Recently, an unexpected trip brought us to Raja Ampat in Indonesia. Words cannot describe the richness of these Asian reefs, even for an already spoiled diver calling Grand Cayman home.
The journey to the other end of the world was a tiring one, but well worth it — it took us four days, but once we arrived we couldn't wait to get into the water.
Since Raja Ampat was described to us as a wide-angle paradise with hard and soft corals in the most amazing formations everywhere, I prepared my rig, advised by our divemaster, for some wide-angle shooting. But on dive after dive, this little lady saw great "compositions" flying by. Currents just picked me up, and placed me elsewhere — certainly not in front of the colorful, picture-perfect gorgonian sea fan with a red species of soft coral in front (and oh yes, some black crinoids on the sea fan, with the sun lighting it from behind).
It was time for Plan B.
I decided to get my macro lens wet and my diopter in my BCD pocket. Since it was a trip with many photographers and videographers on board, it resulted in some strange looks and turning heads. "Did we already arrive on the muck-diving spots with superb macro conditions?" I could tell some were thinking by the looks on their faces.
Another descent, and this time I was prepared for the changing side currents and challenging up and down currents (where I would not think of using my camera). I had a picture in my mind and an approach to get to a sheltered spot close to my possible subject: the anemonefish!
This trip was my first encounter with the very popular anemonefish in all variations. As a photographer, they can drive you nuts, but this is a "drive-you-nuts" I like a lot. Their symbiosis with the most beautiful anemones is another wonder of Mother Nature, and I could look at them (when currents were not sweeping me past) for a whole dive: beautiful creatures, popping up between the wavy tentacles of the anemone, bluntly staring at you for a centisecond, before they immerse in their host again.
What I wanted to capture was their skittish nature, the body hidden in tentacles, light on the eye, and if I could find it, a very colorful anemone with a tick rim on the edge to show some more structure and depth.
I worked on anemonefish pictures for some days, not forgetting to also enjoy the other great underwater life. I loved this shot the instant I took it, because to me, it's how I wanted to capture an anemonefish portrait — capture their being for others to enjoy. A funny curious fish to watch, knowing it is well protected and having a great playground roving in those tentacles!
I didn't get a purple or pink anemone — you can't have everything and you always need a good reason to start saving for a return :-) !
Picture was taken during a live-aboard trip on the Pindito, which cruises Raja Ampat and the Banda Sea.
Camera Specs: Nikon D800, Nikkor 60 mm, Subsee diopter +10, ISO 200, f13, 1/125, one strobe YS-250 to the side.
To view more of Ellen's work, visit her website.