By Joseph Tepper
, June 24, 2013 @ 10:00 AM (EST)
By Joseph Tepper
I’ve never sky dived before. But with reef hook firmly clawed into a hunk of dead coral at Palau’s Blue Corner and the three-knot current trying to rip my mask away, it’s as close to parachuting as I’ll ever get.
And it’s a good thing my mask stays firmly in place so that I can watch the spectacle of this famous site fly by: dozens of reef sharks drifting lethargically in toe behind scads of mackerel, giant napoleon wrasses trolling for a hardboiled egg snack, and the occasional ornate eagle ray all steal the show.
While the southeastern most tip of the archipelago known as Blue Corner is an underwater photographer’s dream by itself, I had my sights set on discovering all the other snapshots to be had amongst Palau’s 250 islands. So I set sail with the Palau Siren as part of our siries Sailing with Sirens on the Worldwide Dive and Sail fleet. For more than a week I photographed everything from a marine lake swarming with millions of stingless jellyfish to iconic WWII wrecks.
Now, fresh off my 10-day adventure with the Siren, here’s a sneak peak at what I captured…
This is a pretty typical scene at blue corner: You take a picture of a school of fish to
discover three or four sharks circling in the background after the fact
On a good current day, you can photograph dozens of sharks hugging
the wall. A zoom lens is a must, as despite their numbers these grey reefs are quite shy.
Palau features underwater photography opportunities found nowhere else in the world. Hauling my 20 lbs of camera gear through the jungle to Jellyfish Lake was well worth it--the millions of stingless jellies are simply stunning in photo form, whether you're shooting with a DSLR or GoPro.
Floating through fields of jellies makes for great photos--the model gives a true
sense of scale to the scene.
It's the underwater photography opportunities unique to Palau that stick in my memory (memory card, that is). Capturing the millennia-old stalactites of chandelier cave and the deep water dwelling nautilus were firsts in my career--and I would photograph them again in a heartbeat.
These deep sea living molluscs are endemic to Palau and are easy to photograph even for a beginner due to their slow and calm disposition.
Exploring chandelier caves: I made sure to bring out my big dome port to capture some interesting split shots inside this unique cave system.
Palau also features the tallest collection of cabbage coral anywhere. Drift through 20-foot-tall cabbage corals in Oolong channel and enjoy the view.
You don't need to travel to Chuuk (Truk
) to photograph the historic wrecks of WW2. Palau features dozens of wrecks, from 300-foot-long supply ships to sea planes. The Teshio Maru was a personal favorite, with a prominate bow just begging for some wide-angle photography
With limited visibility on many of Palau's wrecks, it's important to use your widest fisheye lens and rely on more ambient than strobe light.
Well this another first--photographing a seaplane!
A big plus of diving from the Palau Siren was access to some amazing night diving. With sites like blue corner, it was very difficult to pull out my macro lens despite a plethora of subjects. A highlight of the trip was photographing big grey reef sharks hunting in the darkness.
It doesnt get much more up-close and personal than the night dive at Olong corner, where divers' lights attract multiple hunting sharks.
Night time also brings out the rarer macro critters, like this painted frogfish.
Ah--a face only a mother could love!