Shooting sea slugs

Tinellia sp.
Nikon D500 | 105mm | +6 Kraken Pro Diopter

 Nudibranchs are colorful little gems that have adapted themselves in many different ways to the ever changing marine environment. Their colorful appearance, incredible designs and physiology makes them one of natures coolest critters.


Photographing slow moving or sluggish subjects are perfect for UW photographers. And nudis are probably responsible for converting more fun divers into divers with cameras than any other creature on the sea bed. This doesn't make them an easy subject to photograph though as i've found, shooting slug photos is alot tougher then it appears. 

For me, i like to be sure to include key elements when shooting a slug or any other creature. Sharpness, important anatomical features, lighting and making sure the subject is isolated. 

I try to find the personality of any creature and to bring that out in an image. If its transparent, show that. If it has visible eye spots, try to show that too. All of these details factor in to making an image more compelling.

Hilton's aeolid- Nikon D500 | 60mm | Kraken pro +6 diopter

Rhinophores are used to smell and find food etc. and depending on the type of slug, can vary in design. Some are crowned, some are finned, rolled, smooth or banded with color. If the rhinophores aren't sharp in your image than your image will appear soft. 

Nembrotha-Nikon D850 | 105mm|+ Kraken pro +6 diopter

Shooting them all head on can get boring fast too, although it is a great way to keep both rhinophores sharp and aligned on the same plane.

Costasiela Nikon D500|105+Kraken Pro +22

Shawn the sheep are very, very small and will demand the use of a high powered diopter like the Kraken Pro +13 or +22. Or other diopters such as Nauticam SMC. The adapter used for these diopters is also extremely important as it will hold your wet lens in the correct position without moving. This might not seem like a deal breaker but when your considering the razor thin depth of field, this small detail will make a huge difference.

Lighting is of course everything. It can make an image interesting in ways that will further separate your images into something special. Remember, there are no rules to being creative so let yourself be creative and build your confidence.

Alleni- Backlit with an off camera strobe 
Nikon D850 | 105mm | 1 Sea and Sea YSD2-J

Backlighting is a great way to push your image to the next level, If its done right. The only way to learn proper backlighting is to actually start doing it. 

Cinderella- Snoot and torch for backlighting
Nikon D850 | 105mm | Kraken V2 snoot torch for backlighting and Backscatter mini flash and snoot.

Lighting can also be a double edged sword when ran to the extremes and push it away from the mainstream. Experiment and see what works for you and keep building on that skillset.
Mating Pika-Chu
Nikon D500 | 105mm | Sea and Sea YSD2 & Subsee FO snoot + Kraken snoot torch for backlighting

Special subjects deserve special lighting. Using a snoot and a torch can get to be a bit tricky but well worth the effort when done correctly. The Kraken snoot torch V2 uses a very narrow beam cast allowing for highlighting portions of your subject while helping to assert control over backscatter.

Melibe colemani
Nikon D500 | 60mm | 1 YSD2 + Retra LSD + Kraken snoot torch

The Melibe colemani is one of the hardest slugs for me to shoot well. Using the same method as above, i used both a snoot and a torch for backlighting. The white lines or actually the muscles of this slug, what an incredible creature wow.

L bernosi-The Neon Slug
Nikon D7100 | sigma 28080 macro @ 70mm | Diopter- 

Back to composition and concentrating on key features of your subject. Check out the rhinophores on this insane slug. Im using an old school lens that doesn't have the best quality for this type of work however when its coupled with one of the poor quality diopters in my collection, it creates a shallow depth of field and barrel distortion which i find to be a cool effect at times. 

Dirona- Nikon D500 | 60mm | Sea and Sea YSD2 + Retra LSD snoot 
Kraken snoot torch with colorized gel filter

Using a colorized gel filter is also another fun way to express yourself as long as its done tastefully. This can become obnoxious very quickly but fun to experiment with, particularly when the substrate is not too pretty.

Favorite gear for shooting slugs:

For more slug images, please check my macro gallery under Nudibranchs.

Backlighting is one of the essential skills taught in all of my macro workshops, for more info on upcoming workshops at Crystal Blue Resort, please check my website. These fill fast and are sold out a year in advance. I also do 1:1 and small custom groups that are not announced to please email me for more info on that.