One of the hardest things to photograph
well, in my opinion, is the reef itself. While
it is easy to point the camera at a bunch of
corals and squeeze the trigger, it is hard to
capture an image that gives a real sense of
the reef. On occasion, to show scale and
also lend a sense of “this could be you,” I
include divers in these types of images. If the
composition can be achieved so that the diver
is set within negative space, then even better.
If pushed and forced to name my favorite
type of underwater photography, I think I’d
have to say, “At night.” Being on a reef or
within a shipwreck at nighttime is a unique
experience, and it presents its own set of
challenges—not the least of which is that
it’s easy to get very lost.
Nighttime photography for me also means
“critter hunting”: using my macro lens to
capture the night shift of the creatures that
emerge under the cover of darkness. In
many instances, this can mean moving only
a few meters across the reef, spotting one
tiny subject after the other.
A Worthy Obsession
Underwater photography can become an
obsession. It can take all of your disposable
income and keep your credit card glowing
with heat for years. And it well may also,
just as it did for me, take you around the
world and reveal to you hidden wonders you
couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams.
For more of Richard Aspinall’s underwater
photography, visit his website at www.
In the picture above, the conditions combined to provide a rare gift of a shot: the water was
clear, with no wind above. This close to the surface the author didn’t need much additional
light, and the lone Acanthurus sohal tang wandered in to add a sense of scale.
This group of Zebrasoma desjardinii had found their way into a series of channels within the
reef. Only one of the author’s strobes was working, which gives the image an unusual look. He
also adjusted the picture in post-processing to increase the contrast and darken it overall.
This crinoid squat lobster seems to have recently been residing in a differently colored feather
star, since its pigmentation hadn’t changed yet.
; If you can, shoot in RAW
mode. This will give you more
control over color.
; Try to shoot your subject from
below. Sunbursts and blue
skies are a great background.
; Practice using your camera in
your local pool; you need to be
as familiar as possible with its
; When snorkeling or diving, do
not damage the reef and don’t
get too distracted. It’s easy to
become separated from your
dive guide or buddy.