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Man in Rice Field

Bali Covid 19 Update

 

The Bali Covid 19 situation is one that is constantly in flux, much like every other part of the world. With many countries starting to open up, we thought it’s a great time to give you a Bali Covid 19 update.

Bali Covid 19 Update Veggies

Bali Covid 19 Update – The Numbers

Bali hasn’t had a large amount of positive cases throughout the world crisis. Indonesia itself closed its borders in late March, so not many people have arrived on the island since then. According to the latest updates filed by Jackie Pomeroy on her “Bali Covid 19 Updates” page “Bali has a cumulative total of 482 cases of Covid 19. There were 5 new recoveries yesterday, leaving 334 total recovered and one new death in Badung, bring us to 5 deaths from Covid-19.” That means there are less than 150 cases on an island of over 4 million people. Jackie Pomeroy’s page is absolutely the best place to read daily updates with real facts and free of the typical Facebook speculation. You should subscribe to the page if you have an interest in Bali and Indonesia as a whole.

As you can see, there are have not been many cases in Bali and most people are recovering. The death count is very low which is a positive sign. The vast majority of positive cases have come from Balinese working abroad and then returning home during the crisis. All of these workers are required to do quarantine, first in a government facility and then at home. Therefore, they are to a certain degree a controlled group of cases. As stated above, there have only been 5 deaths to date.

How is Bali Coping with Covid 19?

During the last 2 months, Bali has been under social distancing rules. The island has not been shut down and most people are free to travel to other areas in the island. Certain communities have put more strict rules in place but the south is relatively open. The beaches have been closed for the most part and activities such as diving and surfing have not been allowed. Residents have been advised to avoid all unnecessary movement and remain at home other than shopping. The vast majority of stores have remained open and restaurants and cafes have adapted to take out/delivery menus. There are no issues with food supply and there certainly has been no shortage on toilet paper. 🙂

However, as this is an island that has a great reliance on tourism, many people and businesses are suffering. A large percentage of those who work in the tourism industry have lost their jobs. With lost jobs comes a loss of income and savings, therefore a lot of people are hurting financially. Thankfully there are many charities and N.G.Os in the area doing good work collecting donations and handing out food island wide. If you are interested in donating to such a charity then Solemen Bali is a good choice.

Are Things Changing in Bali Due to Covid 19?

As the worldwide grip of Covid 19 seems to be easing, many countries are starting to open up. Europe will allow tourism from a limited number of countries. Indonesia is also starting to ease the rules a little. Domestic travel will start to open soon but with many restrictions in place. Negative Covid tests are required to board planes or arrive in a different regency or province. Some areas that are deemed “Covid Free” may open to domestic tourism first, while others remain closed. In any case, any area that opens will still require social distancing and masks worn in public.At this point in time we don’t know which areas will open and which will not. On a positive note, a few areas of Bali are opening up their beaches to more activity, we expect Sanur to follow soon. Hopefully diving will be open soon after that.

When Will Tourism Open Up?

Overseas tourism is still closed. Indonesia is not issuing tourist, social, or business visas at this time. Foreigners in possession of valid Kitas and Kitap permits are allowed in the country with the correct medical requirements and must undertake quarantine on arrival. We don’t know when this will change and we won’t speculate on dates. Suffice it to say that we will let you know as soon as there is information available. As this will impact our group travel and Bali trips this year, we are keeping a sharp eye on all developments.

What Can You Do to Help?

Mount AgungAs mentioned above, Solemen Bali is a good choice if you would like to donate to an organization helping provide food at the grassroots level. If you have visit a particular dive centre or hotel often, most will have some sort of fund that you can donate to help their staff.

Here at the Underwater Tribe, we have been keeping busy with our Live Shows 3 times per week. We have been interviewing prominent people in the conservation, diving, underwater photography, and science world and sharing on our Facebook and YouTube channels. We enjoy creating these great shows and sharing them with our audience each week. If you have not watched any yet, please head over to our YouTube channel to watch. If you would like to support our efforts in bring these to you each week, or to help us support our staff during this time we have set up PayPal and Credit Card links to “Buy Us as Coffee”.

Pygmy Seahorse Nalu

New Pygmy Seahorse – South Africa

New Pygmy Seahorse – Hippocampus nalu

Some very exciting news in the wire this week, a new species of pygmy seahorse! This brand new species, Hippocampus nalu, is native to the shallow waters of Sodwana Bay in South Africa. Why is this such big news?  This is the first pygmy seahorse living outside of the South East Asian/Coral Triangle region. Of the 7 other species of pygmies, 6 live in the Coral Triangle and 1 is endemic to Okinawa, Japan.

Pygmy Seahorse Nalu

The discovery of this new species is very exciting for fish enthusiasts. It means there are likely more species of this tiny critter throughout the Indian Ocean. Scuba divers of the Indian Ocean basin, be on the lookout for the next one!  According to one of the lead authors and researchers of the study, Dr Richard Smith: “This diminutive fish is the first of its kind to be discovered anywhere in the Indian Ocean, let alone Africa. Its closest relatives live more than 8,000km away in Southeast Asia.”

An excerpt from the Press Release:

“Researchers, Drs Louw Claassens and Richard Smith visited Sodwana Bay in search of the fish in October 2018. The reefs of Sodwana Bay are exposed to the powerful swells of the Indian Ocean, very unlike the sheltered coral reefs of Southeast Asia where the other pygmy seahorses are found. A pair of seahorses was finally found along a rocky reef at 15m depth, grasping on to fronds of microscopic algae, amidst raging surge. The divers nearly lost the seahorses when a large oceanic swell almost buried them underneath a storm of sand. On one dive, they even found a tiny juvenile measuring just a centimeter in length. Two of these, tail to snout, would only just stretch across a US Nickel coin.

The scientific name of the Sodwana pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus nalu, means “hereitis” in the local Xhosa and Zulu languages to highlight that the species was there all along until its discovery. It hints at the vast number of potential other undiscovered species that live in Africa’s oceans. Additionally, ‘nalu’, also means “surging surf, wave”in Hawaiian, reflecting the habitat it lives in. Finally, the scientific name also refers to the middle name of the person who discovered and first brought the species to the attention of the researchers: Savannah Nalu Olivier.”

Podcast Appearance

With the announcement of this exciting new species, we are happy to welcome one of the lead researchers Dr Richard Smith to our podcast.  Richard is a marine biologist who specialises in working with pygmy seahorses.  In fact, Richard’s PHD thesis is the first one focusing on these tiny, yet charismatic fish. Richard also has a fantastic new book “The World Beneath” about coral reefs and fish that can be found here.  Read more about our Live Show Podcasts on our Blog or subscribe to our YouTube and Facebook channels to be notified of upcoming guests.

Tongue Louse

Tongue Eating Louse – Photo of the Day

Tongue Eating Louse – Photo of the Day

Tongue Louse

What is the most disgusting thing you can think of? Maybe it’s eating something rotten, or smelling a rotting carcass along the highway?  Yes, both of these are pretty disgusting.  But I bet nature can come up with something even worse.  How about if a bizarre looking creature that was the size of your large toe decided to live in your mouth and replace your tongue!  Yes, it’s true, this is a real life thing!

The “tongue eating louse”, Cymothoa exigua enters it’s host fish through the gills as larvae. Once inside the fish it will attach itself to the tongue with it’s legs. Eventually the legs will cut off the blood flow and the tongue itself will wither and fall off. At this point, the parasite basically takes over the role of the tongue in the fish! Now how absolutely bizarre is that?!?

No Tongue No Problem for The Tongue Eating Louse

You are probably thinking to yourself, “now how in the heck does the poor clownfish survive?” Shockingly enough, although the whole idea of this parasite seems impossible, it doesn’t actually harm the host. The female louse is the one that attaches to the tongue and feeds on the mucus of the fish as well as blood from its host and bits of food the fish eats. Even though the parasite is large, it doesn’t block the fish from eating.  However, it’s often not just one parasite in the poor fish.  The smaller male louse can also live inside the fish and it will mate with the female right there in the mouth!  Of course this will lead to the birth of a brood of young parasites being born. Thankfully they will disperse out of the fish and into the water column.

Grossed Out Yet?

If the thought of these louse living inside a mouth isn’t bad enough, they are mostly found in Indonesia inside our favourite fish! For some reason, all kinds of anemone fish in many areas of Indonesia seem to host these parasites.  In the Lembeh Strait in particular, it seems every anemone has at least one fish with the tongue louse. The next time you go diving, look closely at different fish to see if you can spot one of these bizarre creatures! Here in Bali we have a large variety of anemones and anemone fish, please join us in Bali and we can help you find one!

 

 

 

Randall's Goby

Randall Snapping Shrimp – Goby Pair

Randall’s Snapping Shrimp – Goby Pair

Goby Shrimp

Black Ray Goby and Randall’s Snapping Shrimp

Our photo of the day is the Black Rayed Shrimp Goby along with the Randall Snapping Shrimp. We present this photo today as a shout out to one of the most prolific marine scientists of our time John “Jack” Randall. Jack Randall passed away last week at the age of 95. He was the most prolific ichthyologist of modern times naming more than 600 species of fish. He authored 11 books and was the mentor for many of today’s leading fish scientists.

Based mainly in Hawaii, Jack traveled the world in search of new species. He was a true pioneer along the lines of the great biologists of the past. We worked in the Caribbean during the early 1960s before moving to Hawaii. From the mid 6os he has made Hawaii his home with most of his work concentrated on the Indo Pacific.  If you are a diver, chances are you have seen a few species discovered by or named after Jack Randall.

Randall's Goby

Randall’s Goby, Amblyeleotris randalli

Rest in Peace Jack, you have truly left a legacy on this world during a life well lived.  As divers and underwater photographers we thank you for your irreplaceable contributions to marine biology.

 

Moray Eel Cleaning Station

Cleaning Stations – Keeping Clean Underwater

 

Moray Eel Cleaning Station

Cleaning stations, you have probably heard the term but perhaps you weren’t sure what it means? Have you ever wondered how marine life keeps clean? You would think that living in water 24 hours per day means you don’t get dirty, but is that true?  As many people know, there are many parasites and other contaminants in salt water. Many fish and marine mammals are affected by these parasites which can be real pests. Of course wonderful mother nature provides a way for animals to remove these annoying parasites. Through the wonder of evolution and specialization, many species of marine life have become special “cleaners”.

Cleaner Wrasse

Blue Stripe Cleaner Wrasse

What is a Cleaning Station?

A cleaning station is a particular coral head or portion of reef where “cleaners” live.  What exactly is a cleaner I hear you ask?  Cleaners come in a variety of species including shrimp, wrasse, butterfly fish, angel fish, and more!  Each of these has evolved to fill a particular niche.  Shrimp tend to live on coral heads and rocks in large groups and pick parasites off a variety of visitors such as eels and small to medium sized fish.  Larger animals such as manta rays and sharks will often visit large coral formations where a variety of small wrasse or butterfly fish live.  When it comes to sunfish, they prefer to visits a particular reef where very mobile fish like angel fish or banner fish will find them and fill the role of a cleaner.

Sunfish Cleaning Station

Sunfish being cleaned by banner fish

How Does it Work?

If you have ever seen a fish cleaning you know the drill. However, for those who have never witnessed this behaviour it’s pretty amazing to watch. Some of the most frequent visitors to cleaning stations are actually predators.  Upon a diver’s first encounter with an eel cleaning, many may think the poor innocent little cleaner fish is about to be eaten! Eels will open their mouth wide open and a fish or shrimp will dutifully pop into it’s mouth in order to clean the teeth. If you have not seen this behaviour before it looks like the eel is about to eat the cleaner! However, upon longer inspection the interaction can go on for a long time with no parties injured in the process. Sharks, barracuda, groupers and other large predators who are often in attendance at cleaning stations.  Seeing a shark “hovering” with it’s mouth wide open is quite a sight to see.

 

Manta Ray Cleaning Stations

Perhaps the most sought after cleaning experience for divers is to encounter manta rays at a dedicated cleaning station.  Many of the world’s premiere dives sites in such places as Yap, Indonesia, Palau, and the Maldives are cleaning stations.  It’s incredible to watch manta rays numbering from one to a dozen line up for a cleaning.  Cleaner wrasse, butterfly fish, and angel fish are some of the most common fish to clean these magnificent animals. It’s incredible to watch the interaction between the rays when they are in large numbers, there is definitely a social order between them. Most divers can spend hours watching these graceful rays perform acrobatics without boredom setting in.

If you have never encountered a cleaning station, this is something to watch out for on your next dive. When swimming past large rocks or coral heads, have a look for fish that seem to be acting a little strangely. This is a good sign they may have a shrimp or cleaner wrasse pulling at their teeth or skin.  Slowly move closer and give the marine life room to act naturally. Then settle in to watch nature in it’s most pure form. The Tulamben area in Bali is dotted with dozens of interesting cleaning stations, read a little more about Tulamben dive sites on our Bali Diving guide.

 

 

Two Strobes

Two Strobes Are Better Than One – Right?

Two Strobes Are Better Than One Right?  Right?

Two Strobes

A common question that we often hear in underwater photography circles is: “Do I need one strobe or two?” This is a great question and doesn’t actually have a proper answer. Our typical answer is that two strobes are always better than one, but they don’t both need to be turned on! In this short article we discuss the pros and cons of using either one strobe or two.

It’s Great to Have a Backup

Underwater strobes are not cheap, in fact, it’s usually one of the most expensive pieces of kit. Therefore, not everyone can afford to own one, never mind two. However, most people understand the importance of light and are eager to buy one. The first question you should ask yourself is: “What is my budget for a strobe?” If you have a large budget, then by all means buy two powerful strobes. However, if you’re on a budget then a good idea is to buy the most powerful single strobe you can afford, rather than 2 smaller ones. It’s better to have one powerful strobe and save for a second one, then it is to have two non powerful strobes.

This is especially true if you are interested in shooting wide angle. Why, you may ask? Because you will quickly discover the limitations of weak strobes when shooting wide angle. This will lead to frustration and the desire to sell them! Instead, make do with one and save for the second, you will never outgrow a powerful strobe. If your interests run more to macro, then two less powerful strobes is sufficient. Keep in mind though, if you do want to dive in places like Raja Ampat, two small strobes will not be able to cope with large reef scenes such as the photo below.

Banda Sea Raja Ampat Soft Coral Two Strobes

The best part about having two strobes is the fact you have a backup. If for some reason the batteries die or you have a flood, you still have one strobe to work with. Remember, just because you have two, doesn’t mean they both have to be turned on.


Do We Need Two Strobes?

One thing that I often note when teaching a photo class, is that everyone with two strobes wants to use them on the same power. This is a normal reaction, when you have two strobes you want to make the most of them! This is a great way to create nice, even light across the entire frame, on both wide angle and macro photos. But is it the be all and end all of photography? What if I was to tell you I only use 1 strobe for 80% of my macro photos? Most people won’t believe that. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a strobe if you aren’t going to use it? The answer is simple, it’s not about how much light you can put out but rather how you paint the  light onto the canvas.

Fang Blenny

One strobe from the left – throws shadow across the scene and doesn’t light up the background.

Fang Blenny

Two strobes – flat light and the background is lit, no real contrast.

Think about a photo with a black background. If I use two lights, one from the right and one from the left, I will light up everything in the frame. including the background. However, if I simply leave the strobes where they are and turn one off, I will cast a shadow on one side. This helps a lot when trying to accomplish macro photographs with a black background. Often we compose a fish or nudibranch facing the camera on a 45 degree angle. With one strobe on each side at equal settings we will end up with an evenly lit scene. However, if you turn off the strobe on the “non body side”, you can light the body of the fish and not light up everything behind it. This contrast will really help make the subject stand out.

Directional Lighting

Two Strobes Lighting

Two even strength strobes from left and right illuminate everything in the photo

One Strobe

One strobe from the right casts directional light onto the moray and doesn’t light up the reef behind

What we describe above is termed “directional lighting”. This basically means lighting our subject from one direction, instead of bathing the entire scene in light. The ever popular “snoot” photo is a great example of using directional light.  We can also create this directional lighting by turning off one strobe. This helps create a more interesting contrast on many subjects.  For those shooting identification style photo of fish and invertebrates, two strobes may be preferred in order to see important details. However, for those after a more artistic style, try turning off one strobe and concentrate on which direction your light comes from. Experiment with the actual aim of the strobe as well, it doesn’t need to stay in one place.

What About Two Strobes in Wide Angle?

Surely using two in wide angle is the way to go? In most circumstances, this is true, however, one strobe is still feasible in wide angle. A powerful strobe can be positioned in an arc somewhere between 11 and 1 o’clock and provide nice even light over a medium sized coral. By positioning it at 10 o’clock you can create a cast of shadow that works in certain shots by providing contrast. Another option for single strobe wide angle is when shooting toward open water. If your subject is not large, and you want to avoid backscatter in the water column, it’s prudent to turn off the strobe that is on the side facing the water column. Why light up the water column, creating scatter, when you don’t need to?

Two Strobes

A truly large sea fan such as this requires two strobes to illuminate all of it

Two Strobes

One strobe from right only, a strobe on the left would only light the water column

Although it’s always better to have two strobes rather than one, it’s not necessarily for the light output. You can create incredible images with a single strobe in both macro and wide angle situations. Two strobes will certainly give you more flexibility and piece of mind for backup purposes. However, on your next dive try shooting with one strobe only to see what sort of contrasty images you can create!

Man in Rice Field

Bali Covid 19 Update

 

The Bali Covid 19 situation is one that is constantly in flux, much like every other part of the world. With many countries starting to open up, we thought it’s a great time to give you a Bali Covid 19 update.

Bali Covid 19 Update Veggies

Bali Covid 19 Update – The Numbers

Bali hasn’t had a large amount of positive cases throughout the world crisis. Indonesia itself closed its borders in late March, so not many people have arrived on the island since then. According to the latest updates filed by Jackie Pomeroy on her “Bali Covid 19 Updates” page “Bali has a cumulative total of 482 cases of Covid 19. There were 5 new recoveries yesterday, leaving 334 total recovered and one new death in Badung, bring us to 5 deaths from Covid-19.” That means there are less than 150 cases on an island of over 4 million people. Jackie Pomeroy’s page is absolutely the best place to read daily updates with real facts and free of the typical Facebook speculation. You should subscribe to the page if you have an interest in Bali and Indonesia as a whole.

As you can see, there are have not been many cases in Bali and most people are recovering. The death count is very low which is a positive sign. The vast majority of positive cases have come from Balinese working abroad and then returning home during the crisis. All of these workers are required to do quarantine, first in a government facility and then at home. Therefore, they are to a certain degree a controlled group of cases. As stated above, there have only been 5 deaths to date.

How is Bali Coping with Covid 19?

During the last 2 months, Bali has been under social distancing rules. The island has not been shut down and most people are free to travel to other areas in the island. Certain communities have put more strict rules in place but the south is relatively open. The beaches have been closed for the most part and activities such as diving and surfing have not been allowed. Residents have been advised to avoid all unnecessary movement and remain at home other than shopping. The vast majority of stores have remained open and restaurants and cafes have adapted to take out/delivery menus. There are no issues with food supply and there certainly has been no shortage on toilet paper. 🙂

However, as this is an island that has a great reliance on tourism, many people and businesses are suffering. A large percentage of those who work in the tourism industry have lost their jobs. With lost jobs comes a loss of income and savings, therefore a lot of people are hurting financially. Thankfully there are many charities and N.G.Os in the area doing good work collecting donations and handing out food island wide. If you are interested in donating to such a charity then Solemen Bali is a good choice.

Are Things Changing in Bali Due to Covid 19?

As the worldwide grip of Covid 19 seems to be easing, many countries are starting to open up. Europe will allow tourism from a limited number of countries. Indonesia is also starting to ease the rules a little. Domestic travel will start to open soon but with many restrictions in place. Negative Covid tests are required to board planes or arrive in a different regency or province. Some areas that are deemed “Covid Free” may open to domestic tourism first, while others remain closed. In any case, any area that opens will still require social distancing and masks worn in public.At this point in time we don’t know which areas will open and which will not. On a positive note, a few areas of Bali are opening up their beaches to more activity, we expect Sanur to follow soon. Hopefully diving will be open soon after that.

When Will Tourism Open Up?

Overseas tourism is still closed. Indonesia is not issuing tourist, social, or business visas at this time. Foreigners in possession of valid Kitas and Kitap permits are allowed in the country with the correct medical requirements and must undertake quarantine on arrival. We don’t know when this will change and we won’t speculate on dates. Suffice it to say that we will let you know as soon as there is information available. As this will impact our group travel and Bali trips this year, we are keeping a sharp eye on all developments.

What Can You Do to Help?

Mount AgungAs mentioned above, Solemen Bali is a good choice if you would like to donate to an organization helping provide food at the grassroots level. If you have visit a particular dive centre or hotel often, most will have some sort of fund that you can donate to help their staff.

Here at the Underwater Tribe, we have been keeping busy with our Live Shows 3 times per week. We have been interviewing prominent people in the conservation, diving, underwater photography, and science world and sharing on our Facebook and YouTube channels. We enjoy creating these great shows and sharing them with our audience each week. If you have not watched any yet, please head over to our YouTube channel to watch. If you would like to support our efforts in bring these to you each week, or to help us support our staff during this time we have set up PayPal and Credit Card links to “Buy Us as Coffee”.

Pygmy Seahorse Nalu

New Pygmy Seahorse – South Africa

New Pygmy Seahorse – Hippocampus nalu

Some very exciting news in the wire this week, a new species of pygmy seahorse! This brand new species, Hippocampus nalu, is native to the shallow waters of Sodwana Bay in South Africa. Why is this such big news?  This is the first pygmy seahorse living outside of the South East Asian/Coral Triangle region. Of the 7 other species of pygmies, 6 live in the Coral Triangle and 1 is endemic to Okinawa, Japan.

Pygmy Seahorse Nalu

The discovery of this new species is very exciting for fish enthusiasts. It means there are likely more species of this tiny critter throughout the Indian Ocean. Scuba divers of the Indian Ocean basin, be on the lookout for the next one!  According to one of the lead authors and researchers of the study, Dr Richard Smith: “This diminutive fish is the first of its kind to be discovered anywhere in the Indian Ocean, let alone Africa. Its closest relatives live more than 8,000km away in Southeast Asia.”

An excerpt from the Press Release:

“Researchers, Drs Louw Claassens and Richard Smith visited Sodwana Bay in search of the fish in October 2018. The reefs of Sodwana Bay are exposed to the powerful swells of the Indian Ocean, very unlike the sheltered coral reefs of Southeast Asia where the other pygmy seahorses are found. A pair of seahorses was finally found along a rocky reef at 15m depth, grasping on to fronds of microscopic algae, amidst raging surge. The divers nearly lost the seahorses when a large oceanic swell almost buried them underneath a storm of sand. On one dive, they even found a tiny juvenile measuring just a centimeter in length. Two of these, tail to snout, would only just stretch across a US Nickel coin.

The scientific name of the Sodwana pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus nalu, means “hereitis” in the local Xhosa and Zulu languages to highlight that the species was there all along until its discovery. It hints at the vast number of potential other undiscovered species that live in Africa’s oceans. Additionally, ‘nalu’, also means “surging surf, wave”in Hawaiian, reflecting the habitat it lives in. Finally, the scientific name also refers to the middle name of the person who discovered and first brought the species to the attention of the researchers: Savannah Nalu Olivier.”

Podcast Appearance

With the announcement of this exciting new species, we are happy to welcome one of the lead researchers Dr Richard Smith to our podcast.  Richard is a marine biologist who specialises in working with pygmy seahorses.  In fact, Richard’s PHD thesis is the first one focusing on these tiny, yet charismatic fish. Richard also has a fantastic new book “The World Beneath” about coral reefs and fish that can be found here.  Read more about our Live Show Podcasts on our Blog or subscribe to our YouTube and Facebook channels to be notified of upcoming guests.

Tongue Louse

Tongue Eating Louse – Photo of the Day

Tongue Eating Louse – Photo of the Day

Tongue Louse

What is the most disgusting thing you can think of? Maybe it’s eating something rotten, or smelling a rotting carcass along the highway?  Yes, both of these are pretty disgusting.  But I bet nature can come up with something even worse.  How about if a bizarre looking creature that was the size of your large toe decided to live in your mouth and replace your tongue!  Yes, it’s true, this is a real life thing!

The “tongue eating louse”, Cymothoa exigua enters it’s host fish through the gills as larvae. Once inside the fish it will attach itself to the tongue with it’s legs. Eventually the legs will cut off the blood flow and the tongue itself will wither and fall off. At this point, the parasite basically takes over the role of the tongue in the fish! Now how absolutely bizarre is that?!?

No Tongue No Problem for The Tongue Eating Louse

You are probably thinking to yourself, “now how in the heck does the poor clownfish survive?” Shockingly enough, although the whole idea of this parasite seems impossible, it doesn’t actually harm the host. The female louse is the one that attaches to the tongue and feeds on the mucus of the fish as well as blood from its host and bits of food the fish eats. Even though the parasite is large, it doesn’t block the fish from eating.  However, it’s often not just one parasite in the poor fish.  The smaller male louse can also live inside the fish and it will mate with the female right there in the mouth!  Of course this will lead to the birth of a brood of young parasites being born. Thankfully they will disperse out of the fish and into the water column.

Grossed Out Yet?

If the thought of these louse living inside a mouth isn’t bad enough, they are mostly found in Indonesia inside our favourite fish! For some reason, all kinds of anemone fish in many areas of Indonesia seem to host these parasites.  In the Lembeh Strait in particular, it seems every anemone has at least one fish with the tongue louse. The next time you go diving, look closely at different fish to see if you can spot one of these bizarre creatures! Here in Bali we have a large variety of anemones and anemone fish, please join us in Bali and we can help you find one!

 

 

 

Randall's Goby

Randall Snapping Shrimp – Goby Pair

Randall’s Snapping Shrimp – Goby Pair

Goby Shrimp

Black Ray Goby and Randall’s Snapping Shrimp

Our photo of the day is the Black Rayed Shrimp Goby along with the Randall Snapping Shrimp. We present this photo today as a shout out to one of the most prolific marine scientists of our time John “Jack” Randall. Jack Randall passed away last week at the age of 95. He was the most prolific ichthyologist of modern times naming more than 600 species of fish. He authored 11 books and was the mentor for many of today’s leading fish scientists.

Based mainly in Hawaii, Jack traveled the world in search of new species. He was a true pioneer along the lines of the great biologists of the past. We worked in the Caribbean during the early 1960s before moving to Hawaii. From the mid 6os he has made Hawaii his home with most of his work concentrated on the Indo Pacific.  If you are a diver, chances are you have seen a few species discovered by or named after Jack Randall.

Randall's Goby

Randall’s Goby, Amblyeleotris randalli

Rest in Peace Jack, you have truly left a legacy on this world during a life well lived.  As divers and underwater photographers we thank you for your irreplaceable contributions to marine biology.

 

Moray Eel Cleaning Station

Cleaning Stations – Keeping Clean Underwater

 

Moray Eel Cleaning Station

Cleaning stations, you have probably heard the term but perhaps you weren’t sure what it means? Have you ever wondered how marine life keeps clean? You would think that living in water 24 hours per day means you don’t get dirty, but is that true?  As many people know, there are many parasites and other contaminants in salt water. Many fish and marine mammals are affected by these parasites which can be real pests. Of course wonderful mother nature provides a way for animals to remove these annoying parasites. Through the wonder of evolution and specialization, many species of marine life have become special “cleaners”.

Cleaner Wrasse

Blue Stripe Cleaner Wrasse

What is a Cleaning Station?

A cleaning station is a particular coral head or portion of reef where “cleaners” live.  What exactly is a cleaner I hear you ask?  Cleaners come in a variety of species including shrimp, wrasse, butterfly fish, angel fish, and more!  Each of these has evolved to fill a particular niche.  Shrimp tend to live on coral heads and rocks in large groups and pick parasites off a variety of visitors such as eels and small to medium sized fish.  Larger animals such as manta rays and sharks will often visit large coral formations where a variety of small wrasse or butterfly fish live.  When it comes to sunfish, they prefer to visits a particular reef where very mobile fish like angel fish or banner fish will find them and fill the role of a cleaner.

Sunfish Cleaning Station

Sunfish being cleaned by banner fish

How Does it Work?

If you have ever seen a fish cleaning you know the drill. However, for those who have never witnessed this behaviour it’s pretty amazing to watch. Some of the most frequent visitors to cleaning stations are actually predators.  Upon a diver’s first encounter with an eel cleaning, many may think the poor innocent little cleaner fish is about to be eaten! Eels will open their mouth wide open and a fish or shrimp will dutifully pop into it’s mouth in order to clean the teeth. If you have not seen this behaviour before it looks like the eel is about to eat the cleaner! However, upon longer inspection the interaction can go on for a long time with no parties injured in the process. Sharks, barracuda, groupers and other large predators who are often in attendance at cleaning stations.  Seeing a shark “hovering” with it’s mouth wide open is quite a sight to see.

 

Manta Ray Cleaning Stations

Perhaps the most sought after cleaning experience for divers is to encounter manta rays at a dedicated cleaning station.  Many of the world’s premiere dives sites in such places as Yap, Indonesia, Palau, and the Maldives are cleaning stations.  It’s incredible to watch manta rays numbering from one to a dozen line up for a cleaning.  Cleaner wrasse, butterfly fish, and angel fish are some of the most common fish to clean these magnificent animals. It’s incredible to watch the interaction between the rays when they are in large numbers, there is definitely a social order between them. Most divers can spend hours watching these graceful rays perform acrobatics without boredom setting in.

If you have never encountered a cleaning station, this is something to watch out for on your next dive. When swimming past large rocks or coral heads, have a look for fish that seem to be acting a little strangely. This is a good sign they may have a shrimp or cleaner wrasse pulling at their teeth or skin.  Slowly move closer and give the marine life room to act naturally. Then settle in to watch nature in it’s most pure form. The Tulamben area in Bali is dotted with dozens of interesting cleaning stations, read a little more about Tulamben dive sites on our Bali Diving guide.

 

 

Two Strobes

Two Strobes Are Better Than One – Right?

Two Strobes Are Better Than One Right?  Right?

Two Strobes

A common question that we often hear in underwater photography circles is: “Do I need one strobe or two?” This is a great question and doesn’t actually have a proper answer. Our typical answer is that two strobes are always better than one, but they don’t both need to be turned on! In this short article we discuss the pros and cons of using either one strobe or two.

It’s Great to Have a Backup

Underwater strobes are not cheap, in fact, it’s usually one of the most expensive pieces of kit. Therefore, not everyone can afford to own one, never mind two. However, most people understand the importance of light and are eager to buy one. The first question you should ask yourself is: “What is my budget for a strobe?” If you have a large budget, then by all means buy two powerful strobes. However, if you’re on a budget then a good idea is to buy the most powerful single strobe you can afford, rather than 2 smaller ones. It’s better to have one powerful strobe and save for a second one, then it is to have two non powerful strobes.

This is especially true if you are interested in shooting wide angle. Why, you may ask? Because you will quickly discover the limitations of weak strobes when shooting wide angle. This will lead to frustration and the desire to sell them! Instead, make do with one and save for the second, you will never outgrow a powerful strobe. If your interests run more to macro, then two less powerful strobes is sufficient. Keep in mind though, if you do want to dive in places like Raja Ampat, two small strobes will not be able to cope with large reef scenes such as the photo below.

Banda Sea Raja Ampat Soft Coral Two Strobes

The best part about having two strobes is the fact you have a backup. If for some reason the batteries die or you have a flood, you still have one strobe to work with. Remember, just because you have two, doesn’t mean they both have to be turned on.


Do We Need Two Strobes?

One thing that I often note when teaching a photo class, is that everyone with two strobes wants to use them on the same power. This is a normal reaction, when you have two strobes you want to make the most of them! This is a great way to create nice, even light across the entire frame, on both wide angle and macro photos. But is it the be all and end all of photography? What if I was to tell you I only use 1 strobe for 80% of my macro photos? Most people won’t believe that. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a strobe if you aren’t going to use it? The answer is simple, it’s not about how much light you can put out but rather how you paint the  light onto the canvas.

Fang Blenny

One strobe from the left – throws shadow across the scene and doesn’t light up the background.

Fang Blenny

Two strobes – flat light and the background is lit, no real contrast.

Think about a photo with a black background. If I use two lights, one from the right and one from the left, I will light up everything in the frame. including the background. However, if I simply leave the strobes where they are and turn one off, I will cast a shadow on one side. This helps a lot when trying to accomplish macro photographs with a black background. Often we compose a fish or nudibranch facing the camera on a 45 degree angle. With one strobe on each side at equal settings we will end up with an evenly lit scene. However, if you turn off the strobe on the “non body side”, you can light the body of the fish and not light up everything behind it. This contrast will really help make the subject stand out.

Directional Lighting

Two Strobes Lighting

Two even strength strobes from left and right illuminate everything in the photo

One Strobe

One strobe from the right casts directional light onto the moray and doesn’t light up the reef behind

What we describe above is termed “directional lighting”. This basically means lighting our subject from one direction, instead of bathing the entire scene in light. The ever popular “snoot” photo is a great example of using directional light.  We can also create this directional lighting by turning off one strobe. This helps create a more interesting contrast on many subjects.  For those shooting identification style photo of fish and invertebrates, two strobes may be preferred in order to see important details. However, for those after a more artistic style, try turning off one strobe and concentrate on which direction your light comes from. Experiment with the actual aim of the strobe as well, it doesn’t need to stay in one place.

What About Two Strobes in Wide Angle?

Surely using two in wide angle is the way to go? In most circumstances, this is true, however, one strobe is still feasible in wide angle. A powerful strobe can be positioned in an arc somewhere between 11 and 1 o’clock and provide nice even light over a medium sized coral. By positioning it at 10 o’clock you can create a cast of shadow that works in certain shots by providing contrast. Another option for single strobe wide angle is when shooting toward open water. If your subject is not large, and you want to avoid backscatter in the water column, it’s prudent to turn off the strobe that is on the side facing the water column. Why light up the water column, creating scatter, when you don’t need to?

Two Strobes

A truly large sea fan such as this requires two strobes to illuminate all of it

Two Strobes

One strobe from right only, a strobe on the left would only light the water column

Although it’s always better to have two strobes rather than one, it’s not necessarily for the light output. You can create incredible images with a single strobe in both macro and wide angle situations. Two strobes will certainly give you more flexibility and piece of mind for backup purposes. However, on your next dive try shooting with one strobe only to see what sort of contrasty images you can create!

Man in Rice Field

Bali Covid 19 Update

 

The Bali Covid 19 situation is one that is constantly in flux, much like every other part of the world. With many countries starting to open up, we thought it’s a great time to give you a Bali Covid 19 update.

Bali Covid 19 Update Veggies

Bali Covid 19 Update – The Numbers

Bali hasn’t had a large amount of positive cases throughout the world crisis. Indonesia itself closed its borders in late March, so not many people have arrived on the island since then. According to the latest updates filed by Jackie Pomeroy on her “Bali Covid 19 Updates” page “Bali has a cumulative total of 482 cases of Covid 19. There were 5 new recoveries yesterday, leaving 334 total recovered and one new death in Badung, bring us to 5 deaths from Covid-19.” That means there are less than 150 cases on an island of over 4 million people. Jackie Pomeroy’s page is absolutely the best place to read daily updates with real facts and free of the typical Facebook speculation. You should subscribe to the page if you have an interest in Bali and Indonesia as a whole.

As you can see, there are have not been many cases in Bali and most people are recovering. The death count is very low which is a positive sign. The vast majority of positive cases have come from Balinese working abroad and then returning home during the crisis. All of these workers are required to do quarantine, first in a government facility and then at home. Therefore, they are to a certain degree a controlled group of cases. As stated above, there have only been 5 deaths to date.

How is Bali Coping with Covid 19?

During the last 2 months, Bali has been under social distancing rules. The island has not been shut down and most people are free to travel to other areas in the island. Certain communities have put more strict rules in place but the south is relatively open. The beaches have been closed for the most part and activities such as diving and surfing have not been allowed. Residents have been advised to avoid all unnecessary movement and remain at home other than shopping. The vast majority of stores have remained open and restaurants and cafes have adapted to take out/delivery menus. There are no issues with food supply and there certainly has been no shortage on toilet paper. 🙂

However, as this is an island that has a great reliance on tourism, many people and businesses are suffering. A large percentage of those who work in the tourism industry have lost their jobs. With lost jobs comes a loss of income and savings, therefore a lot of people are hurting financially. Thankfully there are many charities and N.G.Os in the area doing good work collecting donations and handing out food island wide. If you are interested in donating to such a charity then Solemen Bali is a good choice.

Are Things Changing in Bali Due to Covid 19?

As the worldwide grip of Covid 19 seems to be easing, many countries are starting to open up. Europe will allow tourism from a limited number of countries. Indonesia is also starting to ease the rules a little. Domestic travel will start to open soon but with many restrictions in place. Negative Covid tests are required to board planes or arrive in a different regency or province. Some areas that are deemed “Covid Free” may open to domestic tourism first, while others remain closed. In any case, any area that opens will still require social distancing and masks worn in public.At this point in time we don’t know which areas will open and which will not. On a positive note, a few areas of Bali are opening up their beaches to more activity, we expect Sanur to follow soon. Hopefully diving will be open soon after that.

When Will Tourism Open Up?

Overseas tourism is still closed. Indonesia is not issuing tourist, social, or business visas at this time. Foreigners in possession of valid Kitas and Kitap permits are allowed in the country with the correct medical requirements and must undertake quarantine on arrival. We don’t know when this will change and we won’t speculate on dates. Suffice it to say that we will let you know as soon as there is information available. As this will impact our group travel and Bali trips this year, we are keeping a sharp eye on all developments.

What Can You Do to Help?

Mount AgungAs mentioned above, Solemen Bali is a good choice if you would like to donate to an organization helping provide food at the grassroots level. If you have visit a particular dive centre or hotel often, most will have some sort of fund that you can donate to help their staff.

Here at the Underwater Tribe, we have been keeping busy with our Live Shows 3 times per week. We have been interviewing prominent people in the conservation, diving, underwater photography, and science world and sharing on our Facebook and YouTube channels. We enjoy creating these great shows and sharing them with our audience each week. If you have not watched any yet, please head over to our YouTube channel to watch. If you would like to support our efforts in bring these to you each week, or to help us support our staff during this time we have set up PayPal and Credit Card links to “Buy Us as Coffee”.

Pygmy Seahorse Nalu

New Pygmy Seahorse – South Africa

New Pygmy Seahorse – Hippocampus nalu

Some very exciting news in the wire this week, a new species of pygmy seahorse! This brand new species, Hippocampus nalu, is native to the shallow waters of Sodwana Bay in South Africa. Why is this such big news?  This is the first pygmy seahorse living outside of the South East Asian/Coral Triangle region. Of the 7 other species of pygmies, 6 live in the Coral Triangle and 1 is endemic to Okinawa, Japan.

Pygmy Seahorse Nalu

The discovery of this new species is very exciting for fish enthusiasts. It means there are likely more species of this tiny critter throughout the Indian Ocean. Scuba divers of the Indian Ocean basin, be on the lookout for the next one!  According to one of the lead authors and researchers of the study, Dr Richard Smith: “This diminutive fish is the first of its kind to be discovered anywhere in the Indian Ocean, let alone Africa. Its closest relatives live more than 8,000km away in Southeast Asia.”

An excerpt from the Press Release:

“Researchers, Drs Louw Claassens and Richard Smith visited Sodwana Bay in search of the fish in October 2018. The reefs of Sodwana Bay are exposed to the powerful swells of the Indian Ocean, very unlike the sheltered coral reefs of Southeast Asia where the other pygmy seahorses are found. A pair of seahorses was finally found along a rocky reef at 15m depth, grasping on to fronds of microscopic algae, amidst raging surge. The divers nearly lost the seahorses when a large oceanic swell almost buried them underneath a storm of sand. On one dive, they even found a tiny juvenile measuring just a centimeter in length. Two of these, tail to snout, would only just stretch across a US Nickel coin.

The scientific name of the Sodwana pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus nalu, means “hereitis” in the local Xhosa and Zulu languages to highlight that the species was there all along until its discovery. It hints at the vast number of potential other undiscovered species that live in Africa’s oceans. Additionally, ‘nalu’, also means “surging surf, wave”in Hawaiian, reflecting the habitat it lives in. Finally, the scientific name also refers to the middle name of the person who discovered and first brought the species to the attention of the researchers: Savannah Nalu Olivier.”

Podcast Appearance

With the announcement of this exciting new species, we are happy to welcome one of the lead researchers Dr Richard Smith to our podcast.  Richard is a marine biologist who specialises in working with pygmy seahorses.  In fact, Richard’s PHD thesis is the first one focusing on these tiny, yet charismatic fish. Richard also has a fantastic new book “The World Beneath” about coral reefs and fish that can be found here.  Read more about our Live Show Podcasts on our Blog or subscribe to our YouTube and Facebook channels to be notified of upcoming guests.

Tongue Louse

Tongue Eating Louse – Photo of the Day

Tongue Eating Louse – Photo of the Day

Tongue Louse

What is the most disgusting thing you can think of? Maybe it’s eating something rotten, or smelling a rotting carcass along the highway?  Yes, both of these are pretty disgusting.  But I bet nature can come up with something even worse.  How about if a bizarre looking creature that was the size of your large toe decided to live in your mouth and replace your tongue!  Yes, it’s true, this is a real life thing!

The “tongue eating louse”, Cymothoa exigua enters it’s host fish through the gills as larvae. Once inside the fish it will attach itself to the tongue with it’s legs. Eventually the legs will cut off the blood flow and the tongue itself will wither and fall off. At this point, the parasite basically takes over the role of the tongue in the fish! Now how absolutely bizarre is that?!?

No Tongue No Problem for The Tongue Eating Louse

You are probably thinking to yourself, “now how in the heck does the poor clownfish survive?” Shockingly enough, although the whole idea of this parasite seems impossible, it doesn’t actually harm the host. The female louse is the one that attaches to the tongue and feeds on the mucus of the fish as well as blood from its host and bits of food the fish eats. Even though the parasite is large, it doesn’t block the fish from eating.  However, it’s often not just one parasite in the poor fish.  The smaller male louse can also live inside the fish and it will mate with the female right there in the mouth!  Of course this will lead to the birth of a brood of young parasites being born. Thankfully they will disperse out of the fish and into the water column.

Grossed Out Yet?

If the thought of these louse living inside a mouth isn’t bad enough, they are mostly found in Indonesia inside our favourite fish! For some reason, all kinds of anemone fish in many areas of Indonesia seem to host these parasites.  In the Lembeh Strait in particular, it seems every anemone has at least one fish with the tongue louse. The next time you go diving, look closely at different fish to see if you can spot one of these bizarre creatures! Here in Bali we have a large variety of anemones and anemone fish, please join us in Bali and we can help you find one!

 

 

 

Randall's Goby

Randall Snapping Shrimp – Goby Pair

Randall’s Snapping Shrimp – Goby Pair

Goby Shrimp

Black Ray Goby and Randall’s Snapping Shrimp

Our photo of the day is the Black Rayed Shrimp Goby along with the Randall Snapping Shrimp. We present this photo today as a shout out to one of the most prolific marine scientists of our time John “Jack” Randall. Jack Randall passed away last week at the age of 95. He was the most prolific ichthyologist of modern times naming more than 600 species of fish. He authored 11 books and was the mentor for many of today’s leading fish scientists.

Based mainly in Hawaii, Jack traveled the world in search of new species. He was a true pioneer along the lines of the great biologists of the past. We worked in the Caribbean during the early 1960s before moving to Hawaii. From the mid 6os he has made Hawaii his home with most of his work concentrated on the Indo Pacific.  If you are a diver, chances are you have seen a few species discovered by or named after Jack Randall.

Randall's Goby

Randall’s Goby, Amblyeleotris randalli

Rest in Peace Jack, you have truly left a legacy on this world during a life well lived.  As divers and underwater photographers we thank you for your irreplaceable contributions to marine biology.

 

Moray Eel Cleaning Station

Cleaning Stations – Keeping Clean Underwater

 

Moray Eel Cleaning Station

Cleaning stations, you have probably heard the term but perhaps you weren’t sure what it means? Have you ever wondered how marine life keeps clean? You would think that living in water 24 hours per day means you don’t get dirty, but is that true?  As many people know, there are many parasites and other contaminants in salt water. Many fish and marine mammals are affected by these parasites which can be real pests. Of course wonderful mother nature provides a way for animals to remove these annoying parasites. Through the wonder of evolution and specialization, many species of marine life have become special “cleaners”.

Cleaner Wrasse

Blue Stripe Cleaner Wrasse

What is a Cleaning Station?

A cleaning station is a particular coral head or portion of reef where “cleaners” live.  What exactly is a cleaner I hear you ask?  Cleaners come in a variety of species including shrimp, wrasse, butterfly fish, angel fish, and more!  Each of these has evolved to fill a particular niche.  Shrimp tend to live on coral heads and rocks in large groups and pick parasites off a variety of visitors such as eels and small to medium sized fish.  Larger animals such as manta rays and sharks will often visit large coral formations where a variety of small wrasse or butterfly fish live.  When it comes to sunfish, they prefer to visits a particular reef where very mobile fish like angel fish or banner fish will find them and fill the role of a cleaner.

Sunfish Cleaning Station

Sunfish being cleaned by banner fish

How Does it Work?

If you have ever seen a fish cleaning you know the drill. However, for those who have never witnessed this behaviour it’s pretty amazing to watch. Some of the most frequent visitors to cleaning stations are actually predators.  Upon a diver’s first encounter with an eel cleaning, many may think the poor innocent little cleaner fish is about to be eaten! Eels will open their mouth wide open and a fish or shrimp will dutifully pop into it’s mouth in order to clean the teeth. If you have not seen this behaviour before it looks like the eel is about to eat the cleaner! However, upon longer inspection the interaction can go on for a long time with no parties injured in the process. Sharks, barracuda, groupers and other large predators who are often in attendance at cleaning stations.  Seeing a shark “hovering” with it’s mouth wide open is quite a sight to see.

 

Manta Ray Cleaning Stations

Perhaps the most sought after cleaning experience for divers is to encounter manta rays at a dedicated cleaning station.  Many of the world’s premiere dives sites in such places as Yap, Indonesia, Palau, and the Maldives are cleaning stations.  It’s incredible to watch manta rays numbering from one to a dozen line up for a cleaning.  Cleaner wrasse, butterfly fish, and angel fish are some of the most common fish to clean these magnificent animals. It’s incredible to watch the interaction between the rays when they are in large numbers, there is definitely a social order between them. Most divers can spend hours watching these graceful rays perform acrobatics without boredom setting in.

If you have never encountered a cleaning station, this is something to watch out for on your next dive. When swimming past large rocks or coral heads, have a look for fish that seem to be acting a little strangely. This is a good sign they may have a shrimp or cleaner wrasse pulling at their teeth or skin.  Slowly move closer and give the marine life room to act naturally. Then settle in to watch nature in it’s most pure form. The Tulamben area in Bali is dotted with dozens of interesting cleaning stations, read a little more about Tulamben dive sites on our Bali Diving guide.

 

 

Two Strobes

Two Strobes Are Better Than One – Right?

Two Strobes Are Better Than One Right?  Right?

Two Strobes

A common question that we often hear in underwater photography circles is: “Do I need one strobe or two?” This is a great question and doesn’t actually have a proper answer. Our typical answer is that two strobes are always better than one, but they don’t both need to be turned on! In this short article we discuss the pros and cons of using either one strobe or two.

It’s Great to Have a Backup

Underwater strobes are not cheap, in fact, it’s usually one of the most expensive pieces of kit. Therefore, not everyone can afford to own one, never mind two. However, most people understand the importance of light and are eager to buy one. The first question you should ask yourself is: “What is my budget for a strobe?” If you have a large budget, then by all means buy two powerful strobes. However, if you’re on a budget then a good idea is to buy the most powerful single strobe you can afford, rather than 2 smaller ones. It’s better to have one powerful strobe and save for a second one, then it is to have two non powerful strobes.

This is especially true if you are interested in shooting wide angle. Why, you may ask? Because you will quickly discover the limitations of weak strobes when shooting wide angle. This will lead to frustration and the desire to sell them! Instead, make do with one and save for the second, you will never outgrow a powerful strobe. If your interests run more to macro, then two less powerful strobes is sufficient. Keep in mind though, if you do want to dive in places like Raja Ampat, two small strobes will not be able to cope with large reef scenes such as the photo below.

Banda Sea Raja Ampat Soft Coral Two Strobes

The best part about having two strobes is the fact you have a backup. If for some reason the batteries die or you have a flood, you still have one strobe to work with. Remember, just because you have two, doesn’t mean they both have to be turned on.


Do We Need Two Strobes?

One thing that I often note when teaching a photo class, is that everyone with two strobes wants to use them on the same power. This is a normal reaction, when you have two strobes you want to make the most of them! This is a great way to create nice, even light across the entire frame, on both wide angle and macro photos. But is it the be all and end all of photography? What if I was to tell you I only use 1 strobe for 80% of my macro photos? Most people won’t believe that. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a strobe if you aren’t going to use it? The answer is simple, it’s not about how much light you can put out but rather how you paint the  light onto the canvas.

Fang Blenny

One strobe from the left – throws shadow across the scene and doesn’t light up the background.

Fang Blenny

Two strobes – flat light and the background is lit, no real contrast.

Think about a photo with a black background. If I use two lights, one from the right and one from the left, I will light up everything in the frame. including the background. However, if I simply leave the strobes where they are and turn one off, I will cast a shadow on one side. This helps a lot when trying to accomplish macro photographs with a black background. Often we compose a fish or nudibranch facing the camera on a 45 degree angle. With one strobe on each side at equal settings we will end up with an evenly lit scene. However, if you turn off the strobe on the “non body side”, you can light the body of the fish and not light up everything behind it. This contrast will really help make the subject stand out.

Directional Lighting

Two Strobes Lighting

Two even strength strobes from left and right illuminate everything in the photo

One Strobe

One strobe from the right casts directional light onto the moray and doesn’t light up the reef behind

What we describe above is termed “directional lighting”. This basically means lighting our subject from one direction, instead of bathing the entire scene in light. The ever popular “snoot” photo is a great example of using directional light.  We can also create this directional lighting by turning off one strobe. This helps create a more interesting contrast on many subjects.  For those shooting identification style photo of fish and invertebrates, two strobes may be preferred in order to see important details. However, for those after a more artistic style, try turning off one strobe and concentrate on which direction your light comes from. Experiment with the actual aim of the strobe as well, it doesn’t need to stay in one place.

What About Two Strobes in Wide Angle?

Surely using two in wide angle is the way to go? In most circumstances, this is true, however, one strobe is still feasible in wide angle. A powerful strobe can be positioned in an arc somewhere between 11 and 1 o’clock and provide nice even light over a medium sized coral. By positioning it at 10 o’clock you can create a cast of shadow that works in certain shots by providing contrast. Another option for single strobe wide angle is when shooting toward open water. If your subject is not large, and you want to avoid backscatter in the water column, it’s prudent to turn off the strobe that is on the side facing the water column. Why light up the water column, creating scatter, when you don’t need to?

Two Strobes

A truly large sea fan such as this requires two strobes to illuminate all of it

Two Strobes

One strobe from right only, a strobe on the left would only light the water column

Although it’s always better to have two strobes rather than one, it’s not necessarily for the light output. You can create incredible images with a single strobe in both macro and wide angle situations. Two strobes will certainly give you more flexibility and piece of mind for backup purposes. However, on your next dive try shooting with one strobe only to see what sort of contrasty images you can create!

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