Shooting Jellies

My favorite photo op in the jelly fish department

My favorite photo op in the jelly fish department

I have often said that if I had to have an office with no window, I would want a huge aquarium of well-lit jellyfish.  They may not be cute and I can’t say they make me laugh, but there is something indescribably soothing about their movement through the water.

They also make for a fascinating photographic subject, if a difficult one.  I imagine if I were a diver, I might have less difficulty, but then I realize I would probably end up among an entire smack of jellyfish (yes, I googled to find out what you call a group of them–seems appropriate given what it feels like to be stung) and wide up with some fatal amount of jellyfish stings.  Plus, underwater shooting creates its own set of difficulties.

They always look upside down to me--I was tempted to rotate this photo

They always look upside down to me–I was tempted to rotate this photo

Fortunately, the Tennessee Aquarium offers far safer photo ops of a wide variety of jellies.  My personal favorites are the West Coast Sea Nettles when it comes to shooting.  They have lovely colors, they’re large and I tend to get a little less reflection off their tank since it’s flat and the lighting is relatively good.  Of course, it’s still a bit challenging to get a sharp photo.  Besides the thick glass between my lens and the jellies, the lighting is still dim and the amount of movement happening throughout the body of the jelly requires a relatively fast shutter speed.  At the same time, they are 3-dimensional, which means greater depth of field is required for a shot that has more than one small portion in focus.

By shooting this at ISO 10,000, I was able to use a 1/100 of a second shutter speed.  By shooting between 32-64mm focal length, I got better depth of field at an f/5.6 aperture.  The head of the jelly (if that’s what you call it) gets a bit fuzzy in the brightest parts–I’m not sure if that’s due to movement or the high ISO setting.  All-in-all, I’m impressed by the lack of noise at a 10,000 ISO setting–my 40D would have been noisier than this at 800 ISO.

Looking at the group of nettles together, I try to imagine what it would be like to encounter a large smack in the ocean

Looking at the group of nettles together, I try to imagine what it would be like to encounter a large smack in the ocean

I also managed to remember that my camera will shoot video as well.  Since it’s the movement of the jellies that fascinates me the most, I figured this was a good time to use them.  Unfortunately, just because my camera can shoot video doesn’t mean I can.  As this video demonstrates, I haven’t learned even the basics of how to get a decent video yet–although I do think I have good taste in background music ;-).  All in time, I suppose.

Next trip, I will take a macro lens to see if I can get some good shots of the smaller jellies and their cousins.  The Sea Walnut is little guy I particularly want to shoot–their bodies reflect light in such a way that it looks like colorful lightening is going off inside them.

 

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