Life is generally abundant on reefs and even on the sea floor. Much of it is rather small, but also incredibly photogenic. Most inexperienced divers miss these tiny natural treasures as they either seem to be in a race to get from Point A to Point B or lack the necessary skills to safely and thoroughly explore their surroundings.
Marine macro subjects are so plentiful and diverse, in fact, that some underwater photographers shoot nothing else. From ostentatious nudibranchs to otherworldly skeleton shrimp, you need highly developed buoyancy skills to get close, really close, to your subjects without damaging them or their habitat. My number one recommendation for improving your underwater pictures, in general, is to become a better diver. This is even more crucial when shooting the small stuff.
It can be all too easy to kick sand and other detritus into a thick cloud that quickly engulfs you, your subject and your angry dive buddy.
Macro lenses in the 60mm to 105mm range are often combined with tele converters, extension tubes and/or diopters to achieve the necessary magnification to fill the frame. This means we are working with very shallow depths of field and little margin for error to gain critical focus. Strobe lights help us freeze the action and bring colors to life, but they are of little use if our cameras cannot lock focus. I use my Light & Motion Sola Photo 800s as modeling lights to first assist me in locating a subject in the camera’s viewfinder and then to aid the camera’s auto-focus or my efforts at manual focus. I prefer to use the Sola’s red light setting when shooting as it is usually less stressful for the animals. In addition, I also like to give another light to my wife, Lauren Johnson, or a guide so they can spotlight the subject independent of my movements.
Scott and Lauren are photojournalists who specialize in marine, wildlife, travel subjects. Their passion to observe animals in their natural habitats and explore diverse cultures has carried them on adventures around the globe. Check out their website: http://www.seascapesimages.com/