Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Seahorse Exhibit @Monterey Bay Aquarium

Any time I have an excuse to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, there is no question I will be there. I am always in awe at their incredible displays of underwater and some out of water creatures. This particular trip to the Aquarium was very special for me since it was the grand opening to the Seahorse exhibit for members only.

Somehow my photo bud April was convinced to allow me to attend the event with her after she mentioned she was going. I am not sure but I think my dramatic display of begging, whining and puling convinced her. The plan was fairly bold considering this was all going to happen after my 12 hour night shift. Everyone knows how cheery I am after working all night and then try to stay up all day. Thank you April for taking that risk and I hope I was not too irritating. You are a great sport and a good friend.

Since we arrived a few hours before the actually opening of the event, we decided to walk around the aquarium at some of the other displays. My Nikon D3 camera is in the shop so I brought my backup body Nikon's D300. I wanted to shot some of the darker displays to see how this camera faired compared what I am use to with the D3. Sadly, I was very disappointed. So much so I decided to sell my D300 and buy the full frame D700 that is the poor mans version of the D3.

Even so, I still went through the day trying to capture some pictures that can be keepers. I was very disappointed by the noise levels and the lack of tack sharp images but I still like some of the shots I took.

These shots came from the Outer Bay Exhibit. This is where I spent the most of my two hours plating with my settings trying to come up with a good balance of exposure, noise and sharpness. If one of these three are not in balance, the whole picture will not come out.

I love how the shark just scatters the school of sardines while everyone watching soys Oohs or ahhs. It was quite funny to watch from a far.

The next three are my attempts to pan in order to at least get a somewhat in-focus picture. As you can see with the first shot, the fish in the background are in total blur. The EXIF info for these shots were ISO~1600(really pushing the D300 abilities) f2.8 @0.1s, focal length was 105mm

After messing around with different settings under these harsh low light conditions, with funky shadows moving through the water, through dirty curved glass and hundreds of people pushing you while trying to hold steady, the following were my results from the Seahorse exhibit.

This was my first attempt to capture a close up of a Pacific Seahorse. These guys are the largest of the seahorse family growing up to 14". This guy was probably 4" in length. They did not have any of the larger one's on display.

After failing to capture any shot as clear as I wanted, I just sort of gave up and just tried my best at the rest of the exhibit. Here are a few more of the pacific seahorse.

The next few are called Potbelly Seahorses. These guys fill their stomachs with water to make their tummies as large as possible to attract mates. Hahaha, I would win over many if this was true for us humans ;-)

These next few seahorses are called Weedy Sea Dragons for their leaf-like appendages.

The cousins of the weedy sea Dragons above are the Leafy Sea dragons below. These seahorses held the attention of everyone at the event. It took me awhile to wiggle to the front to capture some pics of these ornate creatures.

My favorite of all was this Sea Slug below. It just seemed she really wanted me to take her picture. She kept stretchy towards me as if asking, "me me, look at see me, take my pic". So I did :-D

Well there you have it. A few pictures of an event that requires much better camera equipment then I had that day. I must say that I still thoroughly enjoyed the new Seahorse exhibit by sharing it with my good photo bud April and witnessing another exquisite exhibition by the Monterey Aquarium. I know for the next visit, I will have my D3 back and a few prime lenses in my bag to try to give these beautiful underwater creatures the justice they deserve.

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