About the site
Flinders Pier is known for weedy seadragons and it would be rare to dive there and not see one. It can be a very shallow dive – I’ve spent an hour underwater at low tide and not been deep enough to turn my dive computer on. The pier is a great dive when the wind is blowing from the west as it’s on the other side of the Mornington Peninsula and sheltered when Mornington and Rye Piers are exposed.
About the dive
I dived at Flinders on the long weekend Monday. The conditions were dead flat up top. Underwater the vis was milky but there wasn’t much floating sand, and the water temperature was finally down to the same 15 degrees C that the cave water stays at all year round.
I’m still getting my critter spotting abilities tuned in with my 100mm lens so I did a slow swim out while keeping my eyes peeled. The fishermen up top are definitely leaving their mark in the form of tangled fishing line and shiny lures sprinkled across the bottom. The goatfish were out and about in small schools chewing their way through the sand and I had fun following an ornate cowfish through the weeds as he searched for dinner.
About the photo
I also had two very nice encounters with small weedy seadragons. Previous experience has taught me that some individuals are very diver-shy. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience in the past or maybe they just haven’t seen very many divers, but some weedies escape at high speed when they hear bubbles. Others are very relaxed and will float in the surge and watch you. Whether shy or unfussed they all have one thing in common – they love to watch you out of one eye. If you’ve seen weedy photos before you’ll notice they’re predominantly side on to the camera. Getting a weedy seadragon to face you is an act of extreme patience with a little bit of luck thrown in.
I’d been floating with the guy above for a good fifteen minutes and he wasn’t stressed or running. He was just floating there, occasionally rolling an eyeball over to look at me or his reflection in the lens. I came in for a few different angles, then a wider shot, then a different depth of field…and then just waited. Watching him through my viewfinder for another five minutes, no photos. Just as I was thinking it was cold and time to go he manoeuvred himself around a piece of weed and gently spun towards the camera.
I got in exactly three shots. The middle one with him dead on to the camera was obscured by a floating bit of weed, and for the first one the focus missed his eye…but the third shot worked! The fast shutter speed at 1/250th and careful strobe positioning has eliminated the background, and the wide-ish f5 aperture gives a perfect depth of field for drawing attention in to the eyeball. This shot was totally worth the wait.