The Usual Suspects

Fish. Fish are everywhere, except on land, obviously, and if you had to think about that before you kept on reading this then you might need a little help…. However, that’s for you to do. In the meantime though, let me tell you a bit about fish.

Whenever you might find yourself in an aqueous situation, scuba-diving, snorkelling, free-diving or even walking between rock pools and shallows, fish perceive you as a threat and are often prone to a fight or flight attitude to our intrusion into their world. Most species that I’ve attempted to shoot take the flight over fight, and those that have the opposite approach usually stay very still, keeping eyes fixed on this strange air-breathing creature pointing a shiny box at them.

 

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Nemateleotris magnifica, the Fire Dartfish. Usually found in pairs just outside their sandy burrow, these little guys tend to dart away under the sand and out of sight. This makes it very tedious to photograph them but luckily I managed to snap a quick shot of this one before he/she darted away to join the other.

 

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Shot at night, this Cardinal was suspended over the sand and seemed very curious of my dive light. Some fish species are very curious, like the Cardinals and Sergeants from the shallows. Whether its due to territoriality, aggression or just an inquisitive nature, usually they’ll investigate you. It could possibly be their own reflection in the camera lens that draws them in, perhaps something worth investigating next time I go for a swim, I’ll bring a mirror and see how the reef fish react to it.

 

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As intrusive as it may seem, another way of shooting fish without scaring them off is when they’re asleep. This Toadfish was being very snuggly in it’s soft coral bed, and because fish don’t have eyelids they never close them, which makes it very hard to tell if the fish was really asleep at all.

 

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Strength in numbers and a small bard on their dorsal fin make these Striped Eel Catfish a nice subject to shoot as they tend not to be frightened off so easily ( especially seeing as right before I took this shot there was also a massive Leopard Moray lurking in the crevice behind the shoal of Catfish).

 

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Other fish have a more defensive disposition when confronted with the lens. This Horned Cowfish curls up its tail and flutters over the sandy bottom where its hard plated body provides protection against predators, and if not, then the tail will unfurl and they can take off at a rather remarkable speed as this one did moments after the shot.

 

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The Black-saddled Toby seen here was shot while hiding in the prongs of Staghorn coral. With this shot in order to get as close as I did, I zoomed in before the fish was in sight and then swooped in on top of it so that it didn’t have an adequate enough amount of time to react and get out of the way.   

This is getting really old but once again Buoyancy is key. When it comes to shooting reef fish its important to remember that not only are they able to see you and react in whatever way they do, but they also hear you, smell you, and can actually feel you in the water. By picking up vibrations and movement in the water through their Lateral lines, fish are able to ‘feel’ your approach. This makes moving slowly and steadily through the water key, as kicking too quickly towards the subject will no doubt frighten it off. Breathing control in terms of buoyancy is important but many of us forget one other effect our breathing has on a fish’s behaviour, Sound. When we exhale sharply or heavily our breathing and the expulsion of bubbles from the regulator are amplified through the water, and to most fish this sounds like we’re breathing out a thunderclap. This imagery sounds pretty cool but if it means you lose that perfect shot then it might be better not to breathe thunder whenever we’re pointing shiny electric eyeballs at creatures that can hear using the entirety of their body and have no eyelids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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