Anilao has been on my radar for a number of years now and I finally got the chance to visit in March 2018, thanks to the kind sponsorship of Mike Bartick and Crystal Blue Resort after winning the Dive Into the Pink competition.
Anilao, in the Batangas region of the Philippines, is accessed by a three hour car transfer south, after flying into Manila. It is renowned for its world class macro life and the area draws divers, photographers in particular, from around the world.
The reefs are rich and the seabed is teeming with life. The sheer number, variety and diversity of fish and critters is quite amazing. The only problem was … where do I start?
Diving was via bangka boats, small open boats with stabilizing outriggers, there were four divers plus a crew of two and dive guides. The dive sites were very close to the resort, the furthest being approximately thirty minutes away. We dove twice in the morning followed by a hearty lunch and then another dive in the afternoon, followed by a dusk or night dive (blackwater).
Mike had assigned me a great spotter who would have already found the next cool critter before I had finished photographing my initial subject. We dove four times a day and the 60-80 minute dives flashed by. I only had six days to shoot and this kind of intensive critter diving was very productive.
My camera setup is a Nikon D500 in a Nauticam housing using the Nikon 105 VR and 60mm macro lenses. I used Inon Z240 strobes and a Retra LSD snoot, which I found very versatile and useful for isolating subjects form potentially cluttered backgrounds.
On reflection, Anilao should be on every macro photographer’s bucket list as it provides a fantastic opportunity to photograph numerous A-list critters.