A great surf photograph appears loose and improvised, like the waves and surfers it depicts. The reality is less spontaneous. The photos that you see in surf magazines rarely happen by accident, and could never be captured without preparation and planning that can start months before—all to capture a moment that lasts a fraction of a second. Hauling your bulky camera and housing through the surf is rarely easy, and staying in shape to withstand wave power takes ongoing work. To train, I swim in the ocean and in pools. I practice holding my breath. I spend time treading water. I kick hundreds...
Tags: Photography
Shooting seascapes often involves hiking on very delicate rock formations near tidepools and reefs full of plant and marine life. The photographer has to be very careful when walking on these rocks, not only for his or her safety, but also to avoid disrupting the natural environment. When I first began shooting seascapes, I'd often get so focused on getting the composition and lighting just right, sometimes I would start rushing and become careless. I'd scramble across the rock formations to compose shots without always giving the environment beneath my feet the care and respect it deserved...
Today’s discoveries about our planet’s biological diversity build upon the research of previous generations of scientists. The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a digital library committed to providing free and open access to this treasure trove of information, much of which is held in the libraries of natural history research institutions around the world . From recent articles published via premier scientific journals to monumental volumes marking the beginning of our study of the natural world, BHL’s collections include information about species from every corner of the globe and...
I took this shot at Pfeiffer Beach, my favorite beach in my home state of California. If you aren't familiar with it, it is a very secluded beach in Big Sur where we have some of the most spectacular scenery to be found. Up until somewhat recently, Pfeiffer Beach remained a fairly well kept "secret" of area locals. If you blink an eye, you will miss the entrance to the windy road that takes you from the hairpin curves of Highway 1 down to this very special place. As is often the case, it was a very windy afternoon in autumn when I last visited Pfeiffer for the first time since I had moved...
Top predators along the California coast are having a rough year. Recently starving sea lions have showed up on California beaches and are clamoring for fish at the mouth of Oregon's Columbia River ; tens of thousands of dead Cassin’s Auklets have washed up on shores from Alaska to California. Although we cannot say precisely why these animals are having such a hard time finding food, we can point to a problem with their food source, forage fish. What exactly are forage fish? They are the small, pelagic, schooling fish that form large " bait balls " in the ocean. Think anchovies, sardines and...
I am a member of SCUBAnauts International , an organization for young people passionately interested in the ocean. Of all my experiences as a SCUBAnaut, sharing my love of the ocean with wounded veterans really stands out. As we come up to Memorial Day, I wanted to share what this has meant for me. It was the summer of 2012, and salt water cascaded into my mouth as I emerged above the water's surface. Sputtering for a few moments, I managed to clear my airway and take a deep gulp of fresh air. My legs were burning. Blinking rapidly I swiveled my head to get a clear view of my diving partner,...
Tags: Scuba diving
Slip into the water along a sheltered coast in nearly any part of the world and you’re likely to find yourself in an emerald field of seagrass . Like flowering plants on land, seagrasses grow, flower, and produce seeds—and they do it all underwater. Although they may lack the star power of coral reefs, seagrass meadows can be equally beautiful, teeming with a diversity of life, and are every bit as important as reefs. Seagrass meadows are nurseries for young fishes, feeding grounds for sea turtles, manatees and birds, and their extensive root systems bind sediments to protect coasts. In fact...
Brian Skerry is a world-renowned underwater photographer and journalist with decades of experience. He combines artistic vision and passion for the ocean with deep knowledge of photographic principles and specialized tools to create powerful and beautiful images. Some of his best photographs are now on display in the exhibit Portraits of Planet Ocean , open at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History through November 2015. But even people without decades of experience can capture a magical shot. That's why we've chosen to celebrate the work of amateur photographers by hanging their...
Recently, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History researcher Chris Mah and collaborators with the British Antarctic Survey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute used molecular tools and a scanning electron microscope to discover two new species of sea stars. These sea stars live across the world from one another, one in Antarctica and one in the North Pacific, yet are closely related species belonging to a brand new family! As Dr. Mah wrote at the Unearthed blog : Two NEW species from very different locales at bathyal depths of the ocean: the Antarctic and the North Pacific...
By now, you have probably heard of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch . The name conjures the image of a floating island made of familiar plastic trash such as soda bottles and plastic bags, disposable utensils and lighters. However, this image doesn’t really capture the full spectrum of plastic debris that is out there. While some of the plastic pieces swirling in the Pacific Ocean are large, many of them are closer to the size of a popcorn kernel—and certainly small enough for fish to eat, at least in theory. While we have lots of evidence that sea turtles , seabirds , and marine mammals eat...