Although the fish-life off northern Queensland wasn’t perhaps as copious as we have out in Madang, it was a little more sedate and less sketchy. I have a hunch several decades of protection on the Great Barrier Reef contrasts heavily with the existence of the fish in Madang Harbour, who have to duck and hide every time an outrigger drifts overhead. As a result, it sat still a little longer to allow for the odd photograph. I’m still mastering the art of piscine photography, so don’t look too closely at these shots, but these are some of the critters I got a kick out of diving off Port Douglas.
This first fella is one of my favourite fish portraits of all time, not just because of the angle and the fact that he stayed still long enough for me to take a shot, but also because he has a particularly gourmless expression on his face. Not that fish generally convey the sort of intelligence that you might get off, say, a mole, or a surfer, but this one looks particularly detatched from its reality. I love the big eye and the pout. And on the subject of eyes, my gut tells me this is a Red Bigeye- no prizes why.
This Bream greeted me as I dropped into our second dive. She was tantalizingly amiable and circled me a few times, getting nice and close and allowing me a few snaps. I have a hunch she was all dolled up for a night on the town, with that stylish yellow eye-shadow, pink lipstick and a bit of extra colour on the cheeks and top of the head. All kinds of colourful, at any rate. I would have liked to get this shot without all the fins in the background, but unfortunately this is the hazard of diving the Great Barrier Reef, with divers coming down like thick rain from the surface.
I don’t actually know what this fine fellow is, but his bright yellow lips caught my attention. I’ll have to look it up. I did some visual comparison with a shot of some juvenile Sweetlips I have and there was enough similarity there to raise a question-mark, but enough difference to leave me wanting. If I figure it out (or if somebody with more fish knowledge and/or discipline than I have lets me know) I’ll post an update. That’s assuming, of course, that you care.
Chromis are some of my favourite fish in the ocean. With their little oval bodies (they’re only a few inches long) and forked needle-like tails, they’re quite distinctive and terribly copious. They tend to swim in large shoals near the reefs, and are as easily accessible to snorkellers as to divers. They swim en masse, their shiny hides catching the daylight, twitching like a great shimmering rug has just been shaken out when they get spooked. I really love watching them swoop and dive as one gathered organism, then bouy back to the surface once the perceived threat has slackened. Neither of these pictures really does them a great amount of credit. We get mostly the turquoise Blue-Green Chromis in Madang, a beautiful fish. These lesser-coloured cousins take on a silvery hue- I’m not sure if their name reflects their pigmentation.
The final fish in this little show is one familiar to anybody who’s frequented tropical reefs, the impeccably-named Parrotfish. With their beak-like bills with which they can be audibly heard crunching coral, their fluttering wing-like pectoral fins, and their outrageous network of bright colours, they mimic their aviary namesakes in a variety of fashions. Usually fleeting and fast, I’ve not managed to get many shots of a parrotfish at all, though I see them on almost every dive I do. This one obliged by giving me a lazy fly-past. I’m particularly fond of the pathway of coral-like patterns around its face. Again, a personal favourite.
Of course, the fish that everybody wants to see when they hit the reef is coming up next…