Vacation spot Portfolio: Walt Stearns, Wakatobi

The Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) is usually a troublesome topic to {photograph} since you first have to search out it! This seahorse is usually smaller than a grain of rice and in addition occurs to have the identical coloration of the seafan on which it spends its life. This explicit seafan spanned the width and size of a espresso desk, so it takes a pointy eye to find this tiny gem


A four-decade profession in marine photojournalism has carried me on assignments to most of the world’s most desired underwater imaging locations and supplied distinctive alternatives to doc every thing from pygmy seahorses to sperm whales. Every of those locations has one thing particular to supply, however when requested for my quick record of favorites, one identify that at all times makes the record is Wakatobi.

Wakatobi Resort is an upscale property situated on a small island in central Indonesia. It’s a place that’s well-known in diving circles for the modern conservation program that protects a few of Indonesia’s most spectacular coral reefs by a community-based and self-funded initiative. Immediately, dive websites throughout the protect stay in near-pristine situation and supply photographers with a various vary of topic materials that features prized finds like pygmy seahorses.

Different components that add to the attraction are the resort’s glorious infrastructure. It’s a distant setting, but it surely’s simply reached by direct visitor flights to the resort’s airstrip that features beneficiant baggage allowances for picture and dive gear. The resort itself offers five-star service and among the greatest meals I’ve ever had at a dive resort. And the dive boats are massive, shaded and well-equipped for cameras. There’s a full-service picture heart on the resort, rebreather diving assist and 24-hour entry to a home reef that’s been known as the world’s greatest shore dive and is by far the most effective home reef I’ve ever skilled.

A mix of predictable daylight, good water readability and reefs and partitions that start as shallow as six toes set the stage for some spectacular wide-angle pictures. Much more spectacular are the marine life portrait and macro pictures alternatives. The reefs are dwelling to quite a few signature and sought-after topics, together with a number of species of pygmy seahorses. Critter looking is made simpler by the resort’s dive guides, who’re specialists at finding cryptic topics. Guides additionally perceive the particular necessities of underwater imaging, digicam dealing with and dive plans that concentrate on particular areas.

I and different photographers have been recognized to spend whole days working a single dive website. These prolonged capturing periods are facilitated by reef topographies that enable for lengthy multi-level dive profiles of 70 minutes or extra. Wakatobi’s unmatched mixture of outstanding marine life, predictably glorious situations, consolation ashore {and professional} assist are what preserve me coming again again and again.


A spectacular underwater panorama alongside the sloping reef face on the standard dive website referred to as Turkey Seaside


The mandarinfish dive at Magic Pier is a spotlight of Wakatobi’s Pelagian liveaboard cruise. Throughout their sundown courtship, males will usually struggle for the precise to spawn with receptive females. Right here, a pair of males sq. off like two strutting peacocks


A colourful Chromadoris magnifica nudibranch crawling throughout the highest of a big tunicate


A big faculty of fusiliers parade throughout the sting of the wall at Outer Pinnacle, close to Hoga Island, a dive website accessed by way of Wakatobi’s Pelagian liveaboard


A butterflyfish will get a couple of parasites eliminated by a scarlet cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)


The extraordinary iridescent orange define on the black physique of a juvenile pinnate spadefish is definitely an consideration getter. This was taken throughout a Pelagian muck dive in Pasar Wajo Bay


With regards to the superb exhausting coral formations at Wakatobi, two of the perfect examples are discovered at Dunia Baru and Zoo, the place this picture was taken


The comet, often known as the marine betta (Calloplesiops altivelis), is often discovered close to reefs in addition to in caves and crevices alongside drop-offs. As they’re usually nocturnal by nature, the most effective time to search out them out from their daytime hiding locations underneath ledges and holes is on evening dives or when daytime skies are extraordinarily overcast


An emperor shrimp (Periclimenes imperator) on the again of a big sea cucumber


On the dive website Barracuda, a big broadclub cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus) strikes a pose for a pleasant close-focus wide-angle shot


Even within the juvenile part, clown triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum) are as sharply contrasting as they’re colourful


As a consequence of their nocturnal nature, twinspot lionfish (Dendrochirus biocellatus) is usually a considerably annoying topic to {photograph}, as they continually flip away from the digicam (even with a crimson focus mild) to present you a view of their bottom. However persistence ought to lastly repay


Walt says: “A crimson, or ought to I say ‘purple,’ leaf scorpionfish (Taenianotus triacanthus) provides its impression of my pictures with a long-winded yawn”


To see extra of Walt’s superior photos from Wakatobi—amongst many different locations—try his web site,, and his Facebook web page.