Nudibranches (sea slugs) are wonderful little critters with amazingly bright colours and intricate details. Due to their tiny size, they can be tricky little subjects to photograph, but getting it right can produce beautiful results.
Generally you can find Nudibranches all over the dive sites around Ko Lanta. They can be right out in the open on the sandy bottom, crawling around on walls and bommies, they can be hidden within nooks and crannies, or camouflaged in the coral. Have a look and determine if their position will allow a good photo opportunity. If they are out and about on the reef then great, but if they are tucked away in a corner, then maybe it’s a good idea to look for another subject.
Because of their size, you’ll need to shoot in macro mode for your camera to be able to focus on them and pick up all their wonderful details. If you are using a point and shoot camera, then make sure you choose ‘macro mode.’ If you are using an DSLR camera, you will need to make sure you have your macro lens attached before the dive. Some cameras have a ‘super macro’ mode, but usually this will not fire a flash. So for it to be effective, you will need to be in shallow water with lots of bright natural light, or have an alternative light source, ie an LED light.
Due to their shape and usual proximity to the reef, many people tend to shoot Nudibranches from above. This may get the whole slug in the frame but it doesn’t really make the most of their features.
As well as their wonderfully decorated body, most Nudibranches have lovely little rhinopores at the front of their head for sensing smell. If it’s possible, it’s usually a good idea get down to their level and to try and shoot the Nudibranch face on, so you can see the rhinopores. This adds a bit of detail and extra interest to the picture and means the viewer is looking into the face of the Nudi. Due to their lack of eyes, the viewer needs to feel a connection to the subject, and this can be done with the rhinopores. It will also add to the depth of the picture, especially if you can get water in the background.
Some Nudis also have cerata, which are feather-like protruding naked gills which can also be a great focus for your picture.
Using different lighting effects can really help to enhance your image. Experimenting with various strobe techniques, down, side and upward lighting can all give quite a different feel to the picture. Trying to achieve a black background can also be a great way to really make the colours and details of the subject stand out. However moving the subject to a different location, as some photographers do to achieve this effect, is generally frowned upon. It can have severe detrimental effects on the animal and may even cause death; no photograph is worth that.
So next time you’re out with your camera, try your hand at some creative Nudibranch shots. You’ll be surprised at the results you can achieve and you may even see some of their details you hadn’t noticed before!
For more useful digital underwater photography techniques to help you get the most out of your underwater camera system, take a look at our Tips and Tricks section and learn about other types of underwater shots.
If you’d like to learn more about underwater photography, take a look at the Liquid Lense range of underwater photography courses. All Liquid Lense courses have been designed in-house to help you get the most out of an underwater camera system.
You may also be interested in the following articles:
- • Nudibranch Photo Gallery
- • Macro Magic – Tips on capturing Macro images
- • Nudibranch Screensaver
- • Macro Paradise in Kantiang Bay
- • List of Nudibranches identified on Kantiang Bay House Reef