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Diving Lembeh Straits

WonderpusBy Steve Rosenberg

The Lembeh Straits have long been known as the Mecca of Muck Diving, home to an incredible variety of weird and wonderful creatures most of which cannot be found in any other environment. This area has attracted photographers from all over the globe, tempting them with the challenge of finding and capturing images of these exotic animals.

Kasawari Images

Just getting to Lembeh from the West Coast of the United States is a daunting task for most travelers. The arduous trek begins with a 12 to 13 hour flight from one of several gateway cities on the west coast across the Pacific Ocean. After a brief refueling stop, its six hours to Singapore for a six to 12 hour layover in an airport transit hotel. The final leg is a short three and a half hour flight to Manado International airport located in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, and a 90 minute drive to the resort.

 Scuba diving in the Lembeh Straits is pretty easy diving. Most of the dive sites are very close by, only minutes away from your dock by boat. Because they are located between Northern Sulawesi and Lembeh Island, the conditions are calm and most of the sites are fairly shallow.TurkeyfishHowever, “Muck Dive” photography in the Lembeh Straits poses a number of problems, even for the most experienced shooters. The bottom has a consistency of muddy, dark brownish sediment. The visibility is limited to start with, averaging only 25 feet on most dives. Regardless of how careful you are, even the slightest fin kicks or movements will stir up small clouds of silt that seem to hang in the water column. Because the light from your strobes reflects back from all of these particles, the result is not just backscatter, but the equivalent of blizzard conditions.

Pygmy seahorseMany of the subjects lack contrast lines that are necessary for the autofocus mode to work reasonably well. Also, quite a few of your subjects have colors and patterns that blend in with the background, affording them great camouflage, but making them difficult to see, much less photograph. On the other hand, the colors of the subjects can often vary greatly from the dark background, so getting proper exposures can also be difficult because light and dark surfaces absorb light very differently and auto exposure features such as TTL like to read averages. To compound the problems, because you are shooting small critters, you will have to use macro lenses that generally have a very shallow depth of field.

 

To see more inhabitants of Lembe Straits check out the Kasawari Lembeh Resort profile page.