The eagle-eyed can find exotic & cryptic species such as Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Porcelain Crabs, Harlequin Shrimps, Tigertail Seahorses, Nudibranch’s, Mantis Shrimps and even Frogfish.
There are also many less well-known critters, such as Flounders, Sea-Moths, Flatworms, Robust Ghost Pipefish and many juveniles. Searching for them and photographing them will keep you occupied for many a dive.
Here are just a few of the fantastic macro photo opportunities you can find on our reefs.
Ornate Ghost Pipefish
Very little is actually known about these cryptic critters. Relatives of the Seahorse, they can be found in soft corals, feather stars and sometimes hiding in nooks and crannies, normally between 5 and 30m. As their name suggests, their design is very ornate, with elaborate fins that make them very tricky to see against a soft coral or feather star. It is believed they are also able to change colour to match their environment.
Curiously, they change sex from female to male part way through their life. They are one of the most sought after images among underwater photography enthusiasts.
Porcelain Crabs are tiny, beautifully decorated crabs that can be found in pairs around the edges of carpet anemones, often sharing their home with Clarks Anemonefish. They are light beige in colour, with many small brown spots.
Just like the Anemonefish, they have developed an immunity to the poisonous tentacles of the anemone, which protects them from predators. While Porcelain Crabs have pincers like any other crab, they actually feed on plankton which they sift out of the passing water with tiny combs on the end of specially adapted arms.
Harlequin Shrimps are fascinating creatures. They have very distinct markings and huge paddles for pincers. They normally live in pairs, under rocks or hidden in crevices in shallow water and feed exclusively on starfish.
Working as a team, they will try and prise the Starfish of the reef and turn it upside down. Once they achieve this mission, they will cut off a leg and slowly but surely drag it back to their lair. The Starfish simply grows another leg and the Shrimps have a fully stocked larder of food for weeks to come.
They are very rare and make superb macro subjects.
Mantis Shrimps are very large by shrimp standards, reaching up to 10cm in length. They have huge, bulbous eyes that sit on stalks above their head. There are two different types – Smashing Mantis Shrimps and Spearing Mantis Shrimps.
Smashing Mantis Shrimps have a club which they use to crush their prey, while Spearing Mantis Shrimps have a spear. Both have one of the fastest, most powerful punches in the natural world.
Patience is the key to getting a good photo. Eventually, they will poke their head out of their tunnels, giving you the opportunity to get a shot of this curious looking creature. With a macro lens, you may be able to get a great close-up of their amazing eyes.
Tigertail Seahorses are one of over 30 species of seahorses found worldwide. They are a critically endangered species. They usually live in pairs on shallow reefs. They range from bright yellow to dark brown. Unusually, it is the male, not the female who cares for and gives birth to the young – no-one is entirely sure on the reasons for this role reversal.
They are often found with their tail wrapped around a coral and their head bowed, as if in a submissive gesture. The bright yellow variety make for a particularly beautiful photograph. They are sensitive & easily unsettled though – if they turn away from you or looked stressed, leave them be.
These are just a few of the many fascinating subjects on our beautiful & diverse coral reefs. No doubt, there are also many more fascinating critters just waiting to be discovered.
Consult the Tips and Tricks section for more useful digital underwater photography techniques to help you get the most out of your underwater camera system and learn about other types of underwater shots.