It’s safe to to say that anemone and clownfish are easily one of the most photographed subjects underwater. And rightly so! A clownfish or two in with the beautiful tentacles or colorful underside of the anemone in the background has the makings of a no-brainer great picture. However, just getting a photograph of an anemonefish is pretty straightforward with any type of underwater camera and you’ll find a dime a dozen out there but, actually getting a truly outstanding shot requires more than just technique, it requires perseverance!
The key to capturing that special clownfish shot is not finding Nemo but infact finding the right anemone and setting for the shot. There are a wide variety of anemone and some are can be pretty drably colored, while others have dull, sausage-shaped tentacles – those are what you don’t want. You to look for the supermodels of anemones with tentacles in interesting shapes and colors, accompanied by skirts in even brighter hues. Anemone with the bright red skirting and attractive pinks, purples and burgundies are the most popular for that Nat-geo like shot. Finding that perfect anemone is the biggest part of the job you’ll have to invest your time to, but trust me it’ll be worth it.
Next is getting that fish with the perfect composition. Never an easy task as anemonefish rarely stay still long enough to allow you to compose, focus and expose that special shot. At the same you are almost guaranteed with anemonefish that they aren’t going anywhere, so patience is key. So before you get all excited you found that looker of an anemone resist hounding the fish with your lens, step back and observe the fish for a bit. You’ll notice most anemonefish swim quite regular circuits around their anemone and seem to have favorite spots from where they like to look out. Decide on a good angle for the shot, preferably where there’s a fold in the skirting or where it lifts up if there’s movement in the water (for this reason, a slight current on the dive is a good thing) and take a test shot without the fish to see if you like the background and composition of the shot. Once you’re happy with it, there’s not much to do but wait for the fish to get in the the frame and fire.
Take plenty of frames and keep shooting as when you view the pictures later you’ll notice how easy it is to be slightly off with the focus or to clip a fin. If you can’t get a shot against the skirting of the anemone which is the best composition and you’re shooting against the tentacles of the anemone, adhere to the underwater photography basic rule of either getting below the subject and shot upwards or in-line with it. Your fish will get lost in the anemone should you try to take a shot from above.