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Each year Jim Goldstein organizes a “best photos of the year” project.  It’s a great incentive to actually get on that project of reviewing your shots from the previous year.  *Thanks* Jim for doing it.

Here’s my baker’s dozen shots that I loved and the short stories behind them.  Click on any image for full size.

1. Hawaiian Frogfish

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We live in California, so Hawaii is my “close” dive destination. (Yes, I know, I could dive Monterey, but that water is cold.)  But I’ve gotten jaded.  I get into the funk of thinking you’ve got to go far, far away.  And if you do go far away — as for instance last year, you can see some great things.  But even “close” by, there are some great critters.

I shot this image shortly after the presidential inauguration, but this is no piscine POTUS despite the similarity in coloration.  Its a frogfish.  A bright orange frogfish.  And despite the international safety orange hue, its actually hard to spot underwater.  They’re ambush predators and they’re good at the camouflage.

Shot on the back wall of the Molokini crater off Maui.

2. Whip Goby

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Same day, next dive, also on the Molokini back wall off Maui.  This little goby was hanging out on its whip coral in relatively shallow water.  And the light shining through the clear blue water was beautiful.

3. Hammerhead

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I love diving and like most divers, I’m a pretty big fan of sharks in all their forms.  I particularly like the weirder looking creatures and hammerheads definitely qualify.  This is a shot from a terrific workshop that Alex Mustard ran with Epic Diving.  If you like these shots, it is in no small part due to Alex’s tutelage.  If you’re going to take the plunge, read his book.

Shark dives are, I think, kind of a crazy affair.  You spend a lot of time on the boat waiting for the sharks to appear.  Then you take turns in the water weighted down and in a little formation.  The person you see in the picture is Vinny Canabal, co-owner of Epic Diving.  He’s got bait in the box and he’s offering it to the hammerheads that come by.  When he’s not feeding sharks, Vinny is an ER doctor.  Hey, no jokes.

This shot and the next were in Bimini, Bahamas.  This one was the one I went for.  And then…

4. Bull Shark!

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As you’re kneeling on the bottom in a little V formation with the feeder in the middle, you keep an eye out.  And you keep looking around.  Not just for the hammerheads you’re trying to shoot.  But for the opportunists that crash the party.  And this is one of those guys.  During this dive, I was on the far edge of the formation.  And in the distance, I could see 2 bull sharks swimming lazy circles and coming closer and closer.

Bull sharks look like mini great whites.  And they’re ambush predators too.  So you really want to keep an eye on them.  Vinny got to the bottom of the bait box and had just one piece left.  So he tossed it out to the gaggle of nurse sharks that were waiting for a snack.  There was a little melee and then poof — there was fine sand everywhere in the water.  And all of a sudden, right next to me, there was a bull shark.  Click.  And then back to the boat for a while to get my pulse rate down.

5. Water Temple
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A lot less adrenaline here.  A mother with her children at a water temple in Bali, Indonesia.

6. Watching

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A clown fish keeps a wary eye on a shrimp in their shared anemone.  Shot at Wakatobi in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia.

7. Modern Nuns
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We met these nuns on their way back to their home as we were headed to Yogyakarta.  I love the contrast of the traditional with the modern phones — even battery packs.

8. Borobudur Sunrise

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We were in Indonesia to go diving, but we spent more time out of the water than in it on this trip.  And didn’t regret a thing.  The Borobudur and Prambanan temples are truly amazing and well deserving of their UNESCO World Heritage Site status.  This shot was from early in the morning.  We’d gotten up to be there for the sunrise, but as you can see, it was a bit foggy.  That worked for me.

9. Yogyakarta
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On the street in Yogyakarta.  I’ve been trying to work on my street photography this year.  Walking up to people is hard.  But the lady in this shot made it easy.  She was happy to play along.

10. Mother and Calf

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Not all my in the water time this year was diving.  This shot and the next were from a snorkeling trip with the amazing Tony Wu to Tonga to see humpback whales up close.  Here’s a mother and calf relaxing.

11. Ready For My Close Up
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When I say close, I’m not kidding.  This baby girl came very close to check me out.  Like arms distance close.  No, I did not touch her.  She quickly figured out that I wasn’t a threat and that there was no way I could hope to keep up with her.  And then she headed back to mom in a cloud of bubbles.

12. Parade

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Back on dry land, at the end of October I headed to Oaxaca, Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebration on a fantastic tour led by David Coleman.  Everyone and everything is decorated.  Here, kids are lining up for a parade.

13. Day of the Dead
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And finally, one for the road.  At night, the cemeteries are just amazing places.  Families decorate the graves of their loved ones with flowers and candles.  And whole extended families spend long hours in the cemetery.  I’m used to thinking of cemeteries as solemn and quiet spaces.  But for Día de Muertos, its a party.  And there is a lot of Mezcal on offer.  By the time I’d made this picture, I’d already been offered several shots by multiple families.  So, as the musician here, have one to celebrate 2017 being done and all the possibility in 2018.

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