Nikon D7100 Underwater Photos from Komodo & Alor

Dan Kurz
Incredible macro photo essay with the Nikkor 60mm, 105mm and a Snoot


Nikon D7100 Underwater Photos from Alor

A macro photo essay with the Nikkor 60mm, 105mm and a Snoot

Text and Photos By Dan Kurz


D7100 underwater photo of rhinopia



The Nikon D7100 is one of the best camaras for underwater photography. These pictures were taken in September 2014 on a liveaboard trip through the Komodo - Alor region of Indonesia.

The voyage began in Labuanbajo, where Komodo National Park is located, and ended in Maumere. This itinerary allowed us to dive some of Komodo's best sites. Castle Rock, when it is on (as it was for us), features large schools of colorful fusiliers and all the larger fish that would like them for lunch. We also dove Manta Alley and Horseshoe Bay, which includes the night dive at torpedo Alley and can have more weird night creatures than you can imagine.

After leaving the Komodo area we headed to Alor, which has incredible biodiversity and features the Valley of the Clowns at Pura Island. The Valley of the Clowns is several kilometers packed with all varieties of anemones covering almost every inch of the site - it's truly amazing. The trip had it all: muck diving, wall dives and corals.


Komodo & Alor Underwater


D7100 underwater photo of ghost pipefish

My dive guide Wawan spotted this Juvenile Ornate Pipefish swirling around in the water a meter or two off the bottom. It appeared trasparent to the eye. I followed it carefully through the lens until I was fortunate enough to get in a few shots before it disappeared into the darkness.

Nikon D7100, 60mm Lens. ISO 100, F22, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of clownfish eggs

Clownfish Egg Detail. I have been avidly looking at the behavior of clownfish, watching to see if they are ducking behind the edges of their Anemone hosts. They do this when they have eggs in order to oxygenate them every few minutes. When new, the eggs are very small and look like a colorful bit of growth on the surface of the rock that the anemone is living on. As they get larger, they become a bed of cleat pods with eyes. The eggs in this photo are developed enough that many were already gone, and in those that remain you can see the juvenile fish.

Nikon D7100, 60mm Lens. ISO 100, F25, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of clownfish

Clownfish tends to its eggs.

Nikon D7100, 60mm Lens. ISO 100, F18, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of clownfish with isopod in mouth

Clownfish with Isopod in Mouth. In observing the activity of clownfish, I noticed that many of them give a bit of a yawn. If you look closely you can see that they have isopods living in their mouths. This clownfish has two! This shot required lots of time and patience, as the fish had to both look at me and yawn.

Nikon D7100, 60mm Lens. ISO 100, F22, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of damselfish eggs

Damselfish Eggs. I find these often on the base of coral whips on wall dives.

Nikon D7100, 105mm Lens. ISO 100, F22, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of frogfish

Frogfish shot with Reefnet Snoot. This warty Frogfish was perfect for lighting with the snoot. When they are not moving you have the time to adjust the lighting exactly the way you want it.

Nikon D7100, 60mm Lens. ISO 100, F20, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of goby with eggs

Goby with Eggs. The goby eggs are located at the base of sea whips on the side of walls. The goby will be located somewhere on the whip and if you are patient, it will move along to check its eggs.

Nikon D7100, 105mm Lens. ISO 100, F22, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of hairy squat lobster

Hairy Squat Lobster shot with Reefnet Snoot. These are fairly easy to find on barrel sponges and you almost always have to have a dive guide convince them to come forward for their picture. I found it was easier to bring the light to them by using the snoot.

Nikon D7100, 105mm Lens. ISO 100, F22, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of jellyfish

One of thousands of jellyfish floating on the surface on night. When we surfaced on our last dive of the trip, the surface was covered with waht looked like pieces of brown bamboo. As they were bobbing in the waves I took a quick picture just to see what they were.

Nikon D7100, 105mm Lens. ISO 100, F29, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of pygmy seahorse

Denise's pygmy seahorse shot with Reefnet Snoot. Very tiny and only visible to dive guides!

Nikon D7100, 105mm Lens. ISO 100, F22, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of pygmy seahorse backlit

Backlit Pygmy. This is the same pygmy as above. I thought it might be interesting to shoot it with a back light - the snoot ended up becoming the "moon."

Nikon D7100, 105mm Lens. ISO 100, F29, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of shrimp on starfish

Shrimp on Starfish shot with Reefnet Snoot.  We found a pair of Commensal Shrimp living under this blue Starfish and created the spotlight with the snoot.

Nikon D7100, 105mm Lens. ISO 100, F29, 1/320


D7100 underwater photo of squid at night

Squid in Space (stars are backscatter from the strobes). Near the surface on a night dive the squid are always attracked to our lights and this one stopped long enough for a photograph.

Nikon D7100, 60mm Lens. ISO 100, F22, 1/320


Book Your Trip to Komodo and Alor

Contact the team at Bluewater Travel for the best pricing, service and advice in booking your liveaboard trip to Komodo and/or Alor, Indonesia.


Further Reading



Support the Underwater Photography Guide:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips


Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.




Critters in Ambon Photo Essay

Mike Bartick
Photos and Insight into World-Class Macro Photography in Ambon, Indonesia


Critters in Ambon Photo Essay

Photos and Insight into World-Class Macro Photography in Ambon, Indonesia

Text and Photos By Mike Bartick




The secret to diving in Ambon is simply diving in Ambon.

The Maluku (Mah-loo-koo) Islands are sandwiched between Sulawesi and Western Papua in the country of Indonesia. Historically the islands played a major roll in the worldwide spice trade, earning them the nickname the “Spice Islands”. Today, Maluku and Ambon are well known throughout the underwater photography community as a prime destination for critter hunting.

Ambon has very few dive resorts and even less people diving there at any given time of the year. The best resort on the Island is definitely Maluku Divers. What makes the diving so special at Maluku Divers is true to the resorts motto, “Critters without the crowds” as most days you won’t see anyone else in the area outside of your dive group or other divers from the resort. The owners recently upped their game by securing a new management team then added some of the best guides in the area that are sure to impress even the most demanding critterhead.

The critters in Ambon change seasonally but it remains a reliable destination for rhinopias, unusual nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, ornate crustaceans such as harlequin shrimp, tiger shrimp and hairy shrimp and of course the possibility of seeing the now famous, Ambon frogfish.

Ambon fits the bill as an “exotic” destination but does so while remaining quite easy to get to from anywhere in the world. Most days are calm, quiet and diving is priority number one!


Ambon Underwater Macro Photos


Commensal shrimp seem to be very common here and can be found on many variety of nudibranchs, sea cucumbers and other organisms. This giant plurobranch had 2 Emperor shrimps (Pereclemenis emperador) living on it keeping its gills clean and tidy and although they were quite active I was still able to catch one with pink headlights.



The Nudi (Miamira tenua) are often found with commensal shrimp living on them. The smaller shrimp on this large nudi exaggerated the scale a bit when I first looked at it. After watching for a few minutes I carefully tried to get myself below the nudi as much as could to really force the perspective and even though both subjects remain small, it looks quite large.



I love shooting fish behavior at cleaning stations with my 105mm lens. The 105 is an easy choice because it enables me to gain some reach on my subject and its ability to capture tack sharp images. While I was watching these ring-tailed cardinalfish (Apogon aureus), I noticed that several of them had a little hitch hiker attached to them. The Isopod parasites are normally cleaned off when they are smaller either by a cleaner wrasse or shrimp. Somehow, these poor cardinal fish seemed to have missed the bell as these parasites are reaching a perilous size. 



Short haired A.striatus were well represented during our short one week stay in Ambon. Finding subjects like these is always cool, but capturing their behavior is even better. Using its lure to draw in its prey, the hairy frogfish exerts very little energy when it hunts and can go a very long time between meals. 



This set of Harlequin Shrimps surprised me because the smaller of the two was so vibrant in color. Most that I have seen this small have remained pale in color and difficult to photograph. Using my Aquako #3 magnifier, I concentrated on the smaller subject as I felt it was more unique in this image.



Watching this very small Nudi (Pectenodoris trilineata), I realized I could actually see the eggs coming out of it as it was laying them.



A lovely and very small nudibranch known as the (Sagaminopteron sp) has only one forward sensory organ, and when it wants to move it will often flutter its skirt and fly through the water like a pelagic butterfly.



I love searching the soft corals for snapping shrimp and other gems like this common soft coral ghost goby (Pleurosicya blodinghi). Small and pale, well hidden between the smaller branching polyps of the coral.



The loud, low pitched grunting sound of my guide Ali alerted me to something that must be good. As I swam towards him I saw the telltale glow of the infamous local Yellow Rhino (Rhinopias frondosa). The Rhinos are an ambush predator that mimics an injured fish when they move across the substrate with a clumsy yet effective crawl. Unsuspecting prey that move in to investigate are overwhelmed by the speed and powerful strike of the Rhino, seemingly without warning. Once the unsuspecting fish is within range, they rarely make it out alive. Using my Subsee Snoot, I tried to frame the facial features of the Rhinopias to highlight the intricate features and to create some negative space behind it for contrast.



Wait for it! The Rhinopias (Rhinopia eschmeryi) is a lovely and regal beast that has earned its seat as the ultimate holy grail critter find anywhere. They come in many colors, but all share a few key traits that make them so darn interesting. Nicknamed the paddle-flap scorpionfish for their large bushy eyebrows, the eschmeryi’s paddleflaps hide their eyes from predators above. The lightning fast gape strike of its extensive and expansive jaw is an impressive show and always worth waiting for.


Photo Tip

To shoot a photo series as a Rhinopia yawns, try increasing your ISO and decreasing your strobe power. Remember, you might only get one or two well-lit images, so use the strobe dumps wisely or spray and pray. Either way, wait for it!


Special Thanks to Maluku Divers:



Further Reading


About the Author

Mike BartikMike Bartick is an avid and experienced scuba diver and Marine Wildlife Photographer. He has an insatiable love for nudibranchs, frogfish and other underwater critters, and is the official critter expert for the Underwater Photography Guide. Mike is also one of the UWPG trip leaders. See more of his work at



Support the Underwater Photography Guide:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photog and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips


Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.




Wall of Sharks, Thousands of Groupers & More in French Polynesia

Scott Gietler
A Photo Essay from Bluewater Photo's Fakarava & Rangiroa Workshop


A Wall of Sharks, Thousands of Spawning Grouper, Napolean Wrasse & More in French Polynesia

Photo Essay from Bluewater Photo's Fakarava and Rangiroa Workshop

Text and Photos By Scott Gietler


Blacktip sharks in Fakarava.



The Bluewater Photo workshop at Fakarava & Rangiroa this month was a huge success. The trip was timed for the annual Fakarava grouper spawning.  Not only did we find the thousands of spawning groupers we were looking for, but we found the infamous wall of sharks as well. There's nothing like swimming next to hundreds of gray reef sharks.

Fakarava was awesome, and Rangiroa was also great, with Silvertip sharks, barracuda, dolphins, and plenty of gray reef sharks.

I shot the photos below with a Nikon D7000 in Sea & Sea housing with dual YS-D1 strobes, and a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens.

We are running a trip to Fakarava and Rangiroa at the same time next year in late June / early July, timed again for the amazing grouper spawning. Please email for more info about this awesome trip!


Fakarava & Rangiroa Photo Essay


The wall of sharks in Fakarava. 108 sharks in this photo! We saw this school on several dives.


Napolean Wrasse in Fakarava. There were several Napoleans that hung out near our resort.


A school of fish under the restaurant pier in Fakarava.


A large school of groupers in Fakarava, getting ready to spawn.


Two eagle rays make a very close pass.


A feeding gray reef shark passes through a school of fish in Fakarava, taken during the grouper spawning. The fuseliers feed on the grouper eggs.


Another feeding gray reef shark in Fakarava. Shot by Carolyn Wang with the Nauticam Olympus E-M1 Housing.


Workshop guest Carolyn Wang models above a colorful reef in Fakarava, in shallow water.


Napolean Wrasse feeding in shallow water in Fakarava. This was a lucky shot - I didn't even know their mouth came out like that!


Napolean wrasse surveys the reef with a shark in the distance in Fakarva.


A gray reef shark swims above in Rangirao.


Shark and sunball in Rangiroa.


There's more than just sharks in French Polynesia.


Silvertip sharks and fish in Rangiroa.


Dolphins swim by in Rangiroa.


Barracuda school under a sunball in Rangiroa.



How to see with these sharks

Please contact Scott at for more info on the best way to dive with these sharks in French Polynesia, including when to go, where to stay, and what gear to bring.


Where is the diving?

View our interactive French Polynesia scuba diving map to see exactly where these dives take place.



About the Author

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel and the Underwater Photography Guide. He enjoys helping others learn underwater photography online, in the store and during international photo trips he attends with customers.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



Anilao in Photos - A Must-Visit Destination

Scott Gietler & Brent Durand
Critters, Rare Sightings and Great Photos from the 4th Annual Bluewater Photo Workshop


Anilao in Photos - A Must-Visit Destination

Critters, Rare Sightings and Great Photos from the 4th Annual Bluewater Photo Workshop

By Scott Gietler and Brent Durand




Anilao has a way of capturing the attention of even the most veteran dive travelers. It might be dropping into the water on top of a rare critter, the setting sun igniting sparse clouds in electric pastel color as you roll off the bangka or the non-stop macro photo action of each dive.

Anilao is a destination that should be at the top of all critterheads' and macro photographers' wish list. Bluewater Photo knows this and has been hosting April/May workshops at Crystal Blue Resort the last 4 years.

I was fortunate to join Bluewater Photo owner, Scott Gietler, and Bluewater Photo Pro / CBR resort manager Mike Bartick, to help host this year's back-to-back 10 day workshops, each with fantastic guests enthusiastic to dive and shoot photos. I can confidently speak for everyone in saying we had a great time, learned a lot and captured many great images! The photos from all guests grew increasingly better throughout the trip regardless the experience level - no doubt a result of 4x long dives per day and applying freshly-learned photo techniques.

What did we see? Well, too many critters to keep track of, including Frogfish, Hairy Frogfish, Blue-Ringed Octos, Flamboyant & Pygmy Cuttlefish, Pipedragons, Robert / Ornate / Velvet Pipefish, Mantis Shrimp, Crabs, Sea Snakes, Bobbit Worms, Mimic and Wonderpus Octos, Squid, Gobies (including Hairy Gobies), Tiger, Harlequin and Bumblebee Shrimp, countless nudibranchs, cleaning stations, eels and much more.

Below is a small sampling of photos from Scott, myself and others.

- Brent



Upcoming Anilao Workshops

Anilao Fall 2014 Underwater Photo Workshop (Dec 7-14, 2014)

Anilao Spring 2015 Underwater Photo Workshop (Apr/May 2015)


Visit Anilao Anytime

If you can't make any of our annual workshops, Bluewater Travel can still help you book the perfect Anilao dive trip for yourself or a group of friends for the same or less than booking direct. We know Anilao better than anyone else and can advise where to stay, where to dive and when to go. We work with several of Anilao's best resorts.

For more info and to plan / book your trip, email Katie at Bluewater Travel.



2014 Photo Essay



Crab and Cardinalfish. Nikon D7000, Nikkor 105mm Lens, Sea & Sea Housing, 2x strobes.


Hairy Shrimp. Nikon D7000, Nikkor 105mm Lens, Nauticam SMC, Sea & Sea Housing, 2x strobes. Hairy shrimps started becoming popular last year. They are TINY! There are several different colors/species, some are tiny, some are specks.


Basket Star Shrimp. Nikon D7000, Nikkor 105mm Lens, Nauticam SMC, Sea & Sea Housing, 2x strobes.


Mating Mandarinfish. Nikon D7000, Nikkor 105mm Lens, Sea & Sea Housing, 2x strobes. Mandarin fish mate only at dusk, for about 1 second and then quickly drop back into the coral.


Clownfish and sunburst. Nikon D7000, Tokina 10-17 Lens, Sea & Sea Housing, 2x strobes. They are plenty of different clownfish & anemone species at most of the Anilao dive sites.


Wire Coral Goby. Canon 5D Mark3, Canon 100mm Lens, SubSee +10, Aquatica Housing, 2x strobes.


Coleman Shrimp. Canon 5D Mark3, Canon 100mm Lens, SubSee +10, Aquatica Housing, 2x strobes.


Flamboyant Cuttlefish. Canon 5D Mark3, Canon 100mm Lens, Aquatica Housing, 2x strobes. This species is found at several dive sites in Anilao.


Clownfish oxygenating eggs. Canon 5D Mark3, Canon 100mm Lens, SubSee +10, Aquatica Housing, 2x strobes.


Whip Coral Shrimp. Canon 5D Mark3, Canon 100mm Lens, SubSee +10, Aquatica Housing, 2x strobes.

anilao workshop underwater photos skeleton shrimp
Incredible skeleton shrimp photo, taken by our guest Antonella Giussani.
marine life behavior photo anilao
A "wow" behavor shot, captured by our guest Anthony Stevens with his new Nauticam E-M1 housing.
A pair of pipedragons, photo by Mike Bartick.


Trumpetfish getting cleaned by a wrasse

Tunicates and the sun. Anilao also has a lot of great wide-angle opportunities, including reefs swarming with anthias and corals.

Enjoying the Workshop




More Information on Anilao

For more information on resorts and when to go, or to book your next Anilao trip, visit Bluewater Travel's Anilao dive resort page.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal River

Scott Gietler
Nursing Calves, Intimate Portraits, Reflections and Crystal Clear Water!

Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal River

Nursing Calves, Intimate Portraits, Reflections and Crystal Clear Water!

Text by Scott Gietler
Photos by Scott Gietler, Kelli Dickinson, Katie Yonker, Brent Durand


Manatee in Crystal River



Swimming with the Manatees in Crystal River, Florida is an indescribable experience. These animals are big, adorable, curious, social, and can display a wide range of interesting behavior.

The manatees come into the springs area to stay warm when it gets cold in the Gulf of Mexico. In the winter, hundreds of them will huddle together in large groups on the bottom, in very shallow water. We visited the Manatees in early November, right before large number of Manatees (and large number of people) swim into the area. We saw many manatees and had many close encounters.

This is what we learned on our trip this past weekend, Nov 10th. We went out with Birds Underwater, who we recommend.


The area was not what we expected

We were expecting to be in the middle of nowhere, in a large area. The area we were in actually feels like a series of connected canals. The area is very residential, with houses lining all of the canals. You are basically right in the middle of a town. You will not feel like you are “in nature”, but you won’t care – the manatees are awesome.

There are more boats than you can ever imagine

Nothing could have prepared us for the number of boats that go out to swim with the manatees. There were dozens – and this was in low season. Trust me – you will not be alone on this trip. However, if you get a private boat with a small group, get out early, and swim away from the large groups (and trust us, there will be large groups around you), you can have some quality “manatee time”. The trip is completely worth it.

Manatees are big

Some manatees are big, really big. Even the babies are big. They truly seem like “sea cows”. They like to take short naps on the surface, and short naps on the bottom. They like to eat plants and algae on the bottom. They like to swim in small groups, swim alone, and come in contact with each other.

There are a lot of rules

There are a lot of rules, and for good reason. Before you swim with the manatees, you must watch a video that shows people grabbing manatees, chasing them, stepping on them or worse. It was awful. You are not supposed to chase a manatee, approach within 6ft of a resting manatee, swim down to a manatee that is resting or grab a manatee. We did not do these things, but we did see a couple people in the water grab and chase manatees. Unfortunately they were not caught, but there are quite a large number of wildlife officials and “manatee minders” who are out there to give people tickets. Of course we fully support this; otherwise things would be out of control. Splashing definitely startles manatees, we recommend trying not to splash at all with either your fins or arms.


Manatee in Crystal River

A photographer face-to-face with a manatee at the surface for a breath. Photo: Scott Gietler

Our advice

Definitely go on a weekday if possible - weekends can be a little crazy there. Leave as early as possible in the morning. There is no need to dive down or wear a weight belt, all of your manatee shots and interactions will be on the surface. They need to come to the surface and breathe every few minutes anyways. In fresh water, you will sink slightly even without weights. In early November, we all wore a full 3mm wetsuit and we were just fine warmth-wise. We did not try swimming with them later in the day, but that may be a good time also if there are fewer boats.

We did not take strobes, choosing to shoot with ambient light. Early in the morning you’ll need to turn your ISO up high. If the sun comes out, try to keep it to your back. They are big and come close, so choose a very wide lens. Also try to take a lot of video.

Shoulder season is a good time to go, either right before or right after high season (winter). During the winter there will be a lot of people - more than you can imagine. But the advantage is that the manatees will in the parts of the canals that have clearer water, in larger numbers.

Many manatee tour outfits will provide wetsuits and fins. We recommend bringing your own mask, snorkel and towel.

Manatee in Crystal River

A manatee yawns in front of the camera. Photo: Scott Gietler


Manatee in Crystal River

A manatee calf nursing with mom. Photo: Scott Gietler


Manatee in Crystal River

Another perspective of the nursing manatee calf. Photo: Katie Yonker


Manatee in Crystal River

Manatees develop algae growth on their backs near the springs, away from their summer home in the Gulf. Photo: Katie Yonker


Manatee in Crystal River

Kayakers explore crystal clear water in the Three Sisters Springs. Photo: Katie Yonker


Manatee in Crystal River

A split-shot at Three Sisters showing the clear blue water and rich greenery above. Photo: Katie Yonker


Manatee in Crystal River

Two manatees reflect near the surface. Photo: Kelli Dickinson


Manatee in Crystal River

The manatee calf approaches with its mother. Photo: Kelli Dickinson


Manatee in Crystal River

Mother and child, swimming by. Photo: Kelli Dickinson


Three Sisters Spring

Fish swim through the crystal clear water of Three Sisters Spring. Photo: Kelli Dickinson


Manatee in Crystal River

Portrait of a manatee near the surface. Photo: Brent Durand


Manatee in Crystal River

The personal connections with the manatees are the most rewarding part of the day. Photo: Brent Durand


Manatee in Crystal River

Manatees (often called Sea Cows) are actually graceful swimmers and can move rather quickly. Photo: Brent Durand


Three Sisters Spring

A snorkeler models for the camera in the clear water at Three Sisters. Photo: Brent Durand


Planning your Manatee trip

Email to plan the best manatee trip ever. Katie knows the scene well and will help make sure you have the best experience with the least crowds. You can see some of her manatee photos in this article.


About the Author

Scott Gietler is the owner of the Underwater Photography Guide, Bluewater Photo and Bluewater Travel. He enjoys helping others learn underwater photography online, in the store, and during international photo trips that he attends with customers. Scott shoots with a Nikon D7000.


About the Photographers

Katie Yonker manages Bluewater Travel and shoots with a Panasonic GX-1. Visit Bluewater Travel and contact Katie for help planning the perfect dive trip.

Kelli Dickinson is the store manager for Bluewater Photo and shoots with an Olympus OM-D E-M5. Contact Kelli anytime for questions on purchasing or using your u/w photo gear.

Brent Durand is editor of the Underwater Photography Guide and shoots with a Canon 5D Mk3. Follow UWPG on Facebook and visit the site regularly for gear reviews, tutorials and u/w photo news.



Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



California Squid Run: A Photo Essay

Brent Durand
Walls of White Squid, Dashing to Attach to Mates and Massive Eggs Baskets in Southern California

California Squid Run - Amazing!

Walls of White Squid, Dashing to Attach to Mates and Massive Eggs Baskets in Southern California

Text by Brent Durand; Photos by Brent & Various Photographers


Squid Run



Southern California sees squid runs every few years, often found near sandy submarine canyons in La Jolla (San Diego) and Redondo Beach (Los Angeles). “Squid runs” are seen by divers when aggregations of market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) rise from the depths on a journey up to shallow water to mate, lay eggs (females) and then die.


Tens of Thousands of Squid

Imagine a few inquisitive squid approaching the beams of your dive lights, making shy eye contact. The number of squid grows and the energy level picks up. Three males dash towards a female, each with tentacles out in frantic contrast to the parallel lines of the growing wall of squid filling your vision. White everywhere, squid moving so thick you can't see beyond a couple feet but your ears tell you you've descended slightly down the canyon. As you grab your computer two squid are caught in your hand. The red tentacles of mating squid pulse in front of your mask and you have to swipe them away to check the camera LCD, trying to work with using squid bodies as natural strobe light diffusers. A target shrimp swims by, bouncing off of squid and trying to find the sand again. Eventually, it's time to swim up the sandy canyon wall to avoid entering deco and find some black water. But the squid follow, swarming both sides with a few brave squid staring at you as they lead the way up the slope. It wasn't until reaching 40ish feet that the crowd thinned out, totally dispersed by 30 feet. It's pretty exciting!


Squid Run

The tentacles of male squid turn red while mating with females in the midst of the rattling energy of the squid run. Photo: Brent Durand


"Walls of squid"

Mature market squid live at depths of around 1500 feet (460 meters) and are about a foot long (.3 meters). Their lifespan is 6-9 months, with mating happening upon maturation near the end of their lives.

Squid runs typically last a few days, however this most recent run lasted a month. I was diving at Vets in Redondo Beach checking out a report of an unusual amount of red octopus the night before and found about 10 squid, one of which was laying a “candle” (a capsule filled with up to 300 eggs that is then anchored to the ground with a long, sticky membrane). A week later the squid run was in full force and Southern California divers were on the scene to experience swimming through walls of squid for several more weeks. Really unprescedented and amazing!

Most of the action happened at a depth of 60ft - 80ft. Squid are most active at night, but there were also a good amount of squid present in the early morning hours.

Squid typically die 24 - 48 hours after laying eggs. This means that every night, hundreds or thousands of new squid joined the run.

Below are some of many photos captured during the squid run by local photographers.


Squid Run

Closeup of mating squid with red tentacles. Photo: Nirupam Nigam


Squid Run

A male squid grabs a female to begin mating. His tentacle have not yet turned red. Photo: Brent Durand


Squid Run

A squid wanders over an egg basket in the early evening before the action begins. Hundreds of huge baskets like this were created. Photo: Nirupam Nigam


Squid Run

A diver watches the squid run in amazement. There were often so many squid, you couldn't see.  Photo: Shane Spring


Squid Run

Another diver mesmerized by thousands of mating squid. Photo: Jeff Laity


Squid Run

A male squid preparing to mate with a female. Photo: Shane Spring


Squid Run

Many predators get in on the action during a squid run, including bat stars, bat rays, sheep crab, swell sharks and shrimp. Photo: Brent Durand


Squid Run

A target shrimp tries frantically to get away from an egg basket, only to get pushed around by yet more squid. Photo: Brent Durand



Squid Run Video



About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer with a rapidly growing portfolio of unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor-in-chief of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook and Twitter for updates on everything underwater-photography.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



10 Amazing Photos from Friends of the Guide

Brent Durand
Underwater Photos you MUST SEE from Around the World this past Spring

10 Amazing Photos from Friends of the Guide

All Photos Taken this Spring: March - May, 2013

Feature by Brent Durand with photos by Various Artists (in no particular order). Commentary by UWPG publisher Scott Gietler



Welcome to UWPG's second collection of photos in the "Friends of the Guide" series. We received submissions from many photographers with great images shot this past spring, including wide-angle, macro, quick-action, rare critters and creative camera/lighting techniques. It was tough to select our favorite images and we hope these serve as inspiration for your next dive. I'm certainly inspired!


Amazing Underwater Photo #1

Harlequin Shrimp by Marco Maccarelli, Tulamben (Bali)

Unique, outstanding presentation of a commonly photographed macro subject. RAW file was verified - not done in photoshop!

harlequin shrimp

Harlequin Shrimp by Marco Maccarelli. Shot with homemade snoot. Canon 50D in Sea & Sea Housing, 1/250, F-14, Iso 100. Marco Maccarelli.



Amazing Underwater Photo #2

Catfish Tornado by Victor Tang, Jepun in Padany Bai (Bali)

Juvenile catfish are common, but this formation is a once in a lifetime find!


Catfish Tornado by Victor Tang. Nikon D300 in Seatool Housing, Twin Sea & Sea YS-D1 Strobes, Tokina 10-17 FIsheye at 17mm, ISO200, F9 at 1/80s. Wodepigu Water Pixel.



Amazing Underwater Photo #3

Spotted Xenia Coral Pipefish by Mike Bartick, Twin Rocks in Anilao (Philippines)

Gorgeous photo of an extremely rare and beautiful macro subject. The mushroom coral pipefish is more common.


Spotted xenia coral pipefish by Mike Bartick. While working with my guide, looking for solar powered Nudis in the Xenia coral, something neither of us had seen before appeared before us, a spotted xenia coral pipefish. The Siokunichthys herrei as confirmed by Dr. Gerry Alan, are both cryptic and fast moving which makes it a very tough subject to photograph. The subtle spots on its head helped them blend in so well that it was even hard to track with our eyes let alone frame it properly. Nikon D300s, Nikor 105mm, +5 Diopter, dual YS-D1 strobes low power. F18, 1/125.



Amazing Underwater Photo #4

Pelagic polychaete by Jeffrey Milisen, Kona (Hawaii)

Simply stunning. You never know what you will see on a black-water dive in Kona!


Pelagic polychaete by Jeffrey Milisen. A polychaete worm searches through the nighttime pelagic ocean for prey while on a blackwater dive offshore from Kona, Hawaii. Canon T1i, Ikelite housing/strobes, Canon 60mm, F/13 1/125 ISO 800. Milisen Photography



Amazing Underwater Photo #5

Dorado by Peter Allinson, Cancun (Mexico)

Also known as mahi-mahi - perfectly exposed and composed. Many photographers would love to have this photo on their wall.


Dorado by Peter Allinson. Shot while freediving on a marlin/dorado trip about 10 miles off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Nikon D800E, Nikkor 16-35 @35mm, 1/320, F9, ISO 500, natural light.



Amazing Underwater Photo #6

Polycera quadrilineata by Christian Skauge, Norway

A lovely nudibranch shot that really pops.


Nudibranch by Christian Skauge. A Polycera quadrilineata nudibranch posing at the edge of a kelp frond. Captured at the Nudibranch Safari at Gulen Dive Resort, Norway. Nikon D90 in Nauticam housing, 105 mm + 1.4x TC, 2 x Inon Z-240 strobes, 1/160 sec, f/29, ISO 250.



Amazing Underwater Photo #7

Pygmy Pipehorse by Ken Thongpila, Sydney (Australia)

It is difficult to show off such a well-camouflaged creature, but Ken's photo does it well.

pygmy pipehorse

Pygmy Pipehorse by Ken Thongpila. Pygmy Pipehorse is one of Sydney's rare critters. Very well camouflaged and very hard to spot. Bare Island, Botany Bay, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Canon 500D with Sea&Sea RDX-500 Housing, 2 x INON Z240 Strobes, 60mm Macro
F-13 1/100 ISO 200. and Underwater Macro Photographers.



Amazing Underwater Photo #8

Sweetlips School by Ludovic Galko-Rundgren, Raja Ampat (Indonesia)

Schooling sweetlips don't get much better than this. The photographer was most likely very calm and patient to capture such a shot.

fish school

Sweetlips School by Ludovic Galko-Rundgren. 40m down at the famous dive site Cape Kri, (Raja Ampat, Indonesia) a well tended sweetlip school was sitting on a bommie like books on a shelf.
EOS7D, Tokina10-17 lens, Nauticam NA7D housing + 2 Inon Z240 strobes
ISO 200 1/160 f/10.



Amazing Underwater Photo #9

Siqi by Wendy Capili-Wilkie, Palau

What an elegant photo! A great example of the creativity to be found in the pool.

model in pool

Siqi by Wendy Capili-Wilkie. I was just experimenting with model photography in the pool, and came up with this nice reflection and lighting.
Nikon D800 + Nikon 16-35mm at 16mm in Ikelite housing and dual Ikelite 160s
ISO 200 f14 1/200. Wendy on Flickr



Amazing Underwater Photo #10

"I've got my Eye on You" by Ron Watkins, California

I can't stop looking at this dramatic, well composed blue shark photo.

blue shark

Blue shark by Ron Watkins. Off the coast of Long Beach on the Sea Watch Shark Boat with Captain Chris Wade on the Bluewater Photo trip, we encountered this beautiful 9' Blue Shark.  My first time free diving with these majestic animals was surreal and lasted for about 30 minutes. F8, 1/200, ISO 200, 10-17mm, Single YS-250 Strobe.



Do you have what it takes?

The next Friends of the Guide photo essay will feature photos shot June - August, 2013. Email with a link to your online portfolio for more details.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



Ten Amazing Photos from Friends of the Guide

Brent Durand
10 Underwater Photos you MUST SEE from Around the World this past Winter

10 Amazing Underwater Photos 

Taken in Dec 2012, Jan/Feb 2013

Feature by Brent Durand with photos by Various Artists (in no particular order). Commentary by UWPG publisher Scott Gietler




If you're like me you love diving, traveling and new underwater photos. We publish many tutorials, tips and reviews at the Underwater Photography Guide to help improve our u/w photography and find inspiration for new images.

It's always "dive season" somewhere in the world, and this feature celebrates some inspiring images captured this past winter by ten incredible underwater photographers.

So where are you diving next? What is your next photo project? We want to see your amazing photos soon! - Brent


Amazing Underwater Photo #1

Tube Anemone by Kevin Lee, California

This anemone is simple but stunning macro. Perfectly lit, perfectly framed, just the right detail and depth of field.


Anemone by Kevin Lee.  Nikon D800, 60mm lens + 1.4x teleconverter, dual YS-D1 strobes, ReefNet fiber optic snoot. 1/250, F/32, iso 100.



Amazing Underwater Photo #2

Turtle by Jeffrey Milsen, Hawaii

The front fin creates a great "leading line", and the sun-rays really make the shot. A simple wide-angle shot that keeps drawing you in"


Turtle & Reef by Jeffrey Milsen. "A Hawaiian green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) hovers over a reef inside Honaunau Marine Protected Area, Big Island." Canon T1i, Tokina 10-17, dual Ikelite DS-51 strobes. 1/160, F/8, iso 100.



Amazing Underwater Photo #3

Anthias with parasite by Mark Strickland, Australia

Incredible natural history photograph, with perfect exposure and great bokeh.


Hawk Anthias with Parasite by Mark Strickland. "Hawk Anthias, Serranocirrhitus latus, with unwelcome companion, a parasitic isopod. Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Coral Sea, Pacific Ocean." Nikon D7000, Seacam housing, Nikon 70-180mm macro zoom. ISO 200, dual Ikelite 160 strobes. 1/125, F14.



Amazing Underwater Photo #4

Humpbacks by Craig Dietrich, Socorro

Humpbacks are expected in Socorro in February topside, but this year many divers got a special treat underwater. Craig nailed the shot.

humpback whales

Humback Whales in Socorro by Craig Dietrich. "Humpback and her new baby calf. One of the greatest experiences of my dive career, just getting to see a glimpse of the interaction between mom and baby." Canon 7D, Tokina 10-17. 1/125, F9.



Amazing Underwater Photo #5

Leafy Sea Dragon by Ken Thongpila, Australia

Ken used just the right composition and depth of field to produce a winning leafy sea dragon shot.

leafy seadragon

Leafy Sea Dragon by Ken Thongpila. "I used 2 strobes to get the right balance on the eyes, looked for a clean background, then waited for unusual angles as the Sea Dragon moved around." Rapid Bay Jetty, South Australia. 1/100, F16.



Amazing Underwater Photo #6

Wolf Fish by Lill Haugen, Norway

Braving the cold waters of Norway, Lill captured a special moment with just the right expressions - two wolf fish truly in love.

blue eels

Wolf Fish by Lill Haugen. Diving in bad vis and fighting strong currents mid-winter in Oslo fjord in Norway can still be rewarding, especially when I came across this cute wolffish-couple in the Oslo fjord, at their breeding ground. Soon there will be eggs, which the MALE will protect for a few months while the female goes back to munching her favorite sea urchins and clams - and living life! Nikon D300, Nikon 12-24 mm, dual Inon z-240 strobes. 1/100, F16.



Amazing Underwater Photo #7

Filefish eye by Ron Watkins, Florida

Ron went for the artistic point of view on this fish, one that we all love to photograph and admire for its wonderful blue patterns.

filefish eye

Filefish eye by Ron Watkins. On a recent assignment in the Florida Keys after diving the Spiegel Grove, I dove Molassas Reef and decided to try macro photography. As soon as I hit the water and saw the 80+ Viz and healthy reefs teaming with life, I thought I had chosen the wrong lens. Making the most of it, I was photographing nudibranchs, fireworms and other small subjects when I noticed a scrawled filefish following me (pointed out by my buddy). I turned the Nikor 105mm to the fish and took several shots and angles of the colorful patterend eye. The resulting photo was taken with a Nikon D300 at F/16, 1/100 and ISO 200 with dual YS-250 Strobes.



Amazing Underwater Photo #8

Cenotes by Jo-ann WIlkins, Mexico

Diver, light beams and surface reflections all add up to a stunning wide-angle shot.

cavern scuba diver

Cenotes diver by Jo-Ann Wilkins. Exploring the Cenotes of Riviera Maya, Mexico. Nikon D800, Aquatica Housing.



Amazing Underwater Photo #9

Crocodile by Goran Butajla, Cuba

Crocs are not your everyday subject. They are dangerous, hard to find, and not easy to photograph without losing a finger. This photo has a dramatic close-up point of view, enhanced by the distinct sunbeams.


Crocodile by Goran Butajla. We found this crocodile during one of our trips to the lagoon, who hung around for photos before ending the session by swimming into deeper water. Jardines de la Reina, Cuba. 1/160, F10.



Amazing Underwater Photo #10

Blue-ring Octopus by Marcello di Francesco, Philippines

Dramatic black-background photo of one of the most beautiful & deadly octopus.

blue-ringed octopus

Rings in the Night by Marcello di Francesco. A blue-ringed octopus hunting for prey at night, shot on Malapacua island in the Philippines. Canon 60D, 100mm lens. 1/250, F14, ISO 100.



Do you have great photos from the spring (March - May 2013)?  We're accepting submissions for our next Friends of the Guide photo feature.  Email for more details.


About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, underwater photographer and editor with the Underwater Photography Guide. You can follow UWPG on Facebook and also read Brent's featured article on shooting a Melibe Nudibranch congregation.



Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



Photo Journey Through Southeast Sulawesi

Brent Durand
Critters, Reefscapes & Diving on the Pelagian Yacht

Photo Journey through Southeast Sulawesi

Critters, Reefscapes & Diving on the Pelagian Yacht

Compiled by Brent Durand, photos by Various Contributors


Photo: Wayne MacWilliams


Join us on an underwater photo essay featuring 'out of this world' diving in the outer reefs and surrounding atolls of the Tukang Besi islands, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia.  This is the heart of the coral triangle of undersea biodiversity.  Please enjoy the following photos taken by guests of Wakatobi Dive Resort & the Pelagian Yacht.


Cover photo: Squid

When the sun goes down, Desert, a sited visited by the Pelagian Dive Yacht, turns into a proverbial Fun House as nocturnal beasts like these reef squid come out and put on the 'night moves.' Dancing in the dark on the edge of your dive light’s illumination, they flash iridescent hues looking as if an electrical current is running through their body (see above photo).


Frogfish In The Sand


Photo: Saskia van Wijk ( Canon 5D, Canon 100mm Macro, DS125 strobe. 1/60, F20, ISO 200.

Into mucking around? Pelagian is not without its collection of magical muck dives off the southeast peninsula of Sulawesi at Buton Island. If you are unfamiliar with the term muck diving, it is basically a treasure hunt for small and often highly cryptic critters hiding among the supporting columns of a pier or in debris - like this frogfish nestled, comfortably we assume, in the sandy bottom. Read all about Frogfish.


Blue-Ringed Octopus

Photo: Steve Rosenberg ( Nikon D300, 60mm lens

Located in front of a village known as Pasar Wajo, is a site called Cheeky Beach. Here Pelagian divers are often followed by local children watching from the surface with 'cheeky enthusiasm,' while they hunt for true treasures such as this amazing blue-ringed octopus.


Coleman Shrimp

Photo: Saskia van Wijk ( Canon 5D, Canon 100mm Macro, DS125 strobe. 1/60, F25, ISO 200.

Located in front of a village known as Pasar Wajo, is a site called Cheeky Beach. The beauty of Cheeky Beach, and for that matter most muck sites, is that it can be dived repetitively rendering unique and different finds every time. And when it comes to 'finds' what's even more special about Cheeky Beach is that it is also a shrimp breeding ground for several of the more exotic species found in the Wakatobi region, like this Coleman shrimp.



Photo: Steve Rosenberg ( Nikon D300, 60mm lens

Vatican is a site aptly named for its abundance of cardinalfish. The site is filled with thousands of these colorful beauties, looking as if they are attending conclave. Belonging to the family Apogonidae, cardinalfish are typically nocturnal; they stay in the shadows by day and come out at night to feed. Also unique is that they are mouth brooders meaning they carry and incubate their eggs in the mouth.



Photo: Wayne MacWilliams

If the Mandarinfish is high on your list of must sees, Magic Pier, a Pelagian signature dive, is definitely in order. The pier is a concrete jetty built upon a shallow coral plateau on a slope starting at 5m to 8m and gently dropping down to 25m. The pier is home to an abundance of flamboyantly colored Mandarinfish, which are scarcely two inches long.


Mandarinfish Ménage-A-Trois

Photo: Richard Smith ( Nikon D2X, Nikon 105mm, Subal housing, dual Inon strobes.

It is at dusk that Mandarinfish become their most frisky, performing a beautiful courting dance, which ends with the release of sperm and eggs as they spawn in the water column above the bottom.

"The Wakatobi region has some of the most spectacular and biodiverse reefs in Asia. Visiting them aboard Pelagian ensures that you see them in style. The service, yacht and diving were all excellent."  - Richard Smith


Eel With Cleaner Shrimp

Photo: Wayne MacWilliams

Magic Pier does not begin and end with Mandarinfish. One of the many captivating sights you will find are subjects like this eel, which is having some dental hygiene done by a scarlet lady shrimp, identified by a vibrant red stripe intersected by a white line down its back.



Photo: Richard Smith ( Nikon D2X, 10.5mm fisheye lens, Subal housing, dual Inon strobes.

There are hundreds of miles of reefs to visit within the Pelagian's crusing range. These include the smaller eastern and southern islands of Moromaho and Runuma, the big reefs of Karang Kaledupa, and the fascinating critter haven of Buton island.

Southeast of Wangi Wangi is a stunning reef plateau called Metropolis featuring a great variety of hard and soft corals, bommies and endless stretches of hilly formations of staghorn corals. Frequently swept by currents, large schools of surgeonfish, barracudas, and triggerfish roam overhead.


Broadclub Cuttlefish with Photographer

Photo: Walt Stearns ( Canon 7D, Tokina 10-17, dual YS-250 strobes. 1/200, F/9.

Muck diving isn’t all there is to Pelagian’s itinerary; the reefs are not without their share of fascinating and interesting creatures, like this broadclub cuttlefish.

"Wakatobi delivers on every front. For photographers the reefs are highly productive. Rarely do I find reefs so healthy and dense with coral coverage as those at Wakatobi, evidence of their strong conservation initiatives. While there is just about every weird and wonderful critter imaginable for macro photography, I spent most of my time shooting wide angle, it's that beautiful. And when it comes to services and accommodations, Wakatobi excels - from the exquisite villas and bungalows to the incredible food to never having to lift a finger once you arrive in Bali - Team Wakatobi attends to every detail. Wakatobi truly should be a must go for every diver, it's an experience you simply won't ever forget."  - Walt Stearns


Schooling Batfish

Photo: Walt Stearns ( Canon 7D, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye,  dual YS-250 strobes. 1/160, F/6.3.

Running into a school of batfish always livens up a stunning reefscape. In addition to their beauty, a recent study suggests this comely fish may actually play a more critical role in reef ecology by eating seaweed that other herbivorous fish such as parrotfish and surgeonfish do not touch.


Pygmy Sea Horse

Photo: Mark Snyder (

No mention of Wakatobi or the Pelagian Dive Yacht would be complete without pygmy seahorses. Pelagian cruises the heart of a region that is host to three of the prominent species – from the familiar Bargibant (shown here) to the Denise and Pontoh.


Pontoh Pygmy Seahorse

Photo: Richard Smith ( Nikon D2X, Nikon 105mm, Subal housing, dual Inon strobes.

One of the specialties of the Pelagian’s crew is finding the tiny, white Pontoh seahorse in their favorite habitat among the Halimeda algae. “Nowhere else are they [Pontoh species] so reliably encountered as here,” says marine biologist Richard Smith.


Chromodoris Leopardus Nudibranch

Photo: Richard Smith ( Nikon D2X, Nikon 105mm, Subal housing, dual Inon strobes.

The term ‘sea slug’ just doesn't do them justice. Nudibranchs in brilliant colors are a trademark of the Indo-pacific. Pelagian‘s eagle-eyed guides have no problem finding species like this Chromodoris leopardus nudibranch flaring its oral veil as it crawls about the bottom. Read more about photographing nudibranchs.


Pelagian Dive Yacht and Tender Boats

Photo: Shawn Levin

Diving from the Pelagian is conducted from tender boats each with its own dive guide. The daily routine comfortably fits in four 70-minute plus dives per day, including night dives.

With a full-time crew of 12, Pelagian offers truly personal attention that includes a dedicated cruise director and dive experience managers. Guests are able to choose between fully guided diving experiences or any appropriate level of support and advice to enhance an autonomous dive plan.


Southeast Sulawesi

Indonesia Map

Map: Google Maps


Pelagian’s Route


While seasons and weather conditions may dictate some itineraries, one thing is certain, each cruise will be a unique and special experience.

Diving on Pelagian has never been easier with frequent direct charter flights from Bali and a variety of itineraries from which to choose. Why not combine a cruise on Pelagian with a visit to Wakatobi Dive Resort for the best of both worlds?

To find out more about Pelagian’s cruise itineraries visit


Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



Return to Tiger Beach

Steve Rosenberg
ReefID's Steve Rosenberg shares amazing photos from his recent return trip to Tiger Beach in the northern Bahamas.

Return To Tiger Beach

A photo essay from the northern Bahamas featuring sharks, sharks and more sharks!

By Steve Rosenberg



In January 2012, I made a return trip to Tiger Beach with Jim Abernethy’s Scuba Adventures for another one of their incredible week-long shark adventures to the northern Bahamas. It had just been too long since my last shark adventure on the MV Shearwater. As a bonus, Andy Sallmon, who is an outstanding professional underwater photographer from Southern California, was on the boat. Between Jim and Andy you can’t help get but pick up some useful tips on shooting sharks. During the trip, Captain Mike mounted a Go Pro Camera on a remote controlled boat speed boat and enticed a couple of tiger sharks to try their hand at boating. Fortunately, Mike recovered the GoPro and Andy got some incredible images of the event.



Just another tiger shark at the surface. The crew persuaded some of the passengers to dangle their toes in the water off the dive platform. It worked great to get the tigers to open their mouths for a few awesome close-ups. 



The Adventure

The week started off a bit rough and windy. Jim elected to visit two shallow reefs before heading out to Tiger Beach. After one day of bad weather, the winds eased and the seas calmed down, making the entries and exits a piece of cake and the surface intervals between dives very comfortable. We spent a day with amazing shark interactions at Hammertime reef and Ginormous reef. There were plenty of opportunities to set up unusual photographs at the end of swim-throughs and atop indentations in the coral reef with sharks continually making fly-bys and swim-overs. We took advantage of the opportunity to allow some of the Caribbean reef sharks to pose with splashes of colorful sponges and lionfish. Despite a persistent wind and somewhat spotty visibility we had awesome close-up encounters with Caribbean reef sharks, lemon sharks, a tiger shark and a friendly Goliath Grouper.


Duck!... and if it occurs to you, press the shutter. This was actually one of those opportunities where you have to anticipate...



Later when we parked at Tiger Beach and after the wind had died down a bit, we were treated to more incredible photographic opportunities. The various sections of Tiger beach are only about 20 feet deep, but feature swarming lemon sharks, intermixed with visits from tigers measuring up to 18 feet in length. It's always an exhilarating experience to grab your camera at the swim step, duck your mask into the water and roll forward with 20 or 30 lemon sharks milling about the dive platform. The lemon sharks, measuring up to 10 feet in length, sport a toothy sinister smile and their sleek ‘fighter jet’ profiles make for awe-inspiring portraits. However, the tigers are the real "super models," measuring up to an incredible 18 feet in length. The tiger sharks deserve, and require, your constant attention. On this trip we were underwater with as many as eight tigers at a time.

As an underwater photographer I have had the good fortune to work on assignments shooting sharks all over the globe. Jim Abernethy runs a very professional “stick to the rules” operation that allows photographers and videographers one-of-a-kind encounters with a variety of large predators that are available nowhere else in the world. Passengers on his live-aboard boat, the Shearwater, are treated to Jim’s hands-on expertise in dealing with sharks and his awesome knowledge of photographing large predators. I can’t wait to go again for another unique shark adventure, always looking for those one of a kind images.


For a lot of reasons, especially when you are diving with sharks, it is a good idea to be constantly looking around in all directions. When you have good visibility, look for situations where you can put subjects in the background, whether its the boat, sharks or other other divers. It's is a good way to add the the dimension of depth to your pictures.



Underwater Photo Tips

The photo opportunities on one of Jim’s shark trips are so plentiful that you don’t have to rush and just take snap shots. The best advice that I can give you is to listen to Jim Abernethy. He is the kind of person who is genuinely excited about helping his passengers get extraordinary shots. That said, when you get underwater, take your time and try to visualize what a shot will look like. Anticipate the angle of your subject and what is going on in the negative space around your subject. Try to isolate the subject(s) and get them swimming toward the lens at an angle.

Get as close as possible to your subjects and work on getting upward angle. You will discover that the first part isn’t that difficult.  Of course, you won’t have the luxury of burying your face in the viewfinder. You really need to keep track of where the sharks are at all times, especially the tigers. Learn to anticipate when a picture is about to happen, pre-positioning your camera in front of you. Look into the viewfinder at the last moment, take the shot and then get back to looking around you to keep track of the rest of your subjects. When you dive with tigers its pretty much a matter of teamwork and everyone has to do their part.


Sheer boredom. I'm pretty sure sure that this Caribbean Reef shark was only yawning from sheer boredom. The troublesome thing was that I could see he was pretty empty and probably somewhat hungry.



This picture of a close-up of a lemon shark was taken with the idea of adding another layer to the image by using a camera angle that would include a second shark higher in the water column.



Lionfish with Caribbean Reef Shark. Unfortunately, there were many volitans lionfish on the reefs. I persuaded this one to pose patiently just off the reef, while we waited for a Caribbean Reef shark to swim into the frame. The key to this type of picture is patience!



When we were swimming around the shallow reefs sometimes these types of images kind of just happened. You just have to be ready with the right exposure already dialed in and take the image. You have to learn to anticipate what the image will look like through the viewfinder, being sure to look around the subject for unwanted body parts in the picture. Of course, I am talking about shark tails, stray fishes, etc (not pieces of divers) that would detract from the image.



Rush hour. Jim dumped us on one of the shallow reefs during the commute hour, enabling us to sit in traffic and get all makes and models of Caribbean Reef Sharks.



Getting toothy displays and wide open mouths is pretty much luck. However, if you take an occasional test shot to check exposure, etc. you will be much more likely to be able to successfully shoot from the hip when  a cool behavioral shot unfolds.



Tiger portrait. This is the type of shot where you want to try to anticipate the angle of the subject and use a camera angle that will give you an empty negative space around your subject. By getting close and using upward angles, you can isolate your subject to obtain pretty dramatic shots against open water backgrounds



Sharks on the reef. One of the techniques we used on the shallow reefs was to set up a picture with sponges in the foreground and then wait (and wait) for the  sharks to swim into the picture.



This was just a case of aiming the camera to get a couple of lemon sharks oriented properly in the frame and be conscious of excluding the other 38 lemon sharks (and their various body parts) from the picture.



This Goliath grouper with it's mouth open was one of those instances where you have to be ready for a shot and just take advantage when it unfolds in front of you. Just be careful not to get sucked in when it opens its mouth. I wonder if Jonah was an underwater photographer.



Pair of reef sharks. Look for situations where you can get subjects interacting in the frame. This opportunity of getting a pair of Caribbean reef sharks lined up in a parallel configuration seemed like a good idea (even while I was taking the picture).



About the Author

Steve has been a professional underwater photographer and photojournalist since 1980. He has produced eight travel guides for dive destinations, including The Hawaiian Islands, Cozumel, The Turks & Caicos, The Galapagos Islands, The Bahamas and Northern California, and has written hundreds articles for various U.S. publications on dive destinations, underwater photography, and marine biology. He has also produced numerous coffee table books on various destinations. Thousands of his images have appeared in books, magazines, and posters, as well as on stamps, advertising, and art work worldwide. He has also won more than 250 awards for his photography in international competitions, including a First Place Award in the prestigious Han Hass Competition in Austria. He received the Scuba Schools International Platinum Pro Certification for 5000 dives in 1996 and has been diving since the late 1960’s. He is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Steve is a senior board member and contributing editor for  He can be contacted at



Further reading


Support the Underwater Photography Guide

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo and Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


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