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Talking with Octopus

Primorsky dive expert Andrey Shpatak about lifhhakah photohunting under water

Andriy Shpatak - professional sailor, dive instructor and top underwater photographer in Russia. He plunged into a whimsical world where people are only guests 40 years ago and has done it more than 4000 times since then. Andrey saw many seas and oceans, but he believes that the Japanese have their own specialties, and it is not inferior in beauty to the same coral reefs. And the winds, cold and fogs of the Far Eastern waters only stir up the interest of divers and temper their will. 

In the seaside village of Rudnaya Pristan, Dalnegorsk urban district, Andrei "every shrimp knows." The main local attractions are the kekura Two Brothers, depicted on the non-denominated 1000-ruble note, and the Lighthouse, erected in the early 50s on a two-headed rock - Cape Brynner. The dominant peak offers an excellent view of the Rudnaya Bay, the village, as well as the coast to the north of it. The coast to the north of Rudnaya Pier abounds in steep cliffs and steep cliffs. In the village. Ore Pristan was the terminal station of the Dalnegorsk narrow-gauge railway. Dalnegorsk and Rudnaya Pristan are known as the birthplace of the famous Hollywood actor Yul Brynner, the protagonist of the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven. The local promontory and lighthouse is named after the Brynner family, and the lighthouse itself was built by the actor's grandfather.

In his dive center, Andrei Shpatak receives tourists from all over the world, introducing them to rare underwater "models", some of which look like winged angels, others like space monsters. And in his blog the hero of our material shares the chronicles of the Universe, inaccessible to most of us, land rats. The seaside scuba diver acquired the first underwater soap box in 1996, and since then he has improved his skills and photo park. Shpatak is a champion, this has been repeatedly recognized by the jury of such prestigious Russian photo contests as "The Most Beautiful Country", "Golden Turtle", "Golden Dolphin" etc., there are prizes in international photo battles.  

Talking with Octopus
Photo: Andrey Shpatak

- Have you been breathing iodine and salt since childhood?
- I was born and grew up in the village of Rudnaya Pristan, so my interest in the sea is completely understandable. We boys from the sixth to seventh class, buying fins, masks and pipes, went to do diving, and hunting was more than bondage. In the yard there were 70.  

- So it was for food?
- No, in spite of everything we did not starve, it was just a real pleasure from underwater hunting and a bonus for home cooking. We always had fresh fish and octopuses on the table!

I am a sailor, I studied for a navigator in the Far Eastern Engineering Marine College (now - Moscow State University named after GI Nevelskoy. EastRussia), has finished the captain, but did not become it, although the captain's diploma is. It can at least now be confirmed and go to work on merchant ships. In the 77 year I got a certificate of an underwater swimmer, the PADI certificate in 1998. Since 2010 I teach diving.  


- "Terrestrial" photographers know different techniques, build skradok, make a sitting, and feed. What are the features of photographing underwater models? Is there a good time when underwater inhabitants lose caution?
- The main thing is to know the seasonality. Under our water, only in a certain period of time, you can meet certain species. That is, roughly speaking, from December to March, the sea practically dies out. It is windy, the water is very cold (-2 degrees) and there are no living creatures, all living things go to a depth where it is warmer. And diving under water is, by and large, pointless. Since March, the rapid flowering of life under water begins, and in April-May everything is already teeming, small things come to life. May is the prime of krill, these are little shrimps like that. Krill is eaten by everyone, including whales. There is a lot of it in June! The water warms up, the fish wakes up and begins to actively eat it, then, by July, the krill disappears. May and June are the best time for macro photography in our bay, there are a lot of shrimps and a wide variety of nudibranchs. 

15622060_963884317044737_1826655525366286939_n.jpgPhoto: Nudibranch mollusc Ancula giboza  
From April-May to June - the best time for a photo-hunt for hairy and king crab, it stays closer to the surface, and by summer it goes deeper. The same Kamchatka crabs in May-June we have at depths of 20 meters, and quite rarely found in shallow water. And as the water begins to warm (+5 degrees), they recede to depths of up to 30 m and deeper.

13179285_806726052760565_6150014067395830189_n.jpgPhoto: Kamchatka crabs. 

From mid-summer to October, a good time for shooting fish, squid and cuttlefish, large - Rossia pacifica and a tiny - Sepiola birostrata.

Photo: cuttlefish Sepiola bi-horned (Sepiola birostrata)

In the autumn, jellyfish come close to the shore, such as Aurelia aurita (jellyfish-moon); Lion's medusa-mane (Cyanea capillata) and a giant jellyfish.

Photo: Medusa Aurelia limbata

At the end of September and beginning of October in our bay there are a lot of giant Doflein octopuses (Enteroctopus dofleini):


And at the same time, the mating season begins at Saito's mossy dog, laying eggs in abandoned empty shells of Gray mussels: 


Nerpa, Larga's seals are quite curious, and young individuals are not afraid of anything! But they are in society. The young man just begins to approach, the old one appears, he giggles at him, and the young one sails back. And with the seals it happens: the less you pay attention to them, the more they begin to pay attention to you. From the series: "Oh! They do not react to us, what is it? "Faster there, look!


It should be noted that many animals, predators, are active only at night, and they can be seen only in the dark, and the rest of the time - if you are lucky. The same octopuses - they are very active at sunset. Many underwater inhabitants simply freeze in the beam of light, and you can come very, very close and calmly shoot.


- The purpose of your dives - exclusively diving, photography?
"I'm just an ordinary person!" And I'm not a vegetarian. Seafood is present on our table, but I take care of the sea and its inhabitants. But 99% of dives are study of divers and photographing for themselves.

- Are there any bonuses in the Sea of ​​Japan that are not available anywhere else in the world?
- The Sea of ​​Japan is one of the most saturated. But it is not so bright. That is, in the same tropics, in the same coral gardens, there will be a bunch of diversity, flickering fish, but 2-3 species. You can see similar things in our country, knowing where. By and large, our sea does not differ much in diversity from the tropics. We have a huge amount of the same algae and grass. The peculiarity of the north of Primorye is that it is here that the cold Okhotsk and the branch of the warm current of Kuroshio meet. These conditions create in the water column a unique world, where the Arctic fauna and flora is adjacent to the subtropical.

Big octopuses are something we can be proud of!


I met my first octopus in 75, and for more than 40 years I have studied these creatures well. They are smart and quick, but when they see a diver, octopuses seek attention and understanding. The strategy is as follows: I find an octopus and lure it out of its hole, play with it, helping the participants of the dive to take a photo. Octopuses quickly get tired of blinding flashes, so after 7-10 minutes I take him back to the shelter. The largest octopus that I have ever met, weighed more than 30 kilograms by eye.

Sometimes it happens that the octopus is simply not in the mood to pose for the photographer, and then he tries to escape. To chase after an escaping octopus is another pleasure - a knocked-down breath, instantly increased airflow and a needle of a manometer, jumping to the red sector. Sometimes the octopus runs up to the surface - then it + 100500 does not catch up, because it does not have problems with a rapid rise. Often, large octopuses freeze in the open state - all of its eight legs are spread out over 360 °, the mantle between them is stretched like an umbrella. And in this state, he can be up to one minute, after which he sharply closes his umbrella and floats away. 


Also we have a unique Japanese furry dog, the most friendly to divers, large enough, centimeters 60-70. It is not the endemic of our sea, but practically. In the East China Sea there is also a piece of its range, aside from Japan there is.  

- At what depths does your photo shoot in Rudnaya Bay - from and to?
- From 1 to 30 m, whichever we want to shoot. At a depth of 30 m, you can only have 15 minutes, decompression will throw you back to the surface, but there are certain things for which you dive. And in the area of ​​the bay Rudnaya shoal, the maximum depth of 30 m. In 50 km to the south of Rudnaya is the Gulf of Vladimir. At a distance of 7 km from the Gulf of Vladimir, the depth is more than 2000 m. The Sea of ​​Japan is very deep!


- Are there any underwater inhabitants that you already recognize in person and who recognize you? Can, did you give the names to someone?
- We have too many people! That is, you need to find a completely deaf place, where you dive and shoot only one, and animals can be accustomed to your presence. The place is popular, including among scientists, because approximately 95% of the nudibranchs of the Sea of ​​Japan live in the bay of Rudnaya. 

- What is the situation with poaching, is there any kind of marine inspection?
- Underwater poaching is not developed in our country, because we have no sea cucumber and practically no scallop. And we have a GMI. - Unlike the city of Vladivostok and the same Nakhodka, where there are many places where you can launch a boat, in Rudnaya Bay this can be done only in one place! We launch boats at the mouth of the Rudnaya River, and return to the same place. That is, to put one inspector there, you can calmly solve the problem.   


- Who are your favorites?
- I like to shoot everyone. But every underwater photographer has a so-called "wish list". We have a lot of animals on the Sea of ​​Japan, which I would like to take off. But the whole question boils down to how and where to find them? There is such a fish - the sea duck, for 40 years of diving I met her once, and quite unexpectedly and was not ready for it. Other fish from the family of chanterelles, in the Sea of ​​Japan they live near 30 species, and I saw only 5 or 6. 

- Who is the most difficult to shoot? Who is the most secretive and timid?
- We have a huge fish - Far Eastern wolffish (Latin Anarhichas orientalis), it is guarded in Primorye, because it is very rare. I have not met her under water for three years. Last year, we saw her, but she was in a place where she did not want to scare her. The next day came, but she had already gone somewhere.  

- Tips for neophytes underwater shooting. Do I need to be a professional diver to take good pictures, or just take courses, stock up on equipment, underwater boxes, flashes ... And what is the price of the issue?
- In order to become a normal underwater photographer, you need to be able to swim well underwater with scuba. You must be able to stay underwater long enough to calmly and gently approach the animal. Do not muddle, the most basic! The suspension has risen - the picture will deteriorate. You'll have to spend a lot of time in photoshop to remove the suspension, and it's better not to lift it immediately. The second theme is that the photographic equipment, even quite simple, if you take a soap box, box and light, is expensive. And people believe that you can buy the simplest kind of box, and the same Go Pro, and thinks that everything will turn out. Nothing will come of it, we need a light! In order to shoot a movie, you must have the skills of video shooting, so that it's professional and interesting. Because to shoot stupidly just your whole dive and try to show the people, the most patient will have enough minutes for 5. The movie should be short, capacious and reflect the essence. And with a photo the same thing.


Diving equipment and photographic equipment for shooting underwater are very expensive. The price of a new wetsuit is around 60 thousand rubles. As an example, I bought my wife a photo kit for a start: a soap dish camera - 10 thousand rubles, a box for it - 12 thousand rubles. Total 22 thousand. You can already shoot, and maybe even something will work out. But in order to shoot well, it needs to be retrofitted: a platform for the camera, handles, flash, wires. In total, it ran under another 40 thousand. That is, it's just a little soap dish. And if you take a DSLR camera, then we take Nikon D800 (the camera is more than 5 years old): the price of the camera itself is in the region of 80-120 thousand rubles, a used box for it is about 1,5 thousand dollars, you can try to buy it. Optics - you need at least two lenses: 60 mm Macro (25 thousand rubles) and Fish-eye Sigma 15 mm (30 thousand rubles). We also need ports for boxing to use this optics - 10 thousand. and 20 thousand is the most inexpensive. An underwater flash costs over $ 500, you need two. Hands for flashes. That is, you can try to keep within half a million.

- Are you able to pay these costs?
- No, it's unreal. This is a hobby for which we spend money. Abroad there is a small group of photographers caught in the jet, they can afford to sell pictures to magazines and from this more or less live. And then it's a question of grants, it's unreal to feed yourself with the photo itself. At us, in Russia - 100%. There is no sense in uploading photos too, it's a rather narrow specific genre.

Photo: Agonomal proboscis (chanterelle family)

- Land photographer vs Submarine: what is the fundamental difference and is it difficult for the ground to be reconstructed for surveying in the sea?
- If you know how to shoot well in principle, and you have no problems getting a normal picture, you don’t think about the exposure - how to open the aperture, build the composition, etc., and do all this automatically, these skills will help you a lot and under water. Because under water, 90% of actions are performed in the manual. And the laws of composition are the same on land and at sea.

- Recently you criticized the participants of the All-Russian competition of underwater photography. Are they all so weak?
- If we are talking about the Moscow competition, everything very seriously rests on those who select. Often the person who selects the photos is also a participant. That is, roughly speaking, 4-5 people who know each other can safely remove stronger pictures. It's not kosher! It shouldn't be that way, and it doesn't command respect. There is one famous competition "Golden Turtle", when it was held for the second time, my picture passed and it was on the cover of the final album. Since then (for 10 years) I have not got there even once. In 2017, after a long break, I sent my photographs to the Golden Turtle, 6 of my pictures passed to the semifinals. Judged by a fairly open jury, but the marks were from 0 to 9. I participated in the World and Asian Championships in underwater photography, where the largest and smallest marks are folded back to get objectivity. The judging of our photo contests is funny. But I want to be honest, I don't cheat, I don't ask to vote for me, this is my inner principle! But there is also joy. In 2017, in the "Underwater World" nomination of the "Most Beautiful Country" competition from the Russian Geographical Society, I became the winner.

Photo: young octopus Doflein. 

- In 2006, withAccording to the study Blacksmith Institute, the area was on the list the most polluted in the world. How can you assess the ecological state of the bay of the Ore and the Sea of ​​Japan now? Has it changed for the better or the worse for years, decades of your observations?
- This estimate refers more to the 90-th years of the last century. During the Soviet Union, Dalpolimetal (a mining and metallurgical complex in the city of Dalnegorsk, in the village of Rudnaya Pristan, is located a metallurgical shop (lead) and a stevedore shop, the only producer of lead and zinc concentrates in the region. EastRussia) and Bor (Mining and Chemical Company Bor Mining Company, Dalnegorsky Boron ore deposit, the third largest producer of boron-containing products in the world and the only producer in Russia. EastRussia) worked on 100%, and now on the strength of 20% of its capacity. 25 years of calm on our nature have affected well. There were fewer harmful discharges to the water area. Now we have a huge amount of red fish, the number of setting salmon has increased many times. But, at the same time, the fish protection was practically removed, and the poachers on the river became simply nemeryano. It will pass 2-3 years, salmon, alas, can again be lost. 

- Tell us about your dive center in Smychka village. Do you have some special method of your own?
"People say it's easier to study abroad." It's easier, yes, I believe, but not cheaper. Start dipping into cold water (and we have cold water), you will be very difficult. I had a case: a familiar divemaster girl from Khabarovsk, who has more 700 registered dives in the tropics, came to me to learn to dive in a dry suit. Have been trained, there have been funny cases in the process. She even says, you need six or eight dives to recover. Cold water is another completely!
The diving season with a boat begins with the opening of navigation on April 15 and usually lasts until November 15. In the Sea of ​​Japan, the water varies from 1 ° to 20 ° C. It happens in August at the surface of 20-22, and at a depth of 15 meters with 4 ° C heat. We have a very cold current that comes everywhere and everywhere.

From April to November, I do over 200 dives in our waters. That is, I get from 30 to 50 dives per month. They last from 40 minutes to an hour. Students sometimes make me nervous, but I have a lot of experience, so I do not allow panic and quickly take the situation into my own hands. We offer our guests "full board" - accommodation, meals, and, in fact, diving in my escort.     
- How to get to your diving school?
- On Facebook I have a page Lucky Octopus Diving Lodge. Diving in Russia is quite cold, but the south of Primorye is warm. And in the distance is equivalent, what to go from Khabarovsk to me, that to the south of Primorye. 


- Have you ever had scientific discoveries of unknown species of marine life or fauna?
- Nudibranchs 5-6 species, first encountered in our part of the Sea of ​​Japan, I found, but the scientist who made their description modestly did not mention it. Thanks to the Internet, all our favorite scientists, who know where to look, easily track the topics. Just then they come and say: I found this. The more honest ones refer to photographers, the less honest ones are silent. But let this remain on their conscience.

I try to collect any books on our fauna, because I'm interested in what I'm photographing. At the moment, I can just at 80% see and understand what kind this is, and determine its Latin name.

During the dives, there are also historical discoveries. In 2003, I was one of the first to get into the sunken schooner "Victoria" in the bay of Olga. Ten years later I took a photo shoot at Skryplova Island on the torpedo boat No. 208. He drowned in 1904 year, having exploded on a Japanese mine. Another example is the missing merchant vessel Viking. I helped uncover the secret of his wreck. This Norwegian steamer moved to the north in 1905 year and ran into a rock in a fog. Here there is a navigation error. This vessel was mentioned by Vladimir Arsenyev. In the same list remains of the cruiser-participant Tsushima "Emerald", he lay on the rocks. I'm sure the sea holds a lot of other secrets.  

Photo: Monkfish (Limacina hellicina) 

- What is a diver, underwater photographer in the winter?
- Some people come in winter to learn to dive in the pool. And so - we sit at home. Or we are trying to extend the summer for money, as in the anecdote of Soviet times. There was a man and all the time he was upset that he had a birthday in the summer. And now he has grown up and feels completely calm, because he can make himself a birthday in the summer for money. Less than 2018 months are left before the opening of the 3 season, half of the winter is over. How not to remember what awaits us in the spring in the cold water of the Rudnaya Bay!  

- Tourists in Primorye every year scare sharks. 2017 was not an exception. Do you have any?
- Dangerous situations never arose. Our herring sharks are constantly swimming, they hunt salmon. They do not attack people, although they are direct relatives of the great white shark. In 40 years of diving, I have twice seen the spiny katran shark under water, and it is a great joy to meet her!

Photo Shoot: Andrey Shpatak.
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