Palau is legendary for diving. This dream western Pacific archipelago is much from continents and filled with iconic dive websites and engaging World Battle II wrecks. These celebrated websites are all fairly totally different and current distinctive photographic challenges. For instance, Blue Nook is an action-packed drift teeming with marine life, whereas Chandelier Cave is a shallow, cenote-like limestone cavern; Jellyfish Lake is a surreal snorkel, whereas German Channel is a manta cleansing station. All of those are basic Palau, however poles aside so far as pictures goes.
Visibility within the open Pacific Ocean is usually glorious, and the currents can usually be very robust. Good visibility permits for photographing bigger scenes, and the fisheye will probably be your lens of alternative. Present makes pictures more durable, however the rewards are price it. A brief dive within the coronary heart of the motion beats a protracted one within the mistaken place. Discover ways to cover from the circulation within the lee of objects or trip the again eddies to get the place you wish to go.
Near Palau’s primary islands are many wrecks—largely Japanese from World Battle II. The visibility on this space is not so good as farther offshore, so shoot these giant ships primarily with out strobes to keep away from backscatter. Alternatively, as a result of these wrecks are densely colonized by life, you may make the marine life the topic of the picture and let the wreckage type the backdrop. Photographically, the perfect wreck in Palau is the well-preserved Japanese Aichi E13A-1, or Jake, seaplane. Nonetheless, as a result of the wreck is a bit small, you might want to steer the operator to take you there. On my journeys we are inclined to dive it as an additional 10-minute dive, saving time and air by arising early on the previous dive.
The opposite close-by, must-do dive is Chandelier Cave, which is a four-chambered cavern, with stalactites jabbing down by way of the floor of the darkish waters. Excessive ISO and an off-camera mild supply are key right here—carry both a distant strobe or a robust LED mild. One of the best ways to shoot the cave is to work as a staff of three, with one capturing, one modeling and one hidden behind the mannequin holding the backlight. Then swap roles. Chandelier Cave is very shallow, so you should have loads of time and you’ll floor (thoughts your head) to debate concepts for photographs.
High of the record for a lot of photographers is Palau’s Jellyfish Lake, which is a landlocked seawater lake. The golden jellies that stay right here have misplaced their want for a sting and feed by way of algae residing symbiotically of their tissues, which supplies them their golden colour. They swim round en masse, monitoring the sunshine across the lake like a sundial. There’s fairly a steep hill to stroll over to get to and from the boat, which makes photographers query whether or not they need to carry heavy strobes. I solely used strobes for about 20 p.c of my photographs within the lake, however it’s good to have the choice in a spot you may solely go to as soon as in your life. Lens-wise, that is positively fisheye territory.
Extra vital than a strobe is sunshine, which may’t be assured, however completely transforms the photographic prospects. The must-do picture is the jellyfish lightbulb shot. You possibly can create this shot by capturing upward, positioning the jellyfish immediately between the digicam and the solar. You have to be shut sufficient to the jellyfish in order that it’s sufficiently big within the body to fully cover the solar, which then makes the jelly mild up from inside—like a lightbulb. What’s superb in regards to the lake is the amount of jellies—so along with completely framing people, be sure you seize the messy mass of medusae. It’s also effectively price capturing folks swimming by way of this otherworldly spot.
The offshore reefs southwest of the mainland are the place most of Palau’s iconic websites are discovered. Blue Nook is essentially the most well-known, however with changeable currents additionally it is essentially the most unpredictable. The very best strategy right here is to change over from fisheye to a wide-angle zoom to present flexibility. There are sometimes a number of grey reef sharks right here that may fill the body with the assistance of a zoom lens. The zoom additionally fits the numerous colleges of fish lined up within the present. Turtles (inexperienced and hawksbill) are widespread, particularly when the present carries you down the reef in a southerly route. In the event you bear in mind only one factor when capturing turtles, it needs to be: “See a turtle, flip your strobes down.” Turtles, which have reflective, scaly pores and skin, are all the time brighter than no matter you have been photographing earlier than.
German Channel is a basic manta cleansing dive, and the important thing, as all the time, is to comply with the recommendation of the guides. Mantas will be curious and playful; they can be cautious. Skilled guides perceive methods to get shut encounters. The overall rule is to remain low and keep nonetheless, and with luck, you’ll get glorious photographs. The Blue Gap is likely one of the simpler dives in Palau as a result of this big cavern is protected against present and waves. The very best photographs listed here are huge scenes, ideally shot with out strobes, with a mannequin giving scale to the surroundings. Contemplate capturing a panorama of stitched photographs to seize the grandeur of this spot.
Maybe essentially the most thrilling dives in Palau are these focusing on spawning aggregations, which happen on the large corners of the reef, like Shark Metropolis or Peleliu Categorical. The robust tidal currents in Palau imply that many bigger reef fish collect for synchronized spawnings, and these huge teams will be spectacular. Nonetheless, getting your timing proper will not be simple, and it’s important to work with the native consultants. With their assist, you will be in the best place for one thing actually unforgettable.