Moray CleaningThis black-spotted moray (Gymnothorax favagineus) was found at the cleaning station directly below the dive jetty at Layang Layang Island, Sabah, Malaysia. Nikon D2X, 105mm lens, 1/125, f/11.
So many great macro images are shared online and entered into competitions that it’s tough to make your images stand out. Anticipating the action and capturing a single moment of behaviour is one way; determining when these moments are going to happen is the difficulty. Here are six tips to help you capture an excellent macro behavior shot.
1. Know your subject. Yes, you can get lucky, but to be able to consistently capture good behaviour you need to study fish behavior.
2. It may seem silly, but sit back and watch. Many photographers swim from subject to subject, snapping away, but if you “step back” and watch the dive you might find a pattern of behaviour that will make your photography much easier. This is especially true when it comes to cleaning stations.
3. If you find a place of repeatable behavior, like a cleaning station, take a test shot to confirm your settings before the action begins. If you take a few shots of the frogfish and have everything ready, you can then wait for the huge yawn. (That yawn is also the frogfish’s signal for you to go away.)
4. Camera settings are similar to a normal macro shot: Use a high aperture, around f/20, to give depth of field and get as much of the action in focus as possible. If the subjects are shy, use a 105mm macro lens rather than a 60mm, or even consider adding a teleconverter.
5. If there’s a specific type of behavior you’re after, find an expert who is studying the subject and ask whether he or she might be happy to share the research; in exchange, it’s nice to offer to share any photos you might get of unusual behavior.
6. Local dive guides know where the critters hang out — where the mandarinfish can be seen mating or if there are any jawfish carrying eggs — so chat with them before planning your dives.
Knowledge is key to excellent behavior shots, so spend the time studying before your trip even begins to ensure you make the most from these encounters and you capture the peak of the action.
Managing Director of Scubazoo Images based in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Jason Isley has been shooting the underwater world for more than 15 years. Although he started as a videographer, he now concentrates on photography and manages the publication department of Scubazoo.