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Tag / underwater photography

This is the follow up to the previous post on the first set of underwater photos taken at Anilao. I also talked a little bit on the accommodation and food while we were there.

Here are another set of 10 underwater photos taken during the trip that I thought worthy of sharing.  Your comments and critics are very much welcomed. :)

a pair of Coleman Shrimps
a pair of Coleman Shrimps, Mato Point

We saw this pair of Coleman shrimps resting in the middle of a fire urchin. These creatures are pretty difficult to spot since they camouflage so well with the surrounding. The bigger shrimp is female, and from what I heard they might provide manicure service if you place your finger closer to them. We did not try that.

yellow frogfish, Basura
yellow frogfish, Basura

This was the first frogfish we saw at the dive site Basura, the little bugger is about 3-4 inches in length. The yellow submarine did not like to move much, and when it does it was a very awkward walk. Very fascinating.

a very tiny clown frogfish
a very tiny clown frogfish, Basura

Not far from the spot where we found the yellow frogfish sits this really tiny clown frogfish, a juvenile that was no bigger than 2 centimeters. If this thing isn’t the definition of cute I don’t know what is.

leaf scorpionfish, Mato Point
leaf scorpionfish, Mato Point

The leaf scorpionfish is another master of disguise. They don’t move much and blends very well with the surrounding and apparently can eat preys as big as half its body length.

porcelain crabs on coral, Basura
porcelain crabs on coral, Basura

A pair of porcelain crabs making an anemone as their home. They are not actually “true crab” but shares the same body plan as squat lobster. True crabs have 4 pairs of legs, these tiny crustaceans have only 3. They were about 2-3 cm in length and rather active.

red lionfish, Dead Palm
red lionfish, Dead Palm

Lionfish are found all on pretty much every dive site we went to in Anilao. While its venomous spines can be pretty intimidating, lionfish are usually quite shy and will try to swim away if you go close.

red lionfish, Arthur's Reef
red lionfish, Arthur’s Reef

Another closer look at the red lionfish.

pufferfish, Basura
pufferfish, Basura

Pufferfish is another family of fishes that’s widely found here. This one was trying to hide itself by ruffling up some sand, camera shy I guess?

pygmy seahorse, Dead Palm
pygmy seahorse, Dead Palm

This little bugger is one of the hardest creatures to find and photographed. They’re only about 1 cm in length and looked almost exactly like the coral in which they hide. To make things even more interesting, they are usually found pretty deep, this one at 28-29 meter.

purple tip tube anemone, Arthur's Reef
purple tip tube anemone, Arthur’s Reef

A common species of anemone found at most sites at Anilao, staring at one top down and close up gives me a pretty surreal feeling. (reminds me of the plastic bag scene in American Beauty)

Till another dive trip! Hope you enjoy these photos.

As promised, here are some photos taken from our diving trip to Anilao last Junuary (post on accommodation). These pictures were taken from the first two days of diving.

For anyone who’s interested, these is my underwater set up:

  • Olympus EPL3
  • PT-EP05L underwater housing
  • Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes x 2
  • Inon UCL-165 M67 macro wet lens
  • Ikelite tray & i-Das arm system

ribbon eel, Sombrero, Anilao
blue ribbon eel, Sombrero

I did a total of 11 dives over 4 days. We visited a number of dive sites but also went back to a few that we really liked.

Anilao really has quite a lot to offer. On the surface it is quite an unassuming peninsula. There isn’t any great beach nor excellent landscape, but underwater it’s a very different story altogether.

clownfish in anemone, Sombrero
clownfish in anemone, Sombrero

While lacking bigger marine life such as turtles and sharks, Anilao is teeming with huge variety of smaller underwater creatures. You can always expect a big variety of fish, shrimps, crabs, cephalopods (octopus/cuttlefish/squid), searhorses and various types of nudibranches basically in every other dive.

juvenile cuttlefish wasn't very pleased
juvenile cuttlefish wasn’t very pleased

Underwater landscape at most of the dive sites aren’t spectacular either. Arthur’s Rock by the resort offers perhaps the best seascape with more hard corals and rock formations, while sites such as Basura is shallow with sandy and at some parts, grassy bottoms.

emperor shrimp
emperor shrimp

It is when you look closer that you’ll start to marvel at what Anilao has to offer. Hidden amongst the corals, rocks, or sea fan are tiny creatures such as emperor shrimps, transparent shrimps, and and nudibranches.

play time with an octopus in a half bottle
play time with an octopus in a half bottle

Here, even what looked like floating debris could turn out to be ghost pipefish and other creatures. We were lucky as our guide Richard was great in spotting these and pointed them to us.

an unsuspecting scorpionfish
an unsuspecting scorpionfish

One of the strangest creatures I saw was this (I’m assuming) algae octopus that went bipedal and started walking away on the sandy seafloor with two tentacles acting like legs. It was both weird, wonderful, and slightly scary, like something you’d see in a B-grade sci-fi. Luckily it was no bigger than a tennis ball.

algae octopus going bipedal
algae octopus going bipedal

As for diving condition, there is usually very little current underwater. Other than the sites involving pygmy seahorses (maybe on another photo set), dive sites are generally rather shallow, which meant relaxing dives.

the elusive ghost pipefish
the elusive ghost pipefish

The only little problem we had was that the temperature can get a little chilly (about 25-26 C), having thicker neoprene or extra hoods/gloves should solve this problem.

transparent shrimp
transparent shrimp

Now this is making me miss diving again. We have a trip scheduled this October, but lets see if there’s a way we sneak one in between.

nudibranch - Nembrotha kubaryana
nudibranch – Nembrotha kubaryana

It’s been a fantastic diving trip to Anilao, the Philippines for myself and Haze over the past few days. The place is a heaven for macro and muck diving, with so many little critters going about the ocean floor minding their own business.

While it’ll take a while for me to process and pick some of the better photos from the trip, here’s a pair of porcelain crabs I shot on the 10th dive (out of 11) of the trip.

a pair of Porcelain Crabs from Anilao

These two crustaceans lived on an anemone, sharing home with a family of clown fish. This is just one of the many wonderful underwater scenes that you just gotta see for yourself.

More posts on Anilao coming up soon!

After attending MIDE (Malaysian International Dive Expo) a few weeks prior and ended up spending quite a chunk of change on gears, Haze and I decided that a dive trip must follow. After all, the last trip was some 4 months ago at Lang Tengah.

After a bit of calling about different dive operators both in Tioman and Tenggol, we settled on diving with the operator at Tenggol Resort, the establishment situated on the far right of the beach if you are facing the island.

our resort is located at the far right of the beach
our resort is located at the far right of the beach

Due to schedule constraint, we only wanted a 2 day 1 night trip, and the package we got quoted was RM 580 per pax, which includes 4 guided boat dives. However, we also had to pay a RM 250 surcharge due to the fact that they had to use a 24-seat ferry to fetch just two of us from Dungun (other divers were all on the 3D2N option).

Fair enough I guess, hat made it a tad more expensive than normal for 4-dives, but we were pretty adamant on diving last weekend, so we went ahead with the arrangement anyway.

jelly fish, and note the inhabitants within it
jelly fish, and note the inhabitants within it

Ferry was to depart at 8:30 am in the morning, we started our drive from PJ at around 3 in the morning and it took us about 4.5 hours including a sahur stop at highway R&R to cover some 400 km.

obligatory shot of a family of nemo
obligatory shot of a family of nemo

Dungun is actually the closest place to get to for any decent diving, unless you actually consider Lumut/Sembilan islands a valid diving option, which I don’t and hence hasn’t bothered to pen down  the trip there earlier this year.

I just wish they didn’t delay the opening East Coast Highway to 2015 from the original 2011, that would cut half an hour off, hello JKR!

can you spot the tiny shrimp?
can you spot the tiny shrimp?

The room we had at Tenggol Resort had 2 single bed on each side of the smallish room, with no table or closet, and an attached bathroom with surprisingly good heated water (works from 7 pm till 8:30 am, as with electricity). Air conditioning didn’t really work well for us but temperature at night on the island is usually pretty comfortable anyway.

We didn’t have any problems with insects or bed bugs but a mat salleh in another room had his back bitten pretty bad. This is definitely not a 3-star or even 1-star type of place, but it will get you through the night if you’re not too fussy.

a pair of nudibranch, Hypselodoris bullocki, yes, coitus
a pair of nudibranch, Hypselodoris bullocki, yes, coitus

As with any trip at Tenggol (and with most islands), all meals are provided. We were lucky as there was an actual professional chef working (part time) at the resort for that particular week, so we ended up having pretty awesome meal. Your mileage may vary.

a white nudi wandering around - Chromodoris coi
a white nudi wandering around – Chromodoris coi

We did 3 boat dives on the day of arrival, and another morning dive on the next day. Our dive master Salleh was a very “chilling” type of guy, but perhaps one that is more suited for seasoned divers than beginners. Briefings were actually very brief, and the DM also didn’t dictate what we were doing underwater for the most part, we were also allowed to stay as long as we wanted instead of some who can’t wait to get out of water once it’s over 45 minutes.

My experience with the DM is a positive one.

underwater seascape
underwater seascape

Short dive logs, check this image for dive sites:

  1. Moon Wrecker – 11:26 am 21/6/2012. 43 minutes drift dive with plenty to see and pretty decent 15 meter visibility.  Saw some huge jelly fish, and one being attacked/eaten by a Titan Trigger fish, a 5 foot long black tip shark swam by 15-20 meter away too, good stuff. Slightly challenging dive for Haze in the beginning but she cope well. DM led us with another 2 guys – Thomas & Trud (spelling?).
  2. Rajawali Reef – 2:54 pm 21/6/2012. Plenty of nudibranch in this dive, there were no current, nice and relaxing. Spotted stingrays too, 54 minute dive time.
  3. Tanjung Gemuk – 5:53 pm 21/6/2012. We spent another 55 minutes on the last dive of the day, nice calm evening water with more nudibranch, stingray, eel, and pipe fish. It was just Haze, myself, and the dive master in this dive.
  4. Tokong Timur – 8:41 am 22/6/2012. One of the better dive sites at Tenggol that is also a bit more challenging, Tokong Timur is a very small island with a light house atop. There was a bit of a mild current and slightly choppy surface water, saw one really big batfish, and as with anywhere Tenggol, more nudibranch, sea fan, and nemo. Not a bad way to end the trip.
Our maximum depths in all those dives were capped at around 20+ meters, and at one point we touched 27 meter I believe.

Haze's imitation of a sky dive, or something
Haze’s imitation of a sky dive, or something

With this short Tenggol trip I’ve logged 28 dives in 4 diving trips this year. Diving can be an expensive hobby, I justify it with not having a car loan.

hello stingray, look who's looming behind
hello stingray, look who’s looming behind

My current set up for underwater photography is the Olympus E-PL3 with the in-house EP-PT05L housing. I have an ikelite plate for it and a single Sea & Sea YS-01 underwater strobe to light up the subject. All photos taken with Inon UWL 100 & Dome port.

My gears are almost complete, I just need to upgrade it to dual YS-01 (or trade this in for dual Inon z-240 and be RM 2-3k poorer), and add a stacked Inon UCL-165 lenses for macro to complete my gears. Perhaps some floats will help too, the equipment is getting heavy.

normal camwhore is so mainstream, this is underwater camwhore!
normal camwhore is so mainstream, this is underwater camwhore!

I think there’s another 1-2 trips to be done in this year, bring it on!

By the time you read this, I’ll be on MV Vilai Samut and diving somewhere near the Similan Islands, and hopefully underwater enjoying a bit of compressed air. (last year’s trip here)

The difference is this time, the good people at Olympus has loaned me the following gears to pair with my E-PL3:

Olympus PT-EP05L underwater casing with UFL-2 flash
Olympus PT-EP05L underwater casing with UFL-2 flash

That’ll be the original PT-EP05L underwater casing for the E-PL3 and the UFL-2 underwater flash, coupled with a sync cord and a short arm. Together this makes a very compact underwater photography system with picture quality that should rival the much bulkier underwater SLR systems, not to mention at a price that is quite a lot cheaper. (the casing is retailed at around RM 2k, while you can hardly find any SLR UW housings cheaper than RM 5k).

In fact, this is so compact you can essentially operate with just one hand, great for when there’s a current, or that your buoyancy skill is a bit suspect. :D

all buttons are  clearly labeled and quite easily accessed
all buttons are  clearly labeled and quite easily accessed

When considering moving from compact camera system (I also use a Canon S90 with Ikelite underwater casing and a Sea & Sea YS-01 flash) to SLR or 4/3 format, the underwater accessories was always a consideration for me. After a bit of research, I came to like the Oly even more.

They are one of the very few companies that offers complete underwater photography solutions. Check out their underwater accessories page.

Arm, bracket, flash systems, housings, conversion lenses, and even weights. All theses saves a lot of hassles trying to mix and match products from different manufacturers and hoping that it all gels together.

Olympus UW casing with Inon UWL 100 & dome port, ikelite S90 casing
Olympus UW casing with Inon UWL 100 & dome port
the bare Oly casing isn’t really much bigger than S90′s 

That being said, the PT-EP05L casing does play well with third party accessories too. I’ll be fitting it with my Ikelite bracket from my S90, and even the Inon UWL 100 & Dome port fits right on the the casing and should give me a very good wide angle coverage. (I put the Sea & Sea flash just as a demo and most likely won’t be using it on actual dives).

Lets hope there are already some decent underwater photos in my memory card by the time you see this. Will post the results soon!

P/S: the dive trip is from 3-8 February and we’ll be on radio silence. I’m gonna miss the Superbowl. Hope you had a great Chap Goh Meh too!