The Squid Eye: Story Behind the Shot

It takes more than luck to shoot macro detail on a large subject
By Els Van Den Borre

The Squid Eye: Story Behind the Shot

It takes more than luck to shoot macro detail on a large subject

Text and Photos By Els Van Den Borre




Halfway through our night dive in Bali, my eyes suddenly notice the waving light of a dive torch. My husband and loyal buddy Bruno Van Saen draws my attention and then makes me the ‘quiet, quiet' gesture. Bruno quickly turns off his dive light and switches to just the small pilot light on one of his strobes. And then I see it! He had found a squid that was not afraid of us and who even became attracted to the small beam of light.

Just a few hours before, I was able to convince a good girlfriend to lend me her 105mm macro lens for the very first time. So with this 105mm lens and the squid as a photo subject, I had little choice but to follow one of our golden rules in underwater photography: either go for a photo in extreme close-up or you back off and fill the frame with the subject. I soon noticed that each time Bruno took a photo, the squid jumped backwards a little bit as the strobes fired. After watching several shots I was prepared and knew what to expect!


Capturing the Shot

Squid are easily overexposed. I wanted a close-up shot of the eye and knew I had to keep the power of the strobes pretty minimal. I also decided to start with an aperture set to f14 combined with a shutter speed of 1/250s. And then it was my turn to shoot. The squid kept posing into the pilot light of Bruno's strobe, and I hoped this moment would last a little bit longer. Slowly I moved closer and let the squid get used to my presence. Another of our golden tips in underwater photography is to find an animal that is curious and doesn’t mind being photographed. This squid in Bali was that animal.

Little by little I approached my subject to try to capture the shot, until hovering face to face with the squid. I slowly moved forward until I saw a clean diagonal composition, and… click.

I carefully pulled back to check the picture on my camera display. A quick adjustment and 3 photos later I captured the image I had in mind. Yes, you read that correctly: the eye of the squid photo is one of only 4 shots. Both Bruno and I do not take hundreds of pictures of a subject. Our mantra is to spend a little more time and work to prepare for the shot. Of course, we do occasionally miss a shot while pre-setting the camera for the image in mind.


My Camera Gear

The image from the eye of the squid was taken using a Nikon D90, iso 100, F/32, 1/250sec. My two Inon Z-240 strobes were directly mounted on the arms of our hugyfot housing. The strobes itself are put under a 45 degree angle as well as downwards as sidewards.

And … one last thing, once back in Belgium we made sure to buy the Nikkor 105mm for ourselves!




Three of my golden tips for successful underwater photography:

  1. Find a model. Some animals love to be photographed. Do not spend your time on animals that are always hiding. Find a curious animal for your photo shoot!
  2. Approach slowly and observe. Before making the shot, give the animal time to get used to your presence. Use those moments to choose the right settings on your camera and strobes.
  3. Shoot an extreme close-up or fill the frame when using a macro lens with a larger subject. Use your chosen lens optimally and try to achieve the picture you envision. Also, don’t just stop at a close-up photo, try for an extreme close-up (without touching your subject)!



About the Author

Els Van Den Borre was born in 1975 in Belgium, Ninove.  She finally made an introductory dive in the open sea at the age of 29, and was shooting photos underwater less than a year later. Since then, Els has won multiple gold medals at several international underwater photo competitions.

Together with her husband and loyal buddy Bruno Van Saen, she received the 'palme d'or' in the 2012 World Festival of Underwater images in Marseille. Most recently, Els was the grand prize winner of the Scuba Diving Magazine photo contest 2013.


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.