Sep 022014

Pygmy seahorse in his fan

About the dives

The first half of our trip from Alor to Komodo was more focussed on muck diving, but it was on the last couple of days on the Arenui that I got some macro photos that I really love. There was less tiny life around and it was easier to focus on a subject photographically without getting excitedly distracted by the next tiny thing. I also had a few great photos achieved which helped with the confidence to try new things. In this instance it was photos of things I generally consider a bit too small to sensibly take photos of with my lens setup.

Purple hairy shrimp

About the photos

Both of these shots were taken at the maximum capability of my 100mm macro lens on a full frame camera. In both instances this means I was at absolute minimum focus distance to make the subject as large as possible in the frame. The second shot here, of the hairy shrimp, has been cropped but the pygmy seahorse is straight out of the camera. While the shot could be cropped in a bit, I like the way he is framed by the branches of the seafan, and the pattern of the feeding polyps.

The pygmy seahorse was taken on a night dive. By using the red light on my Archon video light I was able to achieve focus without blinding the little dude. I used one strobe and pointed it straight down on a fairly low setting. I was close enough that the light escaping sideways provided what I needed. I’m aware that photographers can over-strobe these tiny little creatures and I had determined before the dive that I was only going to take a very limited number of shots. The one above was the third one, and I got what I was looking for and left him to enjoy his evening in peace.

I love this shot in part because it showed me how far I’ve come with the 100mm lens. Even a year ago this shot would have taken me a hundred tries and most of the dive. Stressing out both myself and the subject in the process would have only made it harder to get something in focus. Being able to swim up, assess the opportunity, get the shot and leave in less than 3 minutes made me feel like I’ve finally conquered the 100m lens.

This feeling was backed up on the last night dive of the trip, the following evening. There had been both green and red hairy shrimp on the day dives and I had got a few shots of them that were recognisable but not great. Then Ronald found this little guy, who was both slightly larger than usual and clearly carrying a bunch of eggs. On the downside he was very active and seemed to enjoy jumping away just as I got him in the viewfinder. In this end he jumped on to the perfect background, my strobe was in the right position, and I shifted the camera to get the focus sharp at just the right moment. The end result was the second shot here, of one of the tiniest creatures I have recognised underwater.

These two shots can only mean one thing – it’s time to purchase a supermacro setup! A whole new world of tiny things (and frustration) awaits.

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