Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus: Story Behind the Shot

Capturing a Fleeting Cephalopod Encounter
By Brent Durand


Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus

- Story Behind the Shot -

Capturing a Fleeting Cephalopod Encounter

Text and Photos By Brent Durand


Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus



My eyes followed the dive guide’s gaze towards the white sand between two rocks. I knew I was looking for a blue-ringed octopus but didn’t see anything and inched a bit closer.

Until this point, I had been further down the reef, calmly waiting for a tiny nudibranch to shift position among some hydroids when I felt a firm tap on my shoulder. I looked up to see our dive guide frantically beckoning me to follow him. Intent on capturing the image I had set up, I made the sign for nudibranch and pointed at that spot. He then blew out a big stream of bubbles and pecked one arm with his other hand – the unmistakable sign for blue-ringed octopus – and kicked full speed across the reef with me in hot pursuit.

As my mask got closer to the sand, I saw the iridescent blue rings and recognized the octopus in front of me as the cephalopod launched itself across the ground. Excited to see my first blue-ring of the trip (Bluewater Photo’s Anilao workshops), I begun a lighting-fast reconfiguration of my camera gear from super macro to “octopus position,” knowing this was a fleeting moment. The excitement intensified as the octo lifted off the sand slightly and I saw a male octopus clinging to the female in mating position. Incredible! I’m sure I breathed out some excited words as I finished changing camera settings and took a first shot. The octos were moving quickly across the reef and I fired a shot each time I had a satisfactory composition through my 100mm macro lens. In a matter of seconds, both octopuses disappeared safely into a small hole.


Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus


About the Blue-Ringed Octopus

The blue-ringed octopus (hapalochlaena lunulata) is sought-after by underwater photographers across the Indo-Pacific. They generally inhabit shallow waters around rubble, rocks and muck sand areas, spending their time hunting small crustaceans.

Blue-ringed octopuses are infamous among divers for their extremely toxic venom (TTX), which is powerful enough to kill humans.

Learn more about the blue-ringed octopus in our comprehensive marine life feature.


Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus


Gear and Camera Settings

I captured these photos with a Canon 5D Mark III in an Aquatica housing using the Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro lens. Light came from two Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes on the end of Ultralight arms & clamps with Stix Floats.

Settings:  ISO 200, 1/160s at f/16


Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus



Tips for Capturing Behavior



When action is unfolding quickly it must be second nature to change camera settings and strobe positioning. Experienced photographers will be able to set up a shot before even actuating the shutter, leaving only small tweaks necessary to capture the image in mind.


Study the marine life in an area before the trip

You’ll learn a lot and it will form a good base for learning more during the trip, especially if it is an underwater photo workshop. Not only will you recognize what is going on around you, but you’ll have more fun talking about your dives with fellow divers.


Become friends with your dive guides

We’re all divers and share some amazing experiences underwater. If your guide knows how much you appreciate their experience and hard work, they will be more inclined to show you their favorite critters.



About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.



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