Bali Photo Blog – Chapter 1 – I Spy, With My Little Eye…

Finally, some pictures from the recent trip to Indonesia (Bali & Komodo) to share.

First of all, let me confess that I took quite a lot of images on this adventure, and it is going to take me some serious time to wade through and process all the keepers. So far I have managed to get through the first three days of diving in Bali – 10 dives in total – and I have about 100 images that I am happy with. I still have something like 35 dives’ worth from Komodo that I haven’t even looked at yet. Yowza. Indo is incredibly critter rich, and despite my intentions to try to just shoot “new” (to me) stuff, my enthusiasm for always trying to improve my skills (and my photo stock) got the better of me. I will for sure pay for all that trigger happiness with a numb butt and carpal tunnel aggrevation ;^)

There were quite a few first sightings for me – several new (to me) nudibranchs – one of my favourite photo subjects – I love these often wildly coloured and patterned little slugs, and the fact that they don’t typically flee at the arrival of paparazzi schlepping a bigass camera makes them all that much more attractive to me ;^).

There were other firsts too – including my first-ever successful attempt at bagging a decent shot of a Clown Triggerfish – a fairly rare and very shy reef fish that I have long coveted, as well as several new shrimps and crabs. Oh, and a free swimming snake eel on a night dive that scared the beejeezus out of me. To quote Indiana Jones “I hate snakes” – especially underwater – and most especially at night. I had a (highly venomous) banded sea snake slither over my hand on a night dive on a previous trip to Indonesia. I will admit that I screamed like a little girl ;^)

I still have not seen a Coconut Octopus (reasons to go back to Indo), but we saw several varieties of cephalopods on the trip, including quite a few cuttlefish – I love these otherworldly critters that seem to be so highly intelligent. On one dive in Bali, I had the joy of watching a large broadclub cuttlefish tending her eggs. She had decided to use the tangled roots of a palm tree (which must have been dislodged in a big storm, as it ended up in 70 feet of water, quite far from shore) to stow her eggs. When we arrived on the scene, she was busy extricating them from one location, and moving them a few feet away, in to deeper recesses where they might be safer from predators. Rather than blasting away at her with my strobes, I chose to just hover a few feet away and watch her tend her nursery. It was lovely, and made me yearn for video capabilities…

My subject line for this post “I Spy, With My Little Eye” is pretty much a big fat lie. I don’t spy much in the way of little stuff with my sadly presbyopic eyes. Once upon a time, I had better than 20/20 vision. It has gone on a steep nose dive over the past couple of decades and I now sit at +5.5 in one eye, and +4.75 in the other. Add to that astigmatism and emergent cataracts and I will admit that without my progressive glasses on, the world is pretty much an Impressionist painting (which is not always a bad view ;^)

Many Indonesian dive guides are superb at critter spotting. It doesn’t hurt that a lot of them have dived the same sites, over and over and over again, and that many of the “photographer critter meccas” are somewhat sedentary critters (although this apparently changes seasonally), so finding a little something special at a certain site often pans out.

Over the years I have figured out some workarounds for my Mr Magoo vision – I wear a mask with some diopters (magnifiers) in them – stock lenses that are available in +5 increments, so I had them installed about six years ago in my Tusa mask. They are certainly not my accurate prescription, but they allow me to read my gauges and dive computer (and that’s a good thing ;^) and with the mask on, I can sort of see some of the smaller critters on the reef. A few years ago, when I got interested in shooting macro, I added a special viewfinder to my underwater camera housing (Aquatica), and looking through that (and with the adjustable diopter on my Nikon D300 camera), I get pretty close to good vision.

So I depend a lot on the dive guides, and other eagle-eyed divers, to show me little things to shoot. That being said, I am pretty proud about finding quite a few small things, all by my lonesome, on this trip. Knowing where little critters tend to live helps a lot, but I know that the chances of me ever finding a pygmy sea horse or a hairy shrimp are about nil…

For the small stuff, I shoot a Nikon 105mm macro lens, in manual focus. To further challenge myself on this trip, I added +5 and +10 wet diopters. Aquatica has come out with a fairly nifty bezel that attaches to its macro port, and then the lenses are pressure fitted by popping them in (or out when not needed). I also bought some keepers for the lenses, which are little ringy thingies that bolt on to the bases of my strobe arms. They are pretty skookum, and I installed them with the threaded side up, so the lenses could be screwed in securely to stow them when not in use. I really wish Aquatica had also used a threaded attachment for the diopters when they are attached to the bezel. Getting them seated while underwater is not easy, and I almost lost a lens a couple of times that wasn’t installed correctly…

But enough with the blathering. I have decided I am going to blog this trip chronologically, by dive or area, so today I am going to share some pix from our first dive in Tulamben (Bali). We were staying at Scuba Seraya Dive Resort, a place I like very much, for a lot of reasons, and which I have written about previously, so I won’t rehash it all here. For information on diving in Bali and a Scuba Seraya resort review, please follow this link.

Below is a sampling of some of my images from our first dive of the trip, which was a sloping muck dive just adjacent to the magnificent Liberty wreck at Tulamben (to be specific – just south of it).  I am currently away from my desk and don’t have my critter id books with me, so I am just going to give the common names for now. I will add the latin names when I get the chance.

Beginner’s Luck – First Shot Outta da Box – Soft Coral Crab

Razor Fish. A devlish proposition with a macro lens in manual focus, but I got lucky…

A Gaudy Crab of some sort, on a tube dwelling anemone. I didn’t even notice the translucent appendages of the crab until I downloaded the shot ;^)

Spotted Garden Eel. They are very reclusive critters, that live in colonies on the sandy bottom. Getting a shot like this required quite a lot of patience on my part (never my strong suit ;^).

This is some sort of shrimp goby. Getting the shrimp (that is blind and shares the lair with the goby) is not easy. It’s taken me a few years to actually get a shot of both together. Got one later on this trip that I will share when we get there in the blog.

Crinoid Squat Lobster. Very small and challenging to photograph as they burrow into the fronds of the crinoids. The photography method on these guys is pretty much point and pray ;^)

This is some sort of very strange little shrimp – I couldn’t find it in the Tropical Pacific ID book (aka the bible ;^) while we were on the trip, so if anyone out there knows what the heck it is, I would be grateful for the id.

Teensy Nudibranch – less than half an inch in length. Again, regretfully, no id at this time.

And that’s all she wrote for today. More Bali dives up soon…

Chapters of the Bali Photo Blog:

Chapter 1 – I Spy With My Little Eye
Chapter 2 – She Shoots, She Scores?
Chapter 3 – Liberty Time
Chapter 4 – Is That A Muck Stick Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

About Judy G Diver

Born and raised on the west coast of Canada, I have always felt a strong connection to the sea. But for many years, I stayed on the surface, afraid of what lurked down deep. When I was in my early 30's, with three young children (aka the P's), my husband (aka Mr G) signed us up for a SCUBA certification course, as a surprise. Although I had my fears, my stubbornness prevailed, and somehow I made it through four murky, frigid, cold water dives in Vancouver to successfully pass the course. Soon after we went diving off the west coast of Mexico, in the Sea of Cortez, where my eyes were opened to the beauty and other-worldliness of the life down under. And the rest, as they say, is history. I currently have well over 2000 dives under the belt, and I have been fortunate to travel and dive in Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, Fiji, Palau, Philippines, Galapagos, Costa Rica, Hawaii, California, Egypt, Mexico, several islands in the Caribbean, and here in British Columbia. In addition to this blog and my personal website (, which is linked at the top of the blog, my stuff has been published in a variety of magazines and websites, including a regular monthly feature for Scubadiving Magazine for several years. All links to this work can be found in this blog.
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