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Underwater Photography: Images From Jonathan Bird’s Blue World

Extraordinary images of aquatic life inside the 'water planet'


spotted dolphins

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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I started underwater photography in 1989, and this early image is still one of my favorites. I have yet to photograph spotted dolphins in a way that better captures their playful nature. Photographed on White Sand Ridge, on the Little Bahama Bank.

beluga whale

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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Wilma, a beluga whale, showed up in a bay in Nova Scotia, having lost her mother during a northern migration. She's since become a local celebrity. Here she is blowing water at the camera lens, one of her favorite stunts.

ruby brittle star spawning

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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A ruby brittle star (starfish) on the reefs of St. Lucia. I was there to photograph the coral spawn (seasonal reproduction event), but the brittle stars spawned that night as well, and they were a lot more colorful.

great white shark

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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In the Neptune Islands of South Australia, I spent hours in a cage staring into the blue waiting for a great white shark to come within photographic range while up on the boat, people "chummed" the water. In a week I managed to get only about 10 publishable images, and this one is my favorite.

scalloped hammerhead sharks

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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In the Galapagos, at certain times of the year, vast schools of hammerhead sharks come into the shallows to be groomed by cleaner fish. They may look frightening, but they are completely nonaggressive — and terrified of scuba divers. Getting close enough for pictures requires patience.

sperm whale with snorkeler

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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After days of bad luck trying to get near sperm whales underwater, in Dominica, we finally came upon a cooperative female that found us interesting. My buddy Glen swam over and modeled for me, and the whale didn’t mind at all.

tiger shark face

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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After many years of trying to photograph an elusive tiger shark, I was finally able to interact with these big, beautiful animals in the Bahamas. Although this image looks menacing, they are in fact docile around divers and a pleasure to photograph.

nemo the clownfish

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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A false clown anemonefish, commonly known as a clownfish, is the basis for Finding Nemo. It is one of the ocean’s most recognizable fish. I photographed this one in his home: a lovely purple-tipped anemone in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

coconut octopus

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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This little octopus was living between two clam shells on the black sandy bottom of the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia. It would “walk” along the bottom carrying the two half shells, but climb inside and close the lid when it felt threatened.

soft coral crab

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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A soft coral crab is perfectly camouflaged to look like the pastel-colored soft coral on which it lives in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.

emperor shrimp on spanish dancer

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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This emperor shrimp is only an inch long. It lives on the back of a six-inch-long Spanish Dancer nudibranch, which is basically a snail without a shell, and survives by eating the nudibranch’s waste. I shot this one in the Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. 

paddle flap scorpionfish

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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One of the world’s oddest-looking fish, the paddle flap scorpionfish (in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia) resembles a pink piece of flopping seaweed.

black-striped salema school

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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A huge school of black-striped salema in the Galapagos Islands nearly obliterates the sun as they pass overhead.

stargazer

Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Bird

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The stargazer is an ambush predator that hides in the sand and jumps out to attack and devour prey that wander too close to its mouth. I found this one hiding on the sandy bottom in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

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Jonathan Bird is a professional underwater cinematographer and photographer whose films have appeared all over the world, on such networks as National Geographic Channel, PBS, ABC, USA Network, Discovery and the SciFi Channel. He has won nine Emmy Awards and two Cine Golden Eagles for his work. He is the author of seven books of underwater photography and the host of his own underwater science series on PBS called "Jonathan Bird's Blue World." This slideshow is a collection of some of his favorite images, taken in some of the world's most exotic dive locales.

RELATED STORY: My Passion: Scuba Diving
 

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