Ribbon eel

  • Small is Beautiful

    Nudibranch, a seaslug that carries its gills on its back. Nudibranch, a seaslug that carries its gills on its back.

    More and more people have become fascinated with the minutia of marine life found underwater and besides looking for what may be hiding in plain sight right under their noses in local waters are trekking off to distant lands for the unique and some would say very strange animals living in the mucky seabed around the islands of the Far East.

    Flamboyant cuttlefish Flamboyant cuttlefish

    I hasten to add that fauna on a macro scale can be found in all seas and neither should we overlook the Caribbean or Med.

    Miniature frogfish Miniature frogfish

    Although most compact cameras have a 'macro' mode, this can put the camera far too close to the subject to enable the photographer to shine a light on it. However, most underwater housings for compact cameras can, with or without the aid of an adapter,  be supplied with an ancillary macro lens that is fitted whilst underwater.

    Compact camera with AOI +12-dioptre macro lens fitted. Compact camera with AOI +12-dioptre macro lens fitted.

    There's a vast range of such lenses available, whether it be the well-known Subsea brand, from Inon or even more expensive Nauticam. One manufacturer that actually makes lenses for other brands is now supplying to the retail market through Ocean Leisure Cameras, with consequent and significant savings on the final price, and that is AOI. There are macro lenses for GoPro cameras too.

    Once you've fitted the lens underwater and made sure to dislodge any air bubbles that might have got trapped between lens and the front glass of the housing, start looking for a likely subject. The dive guides have sharp eyes and know what to look for so don't be afraid to accept help. Some of these critters are minute.

    Halimeda ghost pipefish Halimeda ghost pipefish

    The great thing about macro photography is that you can enter the water with your lights previously set up. Whether you use off-board flash or a continuous light source such as a powerful video light, you can perfect you lighting set-up before you find your subject.

    Don't forget, you can shoot video too.

    Once you've lined up on a likely looking beast, don't let the camera's auto focus try to get it sharp. Move the camera back and forth slowly until you see the subject come sharp on your LCD display. The halimeda ghost pipe fish normally hangs around on halimeda weed which it looks exactly like.

    The seahorse might be more easily recognised but they have the annoying habit of turning their faces away from danger so you will just have to keep still and wait until it's forgotten that you are there.

    Seahorse Seahorse. You'll have to be patient until it's forgotten that you're there.

    Stealth and patience are the name of the game. Your air will  last though, because you don't waste much energy in finning. You end up hovering around waiting to get the shot. If you lie on the seabed you must be doubly sure to avoid resting on any small creature. Some things might look like rubbish but they might be an animal cleverly disguised.

    Ribbon eel Colourful Ribbon eel

    It might be a bit of rubbish - but if it is it will certainly have an animal living in it! once you get into macro photography, it becomes something of an obsession. It's as if you can only see this other tiny world by means of photography.

    Nudibranch come in an assortment of colours. Nudibranch come in an assortment of colours and styles.

    A white light in the form of a flash or a video light will reveal things in their natural colours and, let's face it, it's a mystery as to why they are so colourful since the animals can't see it.

    It's remarkable that divers always seem to fall in love with nudibranchs. These are colourful slugs that wear their gills on their backs.

    I have photographed more than one hundred and fifty animals at one site alone. Take plenty of memory cards with you unless you can download your pictures between dives.

    The face of a frogfish. The face of a frogfish sitting on a sponge.

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