N I G E L M A R S H P H O T O G R A P H Y
U N D E R W A T E R I M A G E S A N D A R T I C L E S
SHOOTING FISH ON HMAS BRISBANE
By Nigel Marsh
Over the last ten years I have done some wonderful dives on HMAS Brisbane and seen many changes to this incredible artificial reef off Mooloolaba. The wreck is a haven for marine life of all types, but for anyone into shooting fish (with a camera) it is a photographer’s delight.
I usually dive HMAS Brisbane, a 133m long guide missile destroyer that was scuttled in 2005, with my wide angle lens to capture the wreck and its larger marine life, like the schools of batfish, kingfish, mulloway, snapper and trevally. But in December I decided it was time to take the macro lens for a run and look for some of the smaller subjects that reside on this colourful artificial reef.
Diving with Sunreef Diving Services on their very comfortable dive boat, 4 Shore, the weather was almost perfect – light winds, slight seas and blue water. My initial goal was to photograph nudibranchs, as this part of Australia holds the record for the largest variety of nudibranchs in the world, with dozens of species found on HMAS Brisbane. But with surgy conditions on the wreck the nudibranchs appeared to be in hiding and after 20 minutes I had only found two. However, with so many colourful fish around me I quickly diverted my attention to fish portraits, which left me with an endless variety of subjects.
I first started with some of the easier subjects, the fish that like to sit on the bottom, like hawkfish, scorpionfish, rock cods and lionfish. There was no shortage of these wonderful fish, but apart from a yawning scorpionfish, they didn’t offer that much of a challenge.
The reef fish were more of a test for my photographic skills, as they never stop swimming, requiring me to pan my camera around and trigger the shutter when the fish were framed. This wasn’t easy on darting wrasse, damsels, butterflyfish and angelfish, but I managed a few images. One of my favourite fish on the wreck are the beautiful red-bar basslets. The males have incredible colours; orange, pink, yellow and red, but they rarely stay still for more than a second, patrolling an area to check-up on their harem of females.
After a slow circuit of the bow area it was time to ascend. I was hoping to shoot some of the blennies that live on the funnels while doing my safety stop, but with the surgy conditions it was far too difficult to stay in one location. So instead I just watched the batfish, snappers and other big fish that cruise around the wreck.
On the second dive I headed towards the stern and quickly found more fish to photograph. Many fish were feeding in this area, making photography a little easier as they stayed in one place. I shot images of rabbitfish, surgeonfish and wrasse as they fed. I then turned my attentions to a lovely saddleback pigfish that was also feasting. These pretty poker-dotted fish are one of the most colourful residents of HMAS Brisbane, and being accustom to divers are easy to approach.
But then I saw an even more colourful resident, a harlequin tuskfish. These striking fish are never easy to photograph at most dive sites as they are wary of divers and never stay still for more than a second. But this fish was curious of me and slowly swam around me allowing me to get the best images I have ever shot of a harlequin tuskfish. A second tuskfish joined the party, also coming in close to inspect me, and at times I had to back away as these two colourful fish were just too close.
Exploring more of the stern I finally found a cluster of nudibranchs hiding under the rear gun. I took a dozen images of these colourful sea slugs, but I was having more fun with the fish, so went back to photographing the residents with fins. After shooting more reef fish I spotted a lovely blenny sitting on the deck. As I got close it darted into a hole, but fortunately it turned around to watch me from the opening. For the next five minutes I slowly framed the blenny and managed to shoot half a dozen close-ups of its pretty face and very large eyes.
I surfaced after two wonderful dives with some brilliant fish portraits on my memory card. There are so many friendly fish on HMAS Brisbane it was really like shooting fish in a barrel.
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