The "big stuff"
For many divers, the main goal of their dives will be the "big stuff", they will come seeking sharks, turtles, rays and schooling barracudas and will not be disappointed! The turtles around Mabul are plentiful and not shy! They will usually be happy to pose whilst you snap away and you may even be rewarded with a smile! Sharks can be trickier due to their lack of interest in staying still! White tip sharks and leopard sharks are amongst the easier sharks to photograph as they are able to rest immobile on the bottom for periods of time and with some patience you will be rewarded with some great shots! Glimpses of hammerheads can often be fleeting and by the time you realise what you're lucky enough to be seeing they are gone, every so often someone will get that elusive schooling hammerhead shot though!
Most experienced photographers come seeking the smaller more cryptic inhabitants of the reefs around Mabul & Kapalai as well as the Tun Sakaran Marine Park. A patient search and the eagle eyes of one of dive guides will usually help to show up all kinds of reef dwellers such as nudibranchs, shrimps, crabs, pipefish, frogfish, stonefish and much much more. Slow moving marine life has a huge attraction for photographers, allowing for plenty of time to perfect that shot! The more photography a diver does, the more they find themselves getting into the smaller inhabitants of the reef, often to the extent that they will move 50m or less in one dive! Nudibranchs hold a special appeal due to the large number of different species, colours, patterns and their inability to go anywhere in a hurry! Divers will often find themselves staring at a frogfish, camera at the ready waiting for the elusive "frogfish yawning" shot!
Once you feel as though you have mastered both wide angle & macro shots you may start to wonder what else there is and that is where a whole new world opens up - the night dive! Venture onto the reef after hours and you will find an array of critters waiting for their turn to be the star of your show as well as challenging you with new shooting conditions. Night dives are a great time for a slow paced dive, exploring the reef one circle of torchlight at a time producing as many if not more macro sightings than day dives! Parrotfish sleeping in bubbles in the reef, spanish dancers and all sorts of cuttlefish, squid, eels and seahorses make for fantastic subjects and will keep you occupied for hours (or until you get cold or low on air!!).
Whatever your level of experience and camera set-up, the Semporna region will have something for you to photograph - ask your guide for tips & tricks, chances are they're an avid photographer themselves!!