Kate Brogdon

        I started painting and sculpting prior to starting speech and have been marking and making things since.  I discovered photography later when my dad first allowed me to click the shutter of the 110 camera.  Single grainy frames were lots of fun, but I really coveted Dad's screw-mount SLR.  I used that camera and a variety of other SLRs, eventually graduating to the "analog" Nikon I still use.  The photography habit continued on and off through college, commissioning, schools, many work hours, evolving into the deployment "cargo pocket" camera.  After drowning the first one kayaking, my husband replaced it and added a waterproof case, watertight to 130 feet. The next logical leap was to try it while diving…

        Nate and I landed separately in Okinawa a decade ago in a complete accident of assignment, snorkeled a lot, but didn't dive until we returned in 2002.  It took a year before we started diving and another before we incorporated the photography element.  Since then, we've been in the water every opportunity and usually at least one of us is photographing.  The trick is to get something worth photographing to swim in front of the lens and click the shutter at the right time.

Pictures are from Ishigaki, Yaeyema, the southernmost group of Ryukyu Islands , Nov 2005

  We snorkeled during our surface interval the first day of diving in Ishigaki. This amazing, dense, healthy coral (sango) grew right off the boat dock of Aragasuki Island , also called “Panari” (separated.) The blue coral is the most distinctive of Ishigaki’s corals. It is blue throughout, although I did not attempt to break any to check that fact   More amazing coral with the small blue chromis that like to shelter in its branches
  This was a site called Hanahige (mustache – no idea why) the first day of diving. The site was islands of coral scattered throughout the white sand sea floor. We saw a wide variety of corals and fish, a few eels (unagi) and nudibranchs (umi ushi). We also saw a large, incredibly beautiful tiger cowry. Large schools of fish congregated in areas. The sand gave the additional benefit of bouncing additional light for photos.   This was also at Hanahige. The green bird wrasse darted amongst the striped sergeants and popped inquisitively toward me every so often. I think they were expecting a handout.
  The second day we dove with mantas (iitomaki ei) as we would every other day. They would cruise up to us curiously singly or in groups up to three, then sheer off at the last minute. This site was the “Manta scramble” or “Manta sukuranburu” and even the one day the mantas didn’t show it was beautiful. The corals were incredible and various schools of fish populated the area. We saw schools of smaller tuna (isomaguro) near the surface.  

Here was one of the mantas turning on his run toward me.

  The same manta (note the remoras) curious about this strange bubble-blowing creature in its world.   Another manta run with numerous schools of fish. The variety of fish was incredible
  Again, you can see the big guy turning, recognizable with his remora ornamentation.   This taken at Taketomi haitei onsen, of Taketomi hot spring. The intent of the dive was to bring us to a hot spring in the ocean floor. After we played with the hot, shimmering water for a few minutes, I found this shrimp (ebi) on its coral home.
  The next day we dove near Irimote Island at a site called Barasu (to expose a secret) and saw turtles (kame), rays (ie), huge moray eels and flatworms (hiramushi). This photo was taken during the surface interval snorkel. The color and variety of coral was wonderful.   Same site near Irimote. The chromis would dart into the sheltering coral if I became too close and then slowly drift out when they started to feel safer.
  Back at Manta scramble, I photographed these iridescent purple queens (hanagoi). They seem to enjoy the current, their schools forming arcs. It was rather wavy that day.   This was also the Manta scramble. Several groups of mantas began circling the area and a number of divers had congregated around a coral head watching them. Mostly the mantas stayed on the other side of the bommie, so we only saw the occasional wing flaring out through the bubbles, but this group came right over us and gave us a good view. Imagine if you will a ring of bubbles from the 40-50 divers all entranced by the rays flying around.
  Osaka hanagoi riifu (Anthias reef) was a steeply sloping site with a series of bowl shapes deepening from coral to rock. The site is named for the anthias (hanagoi ) marked with square patches on their sides found in the area. Other anthias were numerous as well, including the orange anthias in this picture, along with a patterned grouper (hata). We also saw huge fans (isobana) bigger than me, featherstars (hana umishida), scorpion fish (onikasago) and a number of umi ushi.   This site was “Ritoru sando paradise” or Little sand paradise. Small islands of rock and coral were scattered about white sand sea floor. This particular rock had red, white and blue schools swirling around it, with several anemones (kumanonu) supplying their own fish. We also saw the well camouflaged leaf fish (hadakata okoze) which I hadn’t seen before.
  Our last day of diving was at “Midoru hon” or Middle book. This was another site with islands of coral on the white sand. This particular island was a castle about 20’ tall with huge schools of small fish. We saw more groupers, shrimps, stone fish (onedaruma shoze) and the juvenile emperor angelfish with alternating colors of blue bulls-eyes on his blue field. We also saw the biggest helmet shell I’ve seen outside a shell shop – alive!

Some more translations of what we saw:

Minokasago - lionfish

Sentakasago - fuseliers

Tsubametamabataone - upside down

Koshodai - many spotted sweetlips

Hiranaga nejirinbo - gobi

Heroiyurihaze - two-tone dartfish

Futairo hanagoi type of anthias

Onedaruma shoze - stonefish

Akashima shira hige ebi -cleaning shrimp


Fan clam          

First dive in Belize, at Shark Canyon, Ambergris Caye.  Gorgeous, waving soft coral forest as seen in all our dives here.  This is part of the Belize barrier reef, the longest in the northern hemisphere and second longest in the world.




Eagle Ray Aquarium, Half Moon Caye, following our dive in the Blue Hole.  Ball o’ fish was created by one of the divemasters spreading food in the water.  This Caye is one of Belize’s atolls.


Tall sponges grew everywhere, but especially at Half Moon Caye.  Often, small creatures hid inside.

Snapper coral   

Coral forest wonderland at Half Moon Caye.

Stoplight parrot fish      

Stoplight parrot fish at Half Moon Caye

Turtle Nate       

Boca del Rio on Ambergris Caye.  This elder statesman swam up to our group of divers and thoroughly inspected us one by one.  Then he torpedoed into the blue.

Turtle wrasses  

Boca del Rio.  This younger guy munched contentedly, not paying much attention to us.  We hung out, took pictures and then left him still snacking.  Blue head wrasse trail the turtle.  We saw these distinctive fish every dive.  Some of the turtles ignored us, some zoomed away as fast as they could – and they can zoom when they want to!  It was apparent some turtles had previous negative experiences with divers, like being grabbed.

Coral shell shrimp 

Boca del Rio. 

Needle fish       

Our last day of diving in Belize started at Hol Chan Canyon, a protected preserve.  The game wardens check for dive boats stopped in the park, charging the dive operators according to their filed diver logs.  Our divemaster was complaining about the cost, but it was less than $10 – I think we can afford that!  We saw lots of fish everywhere, but here especially.  Schools of needle fish congregated in the shallow snorkel spot for during our surface interval.

Shark jack ray  

Hol Chan Canyon.  This was in a very shallow area (less than 10 feet) and numerous fish were cruising about like it was their highway.



Last dive in Belize, at Amigo Wreck, Ambergris Caye.  A “carpet” of squid shimmered into view during our safety stop.  I had to drop down for a photo and start my time over.