Underwater macro photography tips
when the critters don’t show up
5 overlooked critters that will save your underwater photography shoot
You are all set and ready for your underwater critter hunt but the creatures you were dreaming of seem to be a bit shy today? Don’t panic, we get a few tips for your underwater macro photography session and we will introduce you to a few perfect subjects that you will easily find on almost every dive. Empty your SD cards, fill up your batteries, get your best macro lens, adjust your strobes and enjoy the ride.
These 5 critters can be found on almost every dive in tropical waters, but many underwater photographers will overlook them in their critter hunt. Nevertheless, when you took a closer look and chose the right angle and good composition, they can turn into perfect subjects that will give you amazing underwater macro photography and save your day and your photo shoot.
1. Tunicate, the cute invertebrate for an easy underwater macro shot
These small marine invertebrates get their name from the exterior cover (tunic), made of proteins and carbonate, acting like an exoskeleton. Also called sea squirts, this big family counts with a lot of different species.
They are delicate organisms and most of the species are static and live attached to a host that can be either a rock, the bottom of the ocean or even coral. Other species are pelagic, meaning that they float in the blue deep water with the current. They feed and breath by filtering water through their bodies.
Their tunics gives them this really smooth look with great colors and they really now how to pose for the pictures.
Our favorite one is the lollipop tunicate but with so many different species, you get a lot of different shapes, textures, forms, colors…
Just be creative! And open your eyes, they are everywhere.
2. Tube worms, for the underwater photographers with ninja skills
You wouldn’t say the same with every kind of worm, but those are the type of worms you would like to take a picture of. Why? Because they don’t look like a worm, but more like a flower, or a Christmas tree for some of them.
These sea worms create a protective tube where they live. They have a set of tentacles called crown that they take out to catch food and exchange gases.
The crown is what you want to catch in the picture, and for that you must be careful not to make stronger moves. That’s where you will need your ninja skills, because if it feels threatened the worm will put the crown away back to the tube in a fraction of a second and your picture will not look as you wanted to. Your subject will be gone! Minimize your movements and watch your buoyancy in order to make sure you don’t move the water. Don’t get too close either, they will “see” you.
A colony of Christmas tree worm, or Spirobranchus giganteus will make a beautiful and colorful underwater shot whereas a feather duster worm will produce a movement effect on your photography.
You can even try some great shots where they would look like fireworks.
3. Valonia Ventricosa, take a macro photography of a Sailor’s eyeball
Many divers will see it but only a few really know what it is. It looks rather like a pearl, an object someone dropped from the boat, a piece of shiny coral, or a sailor’s eyeball.
This alien looking organism is in fact a marine algae, known as bubble algae and it is one of the biggest unicellular organism. They can be found alone or in colony and their color vary from shiny green to silver.
They will make interesting subject for your underwater macro photography shoot but finding the right angle and perfect lightning can take a bit of work if you want to get the best of them.
Work together with your imagination and you will be able to tell your buddies you found a huge pearl!
4. Bubble coral, for the super macro photography enthusiasts
They are part of every coral reef out there and we tend to overlook at them, except when we are in search of an orang utan crab or a tiny shrimp, but they can be a great subject even without any other critter in it.
This is a hard coral that presents bubbles during the day, used for photosynthesis. It can be green, white, cream or even pinkish and if you look closer, you will see that the texture of the bubbles are great for super macro or black and white shots.
If you are creative enough, you will waken the curiosity of many people with your underwater photography of a bubble coral.
Be careful though, super macro means you will have to get real close to the coral and they are living and fragile creatures, so go slow and master your buoyancy.
5. Tube dwelling Anemone, the dancing critter for an artistic underwater photography
The Tube Anemone, Cerianthus membranaceus is found in many locations in subtropical and tropical waters across the planet, so we are sure you have already seen them. They can be compared to the tube worms as they are animals with tentacles that can retract inside a tube when they feel threatened, so you will have to approach them with extreme care.
They come in a rainbow of colors: purple, red, pink, blue, green, yellow, orange, you name it. Most of the time you will find them on the sea bottom with a free background and their tentacles will “dance” with the water movement, making it for a great shot!
Play with the light underwater and you will get a really worthy photography.
Getting a great underwater macro photography is not necessarily about finding the weirdest or rarest critters, but more about being open minded during your dive and appreciate the beauty of your surroundings, including the critters that you encounter on every dive.
With those tips, you realise that you don’t have to be a professional underwater photographer with thousands of dollar worth of equipment to do great shots, look at these macro critters we shot with a compact underwater camera in the Philippines.
Open your eyes, open your mind and appreciate every single dive. Beauty is everywhere underwater.
Feel free to share your underwater macro photography tips in the comments and show us
your better shots!