Chip's Images in Belize - May 2006

By Photo Journalist Chip Clark ('65) of Northern VA

"Here are a few images from last week's work trip to Belize."

These are all surface shots done with a Canon 5D digital camera. I'm sold on digital!... for a good example, I've included two detailed images from image 276 to illustrate what incredible detail is captured in a single digital image file... film just can't do that!

When I get the underwater shots back from processing (I had to shoot film.. I don't have an underwater housing for the digital camera yet.. it's on backorder....) I'll send a few, if any of them worked...

- Chip Clark ('65) of Northern VA - 06/01/06

Friday, May 12, 2006 Saturday, May 13, 2006 Saturday, May 13, 2006 Saturday, May 13, 2006
#124 is the research station on Carrie Bow Cay.. quite a tiny island.. on an amazingly calm day after a night of thunderstorms that temporarily quieted the onshore breezes.

#276 Sunset The social focus of the island: the beach table and chairs where folks congregate after a long day's science and cleaning up dive gear and cameras. This image is a grand example of why I'm in love with digital cameras...

The next two images.. #276 Clientele and #276 Crab Trackway are both enlargements from this image.. loaded with detail and sharp as a tack! Wow!
Monday, May 15, 2006 Tuesday, May 16, 2006 Friday, May 19, 2006 Wednesday, May 24, 2006 Wednesday, May 24, 2006
#327 Me sitting in the bow of the runabout in the lagoon of Twin Cays.. a mangrove island about a kilometer from the research station. The silvery attaché case is my waterproof "camera bag" on these boat outings.

#411 is a typical sunset from the island looking westward towards the Belizian mainland and the Maya Mountains.


#495 Hermit crab.. the island is crawling with 'em. Some are in shells that have been painted up by various folks. You can get killed tripping over one of the big ones while you're walking around the island in the middle of a moonless night.

#707 The research and support crew during the trip: Left to Right: Me, Bob Sims (Botanist), Joel (Station Manager), Nadine (Damned Good Cook!), Jim Norris (Botanist & Principal Investigator), Kassi Cole (Icthyologist: larval fishes, visiting from Hawaii), Suzanne (Botanist, Professor, Lafayette Univ, Louisiana), Fred (Botanist, Rio, Brazil). #731 Fred and me with some (but not all!) of our luggage ready for departure from Dangriga, Belize to the international airport in Belize City. Most of the luggage shown is mine. Seven bags; four checked bags and three carry-ons.. The extra baggage charges were almost more than my ticket price. They love me in airport security.
   Chippy Darlin', thank you so much for these glorious images!  They are (of course) breathtaking and absolutely incredible! 
That sunset, for instance - which you call "typical" - is beyond extraordinary!

Hi Carol:

Here are 1.3 dozen jpeg images that I shot during my Belize trip last month.  I'm slowly getting better at shooting underwater.  A lot of my better images were shot in three feet of water or less.. you don't need a flash at that depth to compensate for the color filtering effect of water.

  - Chip Clark ('65) of Northern VA - 07/13/06 and 07/21/06 - "hard-at-work images..":


Thank you so very much!


May 2006
#95 - Jim Norris, marine botanist swimming over the coral and gorgonians on a small “patch” reef south of the research station on Carrie Bow Cay in Belize. Depth to the reef top here is about 24 feet.
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#102 - A convergence of marine botanists.. Jim Norris and Bob Sims from the Smithsonian, and Fred Gurgel from Brazil exchanging comments by sign language while collecting algae. Depth at the sea bottom here is about 27 feet; the “sea grass” covering the flat sand bottom is the algae thallasia.

#291 - Jim Norris with his underwater digital camera shooting macro photographs of algae in it’s natural habitat. The depth is about three feet, and we’re snorkeling. This is an area of shallow coral formations with lots of wave action and strong water flow directly off the ocean, so we’re constantly swimming into the current just to hold position. These shallow pictures show the full range of colors; below about 15 feet all the warmer colors have been absorbed by the water and only the blue gets through to your eyes, or into the camera. #318 - Our “large” dive boat loaded with divers, equipment, and collecting buckets for algae. We’re anchored  in a cove at Cat Cay, an uninhabited (mostly mangrove) island about 15 miles south of our research station at Carrie Bow Cay. #358 - Jim Norris snorkeling along the surface in Cat Cay Bay.. remarkable because it’s absolutely dead calm (quite unusual!) and the flat surface acts like a mirror when seen from underneath.
#368 - Bob Sims collecting algae off the roots of the mangrove trees in Cat Cay Bay. Again, here, the full color of the scene comes through. The shallow sea floor is loaded with algae and small corals, and the  roots are loaded with various types of algae and sponges. Bob is an easy photographic subject because his collecting/snorkeling techniques are so graceful that he doesn’t stir up the mud …
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#375 - The diver is at the bottom of a sand pit in the Cat Cay Bay lagoon. Although the shallow areas of Cat Cay are clear and thickly carpeted with living algae and corals, the pits are always murky and only a single type of penicillium algae grows there… looking like little brushes sprouting from the sand at a depth 45 feet.

#538 - This is a beautiful little spot only about 200 feet from the research station. A series of isolated coral heads sprout out of the sand bottom, and there are always schools of french grunts hanging around. Late in the afternoon, the slanting sunlight makes the gorgonian “bushes” glow with backlight. Snorkeling at 15 feet. #570 - Marine botanist Suzanne Fredericq, a professor at Lafayette, Louisiana is collecting algae off the deeper side of the research station at Carrie Bow Cay. Here, at about 60 feet, the image would be completely blue (as seen in the background) except I’m using two flash units to correct the color in the foreground. Underwater flash has a very limited range, perhaps 10 feet before it too becomes only blue light. #614 - This is even further down the ocean side slope off Carrie Bow Cay. Jim Norris is the closest diver; Bob and Fred are deeper down the slope. This is what it looks like without any added flash; solid blue. Jim  and I are at a depth of 70 feet, and the sand bottom below left is about 100 feet.

#621 - Using flash on the left side to add color to the foreground coral and tube sponges. Depth about 60 feet.

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#707 - Jim Norris collecting in about three feet of water, Fred in the background. This is another interesting biological area; the constant pounding of waves over this area has reduced the coral to slabs of rubble and not much can grow there. What algae does grow is constantly grazed upon by herbivorous fish. #777 - Suzanne is holding out her collecting bag and some algae she just uprooted from the shallow sand bottom off of Man-O-War Cay which shows in the background. This type of “over/under” image can only be done using a large dome port over the cameras’ lens, and the water level is constantly moving across the image.. the best results are part skill and a lot of luck and timing. To get really good shots you’d have to shoot a dozen frames or more in the hope that one would have the water level exactly where you wanted it.. It’s easy with digital, but I can’t do it with film, since I’ve only got 36 shots to a roll, and there are a lot of other things I’m trying to photograph on the same dive. #791 - On my last dive of the trip I came across a six foot nurse shark (mostly harmless) “sleeping” under a coral shelf  at 50 feet. It was so nonchalant that I could lie flat on the sand bottom next to it about three feet away to get this image with a wide angle lens. I wish I had a flash on the camera this dive but I’d decided to go light and left it back in the lab.
Beach Camera - And a “hero shot” of yours’ truly, camera in hand back on Carrie Bow Cay.. photo by Jim Norris while I  was prowling the island looking for shots.. Chip Table - Another shot of the ‘main square” of the island’s lab building. I’m sitting at the picnic table/conference table/workbench downloading my dive computer’s memory. Debra Jahn (in the bikini) is a visitor to the lab. The island Station Manager, who keeps everything running and the scientists out of trouble, is Bert Pfeiffer, sitting on the steps. A quiet morning at the office.


(This page was created on 07/23/06.)

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