with Steven Kovacs
Set against the stark backdrops attainable only during blackwater dives, larval fish become strange, otherworldly specimens with glasslike bodies and translucent fins that billow outward. Their delicate, still-developing anatomies are the subjects of Steven Kovacs’s underwater photos, which frame the young creatures at such precarious stages of life.
Living in Palm Beach, Kovacs (previously) frequents the waters off the Florida coasts, although he’s also recently explored areas near Kona, Hawaii. Expeditions have brought encounters with both the elusive acanthonus armatu and a type of larval ipnopidae that hasn’t been documented previously. “Of course, we are always hoping to run across a never-before-seen species like the discoverichthys praecox,” he says. “To be the first to ever find and photograph a species in the wild is an absolute thrill.”
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After sunset, self-taught photographer Steven Kovacs plunges into the open ocean around Palm Beach to shoot the minuscule, unassuming creatures floating in the depths. He’s spent the last eight years on blackwater dives about 730 feet off the eastern coast of Florida in a process that “entails drifting near the surface at night from 0 to 100 feet over very deep water.” Often framing species rarely seen by humans, Kovacs shoots the larval fish against the dark backdrop in a way that highlights the most striking aspects of their bodies, including wispy, translucent fins, iridescent features, and bulbous eyes.
Because Kovacs doesn’t have formal training in marine biology, he often enlists the help of scientists around the world to identify many of the rare fish he photographs. At the top of his list for future encounters are three cusk eel species and the female blanket octopus, a creature known for unveiling a billowing membrane that’s shown above.
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