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Dive Photo Guide


Behind the Shot: Jawin’ Jawfish
By Peter G. Allinson, February 25, 2013 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

Editor’s Note: Peter’s “jaw dropping” (pardon the pun) shot of these jawfish won first place in our January monthly contest. Peter is a full-time diving medical physician but was kind enough to spare some time for this “Behind the Shot.” 


By Peter G. Allinson

As a diving medical physician and master diver, I spent more than 30 years immersed in the scuba world before I took my first underwater photos. 

In 2005, I picked up my first point and shoot underwater camera and have since then graduated to shooting with a DSLR. I’ve had the privilege to shoot some amazing big animals like migrating Sperm Whales and hunting Sailfish, but one of my most memorable encounters was with a subject no bigger than my thumb. 

The award-winning macro image


The Idea

The Cayman Islands have become one of my favorite underwater photography destinations over the years, and as a result I have visited on multiple occasions. I was fortunate to be on a trip to Little Cayman in the summer months, the perfect time to catch one of the rarer behaviors of underwater photography: Male jawfish aerating eggs in their mouths. 

Unfortunately, even after three days of stalking perspective mouth-filled candidates I still hadn’t come up with the shot I wanted. On one particular dive a colony of jawfish presented themselves to me leaving me one last chance to get that jaw dropping shot.

Even after three days of shooting jawfish, I still hadn't nailed
that mouth-full-of-eggs shot


The Shot 

Noticing the perspective fish, mouth agape with unhatched eggs, I settled on the bottom a short distance from the subject. As inched – literally – towards the fish, I witnessed as the pair began to interact, flashing their open mouths at each other. I chose an extremely open aperture of f/2.8 to blur out the distracting, unattractive negative space of the sand rubble.

The two jawfish display open mouths in a fight over territory

Running low on air and patience, I began snapping away with my Nikon D300s in hopes of nailing the unexpected behavior shot—I had spent three days trying to capture a mouthful of eggs and instead got an even more unique shot of the jawfish jawin’ off at each other. 

Regretfully, I was using a 60mm lens, limiting the size of the subjects in the frame. If I had another shot at the image, I would use a 105mm or 200mm with longer focal length to make it easier to get the shot of the shy fish. But they don’t look to shy in the final frame!

Say "Ahh"--the final shot!

Peter won a free subscription to Scuba Diver- Through the Lens Magazine with this shot! Make sure to enter our February contest to win the glory of the DPG monthly contest and your very own subscription. The theme for this month is "Silhouettes" and the deadline is February 28 at midnight





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