Hiding …

The Red Sea, Tiran, Egypt

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Touring Egypt 8: The first time I visited Egypt many years ago, I happened to see a longnose hawkfish and completely blew the picture. These fish are very small and retiring. They generally hide amongst corals in places where they will not be seen and seem to have a sixth sense about when a diver is getting close. Sensing my approach, the fish quickly flits away and then rapidly freezes in a new concealed spot, where I can just about see it but have no chance of getting a photo. I love the bright checkered coloring of these little fish, but until now had seen very few and managed to photograph even fewer as I bumbled and bubbled my lumbering way around the world’s reefs.

Today we are on a boat trip out of Sharm el-Sheikh with my favorite operator there, Camel Dive.* We have motored to the islands at Tiran and are diving one of the premier sites there, “Jackson Reef.” Boat diving from Sharm is a lovely, relaxing experience. The crews and divemasters are all friendly and open, the food during the surface interval invariably excellent, and the sights are … Well, it is the Red Sea: There are not many places here that make a bad dive. Especially if you are accustomed to diving in the Caribbean or other destinations near the US, the Red Sea is a very different underwater environment: The colors are bright, visibility is terrific, and the incredible variety of life offers many more sights to behold than we normally see around America.

Today’s dive is on a nearly vertical wall, with divers staying to the middle depths while dive boats raft together on fixed mooring points above. On this particular day we were lucky in that there were no other boats when we arrived, so we were first on the reef and got to see a number of photogenic beasties (fodder for other posts) before they were scared away or I would’ve had to shoot through other divers’ bubbles. I saw this little hawkfish hiding deep within the branches of a coral. Taking my time, I drifted away from the coral fan while I set the camera to macro and adjusted my strobes to an angle that hopefully would get the light into the coral. Then I very slowly drifted back up to the coral fan, camera held with both hands stationary in front of me, controlling buoyancy with small breathing adjustments and using only my fins (extended well back from the reef wall) to make very gentle attitude and direction adjustments. I floated to a hover with my camera lens nearly but not quite touching the end of the coral branches and strobes oriented to the gaps between the branches. I got one shot, and the fish was gone.

(Canon Powershot G9 in Ikelite case with two Ikelite DS-125 strobes set to TTL metering, integrated lens at 9.9mm, ISO 80, f/5.6, 1/60 sec.)

* When in Sharm, I usually stay and dive with Camel Dive Club and Hotel, a full-service PADI dive school and a nice and reasonably priced hotel right in the center of Na’ama Bay. A couple of the town’s best restaurants and “watering holes” are also right there in the hotel/dive facility.