Editor’s Note: Amir’s bugeye shot of the whip coral goby took home the Judges Prize at the 2012 HP Red Sea Competition. We are honored to tell us his story behind the shot:
By Amir Stern
For the last few years I've taken to shooting yawning fish. They may look bored in the image, but for me the yawn is one of the most exciting behaviors to capture in all of underwater photography
I would spend entire dives with just one or two goby subjects hoping that they would yawn. I've even made an entire series based on a yawning goby shot from a variety of backgrounds and angles.
To honr this behavior, I wanted to make an image of a goby that would make the audience open their own mouth in amazement.
In preparation for the 2012 HP Red Sea World of Underwater Images competition, I purchased the “Inon Bugeye,” a wet lens adaptor for my Canon S100 point and shoot. The bugeye lens allows the photographer to shoot a macro lens as an ultra fisheye.
When I started shooting wide-angle-macro images with this unique lens, I discovered a new way to achieve different angles and compose images. I could still capture all of the macro details of the subject while including the blue water and wide-angle scenery.
This meant that after diving in the red sea for the last 10 years, I could now shoot a new type of image. It also meant I had the perfect tool to now capture my favorite subject at the next HP competition.
Already a few days into the competition, I had discovered the location of 5 whip corals perfectly positioned at a 75-degree angle that allowing me to get up close and personal to the goby and capture the sun ball. Having completed multiple dives already, I also knew the perfect time to go for the shot would be around 2PM, when the sun was high in the sky.
After finding my secret whip coral garden and identifying several potential goby subjects I had to advance at a snail’s pace as to not scare away the fish. I knew that an entire dive of the international shootout could go to waste if I made one wrong move and scared away the fish.
But after the slow crawl at a pace that felt like an inch per minute – for 45 agonizing minutes – I was finally able to gently touch the goby with the tip of the Inon lens. My strobes were already in position, already positioned before I began my approach, were pulled them very tight to the front of the wet lens (at approximately 90-degrees) to eliminate any shadows caused by the close focus wide angle.
After a 45-minute approach, the shooting lasted only 15 minutes, a time span in which I snapped away 15 images of the goby—yawning and mouth closed. In the end, I decided to submit "my second best" image to the "HP - Red Sea 2012 " competition.
The image was part of a five images portfolio that won the first place in that category. But just as rewarding, the goby image won "the judges' prize,” another $5000 prize.