Cuttlefish Photo Tips...

Cuttlefish make excellent photographic subjects due to their amazing ability to change their skin colour and texture. Cuttlefish are molluscs (not fish), like squid and octopuses, they range from small (a few centimetres long) to large (approximately 1 metre). Cuttlefish have 8 arms (which can be used for camouflage) and 2 tentacles (used for feeding). They have extremely well developed eyes; their pupil is W-shaped! Recent studies from the University of Queensland and the University of Bristol have shown that cuttlefish see polarised light (a type of light which we can’t see). The genus name of cuttlefish is Sepia, you may be interested to know that this is derived from the Latin word “sepia” (meaning a dark brown). This is because cuttlefish ink was used for writing ink, dyeing and for food colouring. Cuttlefish are very intelligent creatures, their natural curiosity makes them easy to photograph.

There are many species of cuttlefish, however there are two that I am familiar with and will discuss briefly. The flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) lives in tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific (particularly Indonesia and The Philippines). This cuttlefish is sought out by photographers as its spectacular purple and yellow colouration is very photogenic. Interestingly, flamboyant cuttlefish don’t float easily and tend to be found walking on the ocean floor. Be careful – the flamboyant cuttlefish is very poisonous (the toxicity rivals that of the blue ringed octopus)!

The giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama) lives only in the colder waters of Australia (from Western Australia and along the Australian south coast up to Queensland). The giant cuttlefish undergoes mass spawning in parts of Australia (such as Whyalla in South Australia between June and August). During this time, the cuttlefish produce impressive displays colour changes and patterns for courtship. As the name implies, the giant cuttlefish can be very large (possibly approximately up to 1m long) – which is not a typical macro subject! However, you may get interesting abstract images using a macro lens of patterns on their skin or of their eyes (please be careful with using the flash around the cuttlefish eyes – imagine how you would react to a flash in your eyes). If a cuttlefish turns red and rears its arms, this is a warning sign to move back.

If you are using a DSLR setup, a 60mm or 50mm macro lens is probably the most useful and versatile lens for cuttlefish, as they tend to be larger macro subjects. A fast shutter speed (1/200 sec for example) will be useful to freeze motion. Because cuttlefish are a reasonable size, you may be able to use a lower aperture (f5.6-11) to produce a nice blurred (bokeh) effect in the background. You should find it easier to use a single spot to auto-focus to avoid the lens searching to focus. If you are using a compact camera, you have the best of both worlds – you can switch between macro and wide-angle on one dive to take a variety of types of cuttlefish photos. Whatever camera you use, remember to make sure the cuttlefish eye(s) is in focus.

Photo of the week
By:  Alistair Merrifield
Week No  :  
Winner Monthly Competition
By:  Brad Pryde‎
Theme : Snoot Lighting
Month : December
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