helped anchor us while we went crazy firing off photo after photo of this rare find. The Pontohi mimics dead leaves of the Halimeda algae it hides in and bobs about with the current.

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Needless to say, it was highly infuriating trying to get a good shot. DC’s camera and camera skills were much better and he got these two pictures where you can make out its orange markings on the back and crown fairly well. In fact, he took all the pictures in this post because mine came out plain bad.

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Wakatobi: Colours of the Reef

One thing I love about diving is the surprising variety of colours to see. Closer to the surface at about 3 metres depth, the coral starts off rather pastelly and not particularly colourful. The fish are also somehow less colourful up here. Here’s where I admire the beautiful clear blue of the sea or observe the interesting textures of the coral.

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Then just slightly deeper and the colourful fish start popping out. It’s faintly surprising that entire schools of fish can be an intense electric blue with bronzed yellow fins.

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Alternatively, they could be bright magenta, standing out brilliantly against the sometimes drab coral.

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Then there are the slightly bigger and less colourful but no less flamboyant-looking pyramid butterflyfish. They somehow look like company logos swimming around in loose schools.

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There are also bigger fish that hold plenty of colour, like this pair of bright red crescent-tail bigeyes that stared miserably out at my camera. Their colourful background didn’t help lift their mood at all. How sad to have a permanently downturned mouth.

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One of the more cheerful looking fish is the aptly named fire dartfish, that stands out so prettily against the white sandy area it likes to live in.

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Against the more colourful coral background, there are the pictus blenny, looking incongruously like a yellow-tailed Homer Simpson, and the royal dottyback, showing off its magenta and bright yellow colouring.

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In the coral itself are Christmas tree worms, like this pretty yellow version.

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A real treat is to come across a whole range of colours on one piece of coral. Here, the worms are white-edged brown, bright pink, electric blue and yellow.

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Others living off the coral include this sea cucumber lined brightly in vermillion. Its stripes work well with its nobbly skin.

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My perennial favourites of bright orange clown anemonefish are another colourful highlight of diving. Here, a whole family looks up expectantly out of dusky pink-brown anemone.

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In blue-tinged green anemone, the very slightly purplish pink anemonefish looks out more dolefully.

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A much tinier fish, the translucent red whip coral goby lives on fiery red whip coral, shyly looking everywhere but the camera.

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Then at night slightly more colours come out. The blue on this scrawled filefish comes out decently against the reds of the coral.

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And the vermillion, brown and white of the twinspot lionfish come out dramatically against the slightly more muted coral.

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We had our own colours too. As a contrast from the usual black of neoprene wetsuits, DC and I went for red fins, which appeared purplish when deeper as the water absorbed the red light.

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And I decided more colour is always good, and wore my bright pink dolphin hood to match the colourful underwater life.

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More to come next post!