The tips for a perfect photo: Mandarins
Today we are going to describe to you some small tips to successfully take pictures of mandarin fish. These colorful fish are considered among the most difficult to photograph. They are shy and hard to find, and it is not always easy to focus during their lovemaking which is very short.
Mandarins breed at night at sunset. That's when they come out of the reefs for a very short time and start a ballet with their partner. This dance only lasts a few seconds. As soon as the eggs are fertilized, they disappear at an incredible speed.
With this article, practice, good material and a little patience, I am confident that you will arrive at a beautiful result!
Where to find Mandarins?
You can find several destinations where you can observe these fish. Here are a few examples: Anilao, Lembeh, Sipadan, Palau. But it's up to Philippines ; on a cruise Seadoors which particularly holds our attention. We find the mandarins during their circuits Visayas Odissey, Escape and Visayas South… In addition to being well equipped, this boat has just been refurbished. She is very comfortable and her crew is very attentive to all details. That's why I recommend it to you.
Do not hesitate to ask the resort or cruise ships where you are going, as much advice as possible to meet this mythical fish. There is also no better season to observe them, so this photo is possible at any time of the year, as long as you are in the right place at the right time.
Have the right material:
I advise you to equip you with the best material for this shoot, you absolutely need a device that is able to make a quick adjustment, because the mandarins are very lively. If you prefer a compact, Sony type device rx100 or at Canon the Powershots G series is excellent with a preference on the G7X.
If your choice is a mirror-less device, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony make excellent cameras. However, prefer a 60mm macro lens. You can also use a Sony 90mm lens (for Sony housing), which is less responsive when it comes to focusing quickly.
Of course, unsurprisingly dslr (reflex) remain the best option with topping the list Canon ou Nikon A full-frame camera with a 35mm equivalent sensor is preferable to a 4/3 sensor. Indeed the full frame sensor gives more depth of field and allows you to better compose your image. The latest 4/3s like the D500 are great cameras and the latest autofocus are technological marvels. On a Dslr it is better to favor 100 or 105 mm lenses, whether at Canon or Nikon it remains very fast, silent lenses with an excellent depth of field. Nothing new for macro lovers you might say!
One or two flashes? It doesn't matter much, the choice is yours, however I recommend Inon flashes. The abundant lighting addicts will have to restrict themselves, you have to control your light to succeed in this photo.
Use a red pilot lamp.
This is probably the most important tip. Without a good red modeling light, it will be difficult to focus. Indeed, these small colorful fish are very fearful and at the slightest white light they disappear. Especially if it is repetitive, so use these flashes sparingly because once you have made the decision to take the photo, it disappears immediately and this can prevent mating.
That is why it is necessary to take a colored pilot light. Red light scares them much less. If you have to choose a light, feel free to take one that turns off when the flash is triggered. Inon offers a very good model. This brand is one of my favorites. In addition to offering products that are well designed, they are resistant. Plongimage our
partner sells another excellent product, the epoque lamp, a Japanese brand above a link to this product which has the particularity of being the Swiss army knife of diving lamps thanks to many lighting modes.
Learn to flush out mandarins
No, that's not the title of an American action movie. It is difficult to get to know its habitat and to know where to find them. In general, you can count on dive guides. Very often, they let you go there before sunset. This moment is crucial, because in addition to the invaluable help of the guide (s), you can make a reconnaissance of the reef and try to determine the most suitable place to take your photos, usually dead acroporas.
Mandarins before sunset will be hidden in dead pieces and will either be active (so moving) or stationary. Choose the bigger ones to start this will make your task easier!
With such a short time to take pictures, it is out of the question to venture at the last moment. You have to be ready to take your picture at the right moment.
Once you have a good idea of their locations, you should try several times beforehand, to make sure you have the right exposure. Move away a bit so as not to scare off the mandarins, choose a similar piece of coral preferably without mandarin inside, try to keep a focal length equivalent to the one you are going to use with the mandarins. The idea is to reconstruct the same scenario.
As a general rule, here are my parameters with 2 Inon flashes: I put the power to the minimum, the flashes are against my macro port, I also tilt them slightly downwards. With a single flash, do not hesitate to place it above the very close window at an angle of about 45 degrees.
On the digital device I start with iso generally between 200 to 400 iso maximum.
For the shutter I stay between f-9 and f-22 (depending on your type of camera), for the speed in general I try to stay on 1/250, but each location is different and that's why 'it is important to do tests before taking to adjust your parameters as precisely as possible.
Keep an eye open:
Mandarins must find one or another partner to mate. As soon as night falls, the mandarin begins his little dance in his coral potato, then he will start to come out. Keep an eye on him because it is very easy to lose sight of him. When the male approaches his bride they will reduce the gap little by little, the long awaited moment is very near and all of a sudden, they will rise from the bottom to mate.
Keep a good angle of approach:
One of the biggest challenges with this kind of photo is dead corals, which are really not the ideal type of background. The best way to avoid this is to stay close to the bottom and shoot the photo with the lens up as they rise from the bottom to mate, avoiding any branches of the bottom. coral. You can also use the shutter and open it all the way to blur the image behind it, but be careful not to overexpose the image. If you are using a compact camera, get as close as possible to the fish and open the shutter as far as possible, always being close to the bottom and taking the exposure from the same angle as with a reflex camera.
Let them breathe:
Mandarins are fearful and timid fish. They don't like flashes nor white light, they don't like bubbles, they barely accept a little red light. The more room and space you give them, the more likely they will be to indulge in their hugs. You have to put them in confidence, while keeping them out of the corner of your eye. It would be a shame to miss this moment after so much effort.
Despite the goodwill, and after having done the right thing, nothing does not make a beautiful photo ... Do not panic! They are the most difficult fish to photograph. You have to be patient and try again several times, in general, 2 to 3 dives before you get to take this photo and with a little perseverance you end up getting the perfect photo.
Remember to watch the couple during their antics. Above all, enjoy the moment. Even if you miss your first photos, it's a real moment of magic that nature offers you and an absolutely incredible show.
If you do not know where to go to observe the mandarins, we can only recommend you Seadoors on this link and inform you about the availability of Visayas cruises:
Article by Bambam Chris