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Neha Acharya -Patel's February Photo Journal: An Our World Underwater Rolex Scholar Journey

Due to logistical changes in my planning, I ended up visiting New Zealand for 5 days this month

Though teasingly short, the great folks at Dive! Tutukaka, who have been supporting the scholarship for years, took me diving at Poor Knights Marine Reserve on the north end of the North Island. This place is just stunning! A massive ancient Volcano gave rise to a little group of islands that has been protected since 1998. This protection has allowed for the persistence of an intact and flourishing ecosystem providing some of the most photogenic diving I have ever done. The thick kelp ground forest and the extremely colorful encrusting life was gorgeous, not to mention all the fish and mobile invertebrates all over!

As a photographer, the Poor Knights are so much fun. It is a heaven for both wide-angle and macro so the arm bayonet mounts for the Wet Wide Lens 1, and the Compact macro converter proved to be very useful, as I found myself switching back and forth quite a bit. At this point in the year, this was a great way to practice all the photographic techniques I have been learning. I had a great time playing around with lighting and strobe positioning to shoot some cool wide-angle macro pictures. It felt really good to be able to see an image in my mind, and know how to manipulate my gear in order to achieve the goal.

On one of my dives, I came across these two beautiful pink nudibranchs on some coralline algae’s of the same color. I took some photos, and once I got to the surface, I showed them to my guide. It turned out that species was very unusual to see in the area, and no one had a picture of them there yet! Working with a local nudibranch expert we identified it as Okenia atkinsonorum, a bryozoan eating nudibranch that is found in southeastern Australia, and northern New Zealand.

 

Another animal that really drew my attention were these cute, tiny little fish with bright blue eyes. I went crazy trying to capture their character in their environment, and I ended up with a couple shots I was happy with. It was only after my time at the Poor Knights that I learnt that these fish; Blue-eyed triple fin, are one of 26 triple fin species that are endemic to New Zealand! This means that, like the Kiwi bird, this fish is only found here!

I love learning things about the environment I am diving in, and lucky for me the people I was with were just full of knowledge. The Poor Knights are a very interesting place geologically, and biologically, and this has manifested in some incredible sub tidal scenery! Thank you to Dive!Tututuka and Reef Photo and Video for allowing me to capture and share some of this beauty!