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Tips for photographing mandarin fish?


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#1 RedSeaDiver

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 10:42 PM

Any tips for -

- time of month
- time of night

any other tips?
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#2 greedo5678

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 02:28 AM

My experience from over here in the Philippines.

Patience patience patience.

Not sure about time of month, but we have never seen any difference in moon cycles.

Time of night, the best time to see mating is exactly at dusk. So get in at sunset, and watch the reef go to sleep and come to life again. What you need to look for is somewhere between 5 and 8 m's look for good Porites cylindrica, P. nigrescens or Hydnophora corals (the branching finger corals that look a bit like root ginger which top the reef crest). Mandarins seem to congregate around a rubble patch or whole in the coral. For mating and interaction, you need to look for the larger female. She is the one with the threadfin on the first dorsal. The males will congregate around her as she chooses her pals for the evenings fun! She will select a number of males and mate with them in turn. Now heres the patience part and where knowledge and experience of the dive site helps. You need a small and understanding group too. Keep your torches off the female and dimmed (maybe a red filter helps and a small torch, not some silly torch that lights the whole reef - the inon focus lights are way too bright) and try to save yourself for the main event.

They will hopefully now be swimming around the coral heads the female checking out her suitors. You will have opurtunitites for pics now, but u may scare her with the strobes and the evening is lost for the one pic. WAIT FOR IT....

After she is happy with her selection, she will move closer to the smaller male and slowly rise in the water where the male will join her for a second. The mandarins then mate and its all over. Once it starts it should last a while and give u time to get the shot u want. She will share her time between her suitors mating with them each in turn. maybe a non-photog can hold the torch on the female and u can concentrate on getting the settings bang on. Fire away.

Once she has finished mating, thats it. Over until tomorrow. We often see them sleeping, dull and grey, even at 6:45. So a short window.

I found that AI Servo focus setting is the best, even if the focus isnt perfect, theres nothing worse than missing the moment like this after 20mins sitting waiting.

Hope this helps

Olly
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#3 tdpriest

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 04:27 AM

1) Arrive on-site 20-minutes before the sun disappears. Be prepared to wait up to an hour.
2) Try to be there without another photographer, and give up if there's a videographer with lights! A critter-spotting guide or buddy helps.
3) If you don't use preset manual focus, then you must have a good, red focus light. A white light will keep the mandarin-fish in the coral.
4) A longer macro lens helps: I would choose a 105mm with even a cropped sensor.
5) Go back next evening and do it again...

Tim

:)

#4 thedidavid

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 04:44 AM

I just had 1 time experience trying taking photo of mating mandarin, these fishes are very shy. Dive guide is using small red torchlight and my camera can't focus without turning on my focusing light. But every time I toggle on my focusing light these critters ran away. So next year I will try again but I will prepare red focusing light this time.

Edited by thedidavid, 26 November 2010 - 04:45 AM.

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#5 Steve Williams

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 09:13 AM

Interesting experiences, I had the opposite happen with the focus light. The little guys I was watching last August seemed to be mesmerized by my FIX 48DX. After cavorting around the coral and having their way with each other for 20 minutes or so, one pair came up and stared right into the light. I had to swim backwards off the reef to get her in focus using the 100mm. Her partner actually rested on my port. I haven't met too many divers who've been chased by a Mardarin fish.

Posted Image

To be fair during the early exhibitionist phase of the evening, I had the light turned down and was so innept pointing it they probably thought it was lightning. I had the light mounted very high off the housing trying to avoid illuminating all the backscatter in the water. Made it very tough to get the light, the fish and the AF all in the same plane. However you decide to go after them it's one of the most fun and frustrating things you can do in the water with your 3mm on.

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#6 Bent C

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 09:48 AM

For mating and interaction, you need to look for the larger female. She is the one with the threadfin on the first dorsal. The males will congregate around her as she chooses her pals for the evenings fun! She will select a number of males and mate with them in turn.Olly


Good advice with regard to the techniques. I am pretty sure, however, that the male is the large one with the enlarged first ray on the dorsal fin.

I have used my Solas on the red light setting when photographing mandarins. I believe that this gave much more relaxed mandarins compared to using the red light setting.

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#7 gina

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 01:22 PM

I have used my Solas on the red light setting when photographing mandarins. I believe that this gave much more relaxed mandarins compared to using the red light setting.

Bent,

I am assuming you used the red focus light and then your normal strobes? How long after flashing the strobes did it take for the fish to resume their normal behaviour? I've heard great things about the red Sola lights and am wondering just how far their benefits extend.

Thanks,
Gina

#8 Bent C

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 01:43 PM

Bent,

I am assuming you used the red focus light and then your normal strobes? How long after flashing the strobes did it take for the fish to resume their normal behaviour? I've heard great things about the red Sola lights and am wondering just how far their benefits extend.

Thanks,
Gina


Yes, I use the red focus light and two Ike DS 125 strobes. I did not see any effect on the behaviour of the fish when strobing them. However, I found that they came much closer and rose more times with the red focus light. A couple of examples are http://www.pbase.com...image/129507324 and http://www.pbase.com...image/129668944


I really like the Solas. A couple of days ago I saw a large giant moray hunting on a night dive north of Hurghada. The moray was clearly disturbed by the Solas on white light. However, when I changed to red I could follow it for quite some time while it hunted for fish. My impression is that this applies to most critters on night dives, the red light either doesn´t affect them at all, or it is clearly less disturbing than the white light.

Regards

Bent C
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#9 gina

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 10:24 PM

Thanks, Bent. I think I'm now sold on the Solas. And those are nice mandarinfish photos, particularly of the fish with the eggs.

-Gina

#10 sasdasdaf

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 12:22 AM

I hope you have a lot of patience! I tried shooting mating Mandarinfish in Lembeh in July and it was a really really really frustrating experience. Fun, but frustrating. Lots of good advice here. Follow it to improve your chances.

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#11 greedo5678

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Posted 27 November 2010 - 02:46 AM

Bent, thanks for the correction!

I stand corrected, the male is the larger of the pair. Funny how over the years you convince yourself of something wrong! So rather than a female selecting her suitors and the strongest sperm of the evening winning the race, its the displays of the stronger male that attracts females for him to mate with.... however we will still don our rubber suits in the night and go out looking to watch and photograph sex! What lives we lead!

Steve, amazing encounters, but where was that? Epic shot too.

Olly
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#12 RedSeaDiver

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 10:17 AM

Many thanks for all of the replies. Hopefully I will get a chance to shoot these in a few days.
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#13 eyu

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Posted 06 December 2010 - 05:11 PM

In my experience a red light is the way to go with mandarin fish photography, but during the mandarin foreplay even a red light can frighten them off.
Having a red light that can be dimmed is an advantage since these fish can be bothered by the red light intensity.

Elmer

Edited by eyu, 07 December 2010 - 08:57 AM.

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#14 Tim Digger

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 12:11 PM

Don't know about the red light stuff but dim light is certainly useful. In order to help focus an assistant shining the light from the side produces better contrast which is what most contrast autofocus systems need. This was ably demonstrated to me at Lembeh Resort by a very knowledgeable dive guide shining his dimmed torch across the coral bed from the side at 90 deg to my shooting angle. Near normal autofocus speeds resulted. Likewise at Mabul my shot in POTW a few ago was focused with light from the side. It is well worth briefing your buddy/guide in advance as trying to explain your needs u/w would try an experienced instructor!
Tim Digger

Edited by Tim Digger, 10 December 2010 - 12:12 PM.

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#15 Saurabh Srivastava

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 07:33 AM

Great tips there, I always faced problems in getting my shots current under those circumstances.

#16 matt215

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 12:52 PM

Any chance of seeing these fish in Komodo? I'm headed there in August and would LOVE to get some shots of these little guys.
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