Three tips to capture manta ray action

How to capture dramatic photos of manta rays in shallow water. I recently read an article that noted human encounters with giant mantas are very rare. This may be true in most areas, but not in the Socorro Islands. If you are looking for the perfect opportunity to photograph these gentle giants, this is the place. The dive site El Boiler off the island of San Benedicto is a cleaning station where the mantas come in for a cleaning by the resident clarion fish. They tend to be very curious and love getting bubble baths from the divers. Below are a few tips that will help you bring home some exciting images.   Have the Right Equipment  There are just a few simple things that I would recommend in order to get the best shots of the mantas at Socorro. The more important tip for capturing great manta shots takes place before you get into the water:  you need to have the right equipment. You will have the opportunity to get extremely close to the mantas, so I would highly recommend a fisheye lens. For these shots I had a Nikon 10.5 DX fisheye on my Nikon D800, which I’m actually looking to trade for a 16mm FX. The lenses are essentially the same, but the 16mm FX will provide better results for my large prints.   This is where the fisheye lens really comes in handy. I was within 3 feet of this manta and still able to get his whole body and also get some pop from the strobes.   Know Your Lighting I was shooting with dual...
Orcas attack baby Humpback at Roca Partida

Orcas attack baby Humpback at Roca Partida

Have you ever had a moment that not only changed your life but transformed your very souI? I thought I had, until my adventure in the waters of the Socorro Islands. I have been looking for a new photography outlet, so I recently decided to get back into underwater photography after a 25+ year hiatus. I’ve always wanted to photograph the magnificent creatures of the Pacific. Last September I went cage diving with Great White Adventures on the Solmar V to shoot great white sharks, and it was there that my passion for photography was revitalized; as soon as I returned, I booked my trip to the Socorro Islands. The Socorro Islands are a chain of four small islands in the Eastern Pacific Ocean about 250 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The area is home to giant manta rays, bottlenose dolphins, and several species of sharks including hammerheads and whale sharks. It is also where humpback whales go to breed and calve. Different seasons bring in different animals; the main reason I wanted to go was to dive with the humpbacks even though close encounters usually aren’t guaranteed as they are with some of the other animals. When I booked the trip, I just had a strange gut feeling we would find whales…and as we reached our destination on that second day at sea, there they were. When we arrived at Roca Partida, we immediately saw the whales – Mama, baby, and their escort – circling the small island. Erick, one of our dive masters, recognized her as one of the whales they had seen here before....
Jonathan Byrd at Fort Worth Stockyards

Jonathan Byrd at Fort Worth Stockyards

I first met Jonathan Byrd back in 2011 at Blue Rock Artist Ranch and Studio. We did a portrait together before his show and I’ve done all his photography since. I love to read Jonathan’s writing, even his Facebook updates are highly entertaining. I remember during one of our shoots making the comment that I wished I could write like him. He just looked at me for a second and said, I wish I could take pictures like you. Fair enough. We shot at Blue Rock in Wimberley TX, an old barn in Sisters OR, a trolly car in Memphis TN and now the Stockyards in Forth Worth, TX. Jonathan had a quick 11 shows in 11 days around the area with his new band, The Pickup Cowboys. He needed new shots with the band but wasn’t coming through Austin this time so we decided to meet in Fort Worth and shoot before his show there. He pulled into town about 1pm and we had a couple hours to shoot before he had to set up for his show at 5pm. We met at the Stockyards and just ran around shooting wherever we could sneak in. Thank goodness for Profoto B1. We wrapped about 3pm and I followed Jonathan to the venue and we did a couple set ups between his sets. We finally called it quits about 8pm, I headed back to Wimberley and the next morning he headed off to Arkansas. As I’m writing this I think he’s headed up north somewhere where it is snowing. Glad we didn’t shoot there. Jonathan has used my pictures for Social...