What is one of the biggest benefits of being a photographer that works in and around our world’s oceans? It’s easy to take and share perfect Halloween photos. The oceans have no shortage of strange and creepy things.
A few years ago I teamed up with Moss Landing Marine Labs and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to peer into their eerie labs, museums, and research. I use these adjectives, of course, because of the time of the year, but also because they aptly describe these collections of some of the strangest animals on the planet. A lot of the animals found in deep ocean habitats truly look like they are something right out of a monster movie.
The concept for the project was to provide a view into a rarely seen habitat. The Monterey Submarine Canyon is a unique place, and one of the largest underwater canyons in the world. Consequently, it’s geography and biodiversity fuels a rich ecosystem that is one of the world’s most productive biological hotspots--the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Unfortunately, for us nature shooters, the submarine canyon is more than two miles deep – well beyond the reach of our Nikon and Canon cameras. What a treat it was to work with these institutions and provide an artist’s perspective into this strange and alien world.
Most of the animals I photographed were exhumed from the tombs of their preservation jars, but about a third of them were live specimens. Whether alive or dead, they were all photographed in a standard fish aquarium bought at a local pet store. I used one to two studio strobes with no soft boxes or reflectors, and I alternated between white and black backdrops with each animal. Sometimes I used one strobe and edge-lit a subject, and sometimes I used two and back- and front-lit a subject. It all depended on what I was shooting. For a final look and feel, I processed the images monochromatically and cool-toned all the subjects with black backgrounds, and warm-toned all the subjects with white backgrounds. I did this for no reason other than I thought it looked cool.
Anyway, enjoy their strangeness, enjoy their creepiness, and have a happy and safe Halloween.