Otter Lodge Blog: Under the sea on Skye
We’ve been spending a good bit of time recently trying to take photos underwater. On the surface it doesn’t seem too hard but it’s quite tricky to get a nice clear image – for one hundred shots you might end up with one or two that are any good at all. There are lots of things to think about when you’re submerged with a camera. First of all you have to be sufficiently in control of yourself so that when you approach a suitable subject you manage to stop, rather than drift past or, even worse, crash into it. Or cover it with mud from the bottom as you land a bit heavily.
Now, as you are underwater it’s likely to be a bit darker than it is on the surface so some extra light is often needed. This normally comes in the shape of a flash mounted on an arm next to your camera. This might not sound too complicated, and in theory… well, it is. To be brief, the golden rule of using a separate flash is never point it directly at the photographic subject but at an angle, catching your subject with the outer edge of the cone of light. It takes a lot of practice finding out just where this is. Just take it from us. Here is a collection of our best shots so far, taken while snorkelling and diving:
This guy is a dogfish, a.k.a. a ‘smallspotted catshark’ (what you call it just depends on if you’re a dog or cat person). They mooch around all over the place; we’ve encountered them particularly along the coast from the Armadale Ferry. We’ve seen rays along here too (same marine family). You can see his rough, sandpapery skin really well in this picture.
This pretty thing looks a bit like an anemone but is actually a cup coral, related to the reef building coral you find in tropical seas. We’ve seen these attached to rocks near Broadford. and at Camas Malag, near Torrin.
The picture below is of a dahlia anemone, taken by the old pier at Tarskavaig, Sleat. This is a really excellent spot for snorkelling, with lots to see along the rock wall of the pier. You’ll quite often find little gardens of these anemones, all different colours and patterns.
We found this amazing, prehistoric-looking fish off the rocks near Torrin. Like many species it has lots of different names but our favourite was ‘Armoured Bullhead’.
In the deeper water of sea lochs you’ll find the bottom swarming with brittle stars. It’s just a little bit creepy seeing their tentacles waving about beneath you in the gloom. The rocks are like islands covered in life. If you look carefully in this picture taken in Loch Duich there’s a wee scallop, some anemones, starfish, at least two chiton (a bit like undersea woodlice) and the antennae of the resident squat lobster hiding underneath.
Snakelocks anemones are really common all around the coast of Skye. They have medusa-like tentacles and you’ll find them attached to moving things like kelp as well as rocks.
We’ve come to the conclusion that most starfish are not at all pretty – in fact some are pretty grotesque. This one is a seven-armed starfish; it likes to hunt cute little brittle stars before enveloping them with it’s stomach to digest them. Yuck!
And, finally, here are a couple of more friendly sea creatures, ready to take the plunge. We really recommend it. The seas around Scotland are full of amazing stuff, from tiny purple sea slugs to huge basking sharks and every time we head out we spot something we’ve not seen before. Welcome to our undersea world!