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Very excited to be headed to the Maldives in a weeks time and really hoping to catch some Manta action while we are there!

 

What lens setup(s) work for Mantas? I'm shooting Nikon dSLR.

 

Any tips on shooting, things to do (or not).

 

thanks :(

Leander

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Leander,

 

I think it all depends on the situation and conditions. Visibility, whether it's a feeding or a cleaning-station situation, how close the mantas can be approached, etc. But as a starting point, I think you should consider going as wide as possible - such as the 10.5 mm fisheye or equivalent. Mantas are generally at shallow depths, so this is a good time to experiment with Magic Filters using ambient light, particularly if the visibility is bad.

 

The first of the two attached images was shot last year with the 12-24 zoom (at 24) using a Magic Filter, no strobes. ISO 400, 1/80 at f/4.5. These mantas are part of the large school at Karang Makassar in Komodo National Park. These mantas do not like to approach snorkellers closely while feeding, so I felt the 12-24 was a better choice than the 10.5, though I could have opened a bit wider on this shot.

 

The second image was taken at Manta Alley in South Komodo in early 2005. At this location, the mantas often can be approached much more closely, so I was using a 10.5. A minute later, I was swimming parallel to this manta when it suddenly turned and actually ran into me. The incident shook me up more than it did this manta, which continued to swim close by and inspect me and other divers/snorkellers. This was unusually good visibility for the south side of Komodo Island by the way. It never looks like this in August.

 

If the mantas are coming into a shallow water cleaning station, it's often best to just wait near the cleaning station, staying low in the water column, and letting the mantas come to you if they're curious. Best if there are only one or two divers doing this - they're not likely to approach a cleaning station surrounded by divers all blowing bubbles, waving their arms, etc.

 

With free-swimming curious mantas, I'd suggest that you avoid moving directly towards them. Swimming parallel on a slowly converging track works better. Use a smooth steady kick and avoid excessive or unnecessary movements Going for ambient light with no strobes or arms reduces drag and makes this easier.

 

post-1236-1182565757_thumb.jpg - - post-1236-1182566224_thumb.jpg

 

 

Frogfish (Robert Delfs)

Edited by frogfish

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If you know you will get close to them use the 10.5. If not then the 12-24. The 17-55 and other such lenses are not wide enough.

 

I've done most all of my Manta action in Socorro. There they will come up to you and look you in the eye if they like you. Don't follow or chase them. They will take you down into the depths or out in the blue. If they like you (and yes I mean that) they will come back.

 

http://web.mac.com/daveburroughs/iWeb/Site...rro%202007.html

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hi leander,

 

most manta dives in maldives are cleaning stations. so there is a good chance to get close. as mentioned above >> take a wide lens. the 10.5 might be a very good choice. got a tokina 10-17? i'd prefer that one.

when it is a nice cleaning station, you might get good chances to just sit under the manta in the sand, having it hovering just above you ... so it is actually nicer to have a strobe (or two) ... of course ambient light is also possible.

 

but also be prepared for current :(

 

where in maldives are you going to?

 

greets, serge

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for cleaning stations mantas tend to be ten feet away from you one second then on top of you the next. Doesn't make it easy to turn strobes on and off...

 

So, what i do is set strobes out wide and pointing out a little more than usual. When the manta is 10 feet away and you want a silhouette overhead the strobe won't be lighting it up, but, it won't light up that much water colum either if you get the strobes pointed out enough. Nothing a little backscatter removal in PS won't fix.

 

Then when they are in your face 2 seconds later your strobes will still be on and you can light them up instead of fooling around trying to turn the strobes back on..

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Fairly safe to say that the mantas will come really close in the Maldives. So, wide, wide and more wide angles!

 

Which atoll are you going to? I have had some absolutely amazing manta dives in the Baa Atoll in Maldives. Apart from cleaning stations there are some feeding locations where if you are lucky 50-60 mantas stay around for hours. We spent over 90 mins in very shallow water (less than 10m) snapping away at their feeding frenzy. They come really close, even though I spent half my time ducking them, I still got slapped by their wings a couple of times. The only slight issue with these feeding locations is the visibility is lower with lots of plankton, so difficult to get the clear clear blue water shots.

 

Have a great trip

 

Jing

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in maldives clear blue is impossible anyway at this time of the year :( one more reason for a wide lens ...

 

mantas will be hanging out in the chanel areas of the east sides of the atolls. depending onb which area you stay, your mantapoints will be in between 5 and 25 meters deep. but water will not be clear. specially, because you see the mantas on most spots, when the current is running out of the atoll.

 

the best manta dives in maldives you get in the high season between december and april, when water is clearer and mantas on the west side.

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Close action would be the ultimate for me :D I had one (my first :P ) up close and personal circling me at Layang Layang last year and was buzzing!

 

Then I had the 10.5 on. I thought that it was quite close, but its not very big in the frame. Loking at Dave's nice 10.5 pics I wasn't so close!

 

I have been tossing up whether to get a 10-20, which would give me 100 degrees, for the trip. My dilema is its that or the 105 for this trip ...

 

My 18-35 does fine for seadragons ... but I can't imagine squeezing a ray in there :(

 

This is gonna sound bad ... but not sure where in the Maldives. We are on the Nooraanee Queen - it has two itineries but this could be us ... itinerarya.jpg

 

Its good to hear there are good manta experiences possible in the Maldives. Its hard to know from the web - where "blue moon" sightins can be made to sound daily :D. As I understand July will be poorer vis, but more chance of bigger fish?

 

Thanks for the strobe tips Mike. I was shooting night feeding squid the other week ... sounds like it may have been good practice :)

 

Jing ... wow ... this would be a dream. I'd be a Maldives convert if we saw something half good :D

 

Ah this is exciting :D:D:D

Edited by Lndr

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this is my one manta ... shot with the 10.5 ... post-1321-1182603443_thumb.jpg

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There are some really nice sites around South Male Atoll. Haven't been to Felidhoo. I became a Maldives convert after my first trip. Have been there 12 times in the last 9 years, because I love diving with mantas and lots of fish. The coral coverage is definitely not as nice as Indonesia, and less macro/muck diving, but it's fish fish and more fish in amazing numbers. The reefs are so alive!

 

Nice manta shot, but you will definitely be a lot closer to them than in your picture.

 

It's also whale shark season. So good luck with the mantas and the whale shark. Have a great trip! Very envious, but I have to wait till Oct for my trip. Look forward to seeing your photos.

 

Jing

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Excellent advice from Mike, who has more experience than most of us at this sort of thing. For my money, go wide and hope to get lucky. I'd rather have one amazing photo of a manta than 30 okay ones. 10.5mm all the way!

Edited by Grinderman

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10.5 worked for me. it my first time using my 10.5. As you can see, when the manta ray gets close, even the 10.5 isn't wide enough, lol

 

146648183-M.jpg

 

They come by pretty fast also!

 

If you are at a cleaning station, stay below them, don't block their path or they will leave.

 

Getting a diver in the photo with them is nice also.

 

146648281-M.jpg

 

enjoy the mantas!

 

Scott

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so you are on a liveaboard?

 

then you shouldn't worry too much ... they will make sure you will have some dives with manta :( enjoy your trip!!

 

if you do that trip, which is marked on your picture there ... make sure you dive kandooma thila (or raan thila or cocoa thila ... different names for the same spot). it is in southmale atoll close to gurrhaidoo ... not the spots for manta, but in my opinion one of the best spots in maldives. fantastic for eagle ray and grey reef sharks, napoleon. also lots of turtles. if current is fast, adrenalin is high!

 

 

dont forget to share your images after the trip :P

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one tip that might help - we get a group of seasonal mantas in ecuador, and ive observed that they don't tolerate any kind of approach, but if you stay in one place then they will come and find you. one idea is that they like the sensation of the bubbles hitting their underside, and i've had one big manta sit only 1 metre above me for a good 5 or more minutes just enjoying whatever it was enjoying. too close for a photo though :(

 

this also works if you have a group of divers. i've led a group of 4 or 5 divers and we've huddled together on a rock and seen the mantas circle over us for the whole dive, getting our bubbles we presume.

 

if the dive group spreads out, then there are more bubble streams for the mantas to check out and so will mean the mantas spread out too.

 

let me know if you observe similar.

 

thanks

 

mark

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yes, very good point. stay on the bottom (or just off it if its not rubble) and don't move. If you chase mantas they will go away and everyone will hate the photographer who chased the mantas away........ Believe me, i see it all the time..

 

One trick if you get just a few mantas circling the station. Watch the path they take, when they turn away from you and start again on the same path quietly move a little bit so you are in their return path... but make sure you move when they are facing away, do it slowly...

 

Also, don't hold your breath and then exhale a huge bubble cloud, just exhale normally..

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Great tips by others, so not much to add. I concur with others' key points, e.g., don't chase, try to hang in (but below them) their path, use wide angle. Try a Magic Filter on mid-day dives where there is lots of sunlight.

 

Also, set your strobes wide, but on lower than full power (1/4 to 1/2 power), and be really watching exposure (-2/3 to -1 stop) to get nice blue water. You're going to be shooting mostly with ambient light much of the time (except when they're really close), and you don't want to suddenly blow them out (remember, their bellies are WHITE) when they finally get close enough to fill your wide angle lens and let your strobes be effective for fill. With stobes, your best shots are likely to be when you're even with or below the manta, with ambient light, your best shots will be when you are even or above them. Below are two examples (from Socorro) of shooting from above (you can see that it is just far enough that the strobes have no effect, but the diver makes it an interesting shot IMO), and one closer and below, where the strobe is helping fill the underside of the manta.

 

I personally like a wide zoom (I'm not a Nikon guy, but I think someone mentioned a 10-20 or 12-24 or similar, which would be a good range for a wide zoom with your crop factor). The nice thing about a zoom is that you can zoom in to get some decent shots while the mantas are approaching, but then zoom out as they get closer, click click clicking away!

 

Have fun! Mantas are amazingly graceful and beautiful creatures, and diving with them is truly a wonderful opportunity.

 

141853714-M-1.jpg

 

141853665-M-1.jpg

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There are some really nice sites around South Male Atoll. Haven't been to Felidhoo. I became a Maldives convert after my first trip. Have been there 12 times in the last 9 years, because I love diving with mantas and lots of fish. The coral coverage is definitely not as nice as Indonesia, and less macro/muck diving, but it's fish fish and more fish in amazing numbers. The reefs are so alive!

 

Sounds great! We are stopping over in Malaysia on the way back, so there will be lots of nice reef action there for us!

 

Any sites in particular we should ask for?

 

 

Excellent advice from Mike, who has more experience than most of us at this sort of thing. For my money, go wide and hope to get lucky. I'd rather have one amazing photo of a manta than 30 okay ones. 10.5mm all the way!

 

Definitely listening with all ears to Mr Manta Boy :D

 

Well I have locked in to getting a new macro lens, so there will only be the 10.5! Fingers crossed!!

 

146648183-M.jpg

 

Wow! I can hardly imaginf it being so big as to (over) fill the 10.5 .... ah this is gonna be way cool :D

 

if you do that trip, which is marked on your picture there ... make sure you dive kandooma thila (or raan thila or cocoa thila ... different names for the same spot). it is in southmale atoll close to gurrhaidoo ... not the spots for manta, but in my opinion one of the best spots in maldives. fantastic for eagle ray and grey reef sharks, napoleon. also lots of turtles. if current is fast, adrenalin is high!

dont forget to share your images after the trip ;)

 

Thanks for the tips. We are on the liveaboard - Nooraanee Queen. Pretty nervous as we found out last night we are the only pax!!! ;) Worries are they will cancel, or ?worse? decide diving for the week will be at anchor in the harbour!

 

 

one tip that might help - we get a group of seasonal mantas in ecuador, and ive observed that they don't tolerate any kind of approach, but if you stay in one place then they will come and find you. one idea is that they like the sensation of the bubbles hitting their underside, and i've had one big manta sit only 1 metre above me for a good 5 or more minutes just enjoying whatever it was enjoying. too close for a photo though :)
yes, very good point. stay on the bottom (or just off it if its not rubble) and don't move. If you chase mantas they will go away and everyone will hate the photographer who chased the mantas away........ Believe me, i see it all the time..

 

Mark & Mike thanks for the tips. I definitely don't wanna be the one who chases the subject away. Was unimpressed when folks did this to the Jacks, barras, turtles in Sipadan last year <_<

 

Also, set your strobes wide, but on lower than full power (1/4 to 1/2 power), and be really watching exposure (-2/3 to -1 stop) to get nice blue water. You're going to be shooting mostly with ambient light much of the time (except when they're really close), and you don't want to suddenly blow them out (remember, their bellies are WHITE) when they finally get close enough to fill your wide angle lens and let your strobes be effective for fill. With stobes, your best shots are likely to be when you're even with or below the manta, with ambient light, your best shots will be when you are even or above them. Below are two examples (from Socorro) of shooting from above (you can see that it is just far enough that the strobes have no effect, but the diver makes it an interesting shot IMO), and one closer and below, where the strobe is helping fill the underside of the manta.

 

Thanks for the strobe tips. I'll be shooting with a couple of DS125s. I was wondering about the settings to cope with a subject that has such dynamic strobe - subject distance. Lots of suck-it-and-see I guess :)

 

I like the lighting in your pics (and Scott's too!) B)

Edited by Lndr

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In Hawaii, they have manta ray nite dive and the situation would be quite difference. I had my pair of DS-125 full power and modelling light on so that it attracts the manta to swim towards me. It's a miss or hit because I am at full power and the body are quite shinny. I was shooting 5050. With ittl and dslr, I wonder if it would make sense to shoot either apeture priority at f5.6 or 1/125 and let the camera figure it out the exposure ?

post-4852-1184716063_thumb.jpg

post-4852-1184716090_thumb.jpg

Edited by CADiver

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What's the feeling about using the Magic Filter? In Palau they were feeding so lots of stuff in the water but we where basically on the surface and hard to get sun behind you but I wish I had given it a try. Anyone have luck with Mantas and the Magic Filter? The following taken with the Tokina 10-17 both at the 17mm end.

manta2a%20copy.jpg

mantaswirl.jpg

Edited by NWDiver

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If you're in palau, you could try the (former?) Presidents technique of using a speargun to shoot a manta! :D:angry:

 

I usually use a 12-24mm for mantas as you never know what mood they'll be in.

 

I hope Lndr got some nice shots, i guess we'll see soon!

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