Our Photo Pro Sascha Janson put together this collection of fresh critters from last week (27.April-03. May 2013)...watch the baby frogfish catching a shrimp...
ガラスだから嫌なにおい移りもなく中に何を入れても様になります。 蓋がシルバーのものもありますが 清々しい感じなので白いタイプを選びました。
Alex Mustard gets to grips with the laws protecting seahorses in UK waters and their implications for the underwater photographer
However, underwater photography has been identified as a potential cause of disturbance and is restricted. It is a unique situation for British divers; we have an underwater subject that we are not free to photograph. In this month’s column, I will look at what these regulations mean and how we can photograph within them, while ensuring that British seahorses get the protection they deserve.
Most underwater photographers I have asked were unaware of this ruling, so it is sensible to start with the official statement from Natural England: ‘This protection means that it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb any seahorse. Photography and filming of seahorses is likely to cause disturbance – particularly if a flash is used – and could constitute an offence. Natural England can issue licences which allow the disturbance of seahorses, but will normally only issue such licences if there is a conservation, educational or scientific benefit. A licence is not required if the photography does not cause any disturbance to the seahorses. Subsequent returns to the specific location [that] is known to contain seahorses is likely to cause disturbance.’
To get a more human interpretation of the ruling, I speak to Victoria Copley of Natural England. ‘One photographer on a dive is unlikely to cause a disturbance,’ she says. ‘What we want to avoid is lots of divers photographing the same seahorses. If you are on a dive and lucky enough to find a seahorse, it is perfectly acceptable to photograph it, but please only take one or perhaps two photos, without flash or lights when possible. However, if you intend to photograph on a site known for seahorses, you will need to apply for a licence. These populations are the ones that are at risk from incremental disturbance from photography. Our intention is not to prosecute people, but to protect seahorses.’
I took the photo for this column under licence from Natural England, which does not cost anything, but requires some bureaucratic dedication to obtain. The form asks to demonstrate competence to complete the work, to indicate a benefit from the photography and to provide two letters of recommendation from independent referees.
Should we be lucky enough to find a seahorse, we can also make some modifications to our photo techniques to minimise disturbance. Most seahorses are seen in very shallow water and can be photographed effectively without flash. If we do have to use flash, we should get our exposure settings right on another subject, such as an anemone or a blade of seagrass, to avoid any unnecessary flashes on the creature. We should adopt a film photographer’s mindset and make it count each time we press the shutter, waiting for the perfect composition and eye contact. A good picture and a bad one will cause the same disturbance, so only take the good one.
We can further reduce the intensity of disturbance by only using one flash, turning down its power, opening the aperture and increasing the ISO to compensate. And we should aim for balanced light exposures, where ambient light mainly illuminates the subject, aided with just a tickle of flash. We should not try for black backgrounds, as these require a strong burst of flash to overpower the ambient light.
Steve Trewhella of the Seahorse Trust, who has been studying these fish in the UK for several years, offers some good advice: ‘If the seahorse shows any signs of stress or moves, stop shooting and back away. Also go with a buddy, but avoid diving in groups; just because you haven’t seen a seahorse, it doesn’t mean you haven’t disturbed one. Our research has shown that British seahorses usually live in stable pairs. If a group of divers are crowded around a seahorse, someone’s fins may well be kicking the other half of the pair.’
So why is it important that we all play by the rules? ‘Divers and underwater photography are not the biggest threat to British seahorses, but if we want to campaign effectively against the bigger issues, we cannot afford to be seen as a problem,’ Trewhella says. ‘We are still collecting data and learning about UK seahorses. We have found out they are territorial, pair for the breeding season, possibly for life, and return to their important sites. All these factors make them particularly susceptible to being disturbed if lots of divers are revisiting the same site.’
All the same, Trewhella is keen to stress the importance of British seahorse photos. ‘We don’t want to keep seahorses for ourselves,’ he says. ‘Much of what we know of seahorse distributions in the UK comes from diver observations, and these are much more valuable with a photograph. A photo reveals the species, the sex and whether it is pregnant. I would encourage divers to get out and enjoy British diving. Don’t go to where we know they are, but go and check out a new spot, there are so many shallow bays where they should be, but nobody has looked. But be mindful of the protocol and procedures to avoid disturbing them.’
Seeing a seahorse was the highlight of my UK diving season. If divers and photographers follow the guidelines laid out by Natural England and the Seahorse Trust, seahorse photos will continue to inspire the public with the beauty of British seas. ■
Spiny seahorse, Dorset. Nikon D700 SLR. Subal housing. Nikon 60mm. Single Inon Z240 strobe. 1/125th at f11. ISO 400