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Marine Life & Conservation

Photo Gallery: Grey Seals

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The third feature in our new Gallery series where we let the photos tell the story… This week, Nick and Caroline turn on the cute factor with a look at Grey Seals.

The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) are a large seal species that lives all around the UK coastline. In fact, over half of the worlds populations calls these waters home. Some colonies have become meccas for diving, like Lundy, The Farne Islands and Puffin Island (North Wales), as the young seals sometimes show a keen interest in diving groups and will come up, pull on fins and even pose for a selfie. It is an incredible experience and once we try to make sure we do at least once a year.

The key to success with close encounters, and therefore, great photo opportunities, is to act cool! Do not chase after the seals, as they will just zoom off into the kelp. If you wait near a gully, or near the surface where they haul out of the water, soon the younger, paler, smaller seals will be too curious and have to come and take a closer look at you. With a bit of patience, you can soon be playing tug of war with your camera, having your camera housing “mouthed” and your fins pulled. This is the time to head up to the shallows and get some natural light shining on your subject and keep shooting until your fingers are too cold to shoot anymore. There are very few dives anywhere in the world where you can have this much fun!

For more from Nick and Caroline, visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Image 1: Seal Selfie
Caroline waits for a curious young seal to come up and investigate her and then tries for a selfie. As the dives are shallow you have lots of time to try out new shots. Farne Islands. Nikon D7100, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Nauticam Housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/9; 1/160; ISO 640.

 

Image 2: Please don’t leave me!
A grey seal hangs on to Nick’s leg as if to try to stop him heading back to the boat at the end of the dive. Notice the cheeky nibble it is having on Nick’s drysuit! Farne Islands. Nikon D700, 16mm lens, Sealux Housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/16; 1/160; ISO 400.

 

Image 3:  A very young seal is surprised to come across us and puts on the brakes. The visibility was dreadful on this dive, but it was still huge fun. Puffin Island. Nikon D200, Tokinal 10-17mm lens, Subal housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/11; 1/160, ISO 500.

 

Image 4: Give us a kiss!
A diver on our group underwater photography trip makes a special friend. This seal spent the whole 90min dive with this one diver, giving us photographers a perfect subject. Farne Islands. Nikon D7100, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Nauticam housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/9; 1/160; ISO 640.

 

Image 5: Whiskers
A curious seal comes right up to the camera lens and seems to gaze at its reflection. The white whiskers standing out against a dark sea made it a good image to try a conversion to black and white. Farne Islands. Nikon D700, 16mm lens, Sealux housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/11; 1/160;        ISO 400.

 

Image 6: It was this big…
If you are patient and stay still in the water, the seals will come in close and put on a display. Their fins will come out wide as they stall and turn in the water. I always like shots that have the surface of the water included. Farne Islands. Nikon D200, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Subal housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/8; 1/250; ISO 400.

 

Image 7: Photobomb!
A grey seal pops into the shot just as Nick presses the shutter button. Got to love the cheeky (and toothy) grin. We had lots of fun on this dive. Farne Islands. Canon EOS 6D, 15mm lens, INON housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/10; 1/125; ISO 320.

 

Image 8:  Caroline plays with a seal and ends up face to face for a close-up shot. Farne Islands.
Nikon D800, 16mm lens, Nauticam Housing, INON Z-240 strobes; f/11; 1/125; ISO 640.

If you plan to photograph seals then remember, they are fast moving so you need to have a fairly quick shutter speed. As we shoot them in the UK, sometimes it can be in poor visibility or in darker waters, so set the ISO up a bit and your strobes down a bit. As we always shoot them with fisheye lenses we tend to have our aperture set in the f/8 to f/16 range to give a good depth of field.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Marine Life & Conservation

The IMPERFECT Conservationist, Episode #4: Think Like an IMPERFECT Conservationist – Why ‘imperfect’ is important (Watch Video)

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Why does “Imperfect” matter when it comes to conservation? In this video I explain how being imperfect is important especially when it comes to conservation. This is a view into the mindset of being an Imperfect Conservationist.

This is “The IMPERFECT Conservationist” – Episode #4, a between the scenes Special Edition. In this series I take the big concepts of conservation and break them down into easily digestible bite-size pieces that can be applied to everyday busy life. In each video you will get your dose of “Conservation Empowerment” with ways to THINK like an IMPERFECT Conservationist and EASY – AFFORDABLE – IMPACTFUL conservation action that fits into your life. We can’t do it all, or do it perfectly but when it comes to being part of the solution, we can always do something! Be inspired, inspire others, do something good. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button, and the bell so you know when my new videos post! More on my website and social channels too.

Subscribe HERE for weekly episodes of The Imperfect Conservationist!


Find out more at www.mehganheaneygrier.com

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Marine Life & Conservation

Meet Parpal Dumplin – Norfolk’s very own purple sea sponge named by local child

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Ten years ago, in 2011, a new sponge species was identified in the North Norfolk chalk beds by Seasearch volunteer divers. In January 2021, the Marine Conservation Society’s Agents of Change project invited children in the Norfolk area to name the purple sponge.

Following lockdown, the judges thought that this would be an ideal time for school children to bond, while using their creativity – with no constraints. From home schooling children to entire classes, the panel of expert judges received a fantastic response with suggestions including Norfolk Purplish Plum and Purple Stone Sticker. All entries were carefully considered by a panel of experts, looking at the creativity, suitability and usability of each name.

It was unanimously agreed that the sponge should be named Parpal Dumplin. The winning name was suggested by nine-year-old Sylvie from Langham Village School, “because the sponge is purple and it looks like a dumpling”. The panel particularly liked that the spelling gives the sponge a strong connection to Norfolk.

The panel of experts deciding on the name included: Catherine Leigh, Education Adviser at Norfolk Coast Partnership, Annabel Hill, Senior Education Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Jenny Lumb, Teacher at The Coastal Federation, Nick Acheson, President at Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society and Claire Goodwin, Research Scientist at Huntsman Marine Science Centre and internationally renowned sponge specialist. At the meeting, the panel was supported by Seasearch East Coordinator, Dawn Watson, who recognised this sponge as special over a decade ago.

Claire Goodwin, internationally renowned sponge specialist, says: “Dawn and Rob invited me to join a Seasearch survey of the east coast, including the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds. Dawn introduced me to a purple sponge she had noticed on the chalk reefs. We took samples, and believe it to be a species new to science, in a sub-genus of sponges known as Hymedesmia (Stylopus).”

We need to look at specimens deposited in museums to understand how many different Hymedesmia (Stylopus) species exist in the UK and how they differ from this new species. The Agents of Change naming project has given the sponge a common name that we can use until it has a scientific one.  I loved seeing all the creative suggestions.

Sponges help to keep seawater clean by filter feeding, consuming tiny particles of food that float by. There are over 11,000 different species globally and our purple one is ‘encrusting’, meaning it adopts the shape of whatever it covers. It lives in Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds Marine Conservation Zone, a precious area of local seabed that needs to be taken care of.

Jenny Lumb, Teacher at The Coastal Federation, said: “Naming the purple sponge has been a fun way for children to find out about the fascinating life hidden beneath the waves. It’s amazing to be given the chance to name a species that scientists and divers will use for years to come! The children are so fortunate to have the MCZ on their doorstep. They had a great time on the beach discovering some of the life there, collecting litter and finding out about this special coastal area. I am sure the children will continue to enjoy and care for the coastal environment into the future.”

Catherine Leigh, Education Adviser from the Norfolk Coast Partnership said: “It was a pleasure to help decide on the sponge’s name from so many fantastic suggestions submitted and I hope it will inspire people to find out more about all the incredible inhabitants of this Marine Conservation Zone on our Norfolk coastline.”

Hilary Cox, Agents of Change Norfolk Coordinator, said: “Parpal Dumplin is a great choice by the decision panel of specialists:  a local Norfolk name for this newly found species in North Norfolk’s Marine Conservation Zone.”

Annabel Hill, Senior Education and Engagement Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust said: “Wonderful to be involved in the process of naming a new species of sponge, found in Norfolk from a range of fantastic creative names suggested by local school children”.

You can find out more about the purple sponge, and the search for its name, by watching this animation: The seabed is a fun place to be! http://youtu.be/A_LUb8OSfn0

For more information on the work of the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

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www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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