Story of the Shot: Todd Winner

Todd describes how he captured this octopus and sunburst
By Todd Winner

Story of the Shot: Todd Winner

Octopus in Sunburst

By Todd Winner


One of the reasons I believe so many of us enjoy underwater photography and continually douse our expensive cameras in salt water are those rare occasions when we have an incredible encounter with some marine animal.



My story takes place while diving in La Paz, Mexico where UWPhotography Guide owner Scott Gietler and myself were recently running an underwater photography workshop.

It was our first day of diving and we had just finished two spectacular dives at a site called La Reina where we played with sea lions and saw the largest school of fish any of us had ever seen. We were headed back in when we decided to do our third dive at a site called Lobos Rock or the Light House which sits just outside the protected harbor where we were staying at Club Cantamar.

I was being lazy and jumped in with my wide angle Tokina 10-17mm fisheye instead of switching out to a macro lens like the dive master suggested.  A few minutes into the dive it was apparent that a macro lens would have been a better choice.  I decided to just enjoy the dive for what is was and maybe I could help find a nice subject for someone who had the right lens. 

Fifty minutes or so into the dive with little to show for all my efforts to find a subject, I noticed a small disturbance on the reef. When I went over to investigate I found two octopi quarreling over the same crack in the rock. It was interesting to observe but still not a subject I could photograph because they were just too far back in the crevasse.

All of a sudden one octopus came gliding out into the open. I was expecting it to just dart off into another hole but it stopped at the base of a rock and started climbing up it.  That was when I started getting excited.  I went into that frenzy mode when you rush to get your camera and strobe settings dialed in before you lose the shot.  You know what I'm talking about. 

I was hoping I might get to snap off an image if the octopus went over the top of the rock with the sun in the background. To my amazement it stopped right on the top of the peak and just sat there apparently unafraid of me and my large camera.  There was no spectacular interaction between us but I was just so amazed that he seemed so unthreatened.  He even looked as if he was enjoying having his photograph taken. 

We shared a few moments together where I was able to fire off a handful of images and then the octopus had more important matters to attend to and took his leave.  I thanked him for being such a cooperative model as we parted ways and I swam back to the boat thinking about what an incredible dive I just had.

We underwater photographers are a strange lot. If you talked to most divers that just spent an hour long dive seeing only one subject for a brief moment they would never want to do that site again. But for us, that same dive might be considered one of the best we ever had. You know what I'm talking about.

octopus suburst rock


Underwater Camera Settings:

Canon 7D, ISO 100, 1/125th sec at F8,10-17mm@10mm, Ikelite 200's @ 1/4 power

 Editor's note on underwater photo tips: shoot in portrait, get wide (10mm), get close, position the sun behind the subject, exposure the background properly by adjusting the shutter speed. Read the shooter's toolbox, volume three to learn how to take a shot like this one. - Scott


Further Reading:

Diving La Paz

UWPG La Paz Photo workshop 2011

Photographing marine life underwater



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