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Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi. February 2009

Mating mimics, smaller male on top

In February 2009 I travelled to North Sulawesi in Indonesia to photograph the weird and wonderful creatures of the Lembeh Strait. Photographically my aims for the trip were to produce some new and striking images of the critters using a variety of creative photographic techniques and to capture some interesting natural history images showing behaviour.

Fortune was certainly shining on the behaviour front as the undoubted highlight of this stay was photographing mating of the rarely seen mimic octopus. Those who have read Reefs Revealed will know that I am far from convinced by the mimicing stories, but was thrilled to see some true natural behaviour from these charismatic cephalopods. This species was only given a name, Thaumoctopus mimicus, by scientists in 2005. The photo above shows the smaller male on top of the female.

Photographically, I wanted to try and create some different types of images in Lembeh. There is no doubt that Lembeh is a superb destination for underwater photography, but so many images taken there look alike. I wanted to try a variety of lighting techniques to produce some different images of the critters. I used my new ring flash as well as my strobe snoot to create some interesting images. I also made use of the high ISO performance of my D700 to shoot some images without strobes using only a diving torch for illumination to spotlight the subject. Thanks to Erwin Filius for aiming the torch! The wunderpus image, below, was taken using this technique. I also wanted to make use of the fact that my D700 housing is much smaller than my D2X housing, which allowed me to get really low angles on subjects, especially when combined with Subal's 45 degree viewfinder. This allowed me to get a number of images with excellent eye contact and also on some occasions to isolate benthic creatures against blue water for dramatic photographs.

I used the Nikon D700 for this shoot in my Subal housing with Subal's 45 degree viewfinder. I shot the Sigma 15mm fisheye with a 1.5x teleconverter, Sigma 28-70mm with +4 dioptre, Nikon 60mm AFS, Nikon 105mm AFS VR (sometimes with the Nikon 5T dioptre) and Sigma 150mm (sometimes with the Canon 500D dioptre). For strobes I used a pair of INON Z240s fitted with Lee 444 filters (lent by Pedro Vierya), which on some occasions I used to power my homemade ring-flash. As stated above I also shot some dives without strobes using just a diving torch for illumination and colour.

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Wunderpus spotlight

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