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Dive Photo Guide


Destination Portfolio: Matthew Sullivan, Blue Heron Bridge
By Matthew Sullivan, November 11, 2023 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

Seahorses are one of the superstars at Blue Heron Bridge. Lined seahorses are relatively rare elsewhere in their range but they are seen on most dives here. Longsnout and dwarf seahorses are also around. OM System OM-1, Olympus 60mm Macro, AOI Housing, 2x Backscatter MF-2, 2x Backscatter Optical Snoots


There aren't too many individual dive sites on earth that qualify by themselves as a dive destination. Blue Heron Bridge, in Riviera Beach, Florida is a mighty exception to that rule. Divers flock from all over the world to this one dive spot with the hopes of seeing rare, unusual, or normally hard to find marine life. Hundreds (likely thousands) of marine species can be found in the waters surrounding Blue Heron and picking 15 images to share is a nearly impossible task so I have focused on some of the more sought after and popular subjects.

"The Bridge", as its known locally, is actually in the intracoastal waterway, a heavily trafficked waterway fed through various inlets. The dive is tidal and can only be done (enjoyably) at high slack tide when the tides bring clearer blue ocean water into the inlet. Usually around high tide you can do 3 hour dives and because the dive site is between 5-20ft, you are much more limited by the currents and visibility than air consumption!

The constant tide changes contribute to the diversity of life at the bridge as new animals are always being brought in and out on the currents. A diverse range of habitats can be found nearby, also contributing to lots of exciting critters. From frogfish, to seahorses, to octopuses, to manatees, the bridge hosts it all.


Right alongside seahorses in the BHB popularity contest are frogfish. During the right time of year it isn't ucommon to see 10-plus on a dive. Five species can be found here: longlure, ocellated, sargassum, dwarf, and, the most common, the striated/hairy (pictured). Sony A7RII, Canon 60mm Macro, Seafrogs Housing, Nauticam EMWL, 2x Inon z240s


Lots of blenny species can be found in the various habitats around the Bridge. The bluethroat pikeblenny is perhaps the most charismatic and entertaining. Occasionally they form larger colonies and males, like the one pictured, will display for females and for rivals. OM Systems OM-1, Olympus 60mm Macro, AOI Housing, 2x Sea&Sea YS250s


One of my favorite little freaky fish that can be found at Blue Heron is the southern stargazer. While not uncommon, they aren't especially easy to find as they spend the vast majority of their time buried in the sand. Every once in a while, one gets lazy and just lies mostly exposed. Nikon D700, Nikon 105mm VR Macro, Nauticam Housing, 1x Retra Original Flash+Retra LSD


Close focus wide angle opportunities abound at Blue Heron. The dock and bridge pilings are loaded with life including plenty of seahorses, some of which can grow to quite large sizes like this beautiful lined seahorse. Nikon D7100, Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye, Sea&Sea Housing, Zen Mini Dome, 1x Sea&Sea YS250


The striated frogfish comes in just about every flavor and variation from orange to pink to black to yellow. This individual hung around the same small area for months. One of the best aspect of the bridge is being able to revisit the same subjects again and again. Nikon D700, Nikon 60mm Macro, Nauticam Housing, 2x Retra Original Flashes, 1x Retra LSD


As with the frogfish, the variation in color and texture and pattern of the lined seahorses is spectacular and means that it is nearly impossible to pass up photographing every one you find! Nikon D4s, Nikon 60mm Macro, Subal Housing, 1x Sea&Sea YS250


Several jawfish species call Blue Heron home including the beautiful, fairy-like yellowhead jawfish. They aren't overly common and can be quite difficult to photograph out of their holes as they are typically quite shy and constantly moving. A calm, slow, quiet approach up to the right individual can result in success. Nikon D700, Nikon 60mm Macro, Nauticam Housing, 2x Retra Original Flashes, 1x Retra LSD


Octopuses are a common sight and several different species can be found. The one pictured is a brown striped octopus, one of the rarer octopus species in Florida. Those familiar with the coconut octopus of the Indo-Pacific will have a pretty good idea of brown stripe behavior and aesthetic as they are essentially the same species, just an ocean apart. This one was living in a broken, growth encrusted bottle until a diver decided to 'clean' the bottle for a better look and the octopus wasn't seen again. Nikon D4s, Nikon 60mm Macro, Kraken Sports +6 Diopter, Subal Housing, 2x Sea&Sea YS250s


Another of the dozens of blenny species living in the intracoastal is the spinyhead blenny. These little guys are about the size of a match and are impossible to spot by chance, you have to go looking for them. Once you  figure out their preferred habitat and spot one or two, you can find them readily. OM System EM10 Mark IV, Olympus 60mm Macro, Backscatter Octo Housing, 1x Backscatter MF-2+OS-1, 1x Backscatter MW4300


A second jawfish species that is occasionally seen is the spotfin. Unlike the yellowhead it is quite uncommon to see this species out of their burrows as they usually just sit at the mouth and wait for passing morsels to float by. They are quite curious and will often just gaze into the lens while you photograph them. OM System OM-1, Olympus 60mm Macro, AOI Housing, 2x Backscatter MF-2, 2x Backscatter OS-1


While the Bridge is famous for its freaky, weird, or rare marine life, it is also home to countless more classical reef fish species like this cocoa damselfish. While perhaps not as charismatic as frogfish or seahorses or stargazers, they still can make for beautiful portraits and may appeal to non divers a tad more! Nikon D4s, Nikon 60mm Macro, Subal Housing, 2x Sea&Sea YS250s


Batfish are typically extremely rare (or at least very difficult to find) throughout the rest of their range in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Five species call Blue Heron home and the most common, the polkadot batfish (pictured) can be found on nearly every dive. Best of luck finding a polkadot batfish anywhere else in their range! This one slurped up a juicy fireworm and has some leftovers around its mouth. Nikon D700, Nikon 105mm VR Macro, Nauticam Housing, 2x Retra Original Flashes, 1x Retra LSD


A sought after subject anywhere is a jawfish incubating eggs. This male banded jawfish became quite populuar amongst local divers for a period of about 6 months as his mate gave him 7 clutches over that time! Eventually the mate disappeared and while this guy hung around, he vanished a few months later without another clutch. Nikon D700, Nikon 60mm Macro, Nauticam Housing, 1x Retra Original Flash + Retra LSD


A stunning and massive bright red striated frogfish. Of all the colors variations the local striateds come in, the red flavor seems to be the least common. Out of over 100 individual striateds I have seen at Blue Heron, only two have been red. She was posted up against a dock piling in 4ft of water, waiting for whatever unwary fish would wander too close to her cavernous mouth. Nikon D700, Nikon 60mm Macro, Nauticam Housing, 2x Inon z330s, 1x Retra LSD


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