In continuing some posts about my recent trip to Little Cayman, I thought I would share a few shots of small fish from the reefs I visited. Small fish can be quite interesting characters. I view them as being from one of two groups as far as their personalities – either really shy, or really “spunky” (in that they will aggressively defend their territory). Some quite easy to spot, others definitely use the complexity of a reef to blend in to hide from predators. All of these were photographed with a Nikon 105 f2.8 AF VR macro lens.
This little guy was no bigger diameter than about half of my pinky finger. Given how small they are, I can see why they are somewhat hard to find. It was my first time seeing one. The males have a large sail fin, but they only display it after coming out of their holes a bit, which can involve a long wait. I would classify this one as being in the spunky group. I placed my finger just outside of his burrow only to find him come out and nip at it. Pretty gutsy attacking something about a gazillion times his size. Look at the photo, the fish kinda looks like a 1/2 inch sized bad-ass.
I am not 100% certain on the ID of this guy since there are a few similar gobies. It is the one I am going with since he did not have a yellow stripe on his nose. These small fish usually hang out inside sponges and fall more towards the shy end. I usually saw them down inside the sponges, so I was fortunate to find this one on the edge. One of the reasons I like using a 105 mm is that it allows me to have a pretty good working distance for shy critters.
I had a heck of a time trying to photograph this little guy. He was no bigger than your thumb to the first knuckle and swam unpredictably around this sea fan. It may seem rather obvious because of the closeup nature of this photo and my slight lightening of the area around the fish, but they are very hard to spot from a distance. They actually blend in very well and use the gorgonians for cover. He didn’t seem all that nervous with me around, but would constantly tip from side to side preventing me from getting a good side profile view. I actually got this shot while I was upside down to avoid my fins being near the reef.
These long shaped fish are found burrowing in sandy areas and piles of rubble. They can be pretty fearless – often raising up out of their holes to stare at you in the face. They are mouth brooders, so when they have eggs, they collect them and protect them in their mouths and occasionally aerate them. A dive master on our boat gave us a tip to look for the ones with the black spots on their chins, as this indicated they usually had eggs. While I did find one with eggs, it popped back into its hole on my approach. I backed away, waited, waited, and waited a awhile longer to see if he would come out again. Looking down at my air gauge showed I had just enough air to do my safety stop and make it back to the boat. Having air overruled getting the shot on this one. :-) But I did have another with no eggs.
There is an amazing variety of life that can be found with a macro lens. These small fish are just a small fraction of what can be found on any particular dive. It does take going very slow and having a watchful eye. You never know what may pop out of a hole.