I really like jellyfish! They move gracefully, there are lots of them and they are an excellent subject for pretty photos since they don’t swim away when you get close. Sure, I have been stung in the water before, but mostly by siphonophores like blue bottles (technically not jellyfish) and always because I was chasing after whale sharks rather than looking where I was swimming to. So the bottom line: jellyfish are awesome!
I had the chance recently to take some cool photos of jellyfish in Tanzania. I had plenty of time to shoot and improve because the jellies would swim around the mangroves in front of my hut every day at high tide. My main goals were to get an over-under photo that shows the jellies in their mangrove habitat, and to capture a nice “jellyfish in the sun” photo. The main challenge with the over-under shot was to get the top side in focus as well. I tried with a high f-stop but there is still room for improvement.
For the silhouette photo of the jellyfish with the sun in the background, it was more about the shutter speed. David Robinson gave me some excellent tips to bump up the shutter speed as much as possible after I showed him my first attempt. It worked really well and the sun rays came through nicely. Other than the camera settings, you just have to hold your breath for a long time, hold on to a mangrove root at the bottom and wait for the jelly to swim over your head in front of the sun.
EventualIy, I got that shot of a jellyfish in front of the sun among the mangroves – one of my all time favourite photos.
For video, things are a bit trickier since you cannot simply pick the best of many frames. Stills are also much easier to edit. But video is awesome and jellyfish are a good subject since you can try until you get the shots you wanted. I shot the clip below in the 4k Cine-D profile with the occasional HD 96fps slow motion. I had the camera in aperture priority and it turned out ok, but these days I would shoot at 60fps and prioritise the shutter speed at 1/120 to get nice smooth motion. If you don’t know what I am talking about, check out this quick explanation. With the camera ready, all I did was wait for high tide on a sunny, calm day to minimise water turbidity and then get the shots.