Macro and Supermacro Recognizing and Taking pictures

Costasiella kuroshimae, Guam


Have you ever ever puzzled how dive guides discover creatures you by no means may have discovered? Whereas a lot of their experience pertains to the very fact they dive the identical websites repeatedly, they’ve additionally developed refined expertise in understanding the place and how you can look. On this article, I’ll clarify how easy strategies and just a little data can enhance your success with macro and supermacro pictures.

First, some techno-nerd stuff. Whereas divers could apply the “macro” label to any dive the place the emphasis is on smaller creatures, in pictures it means utilizing specialised gear to seize a topic and its picture on the digicam’s sensor on the identical measurement, e.g., a 1cm topic is 1cm on the sensor. For devoted macro lenses, this 1:1 ratio coincides with the closest the lens can obtain deal with the topic. The vast majority of (non-macro) lenses can not obtain this ratio at any distance when used alone. In such instances, you’d want further magnification to get there.


Sea spider (pycnogonid) on hydroid


Equally, “supermacro” means any magnification ratio better than 1:1. On this case, additional specialised gear or modes allow you to focus nearer to the topic than macro (minimal focus) distance, thereby rendering the topic’s sensor picture larger than the topic. For interchangeable lens cameras, whereas there are some devoted supermacro lenses in the marketplace, underwater photographers obtain supermacro both with inner gear like teleconverters/extension tubes or exterior gear like moist diopters. For compact cameras, supermacro requires both a strong moist diopter or particular picture modes. Since you can not take away inner gear underwater, you’re dedicated to its magnification for the entire dive. Conversely, you’ll be able to typically connect or take away exterior gear underwater, so this feature offers flexibility.

I discover achievement from three elements of macro and supermacro pictures. First is the fun of the hunt, i.e., discovering creatures that I can constantly picture. Second is the artwork and science of image-making. Am I capturing for identification functions, what I name “area information” photographs, or am I after one thing inventive? Third, there may be picture processing, the place fashionable instruments allow us to maximize the impression of our photographs. One caveat: Beware the perils of over processing. Sluggish your roll on these saturation and texture sliders, pal!


Emperor shrimp (Zenopontonia rex) on Thelenota anax sea cucumber


Images Suggestions and Strategies

Most photographers discover macro/supermacro difficult at first. Listed below are a few of my suggestions and strategies:

  1. Begin every dive with check pictures on bigger topics, like larger nudis, eels, cephalopods (although not the large Pacific octopus), cooperative fish, and so forth. In case you’re new, these could also be all you are able to do for the entire dive, and that’s high-quality—not everybody is prepared for Shaun the Sheep on their first macro sortie.
  2. Normal steering for all underwater pictures holds for macro, with some additions:

    1. Get near your topic. In case you assume you’re shut sufficient, get nearer, although not so shut that you just break your composition, e.g., the occasional picture of 1 rhinophore will be good, however typically not that shut is healthier.
    2. Shoot up. In case you can’t shoot up, shoot stage. Bear in mind, nevertheless, that some macro topics will be most fascinating from the highest down, e.g., mating sea slugs.
    3. Compact shooters, compose along with your fins first, zoom lever second. Preserve the digicam zoomed in till you can not compose adequately within the body. Solely then do you have to zoom out some.
    4. Face pictures are typically most dramatic. In case you can’t get the face, take a aspect shot. In case you can’t get a aspect shot, take a top-down shot. Solely not often are rear pictures viable. In case you discover a creature you can not establish, get as many angles as doable to permit for professional overview.
    5. Obey compositional pointers in digicam. Nonetheless, some topics are so small, in so tight an area or so uncooperative that you’re greatest off placing them within the center and composing in submit.

Glossodoris sp. nudibranch with eggs on sponge


  1. For supermacro, apply getting nearer on inanimate or inert topics first, e.g., rocks, corals, bigger tunicates, and so forth. It takes some adjustment to get as shut as you could be to acquire focus with +10 or better moist lenses. Some individuals battle even with much less highly effective ones. Till you’re snug with the gear, you danger injuring or damaging your topics.
  2. Heads up. In the identical vein, alternate your view between digicam and setting. Once you swap your gaze from the digicam, take note of issues round your topic that stand out, as a result of you’ll rapidly discover small topics disappear when you look within the viewfinder or on the LCD. For instance, if you’re imaging a small, semi-transparent shrimp that’s left of a yellow tunicate, discover the tunicate first after which transfer the digicam left to search out the shrimp. In case you are supermacro and capturing a topic on or close to the sand, keep away from “snowplowing” along with your diopter or port and drowning the entire topic.
  3. Lastly, preserve it good for all. Agree with different shooters on a protocol earlier than the dive. I like to recommend “three and out” to begin, i.e., take three photographs after which go to the again of the road. Method the topic slowly and from its stage; don’t swoop down on it. In case you are in a mucky or silty space, use your “muck stick” (see under).

Harlequin shrimp (Hymenocera picta) on sea star


Finally, the primary restrict to discovery would be the skill to discover shut sufficient to discern what you’re seeing. That’s as a result of the smaller you get or the extra you amplify, the extra talent it requires. The strongest moist diopters, just like the Nauticam SMC-2 or AOI UCL-900PRO (each +23.5 energy or 4x magnification), are a tough restrict for many of us. These diopters focus very near the topic, however their depth of area is extraordinarily slim, so that they require precision to see the topic and focus. In contrast to macro lenses, which theoretically focus to infinity, these lenses have solely slim separation between their minimal and most focusing distances. Lighting, for focusing or exposing, can also be powerful when the top of the lens is so near the topic.

Besides the place indicated, this text comprises photographs from Guam, my residence. You’ll discover a wonderful article on Guam by Tim Rock on DPG: “Taking pictures Throughout Guam: 10 High Underwater Images Websites.” Whereas Tim highlighted a few of our greatest websites, Guam shouldn’t be usually identified for macro pictures. Nonetheless, by exploring websites Tim talked about, in addition to discovering new ones, my spouse MJ and I’ve achieved macro/supermacro success. As a result of Guam shouldn’t be (but) a macro mecca, we don’t have a sturdy cadre {of professional} guides as you’d discover within the Philippines, Indonesia, and comparable locales. Meaning, if you wish to shoot it on Guam, you could discover it your self!


Baeolidia moebii nudibranch on picket detritus


Normal Tips for Critter Recognizing

So, how do you maximize your probabilities of discovering critters? Listed below are my golden guidelines:

  • Sample and movement: Examine something that breaks up the background. One thing that’s a special colour, totally different form, and so forth.
  • Motion with function: Search for one thing swimming towards or throughout the water. How a couple of shadow on the background, e.g., sand? Does the goal periodically cease after which transfer on?
  • Get low: I sense an inverse relationship between distance from the underside and likelihood of discovering one thing. Even in the event you’re only one or two ft above the underside, you’ll discover extra issues in the event you minimize that in half. And so forth. In fact, you may miss a manta mating with a mermaid above, however life’s all about selections, proper?
  • Go gradual: Virtually all divers, and particularly newbies, go too quick to search out the actually small stuff. Decelerate; you’ll breathe much less and see extra.
  • Use a muck stick: I take advantage of mine to maneuver slowly throughout the underside, in order to not fin in silty or sandy areas (trace: muck diving). After I’m accomplished capturing, I additionally use it to push myself up and away from the underside, once more to attenuate silt.
  • Research: Study the place, what, or how numerous creatures dwell, eat, or mate. Are they nocturnal or diurnal? Are women and men totally different? How about juveniles and adults? Purchase area guides and skim them, plus discover scholarly articles on potential topics. Speak with different divers, dive execs, and marine biologists; our diving neighborhood may be very pleasant and forthcoming.
  • Amplify: Many underwater digicam programs supply magnifying viewfinders, and they’re a boon to recognizing. Some cameras supply in-camera magnification as properly. My course of is to scan with my bare eye earlier than I am going to the magnifier and diopter. Alternatively, MJ searches with a much less highly effective diopter after which flips to the +23.5 because the state of affairs mandates.
  • Grasp capturing in present: For macro/supermacro, it’s simpler to shoot right into a present than with it. Meaning dealing with into the present and finning to carry your self regular, however test your 6 o’clock usually. Sturdy present? Perhaps not the day for supermacro. Actually robust present? Benefit from the journey and want you had your large angle.


Particular Tips for Critter Recognizing

After studying about potential topics, listed below are some investigative starters. As at all times, be aware of the atmosphere—“killer” photographs are usually not price it.

  • Sea cucumbers: Holothurians are the ocean’s rideshare service. Examine them fastidiously and chances are you’ll discover nudibranchs, shrimp, crabs, or small fish aboard. And, sure, take a peek contained in the anus if the cucumber is the sort to dilate it—fish and crabs can cling on the market. Good luck capturing that, or explaining it to your mother!

Sea hare (Bursatella ocelligera) on Thelenota anax sea cucumber


  • Hydroids: These fern-like, stinging animals harbor skeleton shrimp, nudibranchs, and small crustaceans. I’ve discovered the cleaner hydroids to be extra goal wealthy than these which are lined in schmutz.

Skeleton shrimp (Caprella species complicated) on hydroid


  • Sponges: These are a main meals supply for a lot of nudibranch species. We’ve discovered whip coral gobies, crabs, shrimp, and frogfish in and round sponges.

Baeolidia moebii nudibranch on sponge


  • Leaves/algae: Two frequent algae on Guam are Halimeda and Avrainvillea. Each host pipefish, slugs, crustaceans, and extra. The latter is notable for probably the most prized of all underwater critters, the sacoglossans within the Costasiella genus, aka “Shaun the Sheep” or the misnamed “sheep nudis.”

Halimeda ghost pipefish (Solenostomus halimeda) in space of Halimeda algae


  • Eggs: We discover eggs on many surfaces, together with the underside itself. Look intently and also you’ll see creatures traversing or consuming, like snails or Favorinus nudibranchs, who eat the eggs of different nudis. One in all our most fascinating discoveries was after we discovered Favorinus nudis inside egg plenty of different invertebrates, consuming them from the within out and generally laying their very own eggs there—including insult to damage.

Favorinus sp. nudibranch inside mollusk egg mass


  • Sea stars: Many sea stars host Zenopontonia shrimp, who assume the colour of their host. In case you’re fortunate, you might also discover a hostile harlequin shrimp feasting on one. Generally, the latter will rip off an arm and take it elsewhere to eat it.

Zenopontonia soror shrimp on Linckia laevigata sea star


  • Bottles: One particular person’s trash is one other’s treasure? Perhaps. Whereas the proliferation of rubbish at dive websites is troubling, some objects present engaging shelters for sea life. We now have many photographs of small octopus and fish hanging out inside bottles. The skin can even present floor for nudibranchs and different mollusks.

Juvenile Octopus cyanea in bottle


  • Wooden: Small items of wooden or pine needles that stick up from the underside present touchdown spots for small cephalopods, shrimp, whip coral gobies, and tiny clams. We’ve discovered nudibranchs, crabs, shrimp, eggs, and snails on leaves and items of wooden. The place we dwell, we discover coconut husks within the ocean they usually function surprises like Foa fo cardinalfish, the place the small males mouth-brood their eggs. Sadly, we’ve got but to see a coconut octopus on Guam however, hey, there’s at all times tomorrow.

Pygmy squid (Idiosepius sp.) on picket detritus


  • Tunicates: These ubiquitous creatures present haven and meals for a lot of creatures, together with commensal copepods, skeleton shrimp, nudis, and even pygmy squid.

Pygmy squid (Idiosepius sp.) on lip of tunicate


  • Beneath or bottom of corals: Test the place the solar don’t shine! Look underneath corals if you strategy them and after you move them. Right here, chances are you’ll be handled to a child yellow boxfish, whom we affectionately name “cheeseballs,” or a male cardinalfish opening its mouth to disclose an egg mass.

Juvenile yellow boxfish (Ostracion cubicum) with pink eyes


Lastly, be moral when pondering and capturing small. Keep away from touching or transferring creatures to get that “killer” shot. Wait for one more alternative. Thoughts the underside and take heed to different divers, notably when capturing at a real muck web site. Use a muck stick and watch these fin suggestions, too.


Remaining Ideas

On this article, I’ve shared some starter macro suggestions, in addition to a pattern of what the affected person diver can discover, utilizing easy pointers. The options are particularly useful in the event you don’t have a information. In case you do have a information, you at the moment are a pressure multiplier, placing extra skilled and diligent eyes on a dive web site. Good luck and completely happy looking!


Mouth-brooding male yellow cardinalfish (Ostorhinchus luteus) with eggs



Concerning the Writer: Steve Wolborsky has lived within the US territory of Guam since 2004. A retired member of each the US army and civil service, Steve realized to dive shortly after arriving on the island. Hundreds of dives and 30-plus dive journeys later, he’s passionate concerning the ocean, diving, and all issues underwater pictures. Steve and his spouse MJ each shoot with Nikon D850s they usually focus on macro/supermacro. Their favourite places for the small stuff are Lembeh in Indonesia in addition to Anilao, Dauin, and Puerto Galera within the Philippines—and, after all, Guam.