Cherry blossoms of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

The Cherry blossoms are generally in full bloom mid-January through February. Mt Yaedake and Nakijin castle are the most popular viewing locations for the Cherry blossoms. Some of the most beautiful trees can also be found in residential areas and public parks.

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Cherry blossoms – Mt Yaedake

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Nakijin castle blossoms

Cherry blossoms -Kume Island

Cherry blossoms -Kume Island

Every year I try to create an original photograph of the Cherry Blossoms. Something that has not been done before. Below are some of my favourite photographs using specialized blue lights during the night.

Cherry blossum under blue light

Cherry blossoms under blue light

Cherry blossum under blue light

Cherry blossoms under blue light

People often ask me what kind of camera setup do I use to create these images.

Fluorescence photography setup -Shawn Miller

Fluorescence photography setup -Shawn Miller

Psychedelic cherry blossoms

Psychedelic cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms -zakimi castle

Cherry blossoms -zakimi castle

Cherry blossoms - Yomitan Okinawa

Cherry blossoms – Yomitan Okinawa

Lightpainting with the Sola nightsea.

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Lightpainting cherry blossoms

I did some light painting comparisons using UV 385nm instead of 450nm. I used my sons Nike shoe as a background. The shoelaces fluoresced bright orange and the heal fluorescence bright green. I wanted to create something unique.

Cherry blossom under UV 385

Cherry blossom under UV 385

It can be challenging to photograph the animals that feed on the blossoms. I have photographed fruit bats, birds and insect feeding on the sweet-smelling blossoms.

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Fruitbat feeding on Cherry blossoms

The Japanese White-eye  (Mejiro) is the most popular animal to photograph in the trees.  

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Japanese White-eye – Mejiro

Hummingbird hawk-moth

Hummingbird hawk-moth

The Okinawa rail is a flightless bird endemic to northern Okinawa. It is currently listed as an endangered species. This was my first time documenting this behaviour.

Okinawa rail feeding on the sweet fruit

Okinawa rail feeding on the sweet fruit

Have a great day!

 

Owls of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

Okinawa has three resident species of Owls. They generally live in trees in mountain forests,  forest parks and sometimes in residential areas.  All three owls are fairly small (20-33cm). They are hard to find in the day, but as night falls their large shiny eyes give them away. These beautiful night dwellers feed on small lizards, rodents, frogs and insects.

The Collard Scops-owl (Otus lempiji) has beautiful red eyes and short pointy ears. It can be challenging to photograph owls. You have to be fast acting with your camera, the owls will fly off quickly after a few photographs.

This is an example of undesirable red eye reflected (Red-eye) below.  You generally want to try to avoid this but, I only had had a few shots with the flash on the camera, pointing straight at the owl high in a tree.

Collard Scops-owl - Okuma resort

Collard Scops-owl – Okuma resort

Collard Scops-owl - Yanbaru forest

Collard Scops-owl – Yanbaru forest

The Brown hawk owl (Ninox scutulata) is the most abundant of the three small owls. It has beautiful bright yellow eyes. This owl looks more like a hawk than an owl.

Brown hawk owl (Ninox scutulata)

Brown hawk owl (Ninox scutulata)

Brown hawk owl - Izena Island

Brown hawk owl – Izena Island

The Ryukyu scops owl (Otus elegans) is mainly found in the northern part of Okinawa. The Yanbaru forest is a designated wildlife protection area.

Ryukyu Scops Owl -Yanbaru

Ryukyu Scops Owl -Yanbaru

The owls are often found hunting on forest roads. The insects are attracted to the roadside lights which bring in the owls. The bush cricket (Mecopoda elongata) is one of their favourite meals.

Bush cricket (Mecopoda elongata)

Bush cricket (Mecopoda elongata)

I  wonder if the owls can see fluorescence. Many of the stick bugs, grasshoppers and crickets fluoresce under blue light,

Katydid under blue light

Katydid under blue light

Sadly I have seen more dead owls than alive!

Hawk owl - Ogimi village

Hawk owl – Ogimi village

Let’s protect the wildlife of the Yanbaru forest. Have a great day!

Ryukyu Brown Frog – Amphibians of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

The Ryukyu Brown frog (Rana ulma) is found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. It is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN list of threatened species. Some of the most beautiful frogs are found on Kume Island.

  • Scientific name: Rana ulma - Synonym Babina okinavana
  • Common name: Ryukyu Brown Frog
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Forests, mountain slopes, drainage ditches and farm fields.
  • Diet: Insects
  • Average size: 45mm-65mm
  • Color: brown

The Ryukyu Brown Frog is found in northern Okinawa. The Yanbaru forest is a wildlife protected area.

Wildlife protection area -Yanbaru forest

Wildlife protection area -Yanbaru forest

They blend in very well with the leaf litter, rocks, and the surrounding grass.

Rana ulma Ryukyu brown frog

Rana ulma Ryukyu brown frog

Mating season is during the winter months.

Ryukyu Brown frog mating

Ryukyu Brown frog mating -Kume, Island

Photographed on white for the Meet Your Neighbours project.

Rana ulma -Meet your neighbours

Rana ulma -Meet your neighbours

A wide-angle perspective of the small brown frog.

Rana ulma - Wide angle macro

Rana ulma – Wide angle macro

Pay attention to crossing wildlife. Frogs are often found on the road searching for insects

Rana ulma - crossing the road

Rana ulma – crossing the road

Let’s protect the animals of Okinawa.

Anemone-fish of the Ryukyu Islands by Shawn Miller

Have you ever wondered how many species of anemonefish are found in the beautiful waters of Okinawa?  There are six anemonefishes found here. Most are found in shallow water and all live in a venomous sea anemone for protection. Their biggest threats are over-collecting.

(1) Nemo – Is known as the false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris). In my opinion is the most beautiful anemone fish of the Ryukyu Islands.

 false clownfish  (Amphiprion ocellaris)

false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) © Shawn Miller

The false clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) photographed in black & white.

false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion ocellaris) © Shawn Miller

(2) The Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus) is the most abundant anemonefish found here. The juveniles sometimes have multiple white stripes.

 Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus)

Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus) © Shawn Miller

Sometimes the Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus)  can be found in large colonies with over sixty fish living together in multiple sea anemones.

 Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus)

Tomato anemonefish colony © Shawn Miller

The Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus) in black & white.

© Shawn Miller

Tomato anemonefish (Amphiprion frenatus) © Shawn Miller

 (3) Clark’s anemonefish ( Amphiprion clarkii ) is fairly common as well. A tough anemonefish for sure! 

Clark's anemonefish ( Amphiprion clarkii )

Clark’s anemonefish ( Amphiprion clarkii ) © Shawn Miller

The juveniles are often found in small nursery anemones. Is it possible these baby anemone fish see the fluorescence of the anemone?  I have always wondered how the hatchlings find a small anemone far away for a reef.

Clark's anemonefish ( Amphiprion clarkii ) and fluorescence

Clark’s anemonefish ( Amphiprion clarkii ) and fluorescence © Shawn Miller

 For some strange reason, the Clarks anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) turns dark black when living in the giant carpet sea anemone.

black Clark's anemonefish ( Amphiprion clarkii )

black Clark’s anemonefish ( Amphiprion clarkii ) © Shawn Miller

(4) The orange anemonefish (Amphiprion sandaracinos) is uncommon here. They all have a white dorsal stripe running from the lip to the tail.

Orange anemonefish (Amphiprion sandaracinos)

Orange anemonefish (Amphiprion sandaracinos) © Shawn Miller

5) The saddle anemonefish (Amphiprion polymnus) is scarce here. They are usually found living in a large carpet anemone around white fine sand.

saddle anemonefish (Amphiprion polymnus)

saddle anemonefish (Amphiprion polymnus) © Shawn Miller

(6) The pink anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion) is fairly common here. They all have a white dorsal stripe running from the eyes to the tail and a narrow white head bar.

pink anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)

pink anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion) © Shawn Miller

The pink anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion) in black & white.

pink anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)

pink anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion) © Shawn Miller

The three-spotted damselfish (Dascyllus trimaculatus) seeks shelter in sea anemones at the juvenile stage for protection. It leaves the anemone when its ready and never comes back.

The three-spotted damselfish (Dascyllus trimaculatus) seek shelter in sea anemones at the juvenile stage for protection.

The three-spotted damselfish (Dascyllus trimaculatus) © Shawn Miller

Okinawa offers some of the best shore diving in the world.  What are you waiting for!

Have a great day!

True Fluorescence – Underwater photography by Shawn Miller

” Fluorescence is the absorption of electromagnetic radiation (light) at one wavelength and its re-emission at another, longer wavelength ” Dr Charles Mazel. I attached a link to his website at the bottom of the page for more info.

In order to photograph fluorescence you will need a excitation source (blue light), barrier filter and a camera.

Shawn Miller fluorescence setup

Shawn Miller fluorescence setup

Underwater equipment used – Night dive at Kadena north ,Okinawa.

  • Canon 70d * Canon 100macro lens
  • Ikelite underwater housing
  • 2 x Light&Motion Sola Nightsea blue lights
  • 1 Light & Motion Sola 1200 red * 1 Sola 3800
  • Light&Motion barrier filter and mask

Some of my favorite photographs from our night dive with the crew

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

Palythoa heliodiscus under blue light © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True fluorescence

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

True underwater fluorescence © Shawn Miller

* Please check out my older posts on Fluoro-diving, Capturing fluorescence and Fluoro fingerprinting 

* Learn more about fluorescence with Dr Charles Mazel  http://www.nightsea.com/

**Light&Motion Dive lights http://www.lightandmotion.com/choose-your-light/sola

Have a great day!

 

 

Ryukyu ken – Dogs of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

Ryukyu-ken is scarce breed of dog found on the Island of Okinawa. In the past, these dogs were used to hunt down wild boars in the Yanbaru forest. They are currently designated as an Okinawan national treasure. I have personally seen these dogs hunt wild birds and they have no problems catching them. The Ryukyu ken has a great sense of smell. They can smell their pray from far away. These smart dogs are outstanding hunters.

Ryukyu Ken - Kin Okinawa

Ryukyu Ken - © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu-ken

Ryukyu-ken © Shawn Miller

Its impressive that these dogs hunt such a large powerful animal. Ryukyu wild boar (Sus scrofa).

Ryukyu wild boar (sus scrofa) This is a common wild boar found in Okinawa,

Ryukyu wild boar (sus scrofa) © Shawn Miller

I was out searching for birds and saw this beautiful male Ryukyu Inu. I knew he was out on a hunting mission.  It was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time.

Ryukyu Enu -Okinawan native dog

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu Enu -Okinawan native dog

Ryukyu native dog ready for the hunt © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog

Ryukyu Inu -Okinawan native dog © Shawn Miller

I often would see the Master walking his dogs on the beach and one day I finally asked him if I could photograph him and his dogs.

Master and his Ryukyu Ken

Master and his Ryukyu Ken © Shawn Miller

Master walking his Ryukyu Dogs

Master walking his Ryukyu Dogs © Shawn Miller

I often find some of the most interesting dogs on my photographic adventures exploring the Island. I try to capture their unique personality.  Below are some of my favorite dogs.

Okinawan dog

Okinawan dog © Shawn Miller

Ryukyu guard dog

Ryukyu guard dog © Shawn Miller

Okinawan dog - Ogimi Village

Okinawan dog © Shawn Miller

Okinawa dog - chained up

Okinawa dog – chained up © Shawn Miller

Poochie the wonder dog

Poochie the wonder dog © Shawn Miller

Dogs of Okinawa

Dogs of Okinawa © Shawn Miller

Dogs of oKinawa

Dogs of OKinawa © Shawn Miller

Sometimes on my adventures I run into aggressive dogs.  They are just protecting their territory.  I respect their space and leave the scene.

Okinawan dog

Okinawan dog © Shawn Miller

Dogs of Okinawa

Dogs of Okinawa © Shawn Miller

Dogs of Okinawa

Dogs of Okinawa © Shawn Miller

Dogs of Okinawa

Dogs of Okinawa © Shawn Miller

Sometimes I run into kind photogenic dogs that love their photograph taken.

Shima  -Ryukyu dog

Shima -Ryukyu dog © Shawn Miller

Cheetah like speed

Cheetah like speed © Shawn Miller

Okinawan dog with style

Okinawan dog with style © Shawn Miller

Dogs of Okinawa

Dogs of Okinawa © Shawn Miller

Scuba dog -Maeda point

Scuba dog -Maeda point © Shawn Miller

Bear and Master Willson

Bear and Master Willson © Shawn Miller

Have a great day!

 

Patterns, textures and colors ! Underwater Macro Photography by Shawn Miller

Okinawa offers some of the best Scuba-Diving in the world. I really enjoy the Art of Underwater Macro Photography.  Macro subjects can always be found, it just takes some imagination and good framing to create beautiful underwater abstracts.  Pattern’s, textures and vibrant colors generally stand out in underwater photography.

Equipment used 

  • Camera: Canon 70d with Canon 100mm&60mm
  • Housing: Ikelite underwater housing
  • Stobes: Ikelite DS160 & DS 200
  • Modeling lights: Light&Motion Gobe 800, Sola 3800 and Sola 1200
  • Specialized lights: Light&Motion Sola Nightsea

All images were taken in the beautiful waters of the Ryukyu Islands. Underwater Photography by Shawn Miller.

Cushion starfish (Culcita novaeguineae) 100mm

Cushion starfish (Culcita novaeguineae) © Shawn Miller

Coral (Favia sp)

Coral (Favia sp) © Shawn Miller

Deep water coral (Tubastrea micrantha)

Deep water coral (Tubastrea micrantha) © Shawn Miller

Pedum spondyloidum- coral scallop

Pedum spondyloidum- coral scallop © Shawn Miller

Feather star

Feather star © Shawn Miller

Stichopus variegatus sea cucumber- 100mm

(Stichopus variegatus) sea cucumber © Shawn Miller

Sea fan (Annella mollis )

Sea fan (Annella mollis ) © Shawn Miller

Favia sp coral closeup

Favia sp coral closeup © Shawn Miller

Feather duster worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)

Feather duster worm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi) © Shawn Miller

granulated sea star (Choriaster granulatus)

granulated sea star (Choriaster granulatus) © Shawn Miller

Crocea clam (Tridacna Crocea)

Crocea clam (Tridacna Crocea) © Shawn Miller

(Pachyseris speciosa) Ringed plate coral

(Pachyseris speciosa) Ringed plate coral © Shawn Miller

Razor coral

Razor coral © Shawn Miller

striped triplefin (Helcogramma striata) on coral

Striped triplefin (Helcogramma striata) on coral © Shawn Miller

coral of okinawa

coral of okinawa © Shawn Miller

bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa

Bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa) © Shawn Miller

Dive safe and have a great day!

 

Ornate narrow mouth frog – Amphibians of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

The Ornate narrow-mouth frog (Microhyla ornata) is found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. It is one of the smallest frogs found on Okinawa. It can be extremely hard to find due to its small size.

  • Scientific name: Microhyla ornata
  • Common name: Ornate narrow mouth frog, ant frog and ornate pygmy frog
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Forests, mountain slopes, drainage ditches and farm fields.
  • Diet: Ants, termites and small insects
  • Average size: 15mm-25mm
  • Color: brown
Ornate narrow mouth frog -Okinawa

Ornate narrow mouth frog -Okinawa

I have found this beautiful frog in the Yanbaru forest, local parks, drainage ditches and even common walking trails in central Okinawa.

Yanbaru forest  -Northern Okinawa

Yanbaru forest -Tokina magic

This small frog is a master of camouflage. I often find it on rocks, plants and leaves during my night walks.

Ornate rice frog -Ryukyu Islands

Ornate rice frog -Ryukyu Islands

 

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Ornate rice frog -Onna village

Photographed on a white portable studio for the Meet your neighbours project                 - dedicated to connecting people worldwide with the wildlife in their community -

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Meet your neighbours project by Shawn Miller

Have a great day!

Ryukyu flying fox – Bats of Okinawa

The Ryukyu flying fox is the largest bat found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. This large bat often startles people on night walks. No need to worry, it is not a threat to humans. This large fruit bat feeds on fruit, seeds and nectar. It is currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN list of Threatened species.

  • Scientific name: Pteropus dasymallus
  • Common name: Ryukyu flying fox and fruit bat
  • Distribution: Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat: Dense forests and neighborhood parks 
  • Diet: Fruit, seeds and nectar
  • Average size: 300-350mm
  • Color: Brown and orange

These large fruit bats are nocturnal and feed during the night.

Ryukyu flying fox

Ryukyu flying fox

They can also be found during the day hiding high up in trees.

Ryukyu flying fox

Ryukyu flying fox

Fruit bat in Ryukyu pine tree

Fruit bat in Ryukyu pine tree

On rare occasions they can be found feeding on the cherry blossoms in daylight.

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Ryukyu flying fox

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Ryukyu flying fox feeding on cherry blossoms

A mother and young found in a secluded part of the Yanbaru forest.

Ryukyu flying fox with young

Ryukyu flying fox feeding

Have a great day!

 

The Good, the Bad or the Evil – The Crow’s of Okinawa

The Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) is found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. They are abundant here and can be found all over Okinawa. Populations have increased due to the readily available food, left on the side of the road and in dumpsters. It’s important to keep your trash enclosed in cages to prevent the crows from getting to it.

  • Scientific name: Corvus macrorhynchos
  • Local name: Jungle crow
  • Distribution:  Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat:  Farms, cities, forests and grasslands.
  • Diet:  Eats almost everything
  • Average size:  50cm  body length 
  • Color:  Black
Jungle crow and plastic

Jungle crow and plastic © Shawn Miller

 

Jungle crow -Okinawa Japan

Jungle crow in flight © Shawn Miller

The farmers in Onna village put up this deterrent to keep the crows from coming back.

Crow cross -Onna village

Crow cross -Onna village © Shawn Miller

Crows can be vicious predators. They often harass other birds, showing off their strength.

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Aggressive behavior © Shawn Miller

These intelligent birds work as a team to get what they want. I have personally seen them raid baby birds from the nest. I have seen them fly away with juvenile woodpeckers, rails and swallows.

Crow taking the okinawa woodpecker from the nest

Crow taking the Okinawa woodpecker from the nest © Shawn Miller

To control the population of jungle crows in northern Okinawa, they use large traps to catch them in. One way in and no way out!

Crow trap - Northern Okinawa

Crow trap – Northern Okinawa © Shawn Miller

Possibly a strange growth that occurred from an injury (broken beak). Could this be one of the few crows that made a successful escape from a trap?

A crow with a hook beak

A crow with an extended hook beak © Shawn Miller

As much as we dislike the crow, they do have a purpose in the ecosystem. They clean the dead animals (road kill) off the road, keeping our environment clean from rotting carcasses. I often see them feeding on cats, snakes, lizards, birds and rats dead in the road.

Mongoose -roadkill

Mongoose -roadkill © Shawn Miller

Crow feeding on a cat

Crow feeding on a cat by Shawn Miller © Shawn Miller

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Crows eating roadkill -Okinawa © Shawn Miller

They also feed on the large green caterpillars that destroy the farmer’s taro (Taanmu) crops in Kin village

Crows of Okinawa

Crows of Okinawa -© Shawn Miller

Mutualism of Commensalism?

I believe this is Mutualism. Both animals possibly benefit from each other.  The crow cleans the parasites on the boar’s skin and also acts as a warning system when a threats are in the area.  The wild boar uproots the ground,  which gives access to insects, grubs and worms for the crow. This was my first time observing this behaviour in the wild.

Jungle crow and the Boar

Jungle crow and the Boar – © Shawn Miller

As soon as the boar spotted me it fled the scene. The crow attempted to stay mounted but could not keep up with the boar.

Jungle crow and the Wild Boar

Jungle crow and the Wild Boar © Shawn Miller

Have a great day!