“F/11 and be there!” That’s an old photography expression to describe a subject so interesting or dramatic that merely recording the scene is enough to capture the interest of your audience. Nature offers intrinsic beauty and making nice pictures is often as simple as showing up when the light is good.
But nature can be fickle too; and, where wildlife is concered, downright unpredictable. On a recent trip to Mexico, I encountered a large school of jacks. While marveling at this “wall of fish” I soon noticed that I wasn’t the only one who was looking. A large barracuda was patroling the periphery of the school below me and seemed to be surveying the small fish like a hungry boy at a buffet. I quickly found the shutter release on my underwater housing and attempted to dive a few feet below the surface to line up a shot that would include both predator and prey. With a flick of its tail the barracuda disappeared into the murky blue ocean.
The next day I swam out to the channel and located the school of jacks. Sure enough, the barracuda was also in the vicinity. The wind had created choppy conditions that further hampered the under water visibility so I spent my time testing the comfort zone of the barracuda. For three more days, sometimes twice daily, I took my swim out to the jacks hoping to find the barracuda too and improved conditions for photography. Each time I was able to earn more trust and close the distance that the barracuda would allow.
One the fourth day the water was clear, the school of jacks were waiting and the barracuda seemed to regard me as some odd but harmless fish. When all of the elements (predator, prey, water quality and light) lined up I was ready. The result was worth the extra effort.