Vacation spot Portfolio: Walt Stearns, Wakatobi

The Bargibant’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti) could be a troublesome topic to {photograph} since you first have to seek out it! This seahorse is often smaller than a grain of rice and likewise 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 lots of the world’s most desired underwater imaging locations and offered distinctive alternatives to doc every little thing from pygmy seahorses to sperm whales. Every of those locations has one thing particular to supply, however when requested for my brief listing of favorites, one title that at all times makes the listing 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 revolutionary conservation program that protects a few of Indonesia’s most spectacular coral reefs by a community-based and self-funded initiative. In the present day, 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 elements that add to the enchantment are the resort’s wonderful 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 gives five-star service and a few of the finest meals I’ve ever had at a dive resort. And the dive boats are giant, shaded and well-equipped for cameras. There’s a full-service picture middle on the resort, rebreather diving assist and 24-hour entry to a home reef that’s been known as the world’s finest shore dive and is by far the most effective home reef I’ve ever skilled.

A mixture of predictable daylight, good water readability and reefs and partitions that start as shallow as six ft set the stage for some spectacular wide-angle pictures. Much more spectacular are the marine life portrait and macro pictures alternatives. The reefs are residence 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 consultants 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 identified 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 unequalled mixture of outstanding marine life, predictably wonderful circumstances, consolation ashore {and professional} assist are what hold me coming again again and again.


A spectacular underwater panorama alongside the sloping reef face on the well-liked dive website often known as Turkey Seaside


The mandarinfish dive at Magic Pier is a spotlight of Wakatobi’s Pelagian liveaboard cruise. Throughout their sundown courtship, males will typically combat for the correct 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 giant tunicate


A big college 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 actually an consideration getter. This was taken throughout a Pelagian muck dive in Pasar Wajo Bay


Relating to the wonderful laborious coral formations at Wakatobi, two of the perfect examples are discovered at Dunia Baru and Zoo, the place this picture was taken


The comet, also referred to 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 typically nocturnal by nature, the most effective time to seek out them out from their daytime hiding locations below ledges and holes is on evening dives or when daytime skies are extraordinarily overcast


An emperor shrimp (Periclimenes imperator) on the again of a giant 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


Attributable to their nocturnal nature, twinspot lionfish (Dendrochirus biocellatus) could be a considerably annoying topic to {photograph}, as they consistently flip away from the digicam (even with a crimson focus gentle) to provide 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—take a look at his web site,, and his Facebook web page.