Story behind the shot - Yawning Goby

Story behind Helen Brierley's uncropped underwater photo that won "Best of Show"
By Helen Brierley

Finding the Right Goby

I was diving in the Catalina Dive Park for the SoCal Shootout. There were hundreds of blue-banded gobies, and most don’t want you to get close. I was lucky to find one that wasn’t shy, he held his ground and did not instantly flee like the others. I had already seen it dart out and eat something, so maybe it thought it had a good feeding spot. When it ate something, that motion had caught my eye and made me decide to come in for a closer look.

Goby Underwater Photo

Becoming Friends

I took 35 shots of this particular goby. At one point it opened its mouth wide for a couple of seconds and I got 2 or 3 shots off before the mouth closed. My strobes were pointed slightly in. Photo was uncropped. I used the “creep in” approach, getting a little closer with every shot. I started without the diopter, and when I realized he wasn’t scared at all, I  flipped the diopter down. His yawn lasted just long enough for me to get 3 very quick shots off.

Goby Underwater Photo by Helen Brierley

Settings & Equipment

I used the Nikon D500 with the Nauticam D500 Housing, flash trigger, Nikon 105mm VR lens, two YS-D1 strobes and the Subsee +5 diopter. My settings were as follows - 1/200th, F18, ISO 200. That enabled me to have my flash reasonably low powered to recycle fast and F18 meant I could blur the background as I got in close, though it made the focus a bit more picky of course. Most of what I then altered as I moved in closer was the composition, focus and strobe position.

[Publisher's Note] Helen's photo ended up winning best of show in the the 7th annual SoCal Shootout. Congrats Helen!


Helen is an award winning underwater photographer and avid sailor. She is also the chair of the board of directors. She resides in sunny Pacific Palisades, California.


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