Underwater photos are nice to look at but there are problems with color. In most cases, either the water is too blue or too green or a combination of both. This can be corrected by using colored filters on lenses (like magenta or red) such as the Polar Pro for GoPro. I don’t have a GoPro and I don’t have these filters either. Back then I used a Panasonic TS3 (lost the charger), then the Olympus TG2 (battery door opened and seawater flooded inside) then the Panasonic TS3 again (after buying a compatible charger). Unfortunately, the Panasonic stopped functioning so I’m now underwater cameraless.
Anyway, my point is that I didn’t use a colored filter nor do these camera record RAW files. But… the color can still be corrected using Lightroom (or Photoshop or other photo editing applications). Below is one of my pictures where a change in white balance and some other Lightroom sliders hugely improved the picture.
Other people look at some of my underwater photos and say that my camera is nice (really irksome but I’m getting desensitized) as it can take clear underwater pictures. Well, it’s not the camera, it’s also the photographer and in many cases, the post-processing too.
Freediving is all about relaxing your mind and body. Things I could not do when in the water. And in that state, I joined my first (introductory) freedive with ISDAxMUNI dive in Vistamar Resort, Anilao, Mabini, Batangas.
I didn’t know how to swim and I still don’t. Before, I couldn’t go on the deepend of the water without a lifevest, even with flippers, mask and snorkel. The weekend in Vistamar is the first time I’ve done without the lifevest so in a way it was a success. However, I am still not calm and when it comes to diving down, I always panic and as a result, gulped a lot of seawater. And I mean a lot!
Some of my fellow newbies fared better, getting to the seafloor (about 15 feet down), some fared worse, always attached to the lifebuoy.
After a while of trying to go down, I just gave up that day and went to the shallow end of the sea. Fortunately, it wasn’t devoid of anything to see. There were fishes, sea urchins and a whole lot of sea creatures. I got to see lionfish/scorpionfish. Two of them in fact, hiding inside the hollows of an algae-covered rock.
Though I wasn’t able to dive down at all, I still consider that day a success, even just because I could on the water without a lifevest. Though I gave up diving down that day, I tried on other occasions and eventually succeeded. Though I still need a lot of practice and a lot of breathholding to do. This truly opened up a whole new world for me. Seeing fishes in their natural habitat, creatures I’ve only seen in fishtanks, pictures and movies.
There is one documentary I downloaded about creatures under the sea. The copy was so clear you can check the details of each creature. This is so much better than that!
Our trip to Hundred Islands was motivated by our desire to go underwater. Luckily, Hundred Islands has a place for snorkeling and with giant clams as bonus!
I didn’t even think I’d even see giant clams. I once read a book about a boy whose leg was caught by a taklobo (giant clam). That was my first “encounter” with a giant clam and that was about 15 to 20 years ago. It was quite unreal seeing these magnificent (who are slow to close and the adult of which cannot fully close). They are of different colors, some blue, some purple and some green. Their lips are peppered with luminiscent spots. Good thing that there are many (probably hundreds) of them in the national park and that they are protected by the local government.
It seems that everytime I dive now, I can see Moorish Idols (so-called because Moors of Africa once considered them good luck). They are beautiful and graceful creatures that are very conspicuous in reefs.
Triggerfish are notorious for being very protective of their territory. In fact, another species of triggerfish bit my neck as I was diving down to look at some fish. It was a black triggerfish that hides under a rock/coral and went out to bite me. Fortunately, there was no skin break. Also, it is not this guy.
This one, I had trouble finding the identification on the internet. I first thought it was either an angelfish or a butterfly fish (based on its body). After combing through several sites, I found out that butterfly fishes generally have small mouth (such as this guy) and the color palette is limited to white, black, yellow and orange. This made it easier to narrow down the search to butterflyfishes and found the species name.
This fish I still couldn’t identify. From the body type, I assume it is a type of goby. The thing with gobies is that it is a very large family (or some other classification) of fishes that narrowing it down is difficult. So for now, I’ll just let this fish be unidentified.
Clownfish! Made very popular by Finding Nemo. I guess almost all people know this fish as Nemo. They are easy to spot due to their bright colors (though some are darker than the others). Once you find their anemone home, they are quite easy to photography as they will guard it very well. They will resort to intimidation tactics to try and scare you off. If you do not go, they may go inside their home and just peak and then go out to try and scare you again. Such bravado!
Other than fishes, snorkeling sites are often full of corals. Braincorals are the easiest to identify since they look like… brains.
Snorkeling and freediving for fishes is a fun activity. Another fun thing to do is trying to identify the fish species at home. For sure there’ll be more dives for me (just wish there is a better underwater camera for me though).
Last weekend, my parents, my sister and I went to Boracay. This is our second time this year in Boracay. There were only 4 of us, however, compared to our first time there where the whole family (including my brother and his family).
As my parents are already old (my father’s already 78 and my mother 63), we can no longer do most of the water activities there. Instead, we rented a boat and went around the island. We just stopped in one area, the snorkeling site and had our fill of the wonderful fishes there.
With me of course is my Olympus TG2 camera. An underwater camera I’ve been using for about a year now (after I lost the charger of my Panasonic TS5 and couldn’t find a replacement). I’m quite ok with this camera. It has a wide view lens (25mm equivalent) which is wonderful for taking pictures underwater. It also has a nice 2.0 aperture (at the wide end) resulting in pictures taken at lower ISO. However, I dislike that it doesn’t record raw files (limiting the post processing that can be done). This lack of raw recording makes it very difficult to correct white balance should I or the camera get it wrong.
Anyway, onto the pictures of fishes, fishes, fishes.
And lastly, me! This year has been an amazing year for me as I finally learned how to be in the sea without a lifevest. I just need to have a snorkel, mask and fins and I can spend time in the sea, even in deeper waters (though without them, I’d surely drown). I’m also just learning to freedive (albeit at the very beginning stage still).
Coron is a well-known tourist spot of Palawan. It is known for its beaches, lakes and diving and snorkeling sites.
It hosts several diving sites with lots of fishes (some are really just snorkeling sites since the corals and fishes are in the shallow part of the sea/islands).
In photographing these fishes, I once again experienced the difficulty of underwater photography. We are merely a food or two below water (I still don’t know how to swim) and yet auto-ISOs are usually at 400 level, and that’s with a f2.0 or just slightly smaller aperture of the TG2. Also, today’s rugged compacts only produce jpeg, which makes difficult the correcting of white balance and color in general. This is especially since Olympus TG2’s default jpeg results in very saturated greens and blues (no option to decrease saturation) and usually darker exposure (I much prefer Panasonic’s underwater pics, though its line of tough cameras have much slower lenses). That’s why the introduction of Nikon AW1 with a larger sensor and raw shooting excites me (but it is expensive and I fear that the interchangeable lens option may result in leak). I much prefer a m4/3 or APS-C sized sensor with fixed lens.
Here are some of the pictures of the fishes that I took in Coron.
Siete Pecados is one of the diving sites very near the town of Coron. Siete Pecados means “seven sins” and where that came from, we don’t know. It is one of the coral reefs that have survived the onslaught of Yolanda (Haiyan) and the only spared reef we’ve been to. The other sites we visited are Bulog Island (just beside Two Season Hotel), and CYC Coral Garden, both of which were heavily devastated by the typhoon and would make a sea lover cry due to the damage to the corals.
This is my first time to photograph clown fish. I found out that they are very easy to photograph when they are near their anemone homes. Unlike other fish which would flee at the first sight of humans, clown fish would stand guard and try to scare off the big humans.
It was the first time I saw a fish that lives in an anemone that doesn’t look like the three-striped Nemo clown fish. I though it was a different kind of fish but upon googling, I found out that it is a variant of clown fish called yellow clown fish. Instead of three vertical white stripes, it has a long white stripe on its back (top).
Another thing I learned is that anemone fish (the orange Nemo type) changes colors. I knew before that they change sex as they age but not color. The picture above shows a regular bright orange fish with a much darker and larger fish living in the same anemone. It turns out that some clown fish grow darker as they grow older (probably as they change sex too).
Twin Lagoons is one of the stops of most tours of Coron. It is basically an enclosed lagoon connected by a small tunnel to a larger lagoon. At low tide, you can just float to the smaller inner lagoon but at high tide, you have to swim underwater or climb a ladder to get to the inner one. The strange thing about the two lagoons is that the water looks kinda like a mixture of oil and alcohol. When you swim, the water is cold but when you stay still, it becomes much warmer. According to our tour guide, this is due to the mixture of sea water and fresh water (from the island).
The above fish is another strange thing we saw. The fish are swimming still around the ladder (partly submerged). They are very still unless you make sudden moves (unlike other fishes which just swim away the moment they see you coming). It’s as if they are staring into the wood of the ladder and expecting something wonderful to emerge from it.
The last picture above is of the needle fish (so called because of their long and pointy “snout”). They are also found in Barracuda Lake and probably in the 11 other lakes in the island of Coron
(The town of Coron is situated in the much larger Busuanga Island but takes its name from the smaller Coron Island which is just in front of the town. Coron Island is said to be home to 13 lakes, only two of which are open to public – Kayangan and Barracuda. Our guide said that the others are closed as these are sacred to the Tagbanua people who inhabit the island. Included in the closed to public lakes is Cabugao Lake, which is the largest lake in the island, much larger than all of the other lakes combined. For me, this is a good thing to preserve the lake for the future.)
It is sad that Yolanda caused so much damage to the corals that they will definitely impact the number and variety of fishes. I just hope that they will remain abundant as the fishes and coral reefs make Coron a truly excited tourist spot to visit.
One of our itinerary in Cebu is snorkeling in Moalboal to see lots of fishes and sea turtles. We were lucky that when we went snorkeling, we were able to see several sea turtles (Elaine went there before and didn’t see sea turtles). We were also fortunate enough to see dolphins swimming beside and around our boat!
Underneath the Sea
Here are some of the things we saw under the sea. The corals are not that colorful but there were lots and lots of colorful fish!
It was really a wonderful experience! One I’d like to try again soon but probably not in Cebu but in nearby provinces (Marinduque perhaps).
September 11, 2013
Our main purpose for our travel to Cebu really is to swim and see the whale sharks, the biggest fish and is locally known as butanding.
The butandings are regularly sighted in Oslob, Cebu, a coastal town 3.5 hours south of Cebu City. We arrivedat our hotel in Oslob the previous day and had to wake up early to meet the gentle giants. The butandings regularly go near the shore of Brgy. Tan-awan every morning as the fishermen (who have become boatmen for tourists) feed them small shrimps. The cost of meeting the butanding is Php500 per person. Before our boat went to the feeding area to meet the butanding, we were required by local ordinance to attend a very brief orientation conducted by the local government or DENR. The lady basically said: no flash photography, do not touch the whale sharks, stay 4 meters away from the butandings and do not wear sunblock and other skin products (those who did were advised to wash it off at the shower area). After that, it was less then 5 minutes trip to the feeding area.
Meeting the Butandings
Meeting the whale sharks is really a wonderful experience. The butandings we met were all juvenile but their size is already massive (according to the boatmen, the adults come a little later in the morning). They were accustomed to the fishermen feeding them and to the people surrounding them that they seem oblivious to humans and just swimming to and fro the boat where small shrimps are being thrown in the water.
With the boats so close together and with several people snorkeling, diving and swimming, it is impossible to stay 4 meters away from any of whale sharks. At one point, a whale sharks just passed in front of me (the picture of the eye of the fish below) and one brushed against Elaine as she swimming.
As I said, they are really giant despite their large size that I did not fear being harmed by them but fear from drowning (even though I wear a life vest) or just dropping my camera.
I took this next two pictures while I was holding on to the boat and the whale shark was passing in front of me, so close I can touch it if I just extend my hand (of course, per briefing, it is not allowed to touch them so why break the rules?).
Being there, each of us had to take our solo pictures with the butandings…
Elaine, an applicant for an organization of skin divers, is more fearless in swimming and diving away from the boat and thus offered better opportunities to be photographed well with the giants.
That’s me, keeping close to the boat. (left), Eman, giving the thumbs up sign for the experience. (right)
Here are some more pics of the whale shark.
A whale shark swimming, with a smaller fish below it –>
A butanding waiting for the small shrimp being fed by the boatmen.
After our 30-40 minutes of swimming with the whale sharks is up, it was time for us to go back to our hotel, tidy up and rush back to Cebu City for our flight back home. It was such a short time but it is really wonderful and will stay with us, probably for the rest of our lives.
The days of using my Samsung S3 are numbered. Our company phone, now Samsung S4, just arrived last week so I’ll be using it instead of the S3 (which will go to my sister). Before that happens, here are some of the latest pictures taken with that phone. The first two are fish sold in the supermarket I buy stuff from and the last one is the vehicle of the owner of a famous restaurant in Baguio City.