Diving in the Galapagos Islands - Underwater Photos

ArcticaMT6

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Haven't been on this forum much recently, but figured I'd put up some photos from my recent trip diving in the Galapagos Islands. I recently upgraded to an E-M1mk3 this summer (and housing) in preparation for this trip, as well as picking up some new wide angle gear. The new wide angle gear is a Nauticam WWL-1 port which corrects for distortion in water better than a traditional dome port, and turns a 14-42EZ lens into a 130deg FOV wide angle rectilinear. For reference, a 7-14mm only has a maximum field of view of 114 deg. Essentially turns a tiny pancake zoom into one of the best performing underwater lenses for M4/3 systems.

The week was spent almost entirely on a liveaboard boat, only going on shore twice. We boarded the boat, did 2 dives the next morning, followed by a land tour on Isla Bartolome, and then steamed north to Wolf and Darwin islands for a few days (about 12-16 hours north of the central islands). After doing 12 dives in those islands over 3 days, we headed back south to Isla Fernandina and Isabella for some much colder diving on the western side of the central islands. The final day was spent diving close to the first days of diving before doing a land tour and visiting Puerto Ayora which is the main town. I made the mistake of not realizing I was shooting in JPG rather than RAW, so some of these photos didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped, and had to do some extra conversion to black & white to negate the color loss, but overall I'm pretty happy with what I was able to get from the week. We had 3 dives with whale sharks (twice they turned around and came by a second time), 2 dives with pods of dolphins, orcas that swam under our inflatable boats that took us from the main boat to the dive sites, a pod of 30+ pilot whales on the surface, a couple large groupings of mobula rays, eagle rays, tons of moral eels, tons of turtles, a dozen or so mola molas (sunfish), sea lions on multiple dives, thousands of hammerhead sharks, tons of Galapagos sharks & black tip reef sharks, moray eels everywhere, penguins, etc. Far too many encounters to list. We did this trip back in 2016, but this year's trip far surpassed it.

Here's what I was able to capture

Scalloped hammerhead in front of a sunball, also shows snell's window which is the refraction interface between air and water that forms a circle when you look straight overhead. A wide enough lens can capture the entire window.
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Galapagos Shark
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School of mobula rays
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Whale shark tail
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Sea Robin, has lobster like legs that it uses to walk on the bottom
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Scalloped hammerhead
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One school of hammerheads
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Bottlenose dolphins
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Sea turtle feeding
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Pilot whales
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Darwin Island, also showing the remnants of Darwin's arch on the right. The arch itself collapsed earlier this year and now it's left with two pillars
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Moray Eel poking out of a hole
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ArcticaMT6

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Whale Shark
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Pair of Mola Molas
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Up close with a Mola Mola
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Pacific Giant Sea Horse
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Closeup of the collapsed arch, with the inflatable boat we dive off of in the foreground
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Sea Lion playing with us. Other diver in the background has a Canon 5DmkIV rig that he was shooting with
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Marine Iguana
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Mobula ray passing by
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2 Sea turtles
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More marine iguana
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Frogfish
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Galapagos penguin
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Lots more hammerheads
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Galapagos Tortoise
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Big octopus
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Eagle ray swimming in the shallows
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Last edited:
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Wow! Really nice! The B&W images may have been rescues but I quite them, especially the rays. Would love to see some of your equipment. Mine back in the day was all Nikonus and SLR’s in Ikelite cases. It has come a long way I am sure.

Reminds me of a song… “What’s that thing in the reef with the big shiny teeth, it’s a moray…”
 

ArcticaMT6

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Bainbridge Island, WA
Wow! Really nice! The B&W images may have been rescues but I quite them, especially the rays. Would love to see some of your equipment. Mine back in the day was all Nikonus and SLR’s in Ikelite cases. It has come a long way I am sure.

Reminds me of a song… “What’s that thing in the reef with the big shiny teeth, it’s a moray…”
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Old rig on the right is my Olympus E-M5mkII with a macro port (and super macro diopter on it). New rig on the left is E-M1mkIII with the WWL-1 and 14-42mm EZ. Not shown are the arms and lights associated with it. I need to sell the old camera and housing at some point.
 

Keeth101

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Some superb shots here .... but the B&W ones just totally lack life and detract from the amazing colours and life. Just MHO of course.

Oh and the song goes -
'If you're deep in the sea
and a fish bites your knee ....
it's a moray'
 
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Old rig on the right is my Olympus E-M5mkII with a macro port (and super macro diopter on it). New rig on the left is E-M1mkIII with the WWL-1 and 14-42mm EZ. Not shown are the arms and lights associated with it. I need to sell the old camera and housing at some point.
Thank you for sharing that! I need to investigate this for while. Things really have come a long way for sure. Last dive I made with photo gear the SubSea flash caved and I had to let go of it to hunt it down later. I can appreciate the effort it takes to get the results you posted.
 

ArcticaMT6

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Bainbridge Island, WA
Some superb shots here .... but the B&W ones just totally lack life and detract from the amazing colours and life. Just MHO of course.

Oh and the song goes -
'If you're deep in the sea
and a fish bites your knee ....
it's a moray'
Agreed, however with the distances covered underwater, they would be nearly completely blue without going to b&w. So not much choice there. You have to get very very close underwater and bring your own lights with you to get any sort of real color out. Honestly if you aren't within about 6-10ft (2-3m) most of the time I don't even bother taking a photo due to the above limitations.

Keep in mind that these are all with a fisheye or wider than 7mm lens. So what looks far away is actually quite close.
 
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Nice shots. What's your opinion on the 14-42EZ as far as sharpness underwater? Wondering how it would do as an all in one to replace my 8-18, 12-40, and Oly 30mm underwater.
 

ArcticaMT6

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Nice shots. What's your opinion on the 14-42EZ as far as sharpness underwater? Wondering how it would do as an all in one to replace my 8-18, 12-40, and Oly 30mm underwater.
By itself it's fine. Nothing special. I don't find the focal range useful for much. But with the WWL-1 it makes it pretty nice for close focus wide angle. It gets much sharper with the correction port on vs flat port. Plus you can still use the zoom function for things father away. I need to look into whether the CMC can be used with the 14-42 on a bayonet mount. That would make it so I can do macro and wide angle on the same dive.
 
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To each his own, I found the B&W's freakin awesome , hope you are making some nice prints for yourself.
On a side note in your opinion a local 1/2 price book store has a olympus underwater rig in there used photo equipment for $50 is there a resale market for that if it works?
 

Hypilein

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By itself it's fine. Nothing special. I don't find the focal range useful for much. But with the WWL-1 it makes it pretty nice for close focus wide angle. It gets much sharper with the correction port on vs flat port. Plus you can still use the zoom function for things father away. I need to look into whether the CMC can be used with the 14-42 on a bayonet mount. That would make it so I can do macro and wide angle on the same dive.
The 14-42 is compatible with the CMC. I doubt that it is a good idea to swap out the WWL mid dive though, as you would need to have a place to store it. I would rather use a dedicated macro lens.

Great photos anyway. Galapagos is certainly one of those dream destinations for me, although I'm not sure I would want to just do the safari with so few land trips. Right now it is way out of reach anyway. I hope by the time it becomes a possibility again, we haven't managed to destroy too much of our precious nature...
 

ArcticaMT6

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Bainbridge Island, WA
The 14-42 is compatible with the CMC. I doubt that it is a good idea to swap out the WWL mid dive though, as you would need to have a place to store it. I would rather use a dedicated macro lens.

Great photos anyway. Galapagos is certainly one of those dream destinations for me, although I'm not sure I would want to just do the safari with so few land trips. Right now it is way out of reach anyway. I hope by the time it becomes a possibility again, we haven't managed to destroy too much of our precious nature...
Bayonet mount on strobe arms. Lets you swap the WWL on and off as needed. I found doing back rolls off the boat into the water let lots of bubbles in between the port and the WWL so I had to remove it and shake bubbles out of each at the beginning of every dive anyway.

And you really don't have time to do any more land tours. The diving in the central islands is good but the entire point of spending the time and expense to get to the Galapagos is to see the big stuff that's only up at Wolf and Darwin. So the only good way to dive is to do a liveaboard. Otherwise doing Socorros instead is a much better idea.
 

Hypilein

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A few years my wifes sister went to a land only holiday (with a bit of snorkeling) to the Galapagos and I have to say I would not want to miss that over the diving that is there. If I had to choose I would take the land based trip, but I guess really one should be infinitely rich and just go for 4 weeks.

As to the WWL on Float Arms. It's possible of course, but it's pretty large and I'd be worried about handling. I've seen a setup where someone put the WWL (looking up vertically) on a float arm that went across the housing. That looked alright. Having it on one side float arm while trying to light a macro shot just seems impractical to me.
 
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ArcticaMT6

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We had originally planned to do an extra week land based this trip but decided to cancel that this time around. Was going to fly the mother in law down with our kid for that week, but the logistics weren't great. The land based stuff that I've done and seen so far was cool, but the underwater stuff is really the star of the show for me. But I'll just about always opt to dive vs land based in nearly every situation. Hell, next time I go on a trip to Glacier National Park I'm planning on bringing my dive gear to do some freshwater diving.

Handling wasn't too bad with it on the float arm, but I definitely had it on the port for getting in and out of the water. A better permanent setup would be on a center arm like you are talking about.
 

Bristolero

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Whale Shark
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Pair of Mola Molas
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Up close with a Mola Mola
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Pacific Giant Sea Horse
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Closeup of the collapsed arch, with the inflatable boat we dive off of in the foreground
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Sea Lion playing with us. Other diver in the background has a Canon 5DmkIV rig that he was shooting with
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Marine Iguana
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Mobula ray passing by
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2 Sea turtles
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More marine iguana
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Frogfish
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Galapagos penguin
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Lots more hammerheads
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Galapagos Tortoise
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Big octopus
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Eagle ray swimming in the shallows
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Whale Shark
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Pair of Mola Molas
View attachment 914176

Up close with a Mola Mola
View attachment 914177

Pacific Giant Sea Horse
View attachment 914178

Closeup of the collapsed arch, with the inflatable boat we dive off of in the foreground
View attachment 914179

Sea Lion playing with us. Other diver in the background has a Canon 5DmkIV rig that he was shooting with
View attachment 914180


Marine Iguana
View attachment 914181

Mobula ray passing by
View attachment 914182

2 Sea turtles
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More marine iguana
View attachment 914184

Frogfish
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Galapagos penguin
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Lots more hammerheads
View attachment 914188

Galapagos Tortoise
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View attachment 914190
View attachment 914191

Big octopus
View attachment 914192

Eagle ray swimming in the shallows
View attachment 914193
Agreed, however with the distances covered underwater, they would be nearly completely blue without going to b&w. So not much choice there. You have to get very very close underwater and bring your own lights with you to get any sort of real color out. Honestly if you aren't within about 6-10ft (2-3m) most of the time I don't even bother taking a photo due to the above limitations.

Keep in mind that these are all with a fisheye or wider than 7mm lens. So what looks far away is actually quite close.
This is the most interesting set I have seen in a long time. The marine iguanas really took me by surprise. But my favorite was the first image in the first set taken under the hammerheads, so I think your B&W shots are impressive too.
 

pake

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The variety of animals and incredible photos... Wow! When I've been underwater I've been happy to see just a tortoise or an unusual fish but maaaaaan you got it all. :D

Excellent photos. Hats off. :)
 
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