Photographing in Aquariums - some useful tips

Cairns Aquarium

#aquarium #photography

October 2017

Well the nice wet weather we are having made this a perfect time to visit Cairns' newest attraction.
How did we get away with NOT having one of these, being gateway to the reef etc etc...There used to be one years ago (I'm talking 15ish years ago) in the Pier but it was only little.

Anyway, it's here now and it is pretty awesome!

I didn't want to go and just shoot images of fish, I wanted to do something a bit different. In the end with all the challenges shooting in this environment, I did get a few images of "just fish"  and I'm OK with that, ha ha.

Here we go for some tips!
Firstly even though the tanks look nice and brightly lit, this light does not compare to sunlight. A tripod is a must for shooting the slower moving animals. If you don't have one then push the ISO up. Tripod of course eliminates the need to do this as you can shoot slower shutter speeds.
Ideal for turtles and the entrance displays of eels, mango jacks, pythons, frogs etc. As the tank water is treated with various nutrients and/or salt the water is not the clearest so pushing the ISO up will make it quite grainy. Please do not use flash - think of the animals.

Heres a few from that section:

This mob of gangsters were hardly moving so was easy to capture them.

Sunbaking Lizzy was not in the water here so he was easier to get a sharper image.
Sharp images are a challenge in here, the lens had trouble focusing through the glass, even when I could place on the glass, so manual focusing was used a fair bit.

This cute fella was about a foot long and posed for me on a log just under the surface so I could capture his reflection.
Speaking of reflections... be careful of these in the glass reflecting yourself or the lights from behind you, position yourself at a slight angle to the glass or move to a darker area where there are no reflections.

Further in most of the fish moved about fairly quickly. So teamed with manual focusing and low light I had to push up the ISO for these.
ISO 250 and 1/100 sec f2.8
Try and get some different angles and spend the time watching and waiting for the right moment.
Some of these I had to pan the camera with the fish so it took some time ( I was there most of the day).

As I moved into the barrier reef section everything seemed to be on steroids! Speedy little fish everywhere. It all takes time and patience.
The best thing is to take your iPod/phone and listen to a playlist of music, they had "Canon" playing in the main tank area, but it just makes it a much nicer atmosphere with your own earphones (and shuts out any kids yelling at each other too!)
ISO up to 640 here.

This fella was extremely had to snap, very fast moving and timid. favourites! 
The jellyfish move fairly slowly and their tank was extremely dark and constantly changed colours.
I somehow timed it perfectly with feeding time, all those tiny white specs in the water are tiny little sea monkeys and as the jellies feed you can see them accumulating the white specs on their outer rims and their abdomens. Very cool to watch! Especially to a bit of Coldplay!

While they were feeding the lights were just on bluish white, so much lighter and easier to shoot.

One thing I couldn't get sorted was my white balance, with so many different light sources and colours the tungsten or fluoro white balance options were way out, so I shot "shady" WB and colour corrected in Lightroom.

Found Dory!

These tiny sea horses are only about 5 cm in height.
Spent ages here, love the way they move about. Two were quite interested in each other, holding tails and dancing around.

Towards the end there is a bendy tunnel you can walk through to have the sharks and rays etc glide over you. Pretty cool. One tip here, the glass is closer than it appears and it is easy to knock your lens into the glass, keep one hand out to guide you. I saw one lady knock her head on the wall, more than once.
I left this one dark and mysterious, as it suited the subject.

I think I will be going back! Well worth the visit.