How to Take Pictures in Coral Reef?

I live in Indonesia, a country that consists of thousands of tropical islands. Most of the islands in the province where I live have got coral reef around them. This allows me to observe the marine life in this very rich underwater environment. During the observation works, I take pictures or make videos of fish, sea stars, coral reef and other echinoderm creatures that I see. 
I usually wear snorkeling mask, snorkel, and swim fins. To avoid fogging on the glass surface of my mask, I apply some shampoo on it. After that I rinse it but I still leave some thin layer of the shampoo on the glass. When I wear it, I will touch my forehead and temples to remove strands of hair that are  trapped between the rubber seal of my mask and face. It is important to remove them to prevent any water leaks when I do the snorkeling, scuba diving, and freediving. 
Three Spots Dascyllus, Red and Black Anemonefish
Underwater Picture from coral reef in Manokwari
Light Factor
Abundant marine life can be seen in the coral reef where sunlight can reach. In deeper water where sunlight has been much reduced, there are not many marine animals that we can see. So the best depths for taking underwater pictures are from 1 to 15 meters. At this depth, shooting a fish or a nudibranch does not need flash. In deeper water, the use of flash, and artificial lights is needed for underwater photography.
Coral reef in the waters of Waigeo islands.
Marine Life in Raja Ampat
Photographic Device
 Today I use small pocket camera Fujifilm XQ2 with its waterproof case. I also use Nikon AW 130. There are other underwater cameras that are available on the market and can be bought from electronic shops such as Olympus TG-6, Sony RX0 + underwater housing, Sony RX 100 + waterhousing, and Sealife DC 2000.
Professional underwater photographers or marine researchers usually choose cameras with bigger sensors. Canon G 1X Mark III, and other D-SLR cameras with their waterproof housings will produce bright and sharp photographs. Inside the waterproof housings, I usually put 3 bags of silica gel to absorb water vapour or moist and prevent fog from forming on the surface of the housing lens/ glass.
Photo of Christmas Tree Worm
Christmas Tree Worm
Taking Pictures
It is much easier to get closer to a fish than to a bird even-though we do it underwater. So, the distances between a photographer and his or her subjects can be around 1 to 5 meters. Sometimes, there is current in the water. To stabilize my body underwater, I usually hold onto a hard coral using my left hand. My right hand will be the one that holds the camera and shoot the fish. 
I usually position myself to be on the same eye level with the fish or coral that I want to shoot before taking pictures. The angle of shooting and the background of the subjects influence the results. For instance, taking pictures of red and black anemonefish with the background of the clear blue sea is better than taking pictures of the anemonefish with the background of  broken corals.
Avoid Breaking the Corals
Coral reef looks like a strong environment that consists of hard rocks. In reality the corals are fragile and can easily be broken. So, when we approach coral reef using a speed boat, we must make sure that we do not throw anchor onto the coral reef. We also must avoid standing on the ones that can easily broken such as the staghorn coral.
Coral reef is a fascinating marine environment. It is beautiful and it has to be protected forever. When we can sustainable preserve our marine environment, we will always have abundant photographic materials which we can proudly show to the world.
 by Charles Roring
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