GALAPAGOS UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY PART ONE: A LESSON IN CONTRAPUNTAL MOTION

 

PANAMIC SERGEANT MAJOR FISH

In music theory, “contrapuntal motion” is the  movement of two melodic lines of notes.For example, in  four-part harmony,  these musical lines maintain their independence from each other through the  use of the four types of contrapuntal motion: parallel motion, similar motion, contrary motion, and oblique motion.  These terms are most apropos in the telling of my underwater camera adventures.

My readers will recall my excitement but trepidation about purchasing an underwater camera with the hopes that I could secure some underwater pics during my visit to the Galápagos Islands.  I knew going in that my camera, while serviceable, was not going to give me NATGEO quality images – it doesn’t have the lighting or fine detail capability. Nor do I have any experience in taking underwater images,   However it was waterproof – and I even brought along an inexpensive backup underwater camera in case the first one sprung a leak.  It did not.

I am fairly comfortable in the water and a decent swimmer, so I thought I would be able to give it a good try.  The location for my first attempt, however was not ideal.  Late in the day  on the island of San Cristobal we arrived at our first snorkel destination:

Not exactly a clear, calm azure pool.  Determined nevertheless, I navigated the rocky steps that led down to the ocean, and donned a wetsuit, as the ocean is  a bit chilly this time of year.  The plan was to head down to a narrow platform at the edge of the water and plunge in.  However, there was a major or should I say two major impediments to doing this:

A mama sea lion was nursing her baby on the platform.   We didn’t want to approach at this tender moment as the mama could feel threatened and lash out – sea lions have a nasty bite that can cause major infection.  Being all nature enthusiasts none of us had a problem with waiting a few minutes to allow the baby to finish his dinner, and once done the guides gently shooed the sea lions back into the ocean.

My turn – the water wasn’t as cold as I expected, but it was a bit rough and dark:

As you can see it was very cloudy so I knew I wasn’t going to get much help in lighting.  Alfredo, our  guide (more on him in my next post) took us out into the ocean not too far from shore  to areas where he knew we should see some underwater creatures and plants.  And it was then that I realized that I hadn’t thought about one key factor in trying to take photos in the ocean.

The ocean does not stay still.

My above ground camera comes with a major stabilization program that eliminates shake (except for long exposure, which requires a tripod).  My underwater camera does not, and it even if it did it wouldn’t have been able to prevent my body being sloshed around by the various currents that buffeted us.

It was very important for me to not slam into the coral or outcrops of lava rock as these are quite sharp – even Alfredo got cut up at times, so I had to rely on quick clicks of the camera shutter and hope for the best.

Oh – I should mention that my subjects other than the plants,  don’t stay still either.

With all this motion to and fro (see above – doesn’t contrapuntal motion describe this perfectly?)  my attempts were a bit blurry – take my word for it, these butterfly fish are quite vibrant and beautiful:

There were many schools of fish and a few loners as well:

 

 

Wrasse

Boxfish or triggerfish

Calico lizardfish (I think)

The photos of plants and one pretty urchin are somewhat clearer, but still not up to my standards:

Urchin

 

 

 

So my first attempt was not a complete washout but left me wanting.  The next snorkeling adventures delivered some very different images.  For those, you’ll have to wait until next week’s post.

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