Fireworks and flame shells

Underwater photographers tend to take a different view of dive sites on a trip to non-shooting divers. We will often be keen to keep returning to the same site repeatedly on a trip rather than trying to see a different site on each dive. So it was on a recent trip to West Scotland, I dived in only two sites. In each of two sea lochs, I dived in a single area. However these were very much contrasting locations, one a very clean high energy site needing slack water and the other a slightly murky low energy spot. Each is home to unusual but “locally common” species, well worth braving the 6-degree water temperature for.

Loch Duich is home to the impressive fireworks anemone and the maerl bed of the narrows at the head of Loch Carron is home to hidden flame shells, as well as a mass of macro subjects. Here are a selection of images to give a flavour of the sites.

First of all, Loch Duich:

And here’s North Strome on Loch Carron:


Scotland Road Trip – reluctant return home

Well, every trip has to end. On the journey North, having noticed the wild trout in the river Etive when shooting diver portraits, my buddy and I decided to devote a day to shooting those trout. If we had not seen them on our outbound leg, then there would seem to be little reason to put a macro lens on the camera. It was with some relief that, as I swam through a lovely gully in the rock, I saw a group of juvenile trout in exactly the same spot as last weekend. In the event, I spent a couple of hours watching these fish, switching to a snorkel when I ran out of air. It was quite a special experience to watch these entirely wild fish from such a short distance away.



Scotland Road Trip Day 6

I’m told that the mountains of Scotland are rising up, following the melting of the glaciers from the last ice age. That’s roughly how I felt after our first dive; I think I regained another inch of height having toiled up the hill from the dive site! It was worth it though…


We made an early start and left our lovely location on Ard Neakie on the shore of Loch Eriboll in time to dive at slack water in the narrows at Kylesku. Earlier in the trip, we had noted how the current ripped through such a narrow channel.

moon jellyfish
Moon Jellyfish

The water is much clearer here than many of the other lochs we have dived, and any sediment is swept away by the fierce tides. The visibility is not perfect though, and the loch water draining through still held a frustrating amount of sediment.

Kelp thrashing in the current
Kelp thrashing in the current


Campervan on the Loch shore
Campervan on the Loch shore as we prepare to dive

Diving a new site, possibly one that has not been dived before carries a great deal of excitement. Firstly, the dive begins well before one has even left home, let alone travelled the (in my case) usually considerable distance to the dive site.

Last week, my buddy and I dived in Loch Striven, a sea loch not that far from Glasgow and yet with a very pleasing feeling of remoteness. We did not find very many places to pull the van off the road and be able to get into the water, but we discovered a couple of very pleasant locations.

Entering the water, there is the thrill of the unknown- the charts give clues to the terrain and topology and, therefore, the species which may be seen. What will the visibility be like? Will I add a new species to my list?

In the case of Loch Striven, the dive was pleasant but did not reveal any new species. The highlight of the diving was the large number of very co-operative squat lobsters, hiding under every stone. A species which will usually withdraw into its hole as the camera approaches to a useful shooting distance, these were tolerant enough for me to approach very closely and try out some new techniques using a snoot on what is, for me, an oft-photographed species.

Squat lobster photographed in Loch Striven
Squat Lobster (Munida rugosa) in Loch Striven. Nikon D200 + Nikon 60mm lens. Single strobe with "Trev-style" bottle snoot.