2021 Seasons Calendar
Collected here in this years calendar are some of my favourite shots of marine wildlife great and small.
May these images serve as a daily reminder of our place within nature and affect our choices with environmental preservation in mind.
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Mr. January is a Butter Bream (Monodactylus argenteus)
A commonly sighted species along Australia’s eastern coast in large schools & much less often as a lone individual. They have a very high range salinity tolerance and can be found in almost fresh water. This is a humble but important species to the marine ecosystem as each and every creature plays their part in balance of life on this planet.
That Mr January was alone was the reason I was able to take such a clean and close shot. He sought my company as the only other being present, instinctively schooling with me as his only available option for finding safety within numbers.
I chose this image for January as the subject’s wary view down the lens expresses how I suspect many of us will be watching 2021’s arrival.
February is a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)
This specimen was small (30cm diameter) by comparison to it’s northern counterparts (up to 2 meters diameter). It is a classic jellyfish in shape with often very long stinging tentacles (not deadly but painful). In late summer these creatures make their way into the small bays of the fjords towards the end of their life cycle.
This was one of the first images that I made in the (Norwegian) fjords at Herand where I regularly dive and explore. I shot this from the surface to identify the species and found the calm water surface glassy and reflecting like a mirror as you can see here.
There is something completely otherworldly about jellyfish and so February is about reflecting upon all the other worlds outside of our own.
March is for schooling Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)
March is the business, fishy or otherwise.
A mass of fish like this is quite loud in terms of natural subaquatic sounds. There is an intense energy vibrating the dense water column and the rapid changes in direction of movement mesmerises both viewer and participant.
To shoot from within this mayhem is to have the magical ability to stop and observe time in an infinite moment. I enjoy filming this spectacle for the sheer grandeur and unpredictability of the group as one entity, but I also like to zoom in and focus upon one individual as you will see here if you look closely to the point of sharpest focus. Here we have the individual, acting upon their own instinct of direction, orchestrated by the collective consciousness.
The imagery of large schools such as these, is to me reminiscent of peak hour transit in a major metropolis. The central subject of the image here resembles a lone commuter, caught deep in the rush and lost in their own thoughts, alone together.
May the march of time this March be favourable and fruitful for you and your specific goals.
Mr April is a Wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus)
Meeting April head on, woebegone.
As one of the few species of sharks that can bite their own tail, possess the needle like teeth of a grey nurse (or sand tiger) shark and have a penchant for locking their jaws, petting is not recommended.
Usually quite docile, often found sleeping and even more often in piles of other wobbegongs, they are one of the most spectacularly patterned creatures commonly encountered.
To procure this shot, I had to approach very slowly, crawling along the shell grit sandy seafloor, in order to gain his trust. I had wanted to capture such a smiling portrait for some time, but the challenge is to find an agreeable one that is awake and amiable to a close up shot without swimming off.
There is a cave, (that I sometimes visit in dreams) in which I can lay down and rest among piles of these serpentine sea gods and find the answer to almost anything.
May love lift us up where wobbegong.
May is an octopus standing camouflaged in plain sight. Hiding in full view as a large wobbegong shark (like mr April) prowls around below her, unable to link the scent to it’s source. In order to procure this shot, I had to make acquaintance and gain trust. I had noticed the predator’s presence after noticing the odd behaviour of the octopus. We both froze and I took this photo in the moment as we waited for danger to pass. After the shark had left, I was allowed several more shots before she retreated to her den.
This shy little guy is a slender-spined porcupinefish (Diodon nichthemerus)
These fishes (oft called puffer-fish, as they do indeed puff) are notoriously hard to photograph head on. Like that friend of yours that always turns away when you point a lens at them. This is because their main defence is rear facing barbs that can deliver a neurotoxin capable of killing and if this fails, they can inflate themselves to avoid being swallowed. Cute, slow and kind of deadly (deadly as in my book), these characters are always a delight to happen upon on respectful terms. Shot off Ohinau island in the Coromandel peninsular of Aotearoa (NZ)
July being my month of my birth is marked by the inclusion of another pacific octopus.
Click on the image to learn more…
August is a very close-up shot of the eye of a manta ray (manta alfredi)
This is a full frame shot of the lobe of the manta, taken with wide aperture and fast shutter to maximise detail in the soft afternoon light. You can see the ripples of light frozen across the wing, gills and lobe.
This shot is special to me as I had spent a great deal of time with her, gaining trust & developing curiosity. Again patience pays off with her approaching and gliding up before me, just arms length in front of my lens. The eye contact and moment captured here are very dear to me. These are some of the most graceful and beautiful creatures you may ever hope to encounter. Their very survival is threatened by our use of nets and lines in the ocean. They are “by catch” on prawn/shrimp and other marine life trawlers. They drown in their hundreds along Australia’s east coast in archaic and ineffective shark netting programs. Manta rays are a targeted species throughout Asia for medicinal and status needs.
I hope that as I write this, she has migrated safely north along the Great Barrier Reef and given birth to the next generation.
September’s feature is a Port Jackson Shark (heterodontus portusjacksoni)
This species has been a long time favourite of mine & have inspired a musical composition of mine titled hetrodontus. The golden kelp beds swaying in contrast with the turquoise blue of the Southern Ocean never ceases to captivate and stir my imagination.
I met this little guy in the fur seal pupping season on Montague Island (a precious marine reserve under commercial threat) swimming along the edge of the deep water drop off, catching the light, just right.
This shot captures the souther ocean colour and movement and the sleek shark form like that of my first impressions in these waters.
Miss October is a Bronze Whaler shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus)
A sleek and fearsome looking beast with a reputation to match, one that is founded in ignorance and misunderstanding. These are fairly common sharks in the Australian waters, so encounters with humans are more frequent. Like most members of the the whaler (Carcharhinidae) family, they are efficient and aggressive hunters and usually dominant in the water column when other species are present. Like most wild creatures they require respect, acknowledgement and a fair amount of your attention if you are ever so lucky to find yourself in the ocean with them.
This shot printed a wee darker than I would have liked, but that’s the trade off for printing from the other side of the globe. The shot is special to me because it was one of my most memorable dives in recent memory. Covid lockdowns had only just come to existence but we were lucky enough to have ‘work’ to do at sea. With no boats operating for several weeks at this point, the ocean felt more vibrant and wild than usual. No fishing or other intrusive human activities for nearly 2 months had served the sea nicely. After exploring a lagoon on a remote rocky outcrop, we noticed an uptick in action of schooling fish when returning to the deeper waters. Suddenly it was on, the lunch bell rang and the rush began. First one or two sandbar whalers appeared amongst the schools of fish and some barracudas began to hunt. Soon there was up to 20 whalers including bronze and bull sharks. Each dive down to photograph and individual would be crowded out by many others joining the feast. This bronze was the first I saw amongst the sandbar sharks and she came in hot and fast to check me out, resulting in the close up (un-cropped) image above. These are some of the prettiest sharks with their colouring (also known as coper sharks) of bronze/gold/copper and sleek form.
Mr November is a cheeky Humpback Whale Calf (Megaptera novaeangliae) shot in the deep blue pacific waters of Tonga.
I like this shot for it’s clarity and focus of the entire form of the whale.
I was exceptionally lucky to find myself alone with this whale, while our boat was a way off investigating some surface activity. The gentle curiosity of these giants is indescribable, and the deep sense of connection to everything is never more potent then when you are staring eye to eye with such a magnificent species.
I truly hope for his sake alone that we as a species can gain a little wisdom and foresight and end our profit fuelled destruction of their home.
May your november footprint be it’s lightest ever.