The Blog Aquatic » photographs http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Starfish Galaxies: Joshua Cripps Shares the Story Behind His Award-Winning Photo http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/01/starfish-galaxies-joshua-cripps-shares-the-story-behind-his-award-winning-photo/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/01/starfish-galaxies-joshua-cripps-shares-the-story-behind-his-award-winning-photo/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 18:00:02 +0000 Lauren Malkani http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6225 Motukiekie Galaxies

Credit: Joshua Cripps

During Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 Marine Life and Seascape Photo Contest, we received over 600 entries, showcasing everything from sea turtles to sharks to seashells. Though there were plenty of amazing photographs, only one could be our grand-prize winner.

Photographer Joshua Cripps shares with us the story behind his award-winning photo, “Motukiekie Galaxies”:

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this photo at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand during a month-long photography expedition. It’s a remarkable beach full of tide pools, mirror-like sand, massive tidal swings and intriguing sea stacks and caves.

What made you take the photo?

I have a sometimes-dangerous habit of being too curious: “Hmm, what’s just over that cliff?” “Can I jump down into this canyon?” In this case I saw some tide pools right at the water’s edge and wanted to go investigate them, despite the fact that the water was rising quickly and I knew I’d probably get soaked by going out there.

But once I rock-hopped out to the tidal pools, I found hundreds of these 12-legged sea stars clinging to the rocks. That amazing sight, along with the beautiful sea stacks farther out to sea and the moody conditions at the time, left me with no question that I was going to take a photo.

Was it difficult to shoot?

Yes and no. Shooting in the tidal zone is always challenging. You run the risk of being splashed by waves (which isn’t particularly good for your equipment), slipping on wet rocks or having a sneaky wave take you out completely. And yes, all three have happened to me numerous times.

But those experiences have made me more careful and confident in my abilities while shooting the ocean. And thankfully, in this spot the waves were fairly small, especially after being broken up coming through the rocks. So in this case the only real difficulty in getting the shot was dealing with wet feet as the tide rose.

How did you feel being there and taking the photo?

Like I’d found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. From my prior scouting, I knew how much potential this beach had for good photography, but I didn’t know exactly what I’d find when I hopped out toward these particular rocks.

When I saw the hundreds of starfish clinging to the rocks, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Those sea stars—which, being from California, I found incredibly exotic—along with the stormy conditions of the day made me want to create as surreal and alien a photo as I could, so I used some long exposures to render the incoming waves as mist. And when the images on the back of my camera started to match my vision of the scene, it was an incredibly validating and rewarding feeling.

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5 Questions with Photographer Marc Shargel on Wonders of the Sea http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/23/5-questions-with-photographer-marc-shargel-on-wonders-of-the-sea/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/23/5-questions-with-photographer-marc-shargel-on-wonders-of-the-sea/#comments Mon, 23 Jul 2012 15:00:06 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1202

The long arms of a blood star stretch across purple California hydrocoral. Credit: Marc Shargel.

Page through Marc Shargel’s three-book series “Wonders of the Sea” about California’s coast and you’ll be awed by both the human history and the natural history told through photographs and stories. An award-winning photographer, Shargel learned to scuba dive while studying marine biology at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. He has been diving for more than 30 years, from lush kelp forests to isolated offshore pinnacles, and observed many changes. To celebrate California’s network of marine protected areas, Marc shares some of what he’s seen through his lens.

Catch the interview and more amazing photos after the jump.

1. Which marine plant or animal do you most like to photograph underwater, and why?

All of them! But one subject I photograph over and over is kelp. Even though I have hundreds of pictures of kelp, I’m always inspired to interpret it in new ways.

And there’s always a chance of finding one of the dozens of little critters that live in the kelp forest, like a snail we have here that is unbelievably gaudy – it’s got spiral bands of gold and purple. Frequently, I’ll seek out one of those and see if I can do a better job of lighting or framing it.

2. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve observed in the ocean over the past 34 years?

From black abalone to many kinds of fish, things are disappearing. I did my first scuba dive at the Monterey breakwater in 1978. I saw schools of blue rockfish swimming through the kelp. This is a spot where people can drop fishing hooks right over the dive site, and since my first visit 34 years ago, blue rock fish have become a very rare sight. All the fish there are small ones that haven’t had a chance to grow to full size.

In farther-away places with less boat traffic and less fishing, we still see big schools of small to medium-size blue rockfish. However, the really large ones can only be found in the most inaccessible locations—or in the marine reserve at Point Lobos where they are completely protected. The good news is, reserves work and we’ve added several recently.

3. Can you give an example of what inspires you to actively support marine protected areas?

Photographer Marc Shargel prepares to dive into his work day. Credit: Steven Greenwood

One poster-child species for marine protected areas is the extremely slow-growing yellow-eye rockfish—a strikingly beautiful fish. I was years into my diving career before I caught sight of one. I went out to Point Arena in Mendocino County where this incredible rock comes up from the ocean floor, put on my gear and started down the anchor line. Swimming up the line as if to greet me was my first yellow-eye.

I got to the bottom and it was chock-a-block with them. I’ve never seen a mature one anywhere else. When a suite of marine protected areas along the north central coast went into effect in 2010, that rock and all the life there was protected.

4. Why do marine protected areas around the world draw divers and photographers like you?

We love them, because marine reserves teem with ocean life.  Their robust communities of marine life are more resistant to human impacts and natural disasters. For instance, in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, coral reefs inside a marine protected area in Sri Lanka appear to have been more resilient than other areas where damage was much greater.

5. What kinds of experiences can families enjoy along the California coast?

I’ll tell you a story that took place in front of Cannery Row on Monterey Bay several years ago. I took my nephew out on a two-person kayak through the kelp. We had the good fortune to spot a small group of dolphins quite close to shore. He put on a wetsuit and mask, stuck his face in the water, and got an instant appreciation of the incredible density and diversity of the ecosystem.

The highlight came at the end of the day:  A sea otter. These animals were driven to the brink of extinction a hundred years ago and made a comeback. This one came right by and checked us out.  And then it climbed up onto the boat. For a couple of minutes, there were not two of us on the kayak, but three! That day inspired my nephew to spend the better part of his time in college studying marine biology. For me, he represents the generations to come, the people who will inherit the natural world we’re now stewards for.

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