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Off to French Polynesia

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Fakarava, French Polynesia

I haven’t been in the water since December—it’s the longest I’ve been dry in a decade. Obviously, the big reason I haven’t been in the water is that I’ve been busy in my role as Director of Photography at Lytro. Startup life and lots of time underwater do not seem to be compatible. :)

Tomorrow, I’m headed to French Polynesia with my buddies Don Kehoe and Dave Patchen. We’ll meet up with Fabrice Charleux of Plongeur.com for 10 days in Tahiti and Fakarava. I haven’t been to French Polynesia since an epic journey in 2005 with Douglas Seifert, Ron & Valerie Taylor, Mike McDowell, and others, and I’m really looking forward to being there again.

I’ve packed two Canon 7D bodies (thanks, Dan, for the loan of a body!), a Nauticam underwater housing, Ikelite strobes, 4 GoPro cameras in 2 underwater 3D GoPro housings, 2 Lytro prototype light field cameras, and a Fuji X100. That may seem like a lot, but it’s travelling light compared to what I often bring on photography trips.

Sharks, here we come!

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Jul 21, 2011 00:32:36

Two Beneath the Sea surprises

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I’ve been updating Wetpixel with coverage of Beneath the Sea 2010 here in New Jersey.

I had two big surprises today.

The first was meeting Carl Roessler, who came up and introduced himself during tonight’s BTS Caymans party. Yes, this is the Carl that Carl’s Ultimate is named after; while spending 6 days on Carl’s Ultimate out in the Eastern Fields of Papua New Guinea, my esteem for Carl went up and up with every dive — what a man he must be to have such an incredible thing named after him! Meeting him in person did not disappoint.


Meeting Carl Roessler at BTS 2010 (photo: Abi Smigel)

And speaking of diving pioneers, Bret Gilliam went on stage at tonight’s film festival to announce his generous donation of 1250 copies of Diving Pioneers and Innovators to Beneath the Sea attendees. But he started by asking a select group of diving pioneers to come up on stage. He ended the list with… me! I was shocked, and ambled up to the stage in my cargo pants and fleece jacket, looking positively silly next to incredibly distinguished folks, who all were in formal attire: Bret, Stan Waterman, Mike deGruy, Zale Perry, Dr. Phil Nuytten, and others. We proceeded to stand up there for 15-20 minutes as Bret continued his donation speech.

After the film festival, Eli, Abi and I went over to the Caymans afterparty to have a drink. As I went to photograph Bret signing copies of this book, he proceeded to tell everyone that I should also sign the book. Since I’m not actually in the book, this caused some confusion:

“Hi, Eric! Will you sign my book?” (confused look)

“Eric… Cheng? I’ve never seen any of your work, but someone told me that you were going to be… or are… famous..?”

Hah!

I wrote, “Have a nice summer!” in one woman’s book, but then crossed it out and wrote a real message.


Bret Gilliam signs copies of Diving Pioneers and Innovators

Thank you, Bret — I do indeed owe you. ;)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Mar 28, 2010 00:01:11

Diving the Eastern Fields of Papua New Guinea, a trip report

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Magenta slender anthias (Luzonichthys waitei), bigeye jacks and other kinds of fish above a Gorgonian sea fan. Carl’s Ultimate, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea

Many seasoned scuba divers have heard about the Eastern Fields of Papua New Guinea, but only a handful will be able to tell you how to get there and what sort of diving you might expect to find there. Most, however, will probably tell you that they’ve heard great things about it. The Eastern Fields are shrouded in a mystique that is hard to describe; it even affected me — prior to booking back-to-back charters aboard the M/V Golden Dawn, I didn’t even know where exactly where the Eastern Fields were in relation to Port Moresby. (read more »)

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Dec 22, 2009 01:40:33

Mushroom leather coral abstract, Eastern Fields PNG

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Mushroom leather coral (Sarcophyton sp.) and sunball abstract. Taken in Ashmore Atoll, Australia on December 1, 2009. echeng091201_0243422

San Francisco, CA | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Dec 21, 2009 13:01:35

Millions of anthias swarm over rebreather diver, Eastern Fields, PNG

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Millions of anthias swarm over rebreather diver, Eastern Fields, PNG, originally uploaded by echeng.

Millions of magenta slender anthias (Luzonichthys waitei) stream across the reef in strong current. Underwater photographer Tony Wu, on rebreather, is in the middle of it all. Best birthday dive ever. Carl’s Ultimate, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea. echeng091216_0247042

Eastern Fields, PNG | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Dec 16, 2009 01:38:42

Skeleton shrimp on a sea fan, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea

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Skeleton shrimp on a sea fan, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea, originally uploaded by echeng.

A skeleton shrimp (Caprella sp.) on a Gorgonian. There were tens of thousands — or more — of these guys on this particular gorgonian. Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea. echeng091213_0246220

Apologies for the lack of updates; I’ve been shooting mostly video on the second leg of this trip, and video is quite impossible to share from satellite!

Eastern Fields, PNG | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Dec 14, 2009 01:41:51

Large frogfish, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea

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Large frogfish, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea, originally uploaded by echeng.

A large frogfish in the Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea. echeng091210_0245471

Craig, the captain of the M/V Golden Dawn, went crazy when he saw this frogfish on one of our dives yesterday. Apparently, large frogfish are rare in the Eastern Fields. We’ve also been enjoying the company of quite a few lacey scorpionfish (Rhinopias aphanes). For some reason we have been finding them on nearly every dive site.

Eastern Fields, PNG | link | trackb | 3 comments » | Dec 10, 2009 20:03:15

Coral sea fan silhouette, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea

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Coral sea fan silhouette, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea, originally uploaded by echeng.

The veiny silhouette of a huge Gorgonian sp. coral sea fan. Eastern Fields atoll, Papua New Guinea. echeng092202_0243694

Sent from mobile device. Apologies for brevity and/or typos.

Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea | link | trackb | no comments » | Dec 5, 2009 02:09:35

Carl’s Ultimate dive site, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea

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We’ve been parked for two days at site in the Eastern Fields Atoll of Papua New Guinea called “Carl’s Ultimate,” and I am not sure I’ll be able to dive again anywhere else. Most of Carl’s Ultimate is shallow, but a point extends out and drops off into the deep; along the slope and wall is one of the richest coral reefs I’ve ever seen. A dense collection of sea fans, soft corals, and other reef animals line the entire reef slope from 35 meters to 5 meters in depth, providing underwater photographers with an unlimited number of wide-angle and macro subjects. Anthias and small fish cluster above the coral just below a tangle of parrotfish, wrasses, lionfish, trumpetfish, snappers and angelfish, while jacks, barracuda, and dogtooth tuna hunt from the blue. Jacks hunt the reef with all sorts of partners: barracuda, snappers, Napoleon wrasses, trumpetfish, and others. Three large potato cods hang out in a cave at 30 meters and are so friendly that they allow divers to pet them. The big groupers are incredibly picturesque as they meander amongst colorful soft corals and schools of bannerfish and jacks.

There are small and rare animals as well: pygmy seahorses, Rhinopias, intricately-patterned wrasses, Phyllodesmium nudibranches — and we’re not even really looking for macro subjects (yet).

The reef is fantastic all the time, but when the current picks up, diving Carl’s Ultimate becomes an altogether different experience. The reef almost literally explodes with life. Millions of magenta slender anthias (Luzonichthys waitei) appear from nowhere and swim up-current over staghorn coral in dense lines by the tens of thousands. They are the lifeblood of the reef, thick piscine rivulets ever streaming and branching and merging. When the current becomes too strong, the purple nuggets shoot up into the water column and drift back, flashing this way and that way as they feed on plankton and other nutrients. Every once in awhile, a predatory squadron of jacks shoots into a rivulet, creating an streaking explosion of purple fish.

I have never seen anything like it. I’ve been trying to capture the moment using video, but it will surely prove to be an impossible task.

Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea | link | trackb | 4 comments » | Dec 4, 2009 21:32:36

Soft coral forest, Ashmore Atoll, Australia

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Soft coral forest, Ashmore Atoll, Australia, originally uploaded by echeng.

A commensal goby in a forest of soft corals (Nepthea sp.). Ashmore Atoll, Australia. echeng091128-0242497

Sent from mobile device. Apologies for brevity and/or typos.

Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Dec 4, 2009 18:02:32

Leaf scorpionfish in a soft coral, Ashmore Atoll, Australia

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Leaf scorpionfish in a soft coral, Ashmore Atoll, Australia, originally uploaded by echeng.

Leaf scorpionfish (Taenianotus triacanthus) in a soft coral (Nepthea sp.). Picasso Passage, Ashmore Atoll, Australia.

Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea | link | trackb | no comments » | Dec 3, 2009 20:46:45

Coral hermit crabs, Ashmore Atoll, Australia

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Coral hermit crabs, Ashmore Atoll, Australia, originally uploaded by echeng.

Coral hermit crabs (Paguritta harmsi) in their little coral den. In this photo, the hole the hermit crabs live in is less than 1cm wide. Ashmore Atoll, Australia. echeng091128_0242484

Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea | link | trackb | 4 comments » | Nov 29, 2009 03:46:42

Squat lobster in barrel sponge, Papua New Guinea

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Squat lobster in barrel sponge, Papua New Guinea, originally uploaded by echeng.

A squat lobster (Lauriea siagiani) in a barrel sponge (Xestospongia sp.). Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea. echeng091127_0241944

Image taken with Canon 50D, Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens, INON X-2 underwater housing, INON underwater micro semi-fisheye relay lens UFL-MR130 EFS60, dual INON S2000 strobes.

Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea | link | trackb | 1 comment » | Nov 28, 2009 03:26:41

Alien tunicate, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea

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Alien tunicate, Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea, originally uploaded by echeng.

An alien cell: the inside of a tunicate, taken with the INON Underwater Micro Semi-Fisheye Relay Lens UFL-MR130 EFS60. I call this new lens the "insect eye lens." It allows for wide-angle macro shots (WAM) focused right up to the front element of the lens. Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea. echeng091126_0241533

Eastern Fields, Papua New Guinea | link | trackb | 2 comments » | Nov 26, 2009 19:10:16
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