My most beautiful underwater photos taken in Mayotte in 2017
It has been a year rich in encounters and yet it has only been a year since I have been on this magnificent island of Mayotte. Every weekend, its immense 1500 km2 lagoon and its external slope have become my playground. And there is plenty to do, so large and rich are its area and its biodiversity respectively. I saw, explored, photographed a tiny part of what it contains, and I'm not even talking about the discoveries made with my friend Olivier in deep diving, with whom I started to explore the twilight zone between 60m and 120 m In the meantime, to approach this theme in 2018, I reveal below a selection of my 10 favorite photos of 2017. All the photos are taken in Mayotte, they represent for me some of the best moments and sensations that I could have, or just my favorites of the year.
One of the first photos of 2017 was this:
Kiss me !!!
Baliste strié (Balistapus undulatus) ; 1/100 , f16 , ISO 250
This photo was taken on January 15 at the dive site called Cocaine. It is located in the north of the island. Its name is due to the rare white sand. We were on the way back, a few meters from the boat, when I saw this striped triggerfish which had just taken refuge in a coral potato, only letting its mouth appear. I instantly took this hoped-for photo for some time now. It was an opportunity not to be missed, so I took it. Well camouflaged in its hole, I knew that this magnificent fish could not get away with it. So I had time to position myself, to refine the composition, the framing and the lighting. However, the task was not easy. The orientation of the flashes was particularly difficult because of the corals surrounding the triggerfish. The only possible position showed the particles between the subject and my camera. So I had no other choice than this one, and a good cleaning in Photoshop. But the game was worth it. This photo was noticed in many contests like: Golden Turtle Award, Dan Magazine Award, Nature Best Photography Award and a double page in GEO magazine.
Take off : Manta Airline
Raie Manta (Manta Alfreidi) ; 1/640, f11 , ISO 400
This photo was taken on April 2 near the North Reef of Mayotte. Each year, during the great tidal coefficients between February and May, Manta rays are easily found near the north reef. They come to feed on plankton in current areas. But these Manta rays are sedentary in the lagoon of Mayotte, and are not pelagic animals like its cousins the Manta Birostris. Besides, I should no longer write Manta Alfredi or birostris because recently they were classified as Mobula after genetic analysis (https://biopixel.tv/mantas-actually-mobula).
The story behind this photo:
We were a group of friends on the boat that day, where Manta rays were numerous in the area. From memory we had seen about fifteen scattered among the coral potatoes of the reef. After a few nice launches, we anchored the boat on a sandy bottom for a well-deserved coffee. It was with the cup in our hands that we saw two very beautiful rays about 30 meters from the boat. After a short reflection, I put my fins on, take my mask, my snorkel and my box and go to meet them. I swim in their direction when suddenly I see this line that swims 20 cm above the sand. It’s the first time I’ve seen this behavior. Maybe it's to get rid of the remoras? Anyway, I didn’t have to think long to imagine this photo. Neither one nor two: I take a deep breath, go freediving and land in front of it, in its trajectory, while remaining motionless. I just have to wait, hoping it doesn't change direction, and being curious about what it will do. Now has about ten to put in front of me, always keeping the same course, it seems to hover over the sand, to slide without a wing movement. I'm excited, my eye in the viewfinder, ready to start the burst at the right time. Arrived less than a meter in front of my dome, it arches upwards like a plane taking off. This is when I launch the burst. It passes a few centimeters above my head peacefully, without any fear, with incomparable grace. I had a good feeling this morning when I decided to mount my Fish-eyes lens which I hardly ever use. The distortion that this lens brings adds an effect that I particularly like in this photo.
Calamar (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) ; 1/100, f 18, ISO 250
This photo was taken on April 27 at 11:40 p.m. during a night barrier hiking excursion. I remember that evening very well. During high tides, the purpose of this excursion is to walk on the sand, between the coral potatoes, when the water level is at its lowest. It’s a wonderful way to introduce tourists to reef life, the nocturnal animals that inhabit the reefs, but also to meet unusual people. It is also a great way to educate a large audience because even those who cannot swim can take this excursion. That evening I therefore take my box, my mask and my snorkel ... but not my fins! It was the dark moon, the perfect time to meet squid on the hunt, something I was secretly hoping for. After a few minutes exploring the coral potatoes that litter the outskirts of the Aviators islet, I decide to isolate myself from the group and leave for the drop off which is about thirty meters offshore. Here I am swimming in 2 meters of water without fins, but box in hand, looking for squid. Not easy to move forward or stabilize under these conditions. After barely 5 minutes, I came face to face with a squid that had just caught a small fish. Luck was with me !!! Busy with his meal, he was static, just below the surface ... perfect for exploiting the reflection. However, the fact of not having a palm seriously complicates my task. The goal is to have the smoothest body of water possible to have a beautiful reflection. Which is not easy when you have nothing on your feet. I still managed to get some good shots. Why make it simple when you can make it complicated ?
Crabe des Crinoides (tiaramedon spinosum) ; 1/100, f22, ISO 200
Another photo taken, this time, during the night dive on July 4 in the S pass. This specimen, barely 1 cm in diameter, lives in crinoids which only deploy at night or in the dark 'a cave. It was at the end of the dive that this magnificent specimen appeared, discovered by my friend Alex, from Nautilus Plongée. Well camouflaged in the tentacles of its crinoid where it lives in symbiosis, we are waiting for the backwash so that a tentacle will let this little animal appear. You can't see it in this photo, but it's actually a female with eggs. I really fell in love with this strange crustacean. Its shell is covered with protuberances that look more like horns than prickles. With a little imagination, it looks like it comes straight out of the time of dinosaurs, with the size less
Face to face!
Poisson crocodile à tête large (eurycephalus arenicola) ; 1/100, f8, ISO 100
I took this photo right after the crinoid crab. Sanded next to a coral potato, this crocodile fish patiently waits for a prey to pass by its mouth. In stealth mode, almost impossible to spot, it is in a flash of a second that it will engulf the unfortunate fish. For this one, I had the "chance" to scare him by passing by him. A gesture betrayed him, I had flushed out the hunter. I take this opportunity to position myself in front of him. For this photo, I wanted a shallow depth of field, to highlight his eyes coming out of the sand. In order not to scare him, I get closer to him, inch by inch, until I have the composition I want. For sure, the next time I meet one, I focus in hyper macro on one of his eyes. A true work of art from nature.
Banc de Gaterins rayés
Banc de Gaterins rayés ( Plectorhincus orientalis ) ; 1/125, f16, ISO 320
Photo taken on July 9 at the foot of the first drop of the North boat pass, this image speaks to me a lot because it reflects the atmosphere of the place. This bench is still in the same place, at the foot of the first drop, at a depth of about 40 meters. Invariably, it never changes places, faithful to a coral potato bordered by magnificent gorgonians. Whenever Olivier and I come back from our deep dives and come out of the darkness of the depths, we are greeted by this bench, which we spend a few minutes contemplating. Slightly shy, they are easy to approach. However, avoid any sudden gestures so that the bench remains as compact as possible.
A completely hammer dive
Banc de requins marteau Halicorne (Sphyrna lewini ) ; 1/100, f22, ISO 320
This photo, taken on August 26 at Passe Bouéni, certainly represents one of my best moments in 2017. We had just started our descent to the second drop of the pass, at a target depth of 50 meters when i 'hear my Olivier screaming in the loop of his recycler. It is at this moment that I see this school of hammerhead sharks at the limit of visibility, about 30 or 40 meters on our left. I could not believe my eyes. The bench was slightly above us. Energetically, we paddle at full speed to arrive just below. During this short moment, I take the opportunity to change the settings of my underwater camera and my flashes because I already had in mind the photo against the light that I could take. Anticipation was decisive for this photo! Being at the focal 16 mm once arrived below, the bench is so large that only a small part fits into the frame. I counted more than 70 in a photo, but I think there were more than a hundred. The finger presses the shutter, I seized by burst this magic moment which I dared not imagine living in Mayotte. In the days that followed this meeting, we had the chance to come across another equally large hammer bench twice. The other two times, we dived in trimix and the bank was at depths between 80 and 100m. Another magnificent spectacle offered by nature.
Close up of a ghost pipe fish
Poisson-Fantôme (Solenostomus leptosomus) ; 1/160, f18, ISO 160
Photo taken on September 16 during a dive in the lagoon of Mayotte. I find it as satisfying to photograph a little ghost fish like this as the hammerhead shark school in the previous photo. The emotion is of course not the same, but the feeling that these two images give me is similar. It’s Carole who told us where this beautiful little fish was. The macro lens mounted on the Canon, I had to go and "shoot the portrait". Ghost fish really have a special swim. They make us feel like a twig, a dead leaf floating between two waters. The mimicry is pushed right into the movements. Impossible for its predators to tell the difference.
Tortue verte ( Chélonia Mydas ) ; 1/100, f13, ISO 200
How to live in Mayotte and not have a turtle photo in your top 10? I took this photo on November 11 in N’gouja. I particularly like this one because the little green turtle is a survivor of life. Highly visible in this photo, its right flank is marked with a large scar, the remnant of a shark attack. His right front flipper was miraculously spared. Perhaps she would not have survived without her? What is certain is that she is swimming perfectly well since I was able to follow her for a few minutes on the board. I saw him being cleaned by wrasses, browsing the young shoots of the herbarium. A very peaceful life far from the high seas is her dangers that she had to face the first years of her life.
Le récif du platier de N’gouja ; 1/80, F10, ISO 200
A nod to 2018 which is the international year of coral reefs. Photo taken on November 11 on the plaiter of N’gouja. Here's what a healthy and healthy reef looks like. Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere in Mayotte, and even less all over the world. Coral reefs represent only 0.1% of the surface of the oceans. But in this 0.1%, there is 95% of coastal biodiversity. Their protection is of paramount importance because the environmental upheavals which are exerted on these environments are enormous: pollution, urbanization, warming of the oceans, acidification of the oceans and so on. All of these pressures are the result of human activity. We cannot remain indifferent to this planned disaster. Besides its beauty, the coral reef is an ecosystem that concentrates a rare and unique biodiversity. In 2008, which is now 10 years ago, 54% of the world's coral reefs were considered threatened. In 2018, how many are there?