Squid at Night
2008—Triton Bay, West Papua Province, Indonesia
| Shot with Nikon D2X and Nikkor 60mm micro lens in a Subal ND2
Housing and Inon Z-240 strobes, ISO 100, 1/60 sec. @ f22.
On a night dive, I caught a glimpse of a colorful squid in the beam of my torch. As I swam closer to observe, it maintained its position, and began to flash different colors in an amazing display. I shot a couple of frames and swam off to give the squid a break from the bright strobes, but it followed me for almost 10 minutes, approaching closely, flashing, then retreating multiple times. I couldn't help but feel I had forged a brief, but fascinating bond with this intelligent animal, and decided it apparently was unfazed (or unimpressed) by being "strobed" repeatedly. So, I did a little experimenting with my exposures to see if I could do something a little different.
Organic particulate matter (backscatter) was pretty prevalent in the water that night, so no matter how well I positioned my strobes, I ended up with backscatter in the water column of just about every shot I took. In this frame, though, I intentionally underexposed the image to keep all of the background jet black, all but eliminating the backscatter. When I got home into full "post-production mode," I then used a couple simple Photoshop tools to get the final results I wanted. (I adjusted exposure upwards in RAW processing, then used the "dodge" tool to lighten the details of the squid, and the "burn" tool to further darken the black background.) The final product appears almost 3-dimensional, with the squid appearing to hover above the black background. It won Runner Up in the 2009 ANZANG Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, and is currently on display in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide.