By Tay Tousey
I am an amateur underwater photographer who dives off the California coast of Monterey Bay. Diving Monterey Bay in the summer months can be a challenge due to the plankton bloom.
Along with the plankton bloom you can get massive armies of sea nettle jellyfish. When I say army I mean the jellies can be so thick that there is one every two to three feet.
My idea was to illuminate one of the sea nettle jellyfish with artificial light and let the ambient light work the massive army of jellyfish above. When I shoot jellies, I hang off of my anchor line, so I will not lose it due to poor visibility.
I usually pre-focus my lens on my hand or fin and lock it in manual allowing me to keep everything in focus. Then I wait for the army of jellies to pass by. Sea nettle jellies can have a mantle up to three feet in diameter and trail up to 18 feet. That can pack a powerful sting.
In this particular shot I had worked my way down through the army of jellies until, at around 50 feet, I broke out of the plankton bloom into cold crisp clear water. Looking upwards you could see the green thermocline and thousands upon thousands of jellies all going the same direction. It truly is a sea nettle wonderland! I inched back up my anchor line until I was right at the edge of the thermocline and lined up the shot.
Lighting the jelly with my strobes allowed the long, spiraling, white oral arms to be illuminated against the darker ocean depth, lending itself to a great deal of contrast. In postproduction I gave it a pop of contrast and sharpening to make the strands of the jellies standout in the black and white image.
Shooting jellies can be a painful experience, but it is well worth that one image!
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