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Bruce, Nikon D90, and the Bait Ball

I'm Bruce Zavon and I'm living the dream. I live on Bonaire and get to dive whenever time permits. So when a special opportunity arises I always try to make time. Recently there has been a massive baitball of scads at a dive site called Barcadera on the north side of the island. It has been around for months but is slowing dissipating as they will under relentless attack by predators. I first heard about it in mid-April and did my first dive on it a few days later. The baitball can be seen from the dock and from above looks like a big black moving stain in the water. It's in just 15 feet of water so ambient light is a big help to the photos.

I've now dove it at least half a dozen times, trying every possible combination of lighting, time of day for the angle of the sun, and lenses. I shoot a Nikon D90 in a Nauticam housing with either dual Inon S-2000 strobes or a Magic Filter. If you're using strobes you need to be sure to shoot in Manual, aim wide and turn them down to avoid blowing out the reflective fish. I have shot it wide angle most times of course, with the Tokina 10-17, but also with the 60mm (and once with the 105mmm just for a different perspective.) Shot some video wide as well. Wide angle gives a great effect as you can get quite close to the baitball and catch them in motion as the bar jacks or tarpon shoot by. I shot it at higher shutter speeds up to 1/320 to keep the bait in focus. This at f/5.6 with the Magic Filter:

I have also shot it at very slow speeds like 1/40th, tracking a tarpon and creating a blurred background of bat to see it from the fish's eye. (Note the sharksucker on his side.) This is with the 60mm, f/14 and strobes. It's a bit soft, I need more practice with this technique!

On a dive a few weeks ago, Chris Parsons and I were fortunate to get a couple of snorkelers in the mix as well. Mary Lou and Jan-Willem were swimming through the baitball on their one month anniversary and I got a few shots to help them remember the day. It was all unplanned but they both had great breath control and swam into and through the baitball and created a nice sense of scale as well as a standout color combinations. These are all 1/200th at f/8:

It just came together really well, luck is a great thing! Thanks to MaryLou and Jan-Willem for permission to use you as models, hope we can do it again someday.

[Editors Note: Bruce Zavon is one of the owners of Nauticam USA, Inc. He signs my paychecks. And did he mention, he lives in Bonaire?]