Motion and Form

The jetty at Samarai Island in Milne Bay was red-hot during my recent visit to Papua New Guinea.

There were multiple swarms of thousands of fish, including aggregations of hardyhead silversides (Atherinomorus lacunosus) like the one pictured below so enormous that referring to them as "schools" seems inadequate. "Universities" would be more like it.

Robust silversides (Atherinomorus lacunosus), Samarai Island, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
Thousands of swirling silversides circling around a coral-encrusted
jetty post at Samarai Island in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea

The currents weren't too bad; the water was shallow; and the fish never strayed far from the relative safety of the areas under and around the it was the perfect opportunity to concentrate on photographing broad, sweeping movements of multitudes of fish.

Which is precisely what we did, since encountering tens of thousands of fish in ideal photographic conditions isn't an everyday occurrence.

If you find yourself at Samarai when the fish are around, or in a similar situation elsewhere, keep this in mind: The key to taking memorable photographs of such massive aggregations of fish is to snap the shutter at the precise instant that the seemingly haphazard motions of thousands of individual fish transcend chaos and coalesce into a recognisable pattern...a shape that evokes the magnificence of their collective existence.

There's a heap of waiting and frustration involved, but it's worth the effort if you capture the right moment:

Hardyhead silversides (Atherinomorus lacunosus), Samarai Island, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
Large schools of fish like these hardyhead silversides (Atherinomorus lacunosus)
at Samarai Island make for excellent subjects to depict motion and form

Incidentally...Julian Cohen, who was on Golden Dawn with me for the entire month of the trip, took some really nice photos of the friendly fish at Samarai and other subjects as well. He just contributed an article about our Milne Bay adventure to the latest issue of Underwater Photography Magazine, which is published by Peter Rowlands.

With Peter's permission, I've clipped Julian's four-page article from the issue to repost here: Julian's PNG Article from UwP61 Jul/Aug 2011 (right-click to download). It's worth a read, as Julian's discussion and photographs provide an excellent overview of many of our trip highlights.

Please visit the Underwater Photography Magazine site to download the rest of issue 61 and peruse back issues.