Macro and Supermacro Recognizing and Capturing

Costasiella kuroshimae, Guam


Have you ever ever questioned 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 realizing the place and tips on how to look. On this article, I’ll clarify how easy strategies and a bit data can enhance your success with macro and supermacro images.

First, some techno-nerd stuff. Whereas divers could apply the “macro” label to any dive the place the emphasis is on smaller creatures, in images it means utilizing specialised tools to seize a topic and its picture on the digital camera’s sensor on the identical dimension, 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 give attention to the topic. The vast majority of (non-macro) lenses can not obtain this ratio at any distance when used alone. In such circumstances, 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 tools 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 available on the market, underwater photographers obtain supermacro both with inside gear like teleconverters/extension tubes or exterior gear like moist diopters. For compact cameras, supermacro requires both a robust moist diopter or particular picture modes. Since you can not take away inside gear underwater, you’re dedicated to its magnification for the entire dive. Conversely, you may usually connect or take away exterior gear underwater, so this selection supplies flexibility.

I discover achievement from three points of macro and supermacro images. First is the joys of the hunt, i.e., discovering creatures that I can persistently picture. Second is the artwork and science of image-making. Am I capturing for identification functions, what I name “area information” images, or am I after one thing creative? Third, there may be picture processing, the place trendy instruments allow us to maximize the impression of our images. 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 Ideas and Methods

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

  1. Begin every dive with take a look at photographs on bigger topics, like larger nudis, eels, cephalopods (although not the large Pacific octopus), cooperative fish, and many others. If you happen to’re new, these could also be all you are able to do for the entire dive, and that’s wonderful—not everybody is prepared for Shaun the Sheep on their first macro sortie.
  2. Customary steerage for all underwater images holds for macro, with some additions:

    1. Get near your topic. If you happen to suppose you’re shut sufficient, get nearer, although not so shut that you simply break your composition, e.g., the occasional picture of 1 rhinophore will be good, however usually not that shut is healthier.
    2. Shoot up. If you happen to can’t shoot up, shoot stage. Take note, nonetheless, that some macro topics will be most attention-grabbing from the highest down, e.g., mating sea slugs.
    3. Compact shooters, compose along with your fins first, zoom lever second. Preserve the digital camera zoomed in till you can not compose adequately within the body. Solely then must you zoom out some.
    4. Face photographs are usually most dramatic. If you happen to can’t get the face, take a facet shot. If you happen to can’t get a facet shot, take a top-down shot. Solely not often are rear photographs viable. If you happen to discover a creature you can not determine, get as many angles as potential to permit for professional overview.
    5. Obey compositional tips in digital camera. Nonetheless, some topics are so small, in so tight an area or so uncooperative that you’re finest off placing them within the center and composing in publish.

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 many others. It takes some adjustment to get as shut as you should be to acquire focus with +10 or better moist lenses. Some folks battle even with much less highly effective ones. Till you’re comfy with the tools, you danger injuring or damaging your topics.
  2. Heads up. In the identical vein, alternate your view between digital camera and setting. While you swap your gaze from the digital camera, take note of issues round your topic that stand out, as a result of you’ll shortly discover small topics disappear when you look within the viewfinder or on the LCD. For instance, in case you are imaging a small, semi-transparent shrimp that’s left of a yellow tunicate, discover the tunicate first after which transfer the digital camera 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, hold 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 pictures 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


Ultimately, the primary restrict to discovery would be the capacity 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 ability 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 slender, 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 slender separation between their minimal and most focusing distances. Lighting, for focusing or exposing, can also be robust when the tip of the lens is so near the topic.

Besides the place indicated, this text incorporates pictures from Guam, my dwelling. You’ll discover a superb article on Guam by Tim Rock on DPG: “Capturing Throughout Guam: 10 High Underwater Images Websites.” Whereas Tim highlighted a few of our greatest websites, Guam will not be usually identified for macro images. 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 will not be (but) a macro mecca, we don’t have a strong cadre {of professional} guides as you’d discover within the Philippines, Indonesia, and related locales. Meaning, if you wish to shoot it on Guam, you should discover it your self!


Baeolidia moebii nudibranch on picket detritus


Normal Tips for Critter Recognizing

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

  • Sample and circulate: Examine something that breaks up the background. One thing that’s a distinct shade, completely different form, and many others.
  • Motion with objective: Search for one thing swimming towards or throughout the water. How a few 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 for those who’re only one or two ft above the underside, you’ll discover extra issues for those who minimize that in half. And so forth. After all, you would possibly miss a manta mating with a mermaid above, however life’s all about decisions, proper?
  • Go gradual: Nearly 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 exploit mine to maneuver slowly throughout the underside, in order to not fin in silty or sandy areas (trace: muck diving). After I’m executed capturing, I additionally use it to push myself up and away from the underside, once more to reduce silt.
  • Examine: Study the place, what, or how varied creatures dwell, eat, or mate. Are they nocturnal or diurnal? Are men and women completely 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 group may be very pleasant and forthcoming.
  • Amplify: Many underwater digital camera techniques supply magnifying viewfinders, and they’re a boon to recognizing. Some cameras supply in-camera magnification as effectively. My course of is to scan with my bare eye earlier than I’m 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 going through into the present and finning to carry your self regular, however verify your 6 o’clock usually. Robust present? Possibly not the day for supermacro. Actually robust present? Benefit from the journey and need you had your huge angle.


Particular Tips for Critter Recognizing

After studying about potential topics, listed here are some investigative starters. As at all times, be conscious of the setting—“killer” pictures aren’t value it.

  • Sea cucumbers: Holothurians are the ocean’s rideshare service. Examine them rigorously and you could 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 hold 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 can be coated in schmutz.

Skeleton shrimp (Caprella species advanced) 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 one of the crucial 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 carefully and also you’ll see creatures traversing or consuming, like snails or Favorinus nudibranchs, who eat the eggs of different nudis. Certainly one of our most attention-grabbing discoveries was once we discovered Favorinus nudis inside egg plenty of different invertebrates, consuming them from the within out and typically laying their very own eggs there—including insult to harm.

Favorinus sp. nudibranch inside mollusk egg mass


  • Sea stars: Many sea stars host Zenopontonia shrimp, who assume the colour of their host. If you happen to’re fortunate, you may additionally 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? Possibly. Whereas the proliferation of rubbish at dive websites is troubling, some objects present enticing shelters for sea life. We now have many pictures of small octopus and fish hanging out inside bottles. The surface may present a great 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 characteristic surprises like Foa fo cardinalfish, the place the small males mouth-brood their eggs. Sadly, we have now 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 beneath corals while you strategy them and after you move them. Right here, you could 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 purple eyes


Lastly, be moral when pondering and capturing small. Keep away from touching or transferring creatures to get that “killer” shot. Wait for an additional 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.


Ultimate 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 tips. The strategies are particularly useful for those who don’t have a information. If you happen to do have a information, you at the moment are a drive multiplier, placing extra skilled and diligent eyes on a dive web site. Good luck and completely satisfied looking!


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



In regards to the Creator: Steve Wolborsky has lived within the US territory of Guam since 2004. A retired member of each the US navy and civil service, Steve discovered to dive shortly after arriving on the island. 1000’s of dives and 30-plus dive journeys later, he’s passionate in regards to the ocean, diving, and all issues underwater images. Steve and his spouse MJ each shoot with Nikon D850s they usually concentrate on macro/supermacro. Their favourite areas for the small stuff are Lembeh in Indonesia in addition to Anilao, Dauin, and Puerto Galera within the Philippines—and, in fact, Guam.