World's Best Destinations for Underwater Photography
To capture the eye, a photo must treat us to something new, something we haven’t seen before, ScubaDiving.com online portal reported.
To nab a scene-stealer, it helps to travel to a destination with an abundance of life in all sizes, shapes and colors. When in such a hot spot saturated with marine life, wrecks and other lens fodder, you can’t help but shoot your best, overcome by creativity. In these locales, this is a given.
No Shortage of Inspiration: Indonesia is the heartland of macro creatures -- of everything weird, woolly, alien-looking and totally photogenic. Lembeh Strait, the birthplace of diving with a magnifying lens, is the epicenter for everything macro, from zebra batfish to ornate ghost pipefish. But you don’t have to target Lembeh only for muck — Bima Bay and Sangeang Island are among the sites that can deliver more odd stuff than you’d think to add to your shot list.
Guide the Way: Local guides, from those on the liveaboards Indo Aggressor and Arenui to those at Wakatobi Dive Resort, have keen eyes for spotting critters. At some resorts, guides are required to have 3,000 or more dives. All of which means you’ll never miss a bobtail squid, stargazer, pygmy seahorse or anything else.
Big-Time Finds: Indo isn’t just home to the small stuff, but also to whale sharks, giant mantas and mola molas, aka sunfish. Off the Derawan Islands, a destination visited via Raja Ampat Aggressor, guests are allowed to scuba dive with whale sharks, the biggest fish in the ocean at a max of 40 feet in length; elsewhere in the world, particularly in much of the Caribbean, only snorkel encounters are permitted. And, because encounters with all these animals tend to be lengthy in Indonesia, divers can shoot endless stills and have time for video.
Citizen Science: One perk of bringing a camera to Indo, as nearly every diver does, is that should you score a photo of a never-before-seen critter, you might be able to suggest the name for your discovery. The psychedelic frogfish was named by the three ichthyologists who first photographed one in 2008 off Ambon Island, the only known place where they live. The species known as Denise’s pygmy seahorse, first sighted in Lembeh Strait in 1999, is named for finder Denise Tackett.
Technically Speaking: Because Indo is so targeted by underwater shooters, known to spend a lot of time at depth, there’s no shortage of facilities catering to those on nitrox and rebreather. Wakatobi Dive Resort supplies both. Several islands are home to technical-diving schools, offering not just the necessary gear, but also instruction.
Easy-Access Metal: The region is known the world over for its precious-metals collection. Shooters especially will like purpose-sunk wrecks such as USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, where the doors and ports have been removed, allowing for greater access to shoot in and through the rooms of this former missile-tracking ship.
What Would Jesus Dive? The most photographed underwater attraction in the Florida Keys is the 4,000-pound Christ of the Deep statue off Key Largo. At approximately 25 feet down, many waterproof cameras, and even iPhones in waterproof cases, will hold up, allowing for the taking of selfies — just be careful because this rendition of Jesus is covered in fire coral.
Get Schooled: The reefs of the Florida Keys are home to schools of French grunts and bluestripe snapper. Take a photo, then wait a few minutes as the fish re-collect at the same spot, allowing for several takes of a wide-angle shot filled with clouds of these yellow fish.
The Natural Look: Thanks to a seemingly standard 100 feet of visibility around the Cayman Islands, shooters can rely on ambient lighting far more than they can at other destinations. Plus, because the wall starts at an average of 30 feet on Grand Cayman and 20 feet on Little Cayman, even photos of the drop-off can largely rely on natural light.
In Store: Grand Cayman is home to several pro shooters, and attracts enough photographers to keep Cathy Church’s Photo Center, located at Sunset House resort, stocked with cameras, lenses, housings and any other upgrades you might feel inspired to buy while on holiday. Plus, lessons in photography and videography are available.
Everybody Loves Rays: There is perhaps no better spot for nailing the exact photo in your mind’s eye than Stingray City. Home to 30-some southern stingrays, this sandy dive and snorkeling spot is ideal for setting up and waiting for your shot. Because it’s just 3 feet deep in places, you can easily work with models, even if they’re not scuba-certified. Plus, a couple of operators visit the site at dawn, which means fewer guests, and the chance to shoot with that rosy morning light.
Shore Thing: With shore diving available off West Bay to the north, all along Seven Mile Beach on the west coast of the island and off George Town to the south, camera-toting divers have the option of going when the mood — and light — best suits them. Moreover, opt for the choose-your-own-adventure style of diving, and it’s easier to take your time and score photos with a model and no other divers in the background.
Readers Choice Regional Winners
Pacific and Indian Oceans
- Red Sea
Caribbean and Atlantic
- Cayman Islands
- Florida Keys
- British Columbia
- North Carolina
Note: Readers Choice is a platform where more than 3,000 readers rate their experiences in Scuba Diving Magazine and ScubaDiving.com's annual survey. Winners are selected via average scores.