Macro Mania

I love shooting wide angle.Whale shark at Gladden Spit, Belize

When the water is clear, there is nothing more gratifying than that fisheye lens and dome port. Wrecks. Kelp forests. Big animals. Coral reefs. And people. Wide angle means context, and people love context. People identify with the scene. They like seeing themselves, or people like themselves, in the frame.

When the water is clear.

But betting on clear water in San Diego is not a smart bet. So I often hedge with the macro lens.

Hermissenda crassicornis Nudibranch

I love shooting macro, too.

The delight in finding tiny things, and then later, discovering tinier things. The creatures that Average Joe Nondiver has never even heard of. The thrill of examining details and minutiae you don't notice with the naked eye. The textures: the fringe on the Christmas Tree Worm, the wrinkles on the body of the Spanish Shawl. These are all things that get me excited about macro.

It's this insatiabSan Diego, California: Spotted Dorid (Triopha maculata) nudibranch on the wreck of the Ruby E.le curiosity about the underwater macro world that keeps bringing me back to San Diego nudibranchs. For example, I've dove the Ruby E wreck so many times at this point that I tend to choose the macro lens on that dive. Because the wreck is going to look how the wreck looks, but the tiny critters are an unknown quantity: you never know exactly what you're going to get.

Like this little nudibranch, which I believe to be Triopha maculata. I'm pretty sure I've never seen one before. It's a pretty interesting slug, found from Vancouver to Baja and even in Japan.

T. maculata comes in lots of different colors, but the one unifying characteristic across the population is the presence of raised spots--hence the maculata part, which means "speckled."

Tritonia festiva Nudibranch


Or this little creature: Tritonia festiva, the diamondback tritonia. Don't let its cute little face and pretty white coloring fool you; T. festiva is a fierce carnivore who launches surprise attacks on unsuspecting corals.

Fun fact: you can sometimes see its colorful coral diet through its translucent body.

Tritonia festiva Nudibranch

Hermissenda crassicornis Nudibranch Hermissenda crassicornis Nudibranch

Hermissenda crassicornis is not an unknown--I almost always see it on local dives in California, and I've also found it in the Sea of Cortez--but it presents its own challenge.

Though I keep trying, I find Hermissenda crassicornis difficult to photograph. It never looks as good in pictures as it does when I see it underwater.

In the flesh, its translucent body appears to glow, its orange cerata radiant like flames from its back. It lives up to its name as the opalescent nudibranch.

The fiery appearance of the cerata isn't just for show--they house stinging nematocysts that come from the hydroids Hermissenda eats. Its food becomes its defense strategy.

Speaking of defense, this beauty is an aggressive fighter. In the event of a crassicornis clash... Hermissenda hostilities... a slug skirmish (I could go on and on), the loser is gonna get eaten.

It's a nudi-eat-nudi world out there.


The details that my camera captures astound me sometimes. For example, on this shot of Old Faithful, the Spanish Shawl nudibranch, I spotted what appears to be one of its eyes. I didn't even realize nudibranchs had eyes. Until now.

Spanish Shawl Nudibranch

It's just incredible how much small-scale stuff is going on underwater. I could (and frequently do) pick a 5-foot-square area and just watch. As my vision adjusts to the smaller scale, I see more and more happening, tiny critters going about their business on the reef. As I process photos after the dive, I come across details I missed, entire creatures I missed. There's always something more going on.

And that is why I love shooting macro.


One Response to “Macro Mania”

  1. beautiful underwater pictures you got there. awesome!

    · April 6, 2016 @ 11:29 pm


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