California's Big Sur, above and below the surface

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Jun 1, 2014
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Eugene, Oregon
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Paul
I recently spent a few days on a live aboard dive boat off of Big Sur. The coastline in the area is pretty rugged, and in 10 years of diving I've never had so much bottom time without seeing trash or other signs of humans. That's pretty remarkable, especially considering the traffic just a short distance away on Hwy 1.
We departed from Morro Bay, where we found some sea otters right in the marina. Nom!
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One of the first dive sites we hit was called "square black rock" for some reason (passing vehicle added for scale).
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The visibility wasn't great for the first couple of days, as you can tell from this shot of a school of blue rockfish. You can get a sense of the biomass that cold water can support- each of these guys is about a foot long or so, and very tasty.
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Sea lions
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Action shot! The other 3 dudes in my group were spearfishing, and they brought back a nice amount of fish. They even shared some with the rest of the boat, making for a couple of memorable meals
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One of my favorite lenses is the Olympus 30mm macro; the poor viz gave me the perfect opportunity to switch to close-up work. Dendronotid nudibranch and a passing gopher rockfish.
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Strawberry anemone and a giant barnacle
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The cold waters of our Pacific coast have our own version of Nemo fish; painted greenlings (like this juvenile) often take advantage of the protection of larger anemones
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Some greenlings continue this practice as they get older
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McWay Falls is a popular stop for tourists, and we were no exception (we just got a much better view). This is considered a tidefall, as it typically falls directly into the ocean- we just happen to catch it at low tide.
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Erosion can be very, very expensive
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Sea lions are known to chew the fins off mola mola (ocean sunfish) for no apparent reason. Over the course of the trip we found at least 3 dead or dying mola mola- truly a sad ending for such a cool creature. The only good news is that nothing goes to waste in nature.
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The visibility improved dramatically the last day or so of the trip
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This is a beautiful part of the world
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StefanKruse

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Jan 28, 2015
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Stefan
Very nice set - thanks for sharing! Where in California is this? I assume the northern part, based on the water temperature. Did you ever get to see any of the mola miles alive? What lighting did you use?
 
Joined
Jun 1, 2014
Messages
342
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Eugene, Oregon
Real Name
Paul
Very nice set - thanks for sharing! Where in California is this? I assume the northern part, based on the water temperature. Did you ever get to see any of the mola miles alive? What lighting did you use?
Hi Stefan- Big Sur is more along the central coast, south of Monterey Bay. It's still pretty cold there- our dives were in the low 50's. I did see one small mola mola alive, but it was from the boat and sunning itself on the surface. One person on the boat saw a huge one underwater- that would have been pretty cool :)

For lighting, I use 2 Sea&Sea YS-D2 strobes and a Kraken focus light. For a housing, I go with the Olympus one for my M1mk1, with either the Olympus macro port or an Inon 170mm dome. I also shot with the PL 8-18 in the same dome but didn't end up with anything worth sharing (not the fault of the lens- I started with it but switched to the more versatile 12-40 because of the conditions). There was a variety of other setups on the boat, including FF and APSC. My rig was a lot smaller than those, which is why I've never been tempted to go to another format. One guy was shooting with the GH5, but I believe he was going more for video and had a larger overall rig because of lighting needs.
 

StefanKruse

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Jan 28, 2015
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530
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Denmark
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Stefan
My rig was a lot smaller than those, which is why I've never been tempted to go to another format. One guy was shooting with the GH5, but I believe he was going more for video and had a larger overall rig because of lighting needs.
That's exactly why I got into photography in the first place I wanted something for UW that was manageable size wise and had better quality than my P&S and would allow me to record some of the special moments you can have underwater. I bought an EPL5 and from that point the world of photography opened up below and above the surface, a fullframe rig UW is just a monster to dive with especially if diving is about diving and you arent only diving to take pictures.
 
Joined
Jun 30, 2013
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Kansas
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Mel
Wonderful work. I used to photograph underwater with the antiquated Nikonos III with an underwater flash attached to metal arms with exposure meter hanging from the bracket. My success rate then was not great but when it all came together---memorable.
 
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