Story Behind the Shot: Bettina Balnis

Bettina explains how she achieved this winning shot of two skeleton shrimp for the 2010 Ocean Art Photo Competition.
By Bettina Balnis

Story Behind the Shot: Bettina Balnis

Underwater photographer Bettina Balnis shares how she captured 1st Place Supermacro in the UWPG 2010 Ocean Art Photo Competition

By Bettina Balnis


Bettina Balnis

" First Lesson in Life"


My Set-Up

This photograph was taken using a Nikon D80 in a Sealux housing, a Sigma 50 mm macro lens, a +2 wet diopter,  and a +2 dry lens.  For lighting I used 2 Inon z240 strobes, and a Fantasea focus light.  Setting were F10, 1/80 sec, ISO 100.



My picture was taken in Oosterschelde, Netherlands (aka Eastern Scheldt, which is an estuary in the province of Zeeland, Netherlands).  This estuary is about three hours away from my home, and I frequently go there for weekend trips.

I took the picture in late September so the water temperature (14C / 57F) was already decreasing and the upcoming autumn winds made the conditions a little bit rough. 


The Subject

The picture shows two Skeleton shrimp (Caprello mutica), a female adult and a baby.  In Netherlands they are also called Macho Kreftjes.

The females have a big red-dotted belly.  At first I thought that the red dots were the eggs, but then I discovered that the hatchings crawl out of the belly.  This was very surprising for me.  They can carry up to almost 200 babies in their brood pouch.  After birth, the babies stay in the surrounding for a while, on the edge of a sponge for example. The baby in my photo is a little youngster who is starting his independent life.  He interacts with his mother to get his "First Lesson in Life."  I discovered this behaviour after several dives. The lesson I learned from this was to go frequently to the same spot, to open your eyes, to change the perspective, and to carefully watch what you see.  From that time on I kept watching these little creatures frequently on many dives. Each time I would see more and different activity and behavior.  I witnessed how they fight each other like little thai boxers, how they ate, and how they gave birth.  Very fascinating creatures.


The Shot

The chilly 14C shallow water with waves making movement made very difficult to autofocus. Not to mention the Skeleton shrimp rarely stop moving!  I had to concentrate and stay quiet at the spot for a long time. Getting colder and colder, I began to shiver and because of the waves in shallow water I almost became seasick.  Several times I had to move to deeper water to calm down.  Finally, everything came together, and at the precise!


Publisher's note:

I really liked this photo when I first saw it, but now that I read the story of the shot from Bettina's perspective, I appreciate it even more. Thanks for sharing with us Bettina! Bettina won an 11-day trip on the SMY Ondina, anywhere the boat goes. We look forward to hearing how her trip goes! - Scott

Further Reading

Guide to Underwater Supermacro Photography

Best dive destinations for underwater photography

Winning photos from the Ocean Art 2010 photo competition

Story Behind the Shot: "Manta Madness"

Learning Super Macro Photography in the PNG


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