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Eight legs better than one

 

We’re very lucky to enjoy a hobby that brings us face to face with some of the planets most marvellous creatures and it would be difficult to argue that the octopus in its many guises is surely one of the most intriguing and fascinating.

 

I mean they have three hearts, nine brains and blue(ish) blood!
Evolution has certainly worked hard and put in extra shifts, for this clever creature.

 

They are the masters of escape and evasion, just Google their abilities and marvel at the incredible feats of dexterity on display on the many online videos out there

 

What is all the more remarkable is that their intelligence is gained so quickly, they learn nothing from their parents, and they have small lifespans, with even the Giant Pacific Octopus only living around five years at maximum.
They are all venomous, but luckily for us only a few examples of the Blue Ringed variety are considered dangerous to humans.

 

 

The Blue Ringed Octopus is tiny, thumb sized would be a big one, but enough neurotoxin to finish off an entire boatful of divers. Luckily it's quite shy and avoids human contact.
The Blue Ringed Octopus is tiny, thumb sized would be a big one, but enough neurotoxin to finish off an entire boatful of divers. Luckily it’s quite shy and avoids human contact.

 

 

 

Their venom is highly specialised and targeted at the creatures they normally eat, i.e. Octopuses or Octopodes ( oh btw Octopi is considered grammatically incorrect ) that eat mostly clams have venom that targets the muscles that keep the clam shut.

Their brains are divided up but work together, with a central processing unit, attached to eight mini brains that can work autonomously too.
Dividing tasks up to maximise efficiency, all the better I suppose when you witness for yourself what must be an enormous cerebral task load as an octopus changes colour and shape, whilst moving and hunting.
Whilst us humans often struggle to walk and talk at the same time !!
And some octopuses, like some snakes and lizards can detach an arm to distract their predators.

 

As I said Octopuses are what evolution does to show off.

 

 

This Octopus was shot a few weeks prior, it may well be the same octopus as I shot more recently, but as they can change colour and shape so willingly, how could I possibly tell?
This Octopus was shot a few weeks prior, it may well be the same octopus as I shot more recently, but as they can change colour and shape so willingly, how could I possibly tell?

 

 

 

If these creatures didn’t exist and we encountered them in a sci-fi movie our credibility would be stretched, in fact the Hawaiian creation myth says that our current civilisation was pre dated by an alien culture, and when they had their end times, the only creature that made the cut for our go at the planet was the octopus.

Unfortunately for the octopus evolution has also deemed it necessary to grant our eight legged friends with a one time only crack at furthering it’s kind with both the males and females signing their own death warrants with a successful mating.
The females devote all their strength and energies into looking after their clutch of eggs and the males rarely live longer than six months after mating.

All of this of course means that we are in thrall to them and I for one I’m sure am not alone in trying to picture them in a way that does them justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respect

 

I personally get quite a thrill when I see an Octopus, I see them as very individual creatures, with no two reacting alike, and without being too anthropomorphic, feel that there is a two way exchange going on. We know they excellent eyesight, and they do seem to display very individual personalities. So when I encounter one that is shy and squashes itself into crevice, or clearly doesn’t want to be around then I respect that and don’t chase it.
I recently saw one at the Barge ( see why we like the Barge and check out this previous post and click here) and although it was out on the reef, I took a couple of shots and it visibly flinched and recoiled from my flash, so I left it be as it didn’t feel right somehow.

 

 

Coconut Octopus use discarded coconut shells and fragments of pottery, or glass even to fashion makeshift shelters.
Coconut Octopus use discarded coconut shells and fragments of pottery, or glass even to fashion makeshift shelters.

 

 

 

So I would say take each encounter on it’s own merits and use your judgement to decide if the creature you’re shooting isn’t comfortable. If it retreats or worse inks you then take a hint and move on.

Luckily for me and a bunch of us on the most recent Red Sea Relaxed trips though, we had many octopode encounters over our five dives there.

So when I saw my friend and our guide Reda point excitedly to a pair of courting octopus I used it as a perfect opportunity to film some potentially interesting cephalopod shenanigans.

I shot my bit on a new camera that I was testing as a viable replacement for the GoPro for those underwater shooters on a budget, that need something that is equally at home producing stills as well as video.
This camera I will review in a future post more extensively, it is from Olympus and is the TG4 Tough and remarkably here I am shooting with no housing, and have attached a wide angle lens and am using a strobe for the still pictures I’ve posted below.
In short though it is an incredible bit of kit, very versatile and a much better option I reckon for those underwater shooters on a GoPro budget, it shoots better colours without filters than the GoPro, has incredible macro facilities, and is fully connected with WiFi and GPS.
The still shots were taken a few minutes after the video.

 

 

This is one of the octopus that is in the video. Perfectly happy for me to shoot stills and video. This was shot on the same camera I shot the video with a tiny compact an Olympus TG4, a subject of a future blogpost
This is one of the octopus that is in the video. Perfectly happy for me to shoot stills and video.
This was shot on the same camera I shot the video with a tiny compact an Olympus TG4, a subject of a future blogpost

 

 

Apart from a few types of octopus like Coconut Octopus and Blue Ringed Octopus which stand up well to being pictured on their own eight feet, I like to try and place the octopus within its surroundings, so they make a great subject for a wide angle lens and getting up close, once again respecting it’s feelings.
This is why I feel the Barge is a great place to shoot these engaging and lovely creatures, using the spars of the Barge itself to provide a backdrop to the beast itself.

 

To get great shots of octopus, it doesn’t matter hugely what camera you are shooting with and what counts more is your being able to make a connection with this creature, go slowly as not to intimidate it and you will be not only rewarded with great stills or video, but also an experience that is like no other I can think of we are lucky enough to have underwater.

If you’d like to join me on a photo trip and possibly encounter these things for yourself then check out my trips page (click here), as I’m sure we’ll have lots more experiences just like this.

Duxy