90 minutes at the Caverns
The day you take your macro system to the reef is certainly the day that a big animal show is going to go down 15 feet away from you. Yesterday was no different for me. I jumped on a boat headed south to the Caverns site and adjacent walls.
There’s all kinds of stuff going on here, at every depth and of every size… there is no more diverse dive site on this island than the southern most tip of the barrier reef.
The first thing I do at this site is peek over the wall and see what’s shaking at depth. Just over 100 feet down is a small coral head with six-inch long cleaner wrasse that reef sharks and turtles frequent.
I spent the first 10 minutes at 90 feet watching 5 animals circle the site and come in for a cleaning – a cool behavior show.
One of these days the stars will align and I’ll be on the other side shooting into the sun and snap some silhouettes of cleaning reef sharks doing tail stalls in the current with hyper-active wrasse getting into the nooks and crannies.
So, there you have it, 50mm macro shot of a six-foot reef shark with a wrasse sticking out of its gills.
If you know Macro, this site doesn’t disappoint. In August for Manta Fest Marty Snyderman was telling us about his mission to shoot flame angels on the wall and just dropping in he had to pass up several solid macro subjects and not get distracted.
Coral grouper getting cleaned, “keep going Marty”… Porcelain crab sitting on eggs, “keep going Marty”, all the way down the wall as he described.
Two types of cleaner shrimp and blue streak wrasse go to work on their customers and you can get right up on the behavior with your lens.
I checked the hotspots I know of and started a slow pinnacle float checking out what I can shoot.
There’s juvenile dragon wrasse, miniature rock movers and other cool things zipping around the soft coral, but I haven’t mastered moving target engagement with my macro system, so I was sticking to subjects that afford me the opportunity of the shot.
Gordon found me with my head under a rock and signed “follow me” and cut me in on some macro scores.
First it was a gigantic nudibranch in the sand sitting on an egg ribbon and second was the scorpion fish high up on a pinnacle ledge.
I was just telling someone that I wanted to shoot one of these things – so here’s my first scorpion fish macro takes.
Another pro-tip that went around at Manta Fest was from David Fleetham who said that your best resource is the dive guide – these guys know better than anyone where to look and have a trained eye.
Even with Gordon’s pointer a foot away from the fish, I was still looking at him with my palm turned up shaking my head, “what?”
Then it appeared. I was looking for something an inch or two long, this was about a foot long fish that couldn’t be better camoflauged.
Usually the guests get taken on a swim-through tour and cut a line through the caverns, then wind up outside on the reef wall – but if you know the site, or ask your guides what’s there to see, you might change your dive plan.
Local tip: check the action down deep first and save the swim throughs for desert.