The Cayman Islands is a well-known must go destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. During my two-week stay on the island of Cayman Brac, which is the most easterly of the three islands known as the Cayman Islands, I explored the world beneath the sea for several hours daily. I do not scuba dive, but do love snorkeling and often I am most interested in the aquatic wildlife that can easily, or not so easily discovered in the shallows. I will define the shallows as water to a depth of about 20 feet. Either way I find entering the ocean an exhilarating experience because there are fishes that can eat you :) Essentially you are entering the food-chain, and even though such risks are minimal you should be aware of what fishes may be encountered.It is not only those fishes with large toothy mouths that you need to be concerned with, but often the smaller species of fish that can inflict painful stings if one is not careful. My choice of camera for my underwater photography to date has been the Sony RX-100. This amazing point and shoot camera is teeny-tiny and will easily fit into a shirt or pants pocket, as a zoom range of 28mm to 100mm (35mm equivalent), is capable of capturing image files in RAW and produces a 20MB file which translates to a native image size of 12.16 18.24 inches. Impressive! Note: I found RAW capture to be most beneficial as I was able to make adjustments to the White Balance in Adobe Camera RAW to realistically match the scenes as I saw them. Often the Auto White Balance setting on the Sony RX-100 produced image files with a strong green cast, which was easily correctable in ACR. My choice of underwater housing for the Sony RX-100 was a polycarbonate housing from Meikon, This housing is rated for a depth of 40M (131 feet) and allows me to operate all of the essential controls underwater. I initially purchased this housing as I began my interest in the underwater world. I would however, highly recommend getting one of the housing available from IkeLite. The housing from Meikon works great for snorkeling, but I am not sure I would dive to deeper depths with it. One of the biggest problems I encountered using a polycarbonate housing with the Sony RX-100 was viewing the LCD screen underwater due to the reflective properties of the polycarbonate material underwater. The Sony RX-100 has no viewfinder, so images are composed using the LCD screen. In the photo below an easy solution to this concern can be overcome by creating a bracket to hold a small section of plastic downspout over the area of the LCD screen to act as a shade.
To create many of the underwater images ISO 200 or ISO 400 was selected and the Aperture Priority mode too. Creating underwater images while snorkeling is a bit of a challenge to our buoyancy, however, for fishes that were resting on the ocean floor I found it easier if I exhaled while diving to the bottom, and with less air in my lungs I was able to stay at the bottom long enough for 2 or 3 images before the need to re-surface again. For some subjects I repeated this process numerous times to create various compositions, such as the photos below of the Stonefish – a true master of camouflage! Note: the spines on the dorsal fins of Stonefish, a member of the Scorpionfish family, can inflict a painful sting – exercise caution!
As you read the captions for the images in this post you will note that many of them were created at a focal length of 28mm. Often in underwater photography a wide-angle lens used in close will produce the best image. By reducing the distance between the camera and the subject the risk of particulate matter in the water column is reduced, producing a cleaner, sharper image. The Sony RX-100 will focus as close as 5cm at the 28mm setting. On rare occasions I would zoom the lens out if there was some interesting action occurring in deeper water that I would not have been able to dive down to capture.
Often repeated attempts to photograph some species was required, as was the case with the Sand Diver above. This specimen was roughly 2 feet in length and very skittish. After many repeat dives I was able to get this one close up that allows us to see its very toothy mouth. Below is a selection of Stingray images that were created at various reefs along the coast. Scott’s Dock and Radar Reef produced the best photographic opportunities for them.
Below is an image of a Sharp-tailed Eel. I was thrilled to see this specimen out in the open. In 2014 I had seen one of these very interesting snake-like fishes but it was in too difficult of a location to photograph. Fast-forward to March 2015 and I was presented a second opportunity whereby the specimen was most cooperative. This was photographed at the Buccaneer (Tibbett’s) dive site.
Other species that I was able to photograph along the coast of Cayman Brac were Caribbean Reef Squid, Octopus, Barracuda, and some underwater ocean-scapes. Below are my favorites of these. If you ever make your way to Cayman Brac be sure to snorkel the Scott’s Dock, Radar Reef, and the Buccaneer dive sites as these are equally productive for folks that prefer to snorkel.
Please remember to click on each of the photos to see the larger, sharper version.