Shooting Nudibranch Photo Tips

Shooting nudibranchs seems to be every underwater photographer’s favourite pastime. These colourful creatures make great subjects, but they can be trickier to shoot than you'd think. 

Nudibranchs are sea slugs without a shell, leaving their gills exposed. The name literally means “naked gill”. More than 3.000 species are found worldwide in almost any marine habitat from coral reefs to the Arctic, where they feed on cnidarians, sponges, ascidians, fish eggs or even other nudibranchs. Despite their sometimes dazzling colours they can be tricky to find, and locating their food source is often a good place to start. Often, it takes some time for the eyes to adjust – many nudibranchs are very small and well camouflaged.

Trickier Than You Think

Shooting nudibranchs should be quite easy: They don't move much, have brilliant colours and generally don't hide even after being strobe-lit multiple times. Still, getting above average shots can be challenging and take a lot of effort. I often find that a low angle is generally better – it gives you eye contact and does away with much of the background clutter at the same time. I very often go for a black background using a high f-stop, but using a lower f-stop go get a blue background is also a good although more difficult option. I always try to get uncluttered, uniform backgrounds that let the subject shine in its own right a sponge or a mat of bryzoans for instance. I take great care to compose my images well, even when working with extremely small subjects. For me, the classic rule-of-thirds and diagonals work well – others may have other preferences.

What equipment to use?

Besides the standard 60 and 105 mm lenses, my nudibranch toolkit contains a 1.4 and a 2.0x teleconverter, and the very useful SubSee +5 and +10 dioptres with an adapter enabling me to choose which one to use under water. In addition, I always bring a lot of patience and a keen eye – often I spend more time looking for a nudibranch in a good spot rather than trying to shoot one that never will look good because of the way it sits.

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By:  Christian Skauge
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By:  Brad Pryde‎
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