Diamonds in the Muck

 

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Paddle-flap Rhinopias (Rhinopias eschmeyeri). Shot with one Inon s-2000 strobe, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.

Tucked away in the Northeastern corner of Sulawesi Island, Indonesia is the Lembeh Strait—an amazingly weird place.  Sulawesi is located smack in the middle of the Coral Triangle, which is a rich ecosystem with close to 600 unique species of reef building corals and nearly 2000 species of fish.  I just returned from the Lembeh Strait where the Lembeh Resort and their resident dive operation, Critters@Lembeh held their annual Capturing Critters at Lembeh Underwater Photo Workshop.  This year they asked me to come out to share some seminars on Lightroom and underwater photography.  Interestingly, lush and diverse coral reefs were not the big attraction there. Instead, this is a place to get your muck diving on.

As gross as the term muck diving may sound, it’s a term for reef-less sandy bottom, muddy bottom, or “mucky” topography.  To the untrained eye, a muck dive is a featureless, colorless landscape, but spend a little time looking around, spend a little time paying attention to the details, and a fascinating world starts to emerge. Small and strange critters start to reveal themselves. I photographed hairy frogfish, mantis shrimp, double-ended pipefish, crocodile fish, and ghost pipe fish while I was there—just to name a few. From my first dive in Lembeh to the last, I was overwhelmed.  There wasn’t a dive I returned from where I didn’t feel disappointed.  Not because I didn’t see anything.  On the contrary, I saw too many things and was sad I had to end my dives.  But when your tank gets low, your tank gets low, I guess.  There is only one thing to do… plan a trip to go back.

Lembeh Resort: www.lembehresort.com

Critter@Lembeh Dive Center at Lembeh Resort: www.lembehresort.com/dive-center

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The Lembeh Strait is located near the Northeastern tip of Sulawesi Island. It is a narrow body of water sandwiched between the city of Bitung and Lembeh Island, and is known for its muck diving and colorful little critters.
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A deck hand gets ready to tender the lines as we approach the Lembeh Resort.
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Stairs leading up to a couple of bungalows at the Lembeh Resort.
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Dive lockers at the Critters@Lembeh Dive Center.
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A colorful clown fish hides in the poisonous tentacles of a green anemone. Shot with one Inon s-2000 strobe, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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Portrait of a crocodile fish. Shot with two Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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A small file fish hovers over an anemone bed. Shot with one Inon s-2000 strobe, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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A solitary bigfin reef squid found at night (Sepioteuthis lessoniana). Shot with two Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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Zebra batfish (Platax batavianus). Shot with two Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.

 

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A double-ended pipefish (Syngnathoides biaculeatus) hides among the eel grass. Shot with one Inon s-2000 strobe, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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The compound eyes of a giant mantis shrimp (Lysiosquillina lisa) peer out of its burrow. Shot with two snooted Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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A stargazer (Uranoscopus sp.) looks up while partially hidden in the sand. Shot with two Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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An emperor shrimp (Periclimenes imperator) rests on a sea cucumber. Shot with one Inon s-2000 strobe, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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A hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) quietly rests waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim by. Shot with two Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing. One strobe was laid on the sand behind and to the left of the fish. It was triggered remotely giving the backlit effect.

 

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A giant frogfish (Antennarius commersoni). Shot with two Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing. One strobe was held by a second diver behind and to the left of the fish. It was triggered remotely giving the backlit effect.
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Cowfish (Lactoria comuta). Shot with two Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.

 

 

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Black coral shrimp (Pontonides unciger). Shot with two Inon s-2000 strobes, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.
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Ambon scorpionfish (Pteroidichthys amboinensis) is a master of camouflage and an ambush predator. Shot with one Inon s-2000 strobe, Nikon D7000 and a Sea & Sea underwater housing.

 

 

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