DANO Pendygrasse

odds and ends from an unusual life

Cordelia Banks.

Hello friends,

I’ve been back from Roatan for just a few days but life is moving incredibly quickly. It’s always like this when good things happen, they tend to happen in clusters and it’s all you can do just to keep up. I’m holding on for the ride!

When I was in the water waiting to shoot the shark release, I had some time with Ian Drysdale from healthyreefs.org and we spent it discussing the Cordelia Banks on the South side of Roatan. Recently discovered, the reef there is largely made up of staghorn coral which went through a disastrous decline due to disease in the 80’s. It’s in the crosshairs of the conservation movement because due to the healthy population of staghorn and its proximity to deep water currents, there is speculation that these reefs maybe be responsible for repopulating the staghorn population throughout the entire Caribbean. Impressive. The Cordelia Banks are a rich environment for fish as well. Grouper have been seen to use the area as a spawning aggregation site and the reef is an ideal nursery for juvenile fish.

Cordelia is also located less than a kilometre away from the Coxen Hole cruise ship dock, and about 7 kilometres from the new massive cruise ship facility at Mahogany Bay. 3 or 4 hundred times a year, thousand foot long cruise ships come within striking distance of this fragile ecosystem. There is evidence of boat strikes on the reef, but still they manage to flourish. Also, Coxen Hole is the largest population centre on the island and much of the pollution filters through the reef.

So Ian invited me to come dive Cordelia to get a sense of it for myself and shoot some photos. We’re going to try to get these out there and raise some awareness to help protect what could end up being a critical resource in the health of coral in the Caribbean. We had a small window one morning between high winds and conditions weren’t ideal, but I was lucky enough to get a look at this amazing ecosystem. Take a look.

D.

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One windy boat ride. Ian smiles while Nic from the Roatan Marine Park prepares his kit.
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Ian inspects a small growth of staghorn.
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This coral may be as little as two or three years old.
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Fields of the stuff. A rare sight these days.
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And a nursery for many fish species.
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Most of the healthiest parts of the reef are in less than 10 feet of water.
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Sharks, crabs, divers and more.

Hello friends,

Well I’m done leading dives and trying to focus on shooting photos for the rest of this trip. I have been trying out a variety of different techniques and getting more good results than bad, but admittedly, at this point in the trip, I’m not as far along as I’d like. Having said that, I always set pretty lofty goals and have high standards for myself and I probably wouldn’t be happy unless I came away from this trip with a cover shot.

We saw two different sharks today. I found the first one, just a little baby 3 foot nurse shark, and Mickey found a 5 footer or so on the next dive. Even though nurse sharks are pretty much completely non-threatening, it’s still cool to see them.

Enjoy the shots,

d.


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Kat checks out some tube sponges
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And here she is again.
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An Ocellated Box Crab (Calappa ocellata) hides from me in the sand on a night dive.
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Lil nudi at night.
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Kat found this gaudy clown crab, Biggest one I’ve ever seen.
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What is this scorpionfish thinking? Bad spot dude, bad spot.
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Yes, I have a favourite coral. This is it.
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Toady the toadfish in a different hole at last. So glad I could see his tail.
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Mickey inspects a different scorpionfish.
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These nassau grouper are following us around every dive hoping for lionfish kills.
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Mickey’s nurse shark
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Really like what is going on with this hungry fireworm.
Comments

Shooting the Honduran President

Hi friends,

A couple days ago I found out that the President of Honduras was coming to Roatan to participate in a shark release. It turns out that it was part of the PR push for the announcement that Honduras has declared all of its territorial waters a shark sanctuary. Nice stuff, hard to police in this country, but nice nonetheless.

So Nic from the Roatan Marine Park asked if I would shoot the release and of course I said yes. Members from the RMP and the Shark Legacy Project worked to put together the event and the sharks were transported from the pen where they have been captive for several years, onto a boat, and out to west bay.

There was surprisingly little security for the event considering the recent political climate in Honduras and after bobbing around waiting for an hour or so, a boat from AKR pulled up and there was President Porforio Lobo Sosa a few feet away. Next came the important task of waving to the press and talking to the researchers and conservationists. The President certainly seemed engaged by the process. Then it was time to release the sharks. The first one was lifted out of the holding pool with a cradle and released. He immediately swam to the wall and disappeared into the deep. The second, bigger shark did a couple laps of the reef crest before heading to deeper water.

It was all very interesting to watch and shoot photos of. I understand that there are several more captive nurse sharks on Roatan, and hopefully this will set some kind of precedent to release the rest of them. Coincidentally, we’ve been seeing a lot of nurse sharks on dives lately, several this past week. Not sure what that means but I hope it’s good.

One week till home friends. One week. tomorrow we’re trying to go to the Cordelia Banks, a reef of staghorn coral like nowhere else in the Caribbean, and a hot target for protection. Stay tuned.

Enjoy the photos from the release.

d.



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Sharks awaiting release on the boat. Giacomo, Ian, Doug and Christy standing by.
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The President waves to the press.
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The press.
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The first shark in the sling
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The first shark is away. If Marine Park Nic’s back wasn’t so big, you’d see it.
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Oh, there it is...
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President Lobo supervises the second release.
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The second shark is away!
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Roatan update

Hi friends,

So I have passed the halfway mark of my trip. Now I start to try to cram in everything I haven’t done. This past week that has included no photos, hence no posting. Micky from Reef Gliders had the flu so I pitched in leading dives all week. Lots of diving, but no camera. I snuck in a day yesterday, I’ll lead a couple more today and then a night dive tonight. Looking forward to it.

Leading is a completely different dynamic than shooting. I’m more concerned with the divers in tow, navigation, air consumption and managing issues that come up, than I am with finding things. Still I managed to find a nurse shark and a couple eagle rays have graced us with their presence.

In any case, here are some shots that have come out of the last day, and a few from before.

Enjoy,

D.


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Weird perspective green moray.
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A crap shot, but at least it’s a NUDI! Black spotted nudibranch, whose spots are actually blue.
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Found this guy yesterday. Red Ridged clinging crab. Mickey says he’s quite uncommon.
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Come hither turtle.
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coralscape
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A pair of white spotted filefish let me hang out with them.
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fighting male parrot fish. Grrrr.
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Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years.

Hi friends,

Well last time we spoke, I had just finished a couple semi crap days and vented a bit. It has been pointed out the shots in the last blog were not terrible or out of focus, or whatever, and I guess that’s true. The thing is, when you shoot a bunch of shots, you tend to look at the group as a whole. “Was this day successful?” comes down to percentages. If 10% of my shots end up being A quality, then it’s a pretty good day. If 1% turn out, not so much. The previous blog just followed a couple of 1% days in a row. Still there are always standouts. But sometimes even they don’t match up to the picture I had in my mind, which is the only standard I ever really care about.

Yesterday I went back to the 10.5mm lens to see if I had been overhyping it in my mind, or if it really is that good. It really is. It’s also too wide for a lot of things. I saw a pipefish for instance (which happened to be beerfish on that dive) so I needed to get proof. The 10.5mm is not very well suited. It does, however, shoot fabulous reefscapes and divers, so that’s what I’ll be bringing you a lot of today.

After all this fisheye I’m ready for a good macro dive now, and it’s just started to rain so that’s probably going to happen.

Thanks to all the divers who put up with me underwater. Kraig, Colin, Mickey, Mel, Will, and even Kelly who doesn’t yet know what she’s in for. Especially Karen who is leaving and put up with many flashes.

Enjoy the shots.

dano.

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dropping in.
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Mickey in Kraig’s crack.
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Suddenly a giant sponge lunged out and ate Kraig’s head.
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Just a beautiful coral overhang.
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Elkhorn coral in the shallows. Playing with Snell’s window.
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This is ready for the cover of Lionfish Weekly magazine.
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Mikey found a MASSIVE head of brain coral. Kelly swam by on her first dive here.
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Will helps me get a shot. Thanks Will.
Comments

Setbacks

Hi Friends,

Well I guess we can’t always just charge forward. Sometimes you get caught in a soft spot and slide backwards. The last couple days have been that for me.

I’ve made some lens choice mistakes, which admittedly isn’t the biggest deal in the world, it’s the kind of thing that is hard to predict, how is the viz going to be? What will be available? Well for several dives in a row I simply took along a lens that was wrong for the job. Not wasted time, but not time well spent either.

Also, I overestimated the quality of the 12-24 and shot for 2 days without really checking the files. The result was that I have a lot of soft images. Also disappointing. I’ll be more careful now knowing the limitations of the lens. Those primes aren’t looking so bad now...

As with life, when it starts to suck, you gotta push through till the other side. Here are some highlights from some bad days.

d.


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craziest tips I’ve ever seen on a giant anemone.
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another spotted moray. i like shooting em and i will keep shooting em.
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the tiniest starfish i’ve ever seen. wrapped around coral polyps!
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star in a cup
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whitenose pipefish with his creepy red eyes. this was one of the most disappointing encounters. I back focused the best shot and am left with this.
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hunting. Mickey called this a “target rich environment.”
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Love these. They look completely black underwater and then you hit em with a strobe. Boom.
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tried to get some shots with my friend Kathryn.
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still getting a feel for directing people and getting what I want.
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...so I’m playing with different ideas.
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working on the sunball too. this one is ok.
Comments

Skoobing fotos.

Hi friends,

A few more shots. Had some equipment problems and the boats have been full so I’m not shooting as much as I’d like, but here are a couple to look at. My friend Alex asked me to call diving “Skoobing” because it sounds funny. I think that should be no problem.

Enjoy,

d.

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duh...
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lil shrimp.
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spotted drum
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trunicate
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pedersen’s cleaner shrimp
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Scorpionfish
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Maui blog

Hi friends.

So as you who follow me on flickr, twitter or facebook know, I’m just back from Maui again. It gets harder to leave every time. Having said that, it was one of those trips where my priorities were pretty low on the list, lots of family and friends things on the schedule so I didn’t dive as much as I would have liked and didn’t shoot as much either. I did however, relax a lot and read a lot which are things that are sorely lacking in my day to day life. Favourite book of the trip was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

I’m continuing down a road in my travel photos that I’m finding deeply satisfying. Experiments that started in Sweden are developing into rules and themes that I feel very connected and sure about. I think that one of the things that hangs over the head of creative people sometimes is the “is this valid?” question. It’s hard to answer and if you need someone else to pat you on the head and tell you that it is, you can find yourself corrupted from your intentions by the desire to get more pats on the head. I’ve found that in the last couple years I’ve been liberated from a lot of habits born from shooting almost entirely with an editorial goal in mind. In the end, I’ve come to a place where personal satisfaction is then only validation I require.

I added to three different personal groups of work this trip as well as all the underwater stuff, which I’ll get to in a second. Until then, here are some impressions of Maui above water. If you click any of them they should open in my photoshelter gallery.

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Baldwin Park in Paia. An outtake from my “fields of play” series.
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People react to a dead sea turtle.
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Big beach
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Christmas day.
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Private property. An outtake from my “semi-natural states/coast” project.
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Who wants to go fishing?
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Palm tree from the couch.
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Beachgoers.
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Makawao plant.
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Ok, ok. One more stupid sunset.

Then we got underwater. We did some shore dives and also did some boat dives with Ed Robinson’s and B&B Scuba. If you’ve dived with either of them you know that they are both great operations. We did most of our dives at Molokini, which always provides the chance of great encounters and one dive on the St. Anthony’s wreck which I love. I should have spent more time on the surface though. It was a very short dive.

In terms of shooting, I was rusty which drives me bonkers, so hard to push yourself when you have to relearn things every time. In the end though it came together. I was shooting a single strobe, which, when it comes to balance (both underwater and in terms of lighting) was challenging. Eventually I did push my macro forward a bit, the wide angle suffered from the single strobe but I actually don’t buy into the school of thought - that is so prevalent - that says everything needs to be super evenly and completely lit. I actually think it’s a real cop out way to shoot.

So, lots of nudibranchs, no whale sharks this time. We saw a fair amount of white tip reef sharks, heard a lot of whales and saw a variety of new creatures. No boardshorts for me this time though. The water was 75 and I was in a 3/2 wetsuit. My Roatan friends have permission to laugh now.

Enjoy the set.

d.

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Waves crash over Molokini back wall.
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Blue dragon nudi.
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And another one.
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White mouth Moray.
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These guys are called Guard crabs.
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More back wall.
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Trembling nudibranch at Mala boat ramp.
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A pair of Imperial Nudibranchs
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Fried egg nudi.
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This is a painted frogfish at 5 graves.
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White margin nudi
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Gold lace Nudi. Ooooooo, pretty.
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This is a coral. An oval mushroom coral actually.
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I thought this was a dragon wrasse but it’s actually a juvenile razor wrasse.
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These fellas are everywhere.
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This was new to me. Scaly slipper lobster.
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And then home...
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A week in Belize with Sun Dancer 2

Hello friends,

I’m just back from a week in Belize aboard a fantastic liveaboard dive boat called the Sun Dancer 2. The flagship of the Dancer fleet, the Sun Dancer 2 runs out of Belize City and spends the week hopping from site to site along the mesoamerican barrier reef and exploring some really pristine reef systems, much of them protected and part of a UNESCO world heritage site.

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Close friends of mine will know that we’ve had a tragic year and this week away was very much what we needed at the end of an emotionally exhaustive stretch. This trip would have already been great, but that fact that the captain and hostess are Simon and Andrina made it even better.

I spent a week diving these waters in 2006 and was looking forward to getting another look at the reef. It’s very similar to what I know in Roatan, but it gets less traffic and has some creatures that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. I can’t recommend these guys enough, they are so quick to take care of every need, the food is great, and some of the best diving in the Caribbean is right under your bunk.

I finally housed one of my Nikons after years of messing around with point and shoot cameras underwater. It’s bigger and heavier, but it does the job a hundred times better.

Here are some shots.

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Captain Simon. Hold his nose and air comes out of his ear...

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Some really nice staghorn coral.


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The spotted toadfish is endemic and found nowhere else. It took me until the last night to see him though!

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First time I’ve ever seen a Spanish Dancer.

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This funny little guy is called a Goatee blennie. Another first time creature for me, they are extremely reclusive and rare to find.

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Fringe backed nudibranch. T found this guy and I spent a bunch of time with him.

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This is the second Viper Moray I’ve ever seen and the first I’ve ever got a shot of.

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Gorgeous little filefish.

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Andrina underwater...

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Andrina waiting on the stern.

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Tiny little brittle star.

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Reef Squid at night.

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Octopus at night.

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Pushing the limit of my 60mm macro.

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Pedersen’s cleaner shrimp.

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Horse eye jacks lived under the boat all the time.

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T with an eagle ray.

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Nice walls and fans.

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Damn lionfish.

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Cave full of silversides.

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Sponges.

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Horny.

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Relaxed.

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Night stingray.

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I’m a fan of fans.

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The housing gets a rest.

D.
Comments

Roatan dive photos - Photoshelter gallery

Check out some shots from diving in Roatan, Honduras.

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roatan for the holidays

In between power cuts and with extremely inconsistent internet, I'd like to wish everyone a happy Christmas and New Years from Roatan. Diving with Reef Gliders again and they have a new, much bigger and better spot in the West End. I've seen all sorts of old friends and met some new ones too. Saw a seahorse on my second dive, of course I never dive with my camera the first couple times after time off. Of course.

Here is a turtle. I'm already counting the days before I have to come home.

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