As I descend into dark waters, my blue flashlights reveal a spectacular display of fluorescent colors shining out from some of the corals and marine creatures below. Normally hard to detect with the naked eye, this secret, colorful light show gleams as brightly as an ’80s disco within the beam of my lights.
Fluorescence on the reef occurs as shorter wavelength blue light is absorbed by special proteins in tissues and is reemitted as longer wavelength greens, reds, oranges and yellows. While the ocean naturally filters light, leaving the underwater world cast predominantly in blue below 15 meters or so, the addition of concentrated blue light from the flashlights and flashguns attached to my camera rig stimulates the strongest response from the fluorescing proteins. Yellow filters on my lenses and dive mask block the stimulating blue light, enabling me to see and capture the full extent of the psychedelic spectacle.
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