Rolling in the Deep: Komodo Macro

Video & Behind the Scenes Commentary for Rolling in the Deep - Macro
By Dustin Adamson


Rolling in the Deep: Komodo Macro

Part 1 of 2
Video & Behind the Scenes Commentary for Rolling in the Deep


View Part 2: Behind the Scenes of the Wide-Angle Video


By Dustin Adamson





A couple of years back I decided I wanted to make a series of underwater short films illustrating the type of marine life someone could expect to see when visiting a particular destination. I didn’t want narration or a story… none of that. I wanted the natural beauty of the subjects, along with camera and lighting artistry to take center stage. Looking back to the olden days of film, the use of the word ‘Rolling’ when someone was filming always appealed to me. I pondered how I could incorporate that word into my series. That is where the name ‘Rolling in the Deep’ came from. This installment of the series focuses on the macro subjects of Komodo, Indonesia.

The underwater world is more than Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins. Sure, these are all very exciting to see underwater. I certainly wouldn’t stick my nose up at them. And I most certainly would be regretting my lens choice if I had my macro lens mounted to my rig and one of those creatures decided to make an appearance. However, the ‘small’ stuff below the surface has just as much to offer as the ‘big’ stuff. If you examine each creature individually, they are all unique in their own way. They all have their own personalities that can be quirky, happy, angry, and mysterious. Combine this with beautiful colors and some of their behaviors and they are all very intriguing to say the least.  



Common Reef Cuttlefish



Shooting macro video with a DSLR is extremely challenging. The depth of field is razor thin. As a result, any movement from the animal or your camera can really ruin your shot. When setting up my shot, I always view my surroundings to make sure I am not going to ruin any corals. Once I determine the site is okay to shoot, I then adjust the legs on my tripod and my lighting to the approximate positions. I then swim in closer to set up the actual shot.

In this video, I am sometimes shooting as close as an inch away from the subject. At that distance lighting becomes very difficult. Lighting is very important for me. I like my video to have a specific ‘look’ to it. I love black backgrounds! In order to get this, I need there to be very little ambient light. 90% of this video is shot on night dives. This can be nice for lighting, but it also introduces what I call “sea lice” that swarm your lights. The longer you stay with a subject, the more that will congregate around your lights. I have yet to figure a way to avoid this issue and you will see this in many shots in the video. 

Patience is something that I struggle with at times. Sometimes it can take a whole dive to get the shot that I am looking for. The frogfish yawning, or better yet, actually capturing prey! This can be an entire dive. Or not happen at all. A good example of this is the opening shot of the video. The snail moving across the frame looks like a simple shot. It took me 30 minutes of placing my camera ahead of the snail, just to watch it move across the frame out of focus. I had to repeat this half a dozen times to get it in focus, each time having to readjust legs on my tripod and the lighting. 



Juvenile Flamboyant Cuttlefish


Gear Used

During my trip to Komodo, I was using a Canon 5d Mark II. This is a full frame camera, so combining it with a Canon 100mm Macro lens makes the depth of field a challenging endeavor. When you nail the focus, however, the shot looks amazing! Unfortunately the compression the video hosting sites use really degrades the video quality. You should see it uncompressed in its full HD glory! The quality of the sensor and the lens is top notch. It is only rivaled by systems that cost 10 times as much. 

For lighting I was using Sola 4000’s with a custom made snoot. I wanted to narrow the beam of the light and a snoot was the only way to do this.  Because of the weight of the lights, I used ULCS clamps and arms.

For stability, I used the Xit404 tripod mount and legs. For me this is essential equipment to get steady and smooth shots in areas with strong current.



Orange frogfish waiting for prey


VIDEO:  Rolling in the Deep - Macro

Macro subjects in Komodo aren’t as dense as in places like Lembeh or Anilao, but the opportunities are still fantastic. Combine that with the beautiful reefs and the clear water and it makes Komodo a worthy destination to visit. I encourage anyone who has shied away from macro video to give it a shot as it can be very rewarding. Stay tuned for part 2 of the Rolling in the Deep series. This will focus on the ‘Wide’ scenes in Komodo.




View Part 2: Behind the scenes of the Wide-Angle video


Bluewater Travel has all the info you need to book your dive trip to Komodo.

Join our guided trip to Komodo in March 2015! We'll have 2 specials guests onboard with us - Aggressor owners Wayne Brown and Wayne Hasson!!

About the Author

Dustin Adamson has been diving for 18 years. He has been filming underwater for the last 3 years, and has won multiple international awards for his videos. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah and taught himself filming and final post production. He and his wife Tyra are both contributors to The best way to follow their adventures and ask them questions is to ‘Like’ their Facebook 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!




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.