Free Frogfishes Book: Interview with Teresa Zubi

Mike Bartick
Mike Bartick interviews Teresa Zubi on her new FREE photo-filled book on Frogfishes

 

Free Frogfishes Book: Interview with Teresa Zubi


Mike Bartick interviews Teresa on her new Frogfishes PDF book

By Mike Bartick

 

hairy frogfish

 

 
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Teresa Zubi has just released a free PDF book for download, with photographs and details of 25 different frogfish species found in Southeast Asia, the Maldives and Red Sea. This is a must-have book for underwater photographers, but know that even though it's a free download, you commit to talking frogfish over a cold drink if you meet Teresa on a dive trip! Who would say no to that?!

 

Mike B:  In what year did you start working on the Frogfish book?

Teresa Z:  The book grew out of my website about frogfishes (www.frogfish.ch). First, I wrote a small booklet just for myself and a few frogfish enthusiasts. It listed the major species found in Southeast Asia with photos and small illustrations.

My friends liked the booklet and wanted more. Two of my diver friends basically sent me all their frogfish pictures and said, “Use what you need but write that book!” When added to my own pictures I now had a large stock of pictures with interesting frogfish behaviour like luring, mating, camouflage and colour change. At the same time I obtained photos of each of the 25 species I wanted to describe. So in 2010 I started out writing the book, first in German, and later translated into English.

Frogfishes are notoriously difficult to identify, so my book contains a section with an identification key for frogfish species, including photos of the lure and bait and the basic colour range of the six most well known species.

 

What makes Frogfishes so special?

As a diver it is always a challenge to find them. Then, when I actually find them I am always impressed with their excellent camouflage. It’s well worth spending some time observing a frogfish, because it often shows really interesting behaviour – they move the lure or they slowly position themselves over a hole in the sand or a crevice where fish like to swim into. Sometimes they yawn and if you are lucky you might even see them catching their prey or mating.

 

Where is the best place you have dived to find Frogfishes?

Indonesia, the Philippines and Borneo are definitely the best places! My all time favourite dive area is still Lembeh Strait in Northern Sulawesi. This is also the place where back in 1994 I saw my first frogfish, perching on the superstructure of the Malawi wreck in the middle of the strait. Frogfishes are often found on sand and rubble or perching on sponges, but not so often on coral reefs with hard corals. Once you find one in a certain place you have a good chance to find it there again on a later dive.

 

Do you have a favorite Frogfish?

I think that would be the Warty frogfish (A. maculatus) because of its cute face, incredibly good camouflage and interesting colours, or the Hairy frogfish (A. striatus) because of the way it walks around and flips his lure like a fat worm over its head. You find a good example of this behaviour in my book.

 

Why did you decide to release the book on the internet, free of charge?

Like any writer I would have liked to have my frogfish book printed, but I couldn’t find a publisher. I was really frustrated for a while and put the book aside for two years. My friends had been nagging me a lot during that time and tried to find publishing solutions (some very elaborate ideas, including printing it in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, then shipping to Switzerland, then sending it from there to the buyers around the world – really easy!).

Then I got myself an iPad and put the finished frogfish book on it. It felt great just to flip through the pages. At that point I decided that it was selfish to keep the book for myself and decided to publish it as a PDF for free (actually if you download the book you agree that if you meet me somewhere you invite me for a drink and frogfish-talk!!!)

 

Is there another book in the works?

No – though I have thought of putting together a frogfish book with species from Australia or one with species from the Caribbean.

 

 

DOWNLOAD FROGFISHES BOOK

English download of Frogfishes (Southeast Asia, Maldives, Red Sea)

 

 

About the Author

My name is Teresa Zuberbühler, but everybody in Switzerland calls me Zubi. I am a teacher and manage a day care center for primary school kids and children with special needs. I have always travelled a lot and am interested in foreign cultures and languages and whenever I have holidays I fly to Asia (mostly to Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia).

My passion for the last 20 years is diving and photography. In 1999 I started a website about diving in Southeast Asia (www.starfish.ch) with lots of maps and descriptions of dive sites. My website also has a huge collection of images of fishes and invertebrates and you can mail me for tips about how to identify the different critters.

 

 

Further Reading

 

 

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Diving the Oil Rigs: An Interview with Milton Love

Brent Durand
Dr. Love Shares his Experiences Diving Oil Rigs in Manned Submersibles

Diving the Oil Rigs: An Interview with Dr. Milton Love


Dr. Love Shares his Experiences Diving Oil Rigs in Manned Submersibles

By Brent Durand

 

Oil rig Eureka, located a few miles off the coast of Huntington Beach, CA. Photo: Michael Zeigler

 
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Dr. Milton Love is the authority on fishes of the Pacific Coast.  A research biologist at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Dr. Love has a long history with the dive community.  He has worked on various underwater films including Coral Reefs from Jean-Michel Cousteau Productions and the IMAX film The Living Sea, among numerous others.  Dr. Love is known to most divers and underwater photographers for his comprehensive (and humorous) book, Certainly More Than You Want to Know About The Fishes of the Pacific Coast.

So what about the oil rigs?  What kind of life do we see there and why are they so popular with scuba divers?  Dr. Love has spent countless hours manning submersibles on deep dives up and down the coast on a 16-year survey, building a vast knowledge of life flourishing in unlikely (and likely) places.  I was able to catch up with Dr. Love recently and get some insight into these experiences.

 

Dr. Milton Love is an expert on fishes of the Pacific Coast.

 

You grew up in Southern California and received your PHD at UCSB - what attracted you to the ocean in your early years?  Well, my dad took me fishing on the Malibu pier when I was about 6.  That was about it… I declared I was going to be a fish biologist soon after.

Did you ever expect to have the knowledge about fish that you do now?  I don’t think so.  If you include grad school, I’ve been in this business almost 40 years.  It just creeps up on you.

 

Vermilion rockfish on platform Gilda, shot from manned submersible. Photo: Donna Schroeder

 

You were surveying California oil rigs and platforms (via manned submersible) on a 16 year survey finishing in 2011.  What fishes do you generally see on the rigs?  Well, we didn’t dive the shallowest ones.  There are a couple that are in 50 feet of water off Huntington Beach, but if you look at all the rest, the majority of the fish are rockfish of various sorts.  In the shallower waters, like at Catalina, there’s garibaldi, sheephead, kelp bass, opaleye and fish like that, but once you get deeper than about 60-80 feet it’s mostly rockfishes.  There are 25 or 30 rockfish species, but you’ll also find lingcod and other fish.

 

The Delta submarine being prepared for a dive. Photo: Donna Schroeder

 

Did you ever see anything in deep water in the submersibles that really surprised you?  We would see big, unexpected things on almost every dive, both at the rigs and natural reefs.  It’s like a fairyland down there.  Just last year we were at a site beyond Anacapa Island in about 1200 feet and found all these Humboldt squid.  They’re about 4-5 feet long and one actually attacked the sub, grabbing it before spraying ink and taking off.  (read our story about a giant pacific octopus stealing a diver’s camera rig).

I guess it didn’t like the lights...  It didn’t like the lights or didn’t like the electromagnetic field of the submersible.  We’ve taken the sub everywhere from Alaska through California, and if you’re down there long enough you’ll see all kinds of trippy stuff.

 

Juvenile bocaccio deep at a southern California oil platform. Photo Donna Schroeder

 

So what makes the rigs such a great destination for fish, and in turn, for underwater photographers?  Well, the rigs are nothing but humongous reefs.  The fish and invertebrates don’t care what they’re made out of.  There’s just a lot of life - life that covers the entire water column.  If you’re a juvenile rockfish and you’re cruising around 10 feet below the surface looking for a place to settle out, you don’t care if you run into a rock or a piece of steal like a platform.  In those areas you’re much more likely to encounter a platform than a reef, so that’s the reason that the platforms tend to be really, really good nursing grounds for young fish.  The fish encounter them easily because they cover the entire water column.

The other thing is that platforms tend to be less fished than natural reefs, so they act a little bit like marine reserves and you tend to find bigger fish around the platforms.

 

California sea lions enjoy the waters around oil platforms. Photo: Ron Watkins

 

In addition to the resident fish population, is it likely to encounter pelagic species?  Oh yea, you can find yellow tail and bonita, sardines, jack mackerel, molas and even sea lions.  In the Gulf of Mexico you’ll see tunas.

Bluewater Photo has some rigs diving trips coming up, so we really appreciate the great info!  Of course.  Besides all the fish life, it’s the easiest wall dive you can make in California!

 

A diver explores oil rig Eureka. Photo: Todd Winner

 

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Milton Love’s book check it out: Certainly More Than You Want to Know About The Fishes of the Pacific Coast.

At time of publishing, spots available for Bluewater Photo’s Oil Rigs trip on April 7, 2013.

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, underwater photographer and editor with the Underwater Photography Guide. You can follow UWPG on Facebook, and also read Brent's article on Top 10 tips for fun beach diving.

 

 

Further Reading

 


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Featured Artist: Steve Rosenberg

Steve Rosenberg
Seasoned professional underwater photographer, Steven Rosenberg, shares his knowledge, and the success of ReefID.org.

Featured Artist: Steve Rosenberg

Seasoned professional shares his knowledge, and the success of ReefID.org

Photos and Text by Steve Rosenberg

 

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I got started in underwater photography in the early Seventies, when the fully manual Nikonos camera was state of the art. I started out by packaging images and articles for a myriad of dive related publications in the US and abroad. My first book assignment of a dive guide for northern California was contingent on being able to deliver a finished manuscript, together with images, literally in a six-week time frame. Fortunately, I had worked diligently on all aspects of my photography, putting together an extensive library of marine life, diver, and topside photos, and I had kept detailed notes on dive sites. I accepted the assignment for the first, of what was to be many fun and rewarding book assignments.

 

Juvenile loggerhead turtle trying to intimidate his reflection in my dome port.

 

The film days

At that time, all underwater photographers used film. When we traveled to exotic locations, we took packages of film that we had kept stored next to the frozen abalone in our freezers. Unless we were lucky enough to be on a liveaboard dive boat that offered E-6 processing for developing, we wouldn’t see any of our images until after we returned home. We didn’t have the luxury of digital review, unlimited shots, or Photoshop. When we found an interesting and cooperative subject, we bracketed exposures by taking 5 or 6 shots of that same subject using a series of consecutive F-Stops. That left us with a pretty good chance of getting 6 or 7 reasonably well exposed images out of the entire roll. Bottom line, if we got 6 slides out of every roll (and therefore from each dive) that were properly exposed and in focus, that was not only acceptable but time to pop the bubbly! Of course, we also had to address backscatter. Our only option was to learn how to position our strobes to minimize or avoid it in the first place.

 

 

My approach

Perhaps it was this background that has fostered my motivation to get the best possible image in the camera. I prefer to use manual control exposure. I usually start each dive and then each series of images by taking a few test shots to dial in my exposure. Even when I was teaching underwater photography in the Eighties, I stressed the old rule, “get down, get close, and shoot up.” This was good advice then and it is still good advice, especially for macro, close-ups, and portraits. Simply put, get down to approach and observe your subject on the same level. Get close to fill the frame, reduce the amount of water between the lens and the subject, and minimize problems with negative space, such as clutter and distracting objects. Shoot up to use water to simplify your background and add drama/impact to the image.

 

Coconut octopus in Lembeh.

 

Great advice

One thing I have observed about many photographers is that once they find their subject, they seem to be in a rush to get the picture taken and move on. There is certainly nothing wrong with concentrating on first getting a technically good image of a subject. My advice would be that this is only the first step. When I find a subject that catches my attention, I challenge myself to do something different. I think the interesting and fun part of underwater photography is to try to present your subject in an unusual way and push the aesthetic possibilities.  Take the time to look at the subject from a different perspective and maybe try adding character or personality traits. Play with lighting to give your shot a different look or dimension.

 

Do your homework

Another thing I try to do to give me an edge is to find out as much as I can about possible subjects before diving a site. This allows me to select the best lens for the dive and gives me some foresight on how to set up strobes. Tips on behavior also give me the opportunity to anticipate what a subject might do in certain situations.

 


ReefID.org

A number of years ago (about thirty actually), I was free diving in Ke’e Lagoon on the northeast shore of the Island of Kauai. I spotted a really unusual looking fish. It seemed to be sitting upright on the sandy bottom in a depression in a coral head, balancing on its pectoral fins. I was intrigued because I had never seen anything like it. I made a mental note of my observations and I remember describing it to the staff at the local dive shop as being reddish brown in color, about four inches long, having a solid dorsal fin that sloped downward toward its tail and the appearance of rocking side to side. All I got for my efforts was a quizzical look and a shrug of the shoulders. How cool would it have been if I could have pulled out my iPhone and Googled an identifier website and punched in fish, location, color, general body shape, and a description? I would have almost instantly known that I had not been hallucinating, but that I had just seen a Taenianotus triacanthus or red leaf scorpionfish.

Today this is becoming a reality. A couple of years ago, John Fifer, a friend and dive buddy, shared his visions for a new website called ReefID.org. It was apparent to me that the project would be a great identification resource for snorkelers, divers and anyone who had an inquisitive nature and a love for the ocean. From that date we have collaborated on the project. I agreed to populate the initial database with thousands of my images from a wide variety of destinations around the world. It was also obvious that the site would also be a great outlet for marine photographers of all experience levels, who wanted to have their images published. The site also provides a vehicle to allow everyone to share trip reports with friends and to contribute their own images of vertebrates and invertebrates to the burgeoning database.

 

Underwater photography equipment

I currently use a Nikon D300 in a Subal housing, with twin Sea & Sea 250 strobes. My favorite lenses include the Nikkor 60mm macro, the old style Nikkor 105mm macro, the Nikkor 12-24mm wide-angle lens, and the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.

 

More underwater photography by Steve Rosenberg

 

 

 

Caribbean reef shark was dutifully posing so I could change my shutter speed to get the light rays.

 

Wunderpuss swimming through the water column in Lembeh Straits.

 

My daughter, Shanon, posed vertically for an over-under shot in the Kasawari-Lembeh pool.  She won the trip by winning the Monterey Shoot-out photo competition on her third and fourth divies with a camera!

 

These mandarin fish were swimming vertically up to my waiting lens.

 

More about the author

Steve has been a professional underwater photographer and photojournalist since 1980. He has produced eight travel guides for dive destinations, including The Hawaiian Islands, Cozumel, The Turks & Caicos, The Galapagos Islands, The Bahamas and Northern California, and has written hundreds articles for various U.S. publications on dive destinations, underwater photography, and marine biology. He has also produced numerous coffee table books on various destinations. Thousands of his images have appeared in books, magazines, and posters, as well as on stamps, advertising, and art work worldwide. He has also won more than 250 awards for his photography in international competitions, including a First Place Award in the prestigious Han Hass Competition in Austria. He received the Scuba Schools International Platinum Pro Certification for 5000 dives in 1996 and has been diving since the late 1960’s. He is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Steve is a senior board member and contributing editor for ReefID.org.  He can be contacted at sgr@pacbell.net.

 

Further reading

 


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Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo and Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



 

Featured Artist: Joshua Lambus

Scott Gietler
Scott interviews this month's featured artist to gain insight into his success as an underwater photographer.

Featured Artist: Joshua Lambus

Underwater photographer shares what it takes to run a successful gallery

An interview by Scott Gietler

 

 
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During a recent trip to the island of Hawaii to photograph manta rays at night, Scott Gietler stepped into a local art gallery.  The sign over the door read, "J. Lambus Photography." 

Joshua Lambus was one of the pioneers of blackwater diving photography in Kona, Hawaii. He has logged over 400 blackwater dives to date, through leading guided dives for customers, as well as venturing out on his own. In blackwater diving, the boat drifts at night over water between 4,000 and 10,000 feet deep, while divers enjoy pelagic animals floating by.  A “sea anchor” helps slow the boat so divers are not dragged through the water too quickly.  More recently he has been concentrating on freediving, and other adrenaline-laced activities – in addition to running his gallery.

Scott's visit, and his conversation with Joshua, led to the interview below.

 

J. Lambus

Juvi Blenny.  Nikon D80, 60mm lens.  F16, 1/100th, ISO 320.

 

SG:  How did you start photographing pelagic inverts?

JL:  I was intrigued when I first heard the about the "Blackwater" dive. I had a few friends that were doing it but I had just started diving and didn't feel ready with only 100 dives under my belt. I began doing the Manta Ray night dive with some regularity and would often find myself more excited about what they were eating then the mantas themselves. Soon I realized I had to do it, and set out with a borrowed boat and 3 of my friends. The very first night I saw a Nautilus! I of course had no idea how to photograph this dive and didn't get a single picture, but just seeing it was all I needed. Soon it became a weekly thing. Then once a week wasn't enough. Along with diving off of our own borrowed boat, I applied to work at a local dive shop that did the "Blackwater" dive once a week as well. When I started working there, I pretty much took charge of the dive and started pushing it so that I could get out more often. Soon we were heading out into the dark on a bi-weekly basis, have been doing so ever since.

 

J. Lambus

 

SG:  What are the challenges in this type of photography?

JL:  Well the very nature of this dive is so different from others. Taking photographs during the dive is also about as different as it gets. The only way to practice for this dive is by doing this dive. Though I often say if you take a piece of aluminum foil and a piece of plastic wrap into your closet, turn out the lights and are able to photograph them together, in focus and both well exposed, you should be able to photograph blackwater. For the dive we head straight out a few miles, get over water that is thousands of feet deep, and jump in. It is a drift dive, in the open ocean, with tethers, at night. Keeping track of your buoyancy, while trying to stay righted in the current, and staying clear of tangling in the tethers, while trying to maintain your composure and fight off the vertigo, can be very difficult for some people. After doing this dive almost 400 times it still throws me for a loop from time to time. Not to mention the BIG animals we see out there. We've had Oceanics, Blues, Galapagos, Makos, Threshers and even big Marlin give us a spike in heart rate. Trying to track 3 Oceanic white-tips posturing at night with a focus light can be a bit disconcerting to say the least.  Ok, so that's just the diving. The next thing to consider is...focus. Does your camera focus well in low light? If not are you good at manual focus? Which is better? Next is lighting. Best positions for strobes? How do you light up your subject without lighting up the rest of the plankton around it?  Do you expose for the reflective part of your subject or the transparent part? How do you do both? How comfortable are you with knowing where the controls are on your camera? Because at night you can't see what you're doing, and you better have a good hold on that camera because if you drop it you don't get it back. Trust me.

 

National Geographic.  So I totally didn't know till one of my divers told me, but I made National Geographic Photo of the Day with this shot.  Pretty stoked.

 

SG:  What made you decide to open a gallery? Was it a big investment?

JL:  After getting numerous requests from museums, marine organizations, and magazines like National Geographic and Sport Diver, I figured people wanted to see my work. Kona is a small town, and that's why we like it, but along with that, it means there's not much in the way of higher culture. Not many live music shows, no operas, no ballets, and no MUSEUMS. I decided Kona needed something for people to "oooh and aahh" at. My mindset was that it didn't need to make money, but if it did, Great! I was stilling working two jobs when I first opened my doors. I was working as a divemaster and a lifeguard, putting in a minimum of 60 hours a week. Taking on the load of the gallery was no easy task. I was very fortunate that one of my very good friends, Chance, took the gallery into his own hands, manned it, and was ordering and selling prints while I worked on the water. Soon we out grew the first location and decided we needed a bigger spot, so we moved into a spot on the main strip here in Kona. The first spot was a pretty easy investment but the second one required a remodel of the space, as well as larger prints to fill the walls. Not to mention framing. I had never realized just how expensive framing prints was till I had to frame sixty of them!

 

Charlie Getting Devoured.  "This is only a very small part of the bait ball too... not only can you not see most of it in this photo, but another huge piece showed up and joined this one about 20 minutes into the dive. Back to my film addiction again. I love the grain and contrast. And how small the camera is! All of these bait ball photos were taken on film with a Nikonos V / 20mm sea&sea, while freediving (breath hold diving, no tanks).  Depths up to 70ft."

 

SG:  What are the challenges in opening your own gallery?

JL:  The biggest challenge is how to juggle still getting in the water and running both a storefront and an on location business.

 

 

Why I Dive.  Nikon D80, 60mm lens.  F40, 1/60th, ISO 320.

 

SG:  How was business been, who is your typical customer?

JL:  Well, business is business. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not. If you find one that's ALWAYS good, be sure to let me know. I typically sell to other divers. But a lot of people love to just come in and look at the images and imagine being underwater themselves.  One of the things that has helped me quite a bit is that I have a lot of diversity. I am only recently turned underwater photographer. I have my background in photographing people. Concerts were my main draw, but later modeling work and even portraiture. I began landscape work in my teens. Though I do sell prints, a lot of my business is commissioned work in studios, on location, for both individuals and publications, and also digital retouching and design. I also sell stock to a number of magazines and newspapers.

 

J. Lambus

Larval Ribbon Fish.  "A very rare fish to come across usually, I've only seen two in the many times I've done the blackwater dive.... but this night for whatever reason i saw 4 in one dive! Maybe a spawning of some sort - or maybe I ought to go buy a lottery ticket!  Anybody with any ideas on what the scientific name is, would be much appreciated."  Nikon D80.  F9, 1/100th, ISO 320.

 

SG:  What kind of photo projects have you been working on lately? Anything you can share with us? Anything you plan on adding to the gallery?

JL:  My latest venture is skydiving photography! I'm setting up my helmet camera using a Canon 60D. I couldn't use the 5D because it's too big in 200mph wind. Who knew? A whole new world of imaging to learn about! Can't wait. I'll always add to the gallery. As long as I keep shooting, I'll keep adding. Photography is the risk I'll always take.

 

Dolphin Gang.  "They look angry don't they?  Like scary intelligent torpedoes or something.... they were pretty friendly though, and I didn't get beat up.  Although I wasn't so sure I wouldn't right as I was taking this photo.  This was taken with my cheapest underwater camera - a 5MP Oly C-5000."  F4.5, 1/200th, ISO 80 @ 18mm.

 

SG:  What kind of camera gear are you using today to capture your awesome images?

JL: Camera: A black one.
Housing: One that doesn't leak.
Lenses: Fast ones.
Strobes: Bright ones.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that I'm no loyalist. Most of those shots I sent you were taken with a Nikon D80, but I shoot with a Nikonos V all the time, and occasionally even a Nikons III. Lately I've been shooting a Canon 5D MKII. Sometimes I've got Sea&Sea strobes on there, and sometimes old bulky SB's. I even had a couple of Ikelites but they just weren't bright enough for me. I usually buy third party lenses but I've been known to buy L series glass too. Some of my wide-angle stuff is old Olympus glass with adapters on them to fit my Canon and Nikon bodies. All manual focus and I'm stuck with my aperture, but some old Oly glass just can't be beat. I've been mostly freediving and shooting waves recently so my two favorite setups lately have been the Nikonos V for its compactness and depth ability, and a Canon 7D in the beautiful, entirely carbon fiber CMT underwater housing. Right now I'm diving a 5D MKII in a Subal Housing, but I think I might sell that and buy a new Ikelite and a Ferrari.

 

J. Lambus

Nikon D80.  F2.8, 1/125th, ISO 100.

 

 

Hippocampus fisheri.  F22, 1/100th, ISO 320, 60mm.

 

 

What in the Ocean!?  "Ok so I'm getting a little more knowledgeable as to what this thing actually is...an octopus of some kind.  I'm guessing a Tremoctopus male or something similar.  Those white filaments I've decided are cnidarian tentacles that it ripped off and is now using as defense. This guy was pretty tiny...maybe 4 inches in length from mantle to tip of longest tentacle. Any guesses?"  F9, 1/125, ISO 320.

 

 

One More for the Book.  F9, 1/80, ISO 320.

 

 

Next time you're in Kona, be sure to stop by Joshua's gallery!

 

About the artist

Joshua Lambus is a fine-art and underwater photographer from Houston, TX.  Now living in Hawaii, Joshua once focused on the candid emotion of people, but now finds an even greater muse in the ocean.

"I never cared much for modeling and posed portraiture, that wasn't alive to me. I liked seeing life, I love photographing life. After a shoot, I'd sit and look through my prints, I would see a world moving, shifting, living...dying.  This is what's always caught my attention. Now being underwater I'm inundated with stories, struggles, triumphs. Seeing our fragile ecosystem inch ever closer to the verge of destruction pushes me to continue my work, not only for artistic value, but for a far greater purpose. I hope to tell a story and ask for help for those without a voice"

 

Publisher's note on visiting Kona, Hawaii

The "Big Island" is a great place to visit. I highly suggest staying in Kona for diving, and staying a couple nights in Hilo for top-side nature activities. When I was in Kona, I did the black water dive with Jack's diving Locker, they call it "Pelagic Magic" - which I will be writing about soon. It was a very well-run operation, and the trip runs at a reasonable time in the evening. And of course, be sure to stop in Joshua's gallery and say hi! - Scott

Further reading

Featured Artist: Brandi E. Irwin Ultraviolet light

Brandi Irwin
Brandi Irwin gives us a peek into her world of underwater fluorescence photography.

Featured Artist: Brandi E. Irwin

Capturing the glowing ocean: UV light and fluorescence

By Brandi Irwin

 
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After modeling for many years in New York City, I decided to step behind the camera and combine photography with my love of the oceans; to capture unique images in unique situations.

 

Black...pitch black. This is a shooting environment that I especially love and where I find the most unique marine creatures. When other photographers are reviewing their pictures from a day of diving, I am found heading out with my team to shoot underwater under the cover of night.

 

Orange ball corallimorph with extended tentacles, photographed in Bonaire.  F4.5, 1/125, ISO 400, 60mm.

 

Underwater fluorescence

A special phenomenon that occurs among some marine creatures at night is fluorescence. Fluorescence is the absorption of one wavelength of light (e.g. ultraviolet), or color and the re-emission of another. Under low spectrum light, the object absorbs the light and re-emits a totally different fluorescent color, transforming it into a brightly glowing object. I soon discovered that very few professional underwater photographers have explored this phenomenon, so I wanted to be the first to focus on this specialty and share it with the public.

Fluorescence is not very well understood, even in the scientific community, so there is no playbook on finding subjects to shoot. Different marine creatures fluoresce under different spectrums, so experimentation here has been key. The ability to instantly see my shots using digital cameras has helped in finding and identifying subjects. Also, my team members scan the depths with filtered lights to locate additional subjects. As with any new skill-set, keeping good notes helps create reproducible images.

 

Ultraviolet light

Ultraviolet (UV) light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light. It is named because the spectrum consists of electromagnetic waves with frequencies higher than those that humans identify as the color violet. UV light is emitted by electric arcs and specialized lights such as black lights. It can cause chemical reactions, and causes many substances to glow or fluoresce.

 

 

Fluorescing brain coral. F8, 1/60, ISO 400, 60mm.

 

My underwater photography equipment

I shoot with a Nikon D300s in an Ikelite housing and two Ikelite strobes. However, shooting fluorescence involves either special (black) lights or special filters. There are a number of filters you can purchase online or from scientific optic companies. Through experimentation I found a combination of filters that gives the best results and even had to DIY the best way to attach them to my strobes. Difficulty didn't stop there, I also had to experiment with exposure as traditional camera settings don't often produce good results.

 

 

Pair of fluorescing young banded tube anemone. F8, 1/60, ISO 400, 60mm.

 

 

Bearded Fireworm. F8, 1/60, ISO 400, 60mm.

 

How I got started selling my underwater photography

Since this is an emerging area of photography and my images were distinctly different from others I've seen, we easily captured the attention of the public. To jumpstart the process though, I hired a publicist to help increase awareness of my gallery exhibits. I also contacted the New York Aquarium, showing them my unique images and how it can help increase interest with the public - now I have an exhibit opening there on August 5th, 2011. Marketing has been a work in progress as there has been no 'big break' (yet). The key I believe is in developing relationships with people that are co-beneficial and to focus on your uniqueness.

 

Fluorescing banded tube anemone. F8, 1/80, ISO 200, 60mm.

 

 

Great star coral. F5.6, 1/100, ISO 400, 60mm.

 

During this time I founded a photography company, Liquid Film Photography, to focus on extreme underwater imaging, including model and fashion shoots underwater. Together with a core team of photographers and videographers, we are following a fairly standard business strategy of both offline and online sales. In addition to our gallery prints for sale, we created a website to sell our images online and started a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter to build awareness and drive traffic. I am also kicking off a nationwide tour of exhibits of underwater photography.

 

About the author

Liquid Film Photography is currently based in New York City and Chicago. Not only do they specialize in shooting fluorescent marine life, Brandi Irwin also shoots models and fashion underwater, bands, and product studio/stock photography underwater. Brandi has an exhibit opening at the New York Aquarium August 5th running until August 31st, 2011, followed by an exhibit at the Oklahoma Aquarium.  More of Brandi's underwater photography can be seen at LiquidFilmPhotography.com.
 

 

Editor's Addition:  What you need to photograph underwater fluorescence

  1. Dive looking for interesting animals.

  2. Use a UV light to find animals that fluoresce.

  3. Take a photo with a filter on your strobes that blocks all light except "near UV" light (i.e. emits blue light).

  4. Have a filter on your housing or lens that blocks the "near UV" light. Hence - only the fluorescent light will hit your sensor!

 

Further reading

Featured Artist: Cynthia Hankins

Cynthia Hankins
Underwater photo artist Cynthia Hankins tells how she started selling her photos as a business.

Featured Artist: Cynthia Hankins

From Architecture to Underwater Photography

By Cynthia Hankins

 

 
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It all in started in 1997...

Cynthia Hankins

Spinner Dolphins dance in the sunrays

 

...because Kim was getting married.  My friend thought it would be great if the whole wedding party could do some diving while in Florida for the wedding and suggested we get certified before we got there.  Soon I found myself in an Open Water class at the Breakwater in Monterey, California.  The first minutes were really spooky as we descended into the cold, cloudy, green water and it wasn’t until I could see the bottom that I relaxed.  Suddenly I was fascinated by watching the sea grass and tubeworms swaying in the surge.  There was life and color down here, and I was hooked.

 

Cynthia Hankins

Baby Green Sea Turtle

 

Cynthia Hankins

Divers showered by bubbles from the San Francisco Maru during a decompression stop

 

I soon found friends who were really into diving, dive travel, and underwater photography. They would dive with their cameras and I would be the spotter.  Eventually I borrowed a Motor Marine II and tried my hand at capturing some of the fascinating creatures I was encountering.  I had never been a topside photographer, and underwater I developed a hatred for film!  So I set my sights on one of those new digital cameras and purchased a Canon G2 with an Ikelite housing.  Soon I was learning new techniques and refining my methods, instant gratification was my new friend and my shots improved with each dive.  I had a full time job with a commercial architectural firm and spent all of my vacation time on scuba travel trips all around the Caribbean.

 

Cynthia Hankins

Giant Trevally escorts a Tiger Shark

 

After every trip I was really frustrated about going back to my office to await the next vacation to dive warm, clear water and explore and discover new creatures.  Finally after a trip to Palau and Truk Lagoon, I wrote my resignation letter and started packing. I’d made a plan; I’d take a year off and move to Kona, Hawaii, where I could be in the water and dive full time and see how much I could improve my photography.  That was six years ago.  I love living here and though I’ve done thousands of dives here, I’m still finding new species that I’ve never encountered or combinations of species interacting or behaviors I’ve never witnessed.  As I improved my photographic skills, I began to sell prints to the dive charter guests at the dive shop where I was working.  Eventually I created a website and wanted to see how far I could take this.  I began doing a once a month craft/artist fair in downtown Kona as “marketing research."  I knew how people I’d been diving with would respond to my images, but what about the rest of the world?  I stood on the street and began to meet people and tell them the story behind the image.  I found that even if people hadn’t seen the particular critter in the image, they’d respond to the story and frequently buy the photo. Now I’m a regular on the art show circuit and can be found all around the island.

 

Cynthia Hankins

A newborn Humpback Whale rides on its mother's back

 

Cynthia Hankins

Hawaiian Day Octopus takes flight

 

Cynthia Hankins

A male and two female endemic Longfin Anthias

 

Cynthia Hankins

Two jacks explode through a school of Big Eyed Scad, known in Hawaii as Akule

 

Cynthia Hankins

A 40' Whale Shark departs

 

Cynthia Hankins

A Manta Ray glides past two Spotted Eagle Rays

 

When I was getting started, everyone told me it’s really difficult to make a living this way and that a lack of marketing is the usual cause for talented photographers’ failing.  It truly is the case. I’m constantly trying to find new markets and new images to produce.

My camera choice has always been Canon.  My current set up is a Canon 7d with an Ikelite housing and dual DS160 strobes, and my favorite lens is a Canon 10-22mm. 

 

Cynthia's underwater images can be found on her website at http://www.cynthiahankins.com/

 

Further Reading

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