Most of my favorite shots either happened because nature showed of its best side and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, or they start with an idea of an image that I clearly have in my head. For a long time I wanted to have a close-up shot portrait of a Whip Coral Goby with its mouth wide open. I decided to go and look for the perfect spot and goby to get the shot I was after.
To get the shot I also needed some extra equipment, I ordered a Reefnet Subsee +10 diopter so I could get as close as needed for this shot and wouldn’t need to crop. I used this close-up lens in combination with a 100mm macro lens on a Canon 7D and 2 Inon z240 strobes on long arms. Then it was time to go and look for a suitable spot and goby.
At about 18m/60ft I found a nice long whip coral next to a coral head surrounded by lots of sand. I checked if there was nothing in the sand that could be damaged (or damage me) and put myself down gently without stirring up the bottom. There were about three gobies on this one coral and one of them wasn’t moving a lot at all.
I set my exposure to f32, 1/250, ISO 100. This would give me a black background and plenty of depth of field even with a +10 diopter. Then I took a couple of test shots of just the whip coral and found the perfect power setting on my strobes.
When shooting any critter on a whip coral I always take a few test shots of just the coral to avoid spooking out the critter. The less shots you take of the actual critter the more relaxed it will be which minimizes the chances of it starting swimming all over the place.
I decided to backlight the goby slightly with my left strobe and then front light it with my right strobe. Again, I tested this kind of lighting on the coral first. After having everything setup right I slowly moved towards the goby to get my first shot. Focusing with a super macro setup like this is not always easy and a focus light is a must. I opted for manual focus for these shots as I find it less frustrating than auto focus when shooting from really close while using a close up lens.
After getting two shots of just the goby not doing much I waited for the moment that it would open up its mouth and hope not to miss it. A couple of minutes went by - nothing. 15 minutes later and still nothing. After about 35 minutes it finally happened and I missed it. The focus was slightly of. Then about 5 minutes later it happened again and I instantly knew I got the shot I had been dreaming of!
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