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"Nudibranch standing tall"
from the guest of Ishigaki Island’s local dive shop Prime Scuba Ishigaki
Andrew Delano (Instagram:@ocean_and_light), American underwater photographer living in Hong Kong, shared his experience in Ishigaki Island, Okinawa! 🙂
“Once again, I find myself in Ishigaki in the offseason. It is November, and the air is cool, the rain more frequent. The flow of tourists seeking beaches and beef has slowed to a trickle; the restaurants aren’t crowded, the hotels are all available and the quiet island is even quieter, save the occasional lively izakaya. To a photographer, this is such a good time to go. Yes, the water is also cool, but the boat is going to be almost empty and the visibility underwater can be excellent.“
“First morning, and the dive shop van pulls up in the narrow Ishigaki road. The driver today is also the boat captain, the jovial Tomonori Nakashima of Prime Scuba Ishigaki. I ask Tomo-san whether we can shoot any wide angle photography today; in other words, big subjects…. and in still other words, manta rays. The oceanic rays are the iconic draw of Ishigaki’s waters, and there can be no doubt that diving among them is a unique thrill. However, sea conditions must allow for the manta dive spot to be reached. He shakes his head ‘no’; the winter wind is blowing and the cleaning stations (where the mantas come to be washed of debris and parasites) will be inaccessible for the entire diving day.”
"Manta Ray in the winter sun"
“For most divers that go to Ishigaki, this will sound like a disappointment. But for some, this has a hidden reward; the day is going to be filled with another, less heralded feature of the Yaeyama Islands: a kaleidoscope array of macrophotography subjects: colorful reef fish, nudibranchs, exotic crustaceans and shy sand dwellers. These smaller creatures tend to be curious and shy, but when viewed through the intimacy of a macro lens, you are struck by detail and color, the most expressive faces in the ocean.
As we gear up, suit up and motor from port, I do the final camera checks. I am equipped with my beloved 105mm lens, fitted with a diopter (like a magnifying glass) to make it possible to zoom in for close views of small critters. Soon we are anchoring above some classic Ishigaki sites: ‘Osaki Purple Queen’, ‘Nagura’, ‘Yarabu Zaki’. On any given dive, each one can have a gold medal day.“
"Gold lace nudibranch"
“And indeed, your marinelife sighting trophy case will be a little fuller after you visit the sandy bottoms and coral heads of Ishigaki. Today, before our first dive, Tomo-san shows me a picture in a guidebook, a dartfish species I have never seen, with striking color combinations. He tells me this search will require a deeper depth and some exploring, but the ocean is good to us today, and we find it, a purple firefish with a blazing orange crest. I frame him from about 5 feet, shooting for a side profile view.”
“We ascend the slope. A bright yellow jawfish cautiously pokes its head out of the sand. A colony of waving hydroids on a branch of coral. A family of shrimp on a sea urchin. A gaping ribbon eel and bright spotted blennies taking cover in the sand. We wander in the manner of a stroll in a park, stopping at each nudibranch. The camera is busy. The minutes pass and soon we are climbing the boat ladder.”
"Nudibranch in a Coral Canyon"
“Another dive and the eagle-eyed Tomo-san points to a clump of algae coral, quite insistent I photograph it. Puzzled, I comply, only to realize as I peer through my eyepiece that there is a crab with astonishing camouflage algae arms staring back at me (I couldn’t find him on Google or in any guidebook, and it took months to finally get an ID on this one).”
"Amazing Camouflage: Chalaroachaeus curvipes"
“In the shallows, schools of pink-eyed gobies dart from one coral finger to another. An orange and white nudibranch the size of a fingertip somehow speeds along a rock. A blue-stripe pipefish somersaults inside a coral pocket. A tiny sheep nudibranch clings to the underside of a leaf. Sprawling sandy bottoms, soft coral-matted shallows, rocky slopes.”
"Pink eye goby"
"Clownfish father's lullaby"
“These trips are altogether too short; you’re feeling the photographic excitement but already you’re drying out your gear to fly back home. The answer is to come back. For another chance at mantas? … ok, but what about springtime nudibranch mating season?
Thank you Andrew for sharing your amazing experience and photos! 🙂
Check out his instagram @ocean_and_light for more photos.
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