When you dive in Basura, you find the oddest things

Smile! I’m a hairy frogfish

Whenever SCUBA is marketed to the public, the point of entry is always how pretty everything is underwater. Go to any SCUBA marketing collateral and you’re guaranteed a photo of healthy coral reefs with schools of red anthias and other fish swimming in nonchalance. Don’t forget the diver in the pink wetsuit and huge yellow mask. I spent more than a year diving reefs, going to average depths of about 60 ft and deeper to catch glimpses of the “busy” underwater life.

After a while though, you start wanting other things. Even if they’re less beautiful and more bizarre.

I’m not entirely sure if this is true for all divers, but definitely going underwater with a camera can really change the way you look at your underwater sojourns. Lately I’ve been avoiding “exciting” dives that bring you to 60-80 ft, encountering epic schools of fish and coral gardens. Instead, my dive profiles have maximum depths of 20 ft and we’re underwater for 90 minutes ++. No corals. No schooling fish. Just sand. And muck. And the weirdest critters you can ever photograph.

Over the weekend, we went down to a muck site fronting a surf camp in Anilao. The site’s name is “Basura” .. laden with trash with no corals or anything interesting whatsoever. But once your eyes get used to the murky water, you end up finning really close to the seabed of sand and muck looking for the oddest things. I like referring to muck sites as the place to find “the ocean’s rejects” or “the dorks of the ocean” as this is really what it seems. Case in point: see the hairy frogfish photo above.

… and this white stone fish that I thought was a piece of rock until it moved. I really wouldn’t have known.

I think 50% of the adventure is the actual hunt for these prized critters. This nudibranch for instance doesn’t show the whole picture. It’s actual size is about 1mm. I was shooting in RAW with a 60mm macro lens and was able to get really close. Post-processing crop was also the ultimate tool here.

And of course, there’s always the shrimps and crabs that become easier to spot in a place with little to no corals.

This porcelain crab was hiding underneath a patch of soft anemone. What made it more difficult was that there was a family of clownfish that claimed the anemone as home and they’d dart by nipping my finger making it harder to focus.

I don’t know if it’s even proper to call this a new phase in my underwater sojourn. It just feels more like a real adventure akin to the stuff I watch on BBC World and National Geographic. As I used to say, since I can’t explore outer space, might as well explore every crevice underwater. And these critters are as close to the aliens I’ve always read about as a kid.

Pipefish staring contest!

If you wish to view the complete set, check them out at my Google+ album.

By Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast and sitting Techbology Editor for The Philippine STAR.

He is also an EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

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