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Stormy Shuna

I have been very lucky in my regular February sojourns to Scotland. They have been very productive photographically and we have been blessed with more than our fair share of good weather. The weather on this trip has been quite a bit more, er, Scottish this time. There’s a saying about Scottish weather that if you don’t like it, wait 5 minutes and that has certainly been true today. The common factor has been a keen southwesterly, but we have had sun, rain, sleet and horizontal hail.

We have manage two good dives, though. Due to the steady rainfall over the last few weeks, the heads of the sea lochs seem pretty murky, so we moved to a site which we hoped would be less affected by run-off; we went to the stretch of water in loch Linnhe by the island of Shuna.

This site is easily accessed from a handy car park via an old slipway into the water. Once in the water, the a steep rocky bank slopes steeply to a gentle silty slope to 20m plus. This combination offers a wide range of subjects from those which frequent rocky substrates, to the classic low-energy site denizens.

For example, the sound of Shuna is home to all three UK species of sea pen and I made these the focus of my efforts today. I chose my 105mm macro lens with a 4T dioptre and a snoot made from the end of the sleeve of an old drysuit. I was very pleased with my results and managed close-ups of the polyps of these strange and beautiful animals.

The phosphorescent sea-pen (Pennatula phosphorea) is probably the most attractive, with its chunky pink body, but the elegant Tall Sea Pen (Funiculina quadrangularis) has the largest and most impressive polyps. One needs careful technique in this still water and fine silt, not to mess up the visibility. The snoot on the strobe helps to keep backscatter under control, but means that the strobe needs to be aimed carefully.

Hopefully, the results speak for themselves. These subjects look quite exotic and show the quite exquisite fine detail of these beautiful animals.

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