Spring 2018 Anilao Trip Report - Bluewater Dive Travel
Spring 2018 Anilao Trip Report

Spring 2018 Anilao Trip Report


2018 Anilao Trip Report

April 2018 | By Trip Leader Erik Lukas



It had been almost a year to the day since I last arrived in Manila, and to say I was excited to get back to Anilao in the Philippines would be a gross understatement. I arrived a day early to prepare for the first of two Bluewater Photo Macro Workshops, held at Crystal Blue Resort. It is our longest running workshop and for good reason. Photographers and divers come to Anilao to see a wide range and large quantity of some of the underwater worlds most incredible subjects, and as usual, Anilao delivered.


A Coconut octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) uses a glass jar as a temporary home, photographed at The Pier. Photo: Erik Lukas


The following morning the first of our 24 guests began to arrive and settle in. It was great to see old friends and meet many new ones. Over the course of the day the camera room became full of busy underwater photographers of all skill levels...setting up housings, checking focus, testing strobes and getting set for the first of 36 dives that would be made over the next 10 days.


An Emperor shrimp ( Periclimenes imperator) riding high on the back of a large Sea Cucumber. Photo: Erik Lukas


As usual, the incredible dive team at Crystal Blue was in action immediately. Boat assignments were made, dive gear was assembled, nitrox was analyzed and we were off, a seven boat armada departed the resort for a beautiful afternoon dive followed by a sunset dive (Crepuscular for those who like the technical terminology). The first day ended with a welcome dinner and some time to get to know each other. After the long travel times and the frenetic pace of day one, most settled in for a good night sleep to prepare for the rest of the workshop, which would kick into full swing starting the following morning. 


Crystal Blue Resort provides large camera workspaces for guests. Here is workshop instructor Erik Lukas’s set up including his housing, batteries, chargers, laptop, macro diopters and 12 year old Scotch.


For those who have not been to one of our Anilao workshops, here is a sample of the schedule:

 > Breakfast from 6:30-7:15

 > Morning Image Reviews: 7:15-8:00

 > Dives One & Two: 8:30-12:00

 > Lunch: 12:00-1:15

 > Daily Photo Workshop Sessions: 1:15-2:30

 > Dives Three & Four: 3:00-7:30

 > Dinner: 7:30-8:30

 > Repeat this nine more times. 


The Board: Divers and their boat assignments are posted at the beginning of the trip.


As to be expected, there were the usual kinks to work out...strobes not firing, camera housings acting finicky, settings to be adjusted, but Bluewater Photo camera specialists Tommy Stylski, Adam Gibson and I, as well as Crystal Blue resident photo pro Mike Bartick were able to tackle most of the issues quickly. 

A great way to provide instruction and push for results at the workshops is to give the guests assignments to work on each day. These can be anything from shooting images with black backgrounds, blue backgrounds, creative lighting techniques, etc. It allows us to focus on a “concept and an example” approach to learning. Each morning saw more guests submitting images for review, and it was clear to see the improvements in everyone’s images and most importantly to see that everyone was understand the technical skills needed to achieve their desired results. 

Over the course of the workshop, we were treated to some amazing critters. The spotters from Crystal Blue are among the best in the world. They are finding subjects that most divers would never find on their own, and with their understanding of underwater photography, they focus on finding subjects that are positioned in ways that are best suited to our needs. Highlights from this year’s workshops included many high value targets such as a wide variety of frogfish (painted, warty, hairy, giant, and juveniles), rhinopias, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ring, cocnut and mimic octopus, countless species of nudibranchs, jawfish with eggs, to name but a few. 


A snooted portrait of a Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus), one of the most popular and frequently photographed subjects of the workshop. Photo: Erik Lukas


Divers were able to visit many sites more than once, and in my opinion this is one of the great benefits of this particular workshop. It allows us to choose specific subjects and visit them on multiple dives. For me personally, I like having an opportunity to photograph a particular subject, review my results, tweak my plans and reshoot that same subject again to either correct my mistakes or to try something new and different.

As in years past, some of the more highly requested sites included Secret Bay and the Pier. Everyone loves the frogfish at Secret Bay and the multiple species of octopus as well as the ever popular Bobbit worms and Stargazers found at the Pier. 


Shaun the Sheep nudibranch (Costasiella kuroshimae)...for those of us who love the very small stuff...throw in a snoot for added frustration. Photo: Erik Lukas


Something new that was added to this years workshops was a chance to try an optional Blackwater dive. For those who are not familiar with the concept, dives are made untethered in open water at night and the subjects are out of this world. Our dives were in 500+ feet of water where we had the opportunity to encounter critters in the larval stages of their lifecycle, amazing jellyfish, peculiar creatures of the night and many other surprises. It is an amazing sensation to back roll into the pitch black water and have nothing more than a few lights on a downline to provide a point of reference. The dives last about one hour and we drift in the plankton soup searching out subjects that range in size from a few millimeters to perhaps a meter in size...part of the excitement being the surprise of what appears out of the dark water and into our narrow beams of light. Everyone who participated loved the experience, but admitted the challenge of photographing small subjects under these conditions were more than they had expected.


A Crambione mastigophora jellyfish photographed during one of several blackwater dives we did during the workshop. Photo: Erik Lukas


As in past years, the team at Crystal Blue Resort was nothing short of incredible. Our dive gear and cameras were well looked after, and the list of critters that were found was amazing. They kept our groups well fed and included feast on the last night that highlighted the incredible foods of the Philippines. 

We wrapped up each workshop with a photo competition where we selected winning images from the guests and handed out awards to the winners. Categories included best nudibranch, best macro/super macro, best behavior and finally a best image made by our novice photographers. This year’s workshops were a great success and the progress that the attendees made over the course of the dives was incredible. 


One of the winners of the Bluewater Photo Anilao competition was Sarah Vasend who created a “peak-of-the-action” yawning shot of the small frogfish seen in the background on the overhead monitor.


Novice category winner Wally Greene earner his trophy with his image of the pair of Lemon Gobies (Gobiodon okinawae) hiding in the mouth of a discarded bottle.

Barry Cline and Tommy Stylski celebrating after a few days of troubleshooting some minor camera and housing issues. Problem solved.


Guests celebrate the final night of the first workshop with a Filipino feast created by the amazing kitchen team at Crystal Blue Resort.


A Filipino feast is set out for the guests to celebrate the on the final night of the photo workshops.


Guests share stories over breakfast before the daily image reviews and the first of two morning dives.


A very small Yellow Goby ( Gobiodon okinawae) perches on a black sponge. Photo: Erik Lukas


Anilao delivered for those of us who love frogfish. Here is a very small 2.5cm Red Painted frogfish(Antennarius pictus). Trip leader Erik Lukas found this one on his own once his spotter gave up looking after about 10 minutes. Photo: Erik Lukas


Anilao’s namesake nudibranch, Halgerda batangas. Photo: Erik Lukas


Another blackwater find. This juvenile Flying Gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) came out of the darkness and stuck around just long enough for a few images. Photo: Erik Lukas


The “docking stations” of two Nembrotha chamberlaini nudibranchs, caught mating and shot with the new Kraken “Got Lucky 13” macro diopter. Photo: Erik Lukas


The Lucky Yawn...when patience and preparation intersect the result is often success. Photo: Erik Lukas


The smiling and happy faces of Group #1 of the 2018 Spring Macro workshop.


The smiling and happy faces of Group #2 of the 2018 Spring Macro workshop.




Bluewater Travel can book you a resort in Anilao for the same cost or less than booking any other way. We know the diving, accommodations, and when to go better than anyone else! Email us at info@bluewaterdivetravel.com to book your next dive trip to Anilao.

Join one of our upcoming group trips to Anilao:


Anilao Philippines Ultimate Photo Workshop | Dec 1 - 8, 2024


Anilao Philippines Ultimate Photo Workshop | Apr 20 - May 7, 2025

Anilao Philippines Ultimate Photo Workshop | Dec 7 - 14, 2025


Anilao Philippines Ultimate Photo Workshop | Apr 16 - May 3, 2026

Anilao Philippines Ultimate Photo Workshop | Dec 6 - 13, 2026


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