PHOTO TECHNIQUE

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The Spread  / Alex Mustard – Eagle ray over grass

Eagle ray over grass, taken with a Nikon D4 and Nikon 20mm. Subal housing and Zeiss Corrector Port.
Seacam strobes. 1/200th @ f/14, ISO 320.

Seagrass meadows are regularly overlooked by underwater photographers for the steadier supply of subjects provided by coral reefs.

However, many of our beloved reef creatures rely on neighbouring tracts of grass throughout their lives.

Eagle rays, elegant and elusive, are a firm favourite sighting on reef dives, yet they head to seagrass areas to feed, and when they’re busy doing their thing, they are easier to approach within photographic range.

I was actually on a shallow macro dive when I spotted this handsome girl, and was pleasantly surprised how close she’d let me approach with my macro lens. So I swam slowly back to the boat, changed over to my wide-angle lens and dropped back in.

To minimise my chances of disturbing her and to maximise my chances of a great shot, I didn’t race over.

Instead, I set my camera up and dialled in my setting well away from the ray. This gave her time to get used to me, and meant that I wouldn’t be flapping about with my gear when I was in her personal space.

I lifted my strobes up into 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions to light the ray without overlighting the seabed. Then I waited for the moment she lifted her duck-like bill from the sediment to capture this portrait.

Appeared in DIVER January 2020