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Snowy Night 

Jan.18th 2020, Anilao, Philippines

Following the Taal Volcano eruption in the Philippines at the beginning of 2020, the ocean sediments were stirred up into the water column, resulting in extremely low visibility for diving. It felt like swimming through a dense fog during my blackwater dive in Batangas Bay, Anilao. Amidst the hazy turmoil, I came across a female paper nautilus hitchhiking on a floating piece of wood debris. It belongs to the octopus genus called Argonauta, one of the few octopus lineages that live in the open ocean. The females are unique in having evolved a shell for laying eggs. As I pressed the shutter, the surrounding particles reflected my flashlight in a manner that created the illusion of falling snow. Instead of portraying chaos in the aftermath a natural disaster, these particles evoked an unusual sense of serenity, transforming the scene into a fairytale set on a snowy night.

As underwater photographers, our obsession lies with clear water, particularly for those specializing in blackwater photography. We are drawn to the pure darkness that mirrors the vacuum of outer space. We tend to forget that the suspended particles which include the sand grains, organic matter and even miniscule organisms are an integral part of the ecosystem. These particles always fade into the background or are simply removed through editing, but they form the foundation of the complex marine food web. If the water were genuinely transparent, there’s no way the ocean could sustain such abundance of life. The “snowflakes” in this captured scene always remind me of these tiny yet ubiquitous existences.

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