Lembeh is probably one of the very  best places in the world to shoot macro.
A statement that you probably already agree with I’m sure. especially if you’ve visited there as an underwater photographer.

One Trick Pony?

Is it just a one trick pony though? And are there good wide angle options in the midst of all this macro marvellosity?

Staying at the Lembeh Resort recently-report coming about this very special dive resort very soon btw– we’d settled into a familiar pattern of awesome daily macro dives, shooting some of the Straits stand out creatures, in the now familiar muck diving surroundings of a “gently sloping rubble slope” which we criss crossed, testing our eye sight and utilising our diopters finding odd ball crustaceans, cephalopods and a wealth of teeny tiny things.
We knew what to expect sure, so none of this drab brown background was in any way a disappointment, this was why we were here, to shoot the incredible creatures living in this, the aptly titled “weirdest square mile on Earth”

I’d heard of some more conventional coral type dives here, so we mooted the option to one day have a wee excursion and visit a couple.
Dante’s Wall and Angel’s Window were the two sites we had been told would deliver us up a clear water less mucky coral reef experience.
Our guides Jhoe, Iwan and Maekel had been bang on the mark with all of our muck dives so we had no problems trusting their judgement as to a good wide angle dive.
Now I am well aware that some of the creatures of the Lembeh Strait i.e. Hairy Frogfish and some of the larger than normal critters can benefit from shooting close focus wide angle, with a fish eye lens, but I fancied shooting a reefscape and wanted to see if this oddball corner of Indonesia was able to serve up a some good reef, replete with life and abundance, the sort I’m used to shooting in the clear waters of the Red Sea.

I wasn’t disappointed, Dante’s Wall is as full of life and corals as I’ve seen anywhere in the world and clearly benefits from the nutrient rich waters sluicing in and out of the Straits on a daily basis.

It started out as a slope and we descended down to around 26m but whilst we had a sunny day we were too close to the cliff face at that time in the morning for us to get really bright sunlight, these next two pictures in the more gloomy conditions at the beginning of the dive started to hint at the proliferation of life we witnessed later on in the day.

Scuba Travel, Indonesia
One of my first encounters was these Razor Fish using this coral to hide in, it was nice for a change to shoot them wide angle and placed firmly in context within the environment.
Because the overall light was lower at the beginning of this dive I was able to try some twirls, and got the shutter speed down to around a 1/6 sec at f22 with both strobes on full power.
Because the overall light was lower at the beginning of this dive I was able to try some twirls, and got the shutter speed down to around a 1/6 sec at f22 with both strobes on full power.

Towards the end of our dive at Dante’s wall the sun started to put in an appearance, and I could see the potential for some great reef scenes, with hopefully some lovely beams of sunlight, which had now risen beyond the cliff face behind the dive site.

Scuba Travel, Indonesia, Lembeh, Sunbeams
Whips and Feather stars left intact and relatively untouched by the lower density of divers at these sites.

Lounging around

Our surface interval was taken as quickly as our computers would allow, as we could see that the sun was at a good height now and should be illuminating the next dive site of Angels Window.

This dive was more of the same with abundant life covering every square inch of rock. Corals both hard and soft, jostled for position with starfish and Sea Stars aplenty.

Scuba Travel, Indonesia, Lembeh, Sunbeams
These starfish seemed to be lounging around in the mid morning sun.

sunbeam in Lembeh

Finally, towards the end of the dive, I was able to realize the sort of scene that I had in my mind’s eye for this site, and all fell into place with a great location and beautiful sunbeams illuminating the scene. I have lit this shot with a combination of strobes to light the foreground, after first getting my background exposure correct.

The trick to getting the beams of light like this it tries and shoot with the sun just out of sight at the edge of your frame, not always easy, and you need to carefully adjust for your background exposure first.

Scuba Travel, Indonesia, Lembeh, Sunbeams
Perfect storm, of a beautiful reef out in Lembeh, where I’ve managed to frame out the sun, but kept the beams

Lembeh of course is famous for macro photography, but I think it can also still hold it’s own for wide angle shooters, and when I go there next I will be definitely scheduling in some wide angle dives alongside the teeny tiny critter dives.


These shots were taken on my most recent underwater photography photo trip.
and we stayed at Lembeh Resort in Indonesia.
I conduct these trips and workshops worldwide and have a big variety of itineraries already plugged in for next year. Why not join us and have great fun and learn about underwater photography in some of the best locations in the world.