DANO Pendygrasse

odds and ends from an unusual life

Shooting the Honduran President

Hi friends,

A couple days ago I found out that the President of Honduras was coming to Roatan to participate in a shark release. It turns out that it was part of the PR push for the announcement that Honduras has declared all of its territorial waters a shark sanctuary. Nice stuff, hard to police in this country, but nice nonetheless.

So Nic from the Roatan Marine Park asked if I would shoot the release and of course I said yes. Members from the RMP and the Shark Legacy Project worked to put together the event and the sharks were transported from the pen where they have been captive for several years, onto a boat, and out to west bay.

There was surprisingly little security for the event considering the recent political climate in Honduras and after bobbing around waiting for an hour or so, a boat from AKR pulled up and there was President Porforio Lobo Sosa a few feet away. Next came the important task of waving to the press and talking to the researchers and conservationists. The President certainly seemed engaged by the process. Then it was time to release the sharks. The first one was lifted out of the holding pool with a cradle and released. He immediately swam to the wall and disappeared into the deep. The second, bigger shark did a couple laps of the reef crest before heading to deeper water.

It was all very interesting to watch and shoot photos of. I understand that there are several more captive nurse sharks on Roatan, and hopefully this will set some kind of precedent to release the rest of them. Coincidentally, we’ve been seeing a lot of nurse sharks on dives lately, several this past week. Not sure what that means but I hope it’s good.

One week till home friends. One week. tomorrow we’re trying to go to the Cordelia Banks, a reef of staghorn coral like nowhere else in the Caribbean, and a hot target for protection. Stay tuned.

Enjoy the photos from the release.


Sharks awaiting release on the boat. Giacomo, Ian, Doug and Christy standing by.

The President waves to the press.

The press.

The first shark in the sling

The first shark is away. If Marine Park Nic’s back wasn’t so big, you’d see it.

Oh, there it is...

President Lobo supervises the second release.

The second shark is away!

Sharks, crabs, divers and more.

Hello friends,

Well I’m done leading dives and trying to focus on shooting photos for the rest of this trip. I have been trying out a variety of different techniques and getting more good results than bad, but admittedly, at this point in the trip, I’m not as far along as I’d like. Having said that, I always set pretty lofty goals and have high standards for myself and I probably wouldn’t be happy unless I came away from this trip with a cover shot.

We saw two different sharks today. I found the first one, just a little baby 3 foot nurse shark, and Mickey found a 5 footer or so on the next dive. Even though nurse sharks are pretty much completely non-threatening, it’s still cool to see them.

Enjoy the shots,


Kat checks out some tube sponges

And here she is again.

An Ocellated Box Crab (Calappa ocellata) hides from me in the sand on a night dive.

Lil nudi at night.

Kat found this gaudy clown crab, Biggest one I’ve ever seen.

What is this scorpionfish thinking? Bad spot dude, bad spot.

Yes, I have a favourite coral. This is it.

Toady the toadfish in a different hole at last. So glad I could see his tail.

Mickey inspects a different scorpionfish.

These nassau grouper are following us around every dive hoping for lionfish kills.

Mickey’s nurse shark

Really like what is going on with this hungry fireworm.

Roatan update

Hi friends,

So I have passed the halfway mark of my trip. Now I start to try to cram in everything I haven’t done. This past week that has included no photos, hence no posting. Micky from Reef Gliders had the flu so I pitched in leading dives all week. Lots of diving, but no camera. I snuck in a day yesterday, I’ll lead a couple more today and then a night dive tonight. Looking forward to it.

Leading is a completely different dynamic than shooting. I’m more concerned with the divers in tow, navigation, air consumption and managing issues that come up, than I am with finding things. Still I managed to find a nurse shark and a couple eagle rays have graced us with their presence.

In any case, here are some shots that have come out of the last day, and a few from before.



Weird perspective green moray.

A crap shot, but at least it’s a NUDI! Black spotted nudibranch, whose spots are actually blue.

Found this guy yesterday. Red Ridged clinging crab. Mickey says he’s quite uncommon.

Come hither turtle.


A pair of white spotted filefish let me hang out with them.

fighting male parrot fish. Grrrr.

Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years.

Hi friends,

Well last time we spoke, I had just finished a couple semi crap days and vented a bit. It has been pointed out the shots in the last blog were not terrible or out of focus, or whatever, and I guess that’s true. The thing is, when you shoot a bunch of shots, you tend to look at the group as a whole. “Was this day successful?” comes down to percentages. If 10% of my shots end up being A quality, then it’s a pretty good day. If 1% turn out, not so much. The previous blog just followed a couple of 1% days in a row. Still there are always standouts. But sometimes even they don’t match up to the picture I had in my mind, which is the only standard I ever really care about.

Yesterday I went back to the 10.5mm lens to see if I had been overhyping it in my mind, or if it really is that good. It really is. It’s also too wide for a lot of things. I saw a pipefish for instance (which happened to be beerfish on that dive) so I needed to get proof. The 10.5mm is not very well suited. It does, however, shoot fabulous reefscapes and divers, so that’s what I’ll be bringing you a lot of today.

After all this fisheye I’m ready for a good macro dive now, and it’s just started to rain so that’s probably going to happen.

Thanks to all the divers who put up with me underwater. Kraig, Colin, Mickey, Mel, Will, and even Kelly who doesn’t yet know what she’s in for. Especially Karen who is leaving and put up with many flashes.

Enjoy the shots.


dropping in.

Mickey in Kraig’s crack.

Suddenly a giant sponge lunged out and ate Kraig’s head.

Just a beautiful coral overhang.

Elkhorn coral in the shallows. Playing with Snell’s window.

This is ready for the cover of Lionfish Weekly magazine.

Mikey found a MASSIVE head of brain coral. Kelly swam by on her first dive here.

Will helps me get a shot. Thanks Will.


Hi Friends,

Well I guess we can’t always just charge forward. Sometimes you get caught in a soft spot and slide backwards. The last couple days have been that for me.

I’ve made some lens choice mistakes, which admittedly isn’t the biggest deal in the world, it’s the kind of thing that is hard to predict, how is the viz going to be? What will be available? Well for several dives in a row I simply took along a lens that was wrong for the job. Not wasted time, but not time well spent either.

Also, I overestimated the quality of the 12-24 and shot for 2 days without really checking the files. The result was that I have a lot of soft images. Also disappointing. I’ll be more careful now knowing the limitations of the lens. Those primes aren’t looking so bad now...

As with life, when it starts to suck, you gotta push through till the other side. Here are some highlights from some bad days.


craziest tips I’ve ever seen on a giant anemone.

another spotted moray. i like shooting em and i will keep shooting em.

the tiniest starfish i’ve ever seen. wrapped around coral polyps!

star in a cup

whitenose pipefish with his creepy red eyes. this was one of the most disappointing encounters. I back focused the best shot and am left with this.

hunting. Mickey called this a “target rich environment.”

Love these. They look completely black underwater and then you hit em with a strobe. Boom.

tried to get some shots with my friend Kathryn.

still getting a feel for directing people and getting what I want.

...so I’m playing with different ideas.

working on the sunball too. this one is ok.

New lens, new options.

WARNING: Photo geekery follows. Feel free to skip to the photos.

Hi friends,

A quick photo blog with some shots from the Nikon 12-24mm that I finally got underwater. I read bunch of stuff about it online and followed Dr. Mustard’s advice on the setup. The first thing I noticed was that out of the water I couldn’t get any sort of focus with the diopter so I took it out without it. It may be that it only focuses underwater so I’ll have to give that a try, I just don’t want to waste a dive on it right now. Especially because the results without it were quite good just with the 33mm extension. There is definitely some corner distortion at 12mm though.

It’s pretty nice to have the zoom. That’s my first impression. Having only used prime lenses on my new rig so far, the versatility was really nice. On the wide end it’s just slightly less wide than the 10.5 mm that I have (which to my eye is actually a more pleasing focal distance), and the 24 end allows me some chance to achieve good results with slightly smaller creatures. Turtles are a good size creature for it, but anything smaller would have to be sitting pretty still. The Grouper shot was about perfect in terms of size. I probably would have had to get too close with the 10.5mm or maybe even the 16mm and scared him off.

I also noticed that my strobes are probably not strong enough to get any real fill on a sunball shot, unless the subject is really, really close. Shooting at 1/250th and f16 or f22 seems to be crucial to beat the turquoise band and these Ikelite 160’s just don’t have the pop to make anything happen.

I don’t shoot divers enough, so I’m going to focus on that this trip. Luckily I have some willing (or at least convincible) victims to get in front of the camera. I need to work out more of the directions, but just having the chance to work with someone instead of trying to catch moments when a diver is in the right place, is really helpful. I would like some feedback.

I’ve also included some shots from another dive with some funny creatures for my critter nerd friends. All shot with the 60mm macro.



A turtle at 24mm.

Jen and a sea fan.

Jen and a barrel sponge.

Grouper getting a good cleaning. Must have been 30 gobies on him.

Me and Jen goofing around on the safety stop.

My, what blue rings and lovely lashes you have.

Just a tiny little Zebra Sole. Look at the grains of sand, they look like boulders! Well, maybe not.

Queer little critter, the goatee blennie. I’ve never seen one in Roatan before so this makes me happy. Look at the goatee on him!

Skoobing fotos.

Hi friends,

A few more shots. Had some equipment problems and the boats have been full so I’m not shooting as much as I’d like, but here are a couple to look at. My friend Alex asked me to call diving “Skoobing” because it sounds funny. I think that should be no problem.




lil shrimp.

spotted drum


pedersen’s cleaner shrimp