While focusing on macro subjects, I occasionally miss critters drifting above my head.
Only upon returning to the boat do I hear stories about the turtle cruising and an eagle ray gracefully swimming right by without me taking notice. I have learned the hard way to widen my intense tunnel vision of small critters, take a break and look up. It was on one such dive that I looked over my shoulder, to observe a group of squid watching me as closely as I was watching a goby.
Squid quickly appear along the edge of the reef and can easily turn a good dive into something magical. Photographing them however, turns out to be a little more difficult than expected.
Description of Squid
Squid are the largest order of Cephalopods, with more than 350 species worldwide. They range from only a few inches to the elusive Giant Squid growing more than forty feet in length.
Squid are voracious eaters and can commonly be seen out prowling during the day or night for food. Seeing them actually catch prey is quite rare. They catch prey using their tentacles and a hidden beak to slash up the fish, crustaceans and molluscs into smaller pieces to digest.
One of the most commonly observed squid in the Caribbean is the Caribbean Reef Squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea). They put on wonderful displays and often stay in a location for several days or weeks, making it convenient to return to photograph again.
Two often photographed and interesting species from the Tropical Pacific region are the Bigfin Reef Squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) and Berry’s Bobtail Squid (Euprymna berryi).
As with all cephalopods, squid are able to change colors rapidly. A series of photos of a squid will become a collage of red, brown, white, blue and orange. They have a unique ability to change color and light intensity in their skin organs known as chromatophores. This display change is often performed to confuse a predator and ward off attack.
Courtship and Mating
Tails rise, arms flare and colors quickly flash in a display by males to attract a mate. Groups of males will put on displays hoping to attract the single female waiting close-by. Eventually a female will select a mate and they will pair off from a group.
Males will guard impregnated females and fight off “sneaker” males that will attempt to also impregnate the female. Males will often display a zebra pattern when fighting.
Females will attach eggs to reef structures, sea grasses or even mooring buoy lines. They will attach egg cases in groups one at a time. Each egg case will hold six to eight embryos.
Squid Underwater Photography Tips
Go Slow and Observe Behavior
If you are with a solitary Squid, stay close and rise off the bottom. Inspect the water column above for others that might be nearby. Groups can range from 4 to more than 20; and sudden movements will disperse them. When observing a group, wait for them to break into pairs and follow a pair away from the main school to get closer shots.
Control the Strobe
Casting too much light onto their shiny translucent bodies can easily over-expose the subject. Without enough light, the Squid will appear blue on a blue background and the beautiful colors of the squid will not show. Also be aware of your strobe placement. A strobe too close to the lens with lots of water between you and the Squid will cause a large amount of backscatter to be lit.
Squid Are Often as Curious as Divers
Maybe I am just personifying the creature, but they seem to want to interact with us as much as we do with them. Take this into account when photographing—you will find they retreat at times and swim away only to return minutes later… often getting extremely close for a nice macro shot!
Try Both Wide Angle and Close-up Macro
Squid are a subject that will allow many opportunities to experiment with your photography. A wide angle shot with a group of Squid can be just as pleasing as a macro eye shot of a single individual.
Follow Them to the Surface
Watch your gauges and rise slowly with them. Squid will sometimes lead you to the surface for a unique set of shots where they reflect in the surface of the water.
About the Author: Eric Riesch is the photo editor at New World Publications on their series of marine life identification books. For more information on Squid see Reef Creature Identification – Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas and Reef Creature Identification – Tropical Pacific by DeLoach and Humann.
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