Healthy hard coral gardens are getting harder and harder to find these days. When we did a trip a few weeks ago to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, checking the health of the hard coral was one of the things I was interested in seeing first hand. I had not visited the area in a year, and I know that some areas of the Indo-Pacific region have suffered from bleaching in the last year. Although I had no reports of bleaching in Raja, I was looking forward to seeing it for myself. One of the sites that we visited was a site called Batu Rufus. This site is known for a shallow swim through which is surrounded by sea fans, as well as an incredible hard coral garden. The hard corals were a very inviting photo opportunity as I am a huge fan of photographing hard corals. In this day and age, where many coral gardens around the world are threatened by bleaching or other damage, it was refreshing to see a healthy coral garden. This shot was created in the late afternoon, as the low position of the sun was perfect for the shot I envisioned. The key part of this photograph was not just capturing the beautiful and colourful coral, but also having the sunrays streaming in from the corner. The other key element to this photo, in order to capture the consistent colour on the corals in the foreground, was using natural light only, no strobes. In this photograph, I was also using a manual white balance setting as opposed to using my usual 5000k setting. Although I was trying to get the foreground damselfish and chromis in the shot from the beginning, the school of fusiliers was more of a lucky addition to the shot.
This style of photograph is actually quite easy to capture, there are only a few things that you need to keep in mind: stay shallow, position yourself with the light behind you, shoot with a slight downward angle, use natural light only, and of course, compose with the sunrays in mind.