A Two Hour Smile.

8/11 Waves.

It was a good dream.   Vague and mostly forgotten, not at all unsettling, a slight smile in my sleep.  I seemed very young, maybe seven, still free with innocence, unencumbered by later life.  It was a hot day, summertime, and we were, or had been, at the beach, where I had spent the entire day engulfed in waves.  Diving under, jumping up, turning so that the back of your head had the wave break over it while you looked through to shore, maneuvering for the next one, on and on.  Bodysurfing.  Giggling underwater all the way to the sand when you got caught.

Then came the post stoke relaxation and good sleep.  Warm breezes, full moon, abundance of life and living.  The August cicadas were singing away, celebrating the season.  Something then turned, the timing too early.  Soundwaves getting louder and louder, threatening my sleep and dream state.  The dream faded, like youth, or a good summer on the first day of school.  My alarm was blaring, no longer a cicada’s song.  I hit snooze.  Ahhh, crickets….

This new silence was not feeling like more real sleep,  so I grabbed my camera bag and water housing and headed down to the beach.  There was a slight North wind, which is always good, but heavy stratus cloud cover prevented any sunrise light.  Scanning the ocean for whales and dolphin, I waited, enjoying my 7-11 large, dark coffee.  Didn’t see any, but noticed the waves were actually curling a bit, first time in a while.

When I opened my bag to grab my 16-35mm, the lens was missing.  In its place was my 24-120mm.  Wasn’t sure if it would fit in the housing and with no collar on the lens there would be no zoom, but I gave it a shot and got lucky.   24mm, not bad for leaving the house half asleep. (EDIT:  looking at exif data, the zoom slowly shifted towards the longer end.)

Patches of blue started peaking through the grey.  I headed down toward the Fire Island Lighthouse.  Bare feet in sand, coffee in hand.  The next two hours brought changing light, one long smile, a few giggles, and the focused, alert, wake-full-ness of salt therapy.  Living in a dream.  It comes in waves.

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LHWave-Edit

 

7/26 Looking for sharks with the North wind.

Smooth Hammerhead.

NOAA’s marine forecast was showing light North winds and calm seas.  On the south shore of Long Island, NY, that means its a great time to do a little exploring out on the ocean.  With my small boat, I need to pick my days so I don’t come home black and blue.  More importantly, on those calm days, the visibility over the surface of the ocean greatly increased.  The background pattern is simpler and its easier for your eye to pick out anomalies.  These breaks in the pattern are often just birds or mylar balloons, (#balloonsblow) , but occasionally they are something exciting:   dolphin, sharks, turtles, whales, sunfish.

This trip I found an 8 to 10 foot Smooth Hammerhead, Sphyrna zygaena, who was pretty chill, allowing me to approach and even a little curious to check out the boat.

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This is often the first you see of a shark – just a little blip of a fin.  You keep your eyes on it; It could dive out of sight without a moment’s notice.

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He seemed relaxed, slowly finning on the surface, so I tried to get a bit up-sun of him, while getting the Fire Island Lighthouse as a backdrop.  The long narrow dorsal fin is the first indication that this was a Hammerhead.   Several people online claimed that this was a Mola mola Ocean Sunfish, but a picture, while sometimes being worth a 1,000 words, is still just a static slice of time.   Although they both have large dorsal fins, their swimming behavior could not be more different.   Sunfish are best described as being “floppy”.   Their dorsal fins flop back an forth, lazily.   Their entire bodies flop over sideways as if they are sick or hurt and unable to swim properly.  Floppy.   They’ve been described like this: “They are clumsy swimmers, waggling their large dorsal and anal fins to move and steering with their clavus. Their food of choice is jellyfish, though they will eat small fish and huge amounts of zooplankton and algae as well.”  So they flop and eat small floppy things.  Here is one I found a few miles from the shark.  Jay’s friend thinks this is a baby whale.

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The shark was finning pretty much in one direction, so I approached at idle speed towards where he was heading to basically intercept him.  I got really close and took a few pics.

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I was very happily surprised by how close I got, so I tried another approach and grabbed my GoPro.

Here you can see that this is a Smooth Hammerhead, not a Scalloped Hammerhead.   The Scalloped have a slight indentation of the very leading point of their head or cephalofoil.  These sharks are predators, feeding on fish.  In accordance with this, their movement is vastly different than the Sunfish’s flop. I have witnessed them feeding on bunker (menhaden) pods.  They can turn incredibly fast, slicing and dicing through a bunker school.  Here is an older shot of one feeding.  He was turning in a very small radius, very quickly.

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After the GoPro pass, I wanted a few more photographs, but I got too close for my long lens on the next pass.  Just off the bow, he swam through a very still ripple free section of water, and I was able to see him in all his glory, all 8 to 10 feet of him.  The only picture of that particular sight is burned only into my brain.  I tried for one more pass,  changing frantically to a 24-105mm with a circular polarizer to help cut through the water surface glare.  Polarizing filters are highly recommended.  Driving and positioning the boat while changing lenses was a bit much and I lost track of him.  Gone – just like that.

Smooth Hammerheads migrate North to temperate waters and are seen fairly frequently here in summer.  They school up to migrate, but as adults here, they tend to be solitary.  Solitary blips out of the background.  Keep your eyes out!

 

 

Summer n’ Sharks…

NY Summer Arrives.

6/28 Hot with a North wind.

 

Warming waters, plentiful bunker, lots of life, and a gentle northern wind to turn the ocean to glass made for a nice trip.   The dorsal fins of lots of Hammerheads and a few Blue sharks could be seen slicing the clean surface.

  • location – a few miles out of Fire Island Inlet.
  • subjects – Hammerhead and Blue sharks
  • gear – Nikon D810, Tam 150-600mm;  GoPro.  (I really could have used a polarizing filter to cut through the water surface.)

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Cutting through glass…

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Note the elongated, narrow dorsal as opposed to that of the blue shark.

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Sleek Blue
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Entangled Blue Shark

Blue shark, entangled in rope.  This blue was not boat shy, seemed attracted to the electronics in the GoPro.

 

 

 

On another note, please do not release balloons.  They are making a mess of things.  I filled a hatch without going out of my way, picking the ones in my path.

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Spitting into the Weather.

 

I was overheated, lethargic.  The world looked gray and dull for photography.  Yet there was that something in the air – subtle signs of weather change.  I figured I’d try to cool off swimming in a local cove for relief. The high temps and humidity had me feeling pretty lazy, so I figured I’d leave the camera home.  Realizing this was dumb, and anticipating rain, I left the heavy lenses home, but put my camera into a surf housing.  

Hemlock Cove was refreshing.  The god awful record-breaking brown tide was all but gone.  All was calm, but storm clouds were moving in, looking good. Had a swim, took a few shots and the wind shifted North.  White caps within three minutes inside the cove!

A North wind smooths the surface of the ocean, countering the usual onshore breeze here on the south shore of Long Island.  I ran across the parkway, and jumped in.  A nice storm, and being in the ocean are two things that re-energize me.  Can ya relate? Yep.

Photo tips:   I use a Nikon 16-35mm lens with an Aquatech base model housing. The base model has no real controls, so I set the F-stop to where I want it, and shoot in Aperture priority.  I then set the ISO to auto.  This way the camera has a chance to give me a good exposure. In the menu, you can set the lowest shutter speed and the highest ISO that you are comfortable with.  (If the amount of available light means your shutter would get too slow at your chosen F-stop, the ISO will automatically increase, allowing the camera to keep your shutter speed fast.)  

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(Aquatech base with flat port)

The wide angle requires a dome port. To prevent water droplets from blurring a pic, they need to go.  First, make sure you have no oily greasy fingerprints on the port.  (dish soap, but rinse well.)   Then, spit.  And spit.  And lick.  The dome port actually has a lot of surface area.  Spit a lot.  Lick a lot.  You may get funny looks.  Keep the housing under water until right before you shoot.  The water will fall off, leaving a thin film of water with no drops.  Keep spitting, keep licking, keep shooting. 

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Questions or comments?  – feel free to hit the comments.  Thanks for looking!