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It’s hard to find a Leafy sea dragon!

Leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

Leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

It’s hard to find a Leafy sea dragon!

During my nine day trip to Australia, my main goal was to dive with the great white sharks in a cage at the bottom. But there was also a possibility for a dive with the Leafy sea dragons. Easier said than done because they are perfectly camouflaged and difficult to find. I was fortunate that the dive instructor was a champion in finding a leafy seadragon.
Anyway: finding one is just the first step, the second step is taking a good picture!
Before the dive, you are told that they usually hang out the seafloor around the jetty pole and swim upwards if they are disturbed. You will therefore be warned with a tap on your shoulder if the divemaster thinks the leafy sea dragon goes too shallow
You then have to stop and move out of the way. Then the Leafy seadragon will swim slowly down to the seafloor again.
My tactics is always to wait first and see what happens. A good plan for any critter, but best for the leafy sea dragon as well. You MUST have good buoyancy and hover above the sandy bottom and not approach the dragon directly Don’t use a lamp: you will then see that the leafy sea dragon is much calmer.
When you finally succeed to get close, use your strobes wisely. Two photos at a time is more than enough. If you do not do that, then everything you have done in advance is lost, your dragon will swim off right away.
In this photo I waited until the Leafy sea dragon would move from the pole to a the sea weed forest, as I wanted a photo with a free swimming leafy sea dragon against a blue background. I made this picture with a fisheye with a 10 cm dome. I can focus on the dome if I want to. You can of course also do this with other wide-angle lenses, like a 35mm or 28mm. But then the distance between you and your subjects is longer. And that does of course have its advantages as well!

Photo data:

  • 1/200 sec
  • F/11
  • ISO 800
  • Camera: Nikon D500
  • Lens: Nikon 10.5mm fisheye
  • flash: 2x Nikon SB800
  • Subal underwaterhousing

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