At a normal weekend macro photography dive trip to Pulau Hantu in Singapore, I saw this Bornella Anguilla nudibranch. It rained the night before, so all the usual creature spots were a little bit more dusty than usual. I was having problems finding something to shoot. Then I saw something that looked like a little guppy swimming in the water column. Yes, these actually swim like a fish. A very awkward fish. It swam down to the ground and then went from position to position to find something to eat. I stopped taking photos just to watch it go about its breakfast then thought that it was so awesome I needed to get a video.
To get the video, I had to flip off the supermacro diopter and use my normal macro lens. For lighting, I used my on-camera torch that normally finds use as a focus light.
Position and stability is very important for macro video because of the short depth of focus. To get a stable position, I used a trick I read in Alex Mustard’s Underwater Photography Masterclass (affiliate link). You reach your left hand across your body and grab something safe (no coral, no hydroid, no scorpionfish, no sharks) about 20cm to the right and a little bit below the subject. You hold the camera with your right hand and rest the lens or bottom of the housing on your left wrist. This way, you form a bit of a triangle with your elbows and wrists and get the support for the camera that you need.
These guys move around a lot. So you have to get to where they’re going and set up:
- Be patient, check your air supply, and be calm.
- Try to get in front of them. Good buoyancy and helicopter turns help.
- Find a spot with a little rise so that as they come up the backside and over the top of the rise, they’re mostly silhouetted against the water. Or at least not down in a crack where you have to take photos looking down.
- Focus on the top of the rise so that when they climb it, they’re in focus. Use back-button focus to lock the focus on the top of the rise.
- If you’re using a torch, nudies will turn away from it when they can feel the heat. If you have a focus lock, shut off your torch if you don’t need it.
- Wait, be patient.
- When they get on top of the rise, snap away.
- When they move off the top, back off and repeat the process.
And while I was at it, I made some normal photos too…
The moral of the story: underwater macro photography is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to find.
See you underwater!!