2 weeks ago I was blessed with this rare encounter of a scenic landscape portrait of a nudibranch during midday. Generally too small to use anything but a macro lens on, this nudibranch offered a unique opportunity to capture some of the beautiful coral surroundings in the shot as well. Probably one of the very few times I’ll be able to pull off a wide angle of a #nudibranch! This Red Gilled Nembrotha (Nembrotha rutilans) was spotted off the island of Flores, #Indonesia on a dive with some spectacular visibility!
After 2 long and arduous attempts at diving “Ray Point” off Mobul Island solely in order to photograph a Pygmy Seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti), we finally managed these shots and it was truly a team effort.
Prior to arriving to SeaVentures (A converted Oil Rig in the Celebes Sea) we were blissfully unaware that innocently photographing these little guys has a tragic outcome. Turns out, they are exceedingly sensitive to flash photography and prone to going blind and dying if one isn’t careful. Several horror stories were recounted to us of divers having exceeded the Sea Horse’s tolerance and finding them hanging, dead or dying with their eyes having been “exploded” from the high energy flashes. Surely no one would intentionally harm these adorable fellas but not enough care is being taken by divers (In far more than just this respect) to be ecologically conscious while underwater.
So armed with this knowledge, Ash and myself limited ourselves to being able to take only 2 photos, good or bad. Our strobes were also turned down as much as possible along with our ISO being cranked up to reduce any retinal impact. It was by no means an easy task to photo a 1cm uncooperative creature in a current and actually get him in focus.
Like most Hippocampids, they have this REALLY annoying tendency to face away from the camera and move into the most awkward positions. And it’s not like you can go in like you can with a lizard and manually position his head — you just have to deal with the cards you’re dealt. To add insult to injury, he was on the side of the Sea Fan (Muricella sp.) facing the current which made it impossible to stabilize myself underwater. Ash ever so graciously then faced me, braced one hand against a rock and used the other to push me backwards, keeping me just steady enough to land these shots. I wish someone would have photographed us doing this but just trust me, it was sufficiently awkward looking!
3 weeks of 3-4 dives a day has me itching to get back into the forest, so I’m reminiscing of a chance encounter we had with one of my biggest targets in Thailand: The Mangrove Catsnake (Boiga dendrophila).
This little guy was found while scouring Khao Sok National Park, Thailand for the (in?)famous Corpse Flower (Rafflesia kerrii). While this isn’t the largest species of Rafflesia, it sure was impressively huge, and fortunately for us it was also the last bloom of the season. I was kinda bummed as the namesake corpse smell is only present in the morning and this was only finally found in the late afternoon. Good thing for us, Borneo is quite famous for these too, so first objective here after our last dives tomorrow is to get a good whiff of one.
Despite the dry conditions, we were still able to manage a few neat finds on our recent road trip through Thailand. This Green Vine Snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) was found sleeping in a low branch one night near the Burma border in Erawan National Park.
Searching for Vine Snakes at night is the easiest way to spot them as they tend to sleep at the end of branches, in a somewhat conspicuous manner. Seeing a green snake bundle in a sea of green leaves can be difficult, but once you get used to it, the act can be repeated several times a night. Photographing them at night does present challenges for artistic expression though, unless one has the time to rig an overly-elaborate flash setup. I always find it interesting though that during my travels and the educational talks that Ash and I provide for the locals, the general populace is pretty terrified of this cute little guy. They falsely believe that because of its head shape (Which slightly resembles that of a viper) that it can deliver a deadly bite. Luckily for them, the bites are generally entirely benign unless gnawed on sufficiently. Even then they can inject only a weak venom that will cause mild local irritation in rare cases.
After finishing our 7 day liveaboard through the Surin and Similan islands in the Andaman Sea, I’m glad to say that we knocked off a few bucket list animals. This Yellow-lipped sea krait (Laticauda colubrina) was my first encounter scuba diving with sea snakes and I was actually more excited to see this than anything else on the trip which includes Whale Sharks and Mantas. Call me crazy but I am enthralled with the idea of marine reptiles, especially snakes.
What a marvelous feat of evolution for these terrestrial creatures to have carved out a niche for themselves in a seemingly foreign and hostile environment. Still needing to come ashore to nest and drink fresh water, these snakes spend the vast majority of their lives hunting, sleeping, and mating under the waves of the worlds tropical oceans.
This particular snake is one of the most iconic of the sea snakes but there are 62 recognized species that occupy anything from mangroves, estuaries, reefs, and even the open ocean. The Yellow Lipped Sea Kraits famously come ashore in the state of Sabah, Borneo (Where I happen to be right now) so I’m very much looking forward to more opportunities to photograph these guys and hopefully have some more time to get some standout shots.
And a quick fun-fact: Though extremely venomous they rarely show hostility towards divers and carry on with their daily activities without being hindered by our presence. It is often said it is safe to be around them due to their mouths being too small to physically bite a human. This is, in reality, a blatant fallacy as there are several bite cases per year from fisherman removing them from nets. Nonetheless it was far less nerve-wracking to photograph this Elapid than most.
Turns out a seemingly difficult task of spotting Asian Elephants in the jungles of Thailand is not as difficult as one might think. At both Kaeng Krachan National Park and Khao Yai National Park elephants abound! A
For the first time in years, I actually spent some time sight-seeing around a city like a regular tourist! Amazing, I know. Luckily, and unluckily we were in HCMC for Tet, the lunar New Year. This meant a lot of parties and fireworks but made traveling around very difficult. Most people get between 3 and 10 days off for Tet so most businesses close and all prices are doubled. Still, we enjoyed ourselves and took a different caliber of photographs to share with all of you. Hope you like them!
Here is the petition to end plastic bag use on Bali. If they receive 1 million supporters all plastic bags will be banned on the island. Share this!!!
Who here wants to go do some exotic traveling this June and in the process, get some highly-desired radio-tracking and field biology experience — and at the same time learn how to take better photos? Caesar Rahman, myself, and Ash Wiscovitch are organizing such an event based out of Lawachara National Park in Northeastern Bangladesh and we still have room for a few more participants.
Caesar Rahman is the founder of the Bangladesh Python Project. This project is a first of its kind in Bangladesh, with an aim to save the endangered Burmese Python and Elongated Tortoise from disappearing altogether. Ash Wisco and I are both involved with the Python Project as well and are also professional photographers. We will be assisting the group with the radio tracking and field work but also will be giving professional photo workshops to whomever desires them. Get real hands on experience and unlimited time with 2 wildlife photographers for 2 weeks!
$1,700USD covers 15 days of accommodations, transportation, fresh water, and all meals. Plan to fly in to the Dhaka airport and spend the next 8 days within Lawachara NP. For those 8 days you would be assisting in the radio-tracking of several adult Burmese Pythons and Elongated Tortoises through the jungles of Southeast Asia. It’s going to be hot and muddy but trust me, it’s worth it! Gain valuable skills needed for competitive field biology jobs by performing radio-tracking, morphometric measurements, animal ID, GPS logging, and more. Walk away with being a “certified radio-tracker” and gain all the real world experience of performing real science in a remote jungle of a safe and exotic country.
After we finish up in Lawachara we are planning to take several day trips over the course of 3 days to local wetlands and waterfalls, and then finish up with 3 days in the famous Sundarban Mangroves! If you haven’t heard of these, look them up. They are truly one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. During that leg of the trip we would be living on a boat performing visual surveys for Royal Bengal Tigers, hornbills, deer, wild pigs, monkeys, and of course herps! And don’t scoff, there’s actually a very real chance that you will indeed see a wild tiger! Along with hosting the densest population of Tigers within Bangladesh, this is also the last stronghold for the Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska) which was presumed functionally extinct, until recently, when a batch of juveniles were discovered there.
If all that talk of pythons and tigers didn’t scare you off then please send me an EMAIL. Include a little bit about yourself, any previous experience, and any questions you may have concerning the trip and we can go from there. Hope to hear from some of you soon! And as a teaser, here’s a few shots from my last trip to Lawachara in July of last year:
I’ve been traveling for the last 3 months through Latin America and then in Southeast Asia. Here’s a small percentage of the awesome shot opportunities I was lucky enough to experience