Many a commercial fisherman has unhappily discovered this rock near the mouth of Monterey bay. In fact, ballbuster, as it's name indicates is littered with the 50 pound lead cannon balls that are used to weigh down commercial fishing nets. This is unquestionably one of the best dives inside the bay, but is only slightly sheltered from the prevailing northwest wind and swell. Navigation around the main rock is fairly straitforward, but divers should be aware that the site is often swept by a brisk current running to the northwest. Since this current is opposite the direction of the prevailing wind, care must be taken to avoid separation from one's boat.
Blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) are Monterey's most interesting schooling fish, particularly when they pack into large, dense aggregations like this. The corner to corner angle of view in this shot is a full 180 degrees, but even so, it seems a little too narrow. Super wide angle lenses are, of course, great for the underwater photographer since they allow pictures of large reef scenes unobscured by particulate matter in the water. At some point, however, things start getting difficult. With my current lens, I have to be careful to keep hands and elbows out of the shot. With a lens that was wider still, I suspect I might have to -- as a friend of mine has suggested -- tape back my ears or something. While big schools like this can still be found in more remote places, it's quite unusual to see something like this in areas that are under heavy fishing pressure. Actually, in many hundreds of dives in Monterey bay, this is the only such school I've seen. That this school was considerate enough to swim next to a big bunch of Metrdidium farcimen was an added bonus. I'm a extra fond of this picture because it's the only reasonably good shot I've taken while swimming backwards. "Backwards?" you say. Yes, as it turns out, one of the charms of the 60's era Scubapro fins I use is that they are particularly well-suited to swimming backwards. It's something that takes a bit of practice, but is not so unreasonable as it sounds. And, no, there are no hands involved in this backward swimming. All this being said, it's most often used to get oneself out of a tight spot when current or surge is about to smash one into the end of a narrow hole or crack in the reef. In such situations I'm usually more worried about scratching my camera port than I am about getting a shot. In this case however, I was able to correct for an initial overshoot in approaching the subject. Hopefully this means I've managed to add one more item to my bag of photographic tricks. "Ballbuster", Monterey Bay, California October 15, 2006
Pile perch (Damalichthys vacca), club tipped anemones (Corynactis californica) and giant plumed anemones (Metridium farcimen). Days in which the water is clear enought to take pictures with minimal backscatter and this large a depth of field are not common inside Monterey Bay. "Ballbuster", Monterey Bay, California December 17, 2005
This olive rockfish (Sebastes serranoides) is bucking the trend set by his blue rockfish (Sebastes mystinus) peers. Likely the camera got a little too close for comfort. "Ballbuster", Monterey Bay, California October 15, 2006