Jan 142013

Macro fish

About the dive

This shot was taken during a liveaboard trip on the MV Giamani – you can see the slideshow of images from the trip in last week’s update. I was excited to be heading off to the tropics, and very excited to get in the water with my new toy, a Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens. While it did seem ironic to be swimming around in 40m vis surrounded by great scenery, I spent my first ever dives actively hunting for tiny things.

Macro fish photography

About the critter

I have no idea what fish this is. Big stuff has previously been my forte and I can identify weedy seadragons and green turtles at 40 paces. I suspect this is something that will have to change with macro photography, and a fish ID book or two may well be my next purchase. They seemed abundant in the area and I saw them on lots of the dives. I liked the red stripes and their expressive little faces. Most of all, I liked their behaviour.

When I look through the view finder with my wide angle lens attached, every thing is either sharply in focus or slightly fuzzy. The macro lens changes all that and if it’s at the wrong focal length the intended subject isn’t just fuzzy – they’re so blurred it’s hard to tell whether you’ve framed red fish or white coral. After half a dive I had the approximate range finding distance tuned in and I could work on persuading a fish to stay in the sweet spot long enough to compose and click.

After my recent revelations on chasing fish in wide angle, I hovered in a single spot and watched the local ecosystem play out. The smaller reef fish are engaged in endless territorial battles across the coral landscape and each species has different habits. These little guys above have an endearing (to a new macro photographer) habit of jumping into the water from their watching spot, eating a speck of something, and then returning to exactly the same spot on the reef. With a gentle approach I could get very close with the camera and not worry if the fish suddenly disappeared out of the frame…he’d be back in three seconds.

About the photo

As in wide angle photography, the challenge in macro photography is to isolate the subject from a busy background. The smaller depth of focus provides another tool for doing this – with a nicely bokeh’ed backdrop, the eye is drawn to the subject. I like the top image for having captured the fish sharply in focus from end to end as he sits atop his castle. In the second shot I used just one strobe to create his shadow on the coral.I like the patterns in the coral when you come this close, something I’ve never captured with my “whole reef in one picture” lens. I’ve already taken the macro lens to Mornington Pier for some experimentation in cold water, and I can’t wait to get some more underwater time with it.

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