When I take underwater photographs, I often try to capture divers in their ‘natural’ element, or charismatic species of fish and invertebrates in either wide-angle shots, or up close with a macro lens. These are the more commercially valuable images. However, as a fan of ‘all things reef’, I sometimes come across reefs that are so biologically fascinating and full of life that I have to try and capture them. Here are four reefs, from around the world that are bursting with life.
My first image (and main image) was shot at around fifteen meters, approximately forty miles from where I sit now in southern Scotland. This is one of several underwater pinnacles, that, included with a dozen or so small islands, make up the living biology lesson that is the Farne Islands. Strong tidal currents and an influx of nutrients from a seabird colony means filter feeding corals and inverts abound. While reef-building corals in UK waters are limited to a few species of cup corals, soft corals such as this Alcyonium digitatum are ubiquitous. Supposedly the ratio between orange and white specimens is related to latitude, but I’ve only heard this on dive boats, so I’m not sure if it’s accurate.
My second image was shot at around forty meters on a wall in the Greek Cyclades islands. The Mediterranean is not known for its outstanding marine life, but I think you’ll agree that these gorgonians are truly superb. This was the first time this site had been dived to my knowledge and these may well be the first images taken of this location. Again, strong currents passing between one island and another have allowed a very rich ecosystem to form.
I have returned to one of my favorite locations, the Red Sea, for the third image; it was also shot on an off-shore reef wall, and again currents were strong and filter feeders were doing fine. This image shows a neptheid coral and a large specimen of what I think is Acabaria biserialis.
My last shot was taken in the Caribbean, and as you can see from the gorgonians, this was a very plankton-rich reef. In fact, it started out as a shipwreck, which was sitting on the sea floor benefiting from regular and reliable currents to provide particulate food.
Biology never ceases to amaze me; these four reefs from across the world are all recognizable as rich and well-fed!