Story Behind the Shot: "Manta Madness"

The story of how I got the shot that won the 2011 Ocean Art Contest
By Tobias Friedrich

Story Behind the Shot: "Manta Madness"

The story of how I got the underwater shot that won the 2011 Ocean Art Contest

by Tobias Friedrich





"Manta Madness," Tobias Friedrich's photograph that won "Best in Show" in our 2011 Ocean Art Contest.


I was planning a week-long liveaboard trip to the famous Hanifaru Bay, in the Maldives, when I was dismayed to hear that the site would be permanently closed for divers after an upcoming date! I knew that this trip would be my last shot to dive with the manta rays. Going to Hanifaru Bay was a risk, since nobody knows when the mantas are coming to this small bay to feed, but I decided to chance it in the hopes that I would experience some luck.  

The liveaboard trip started at Male. From there we enjoyed a five-hour boat ride northwest to the Baa Atoll. Hanifaru itself is a small, sandy bay in the southern part of the Atoll and is not a regular dive site. It's only the mantas make the place an attraction. The Atoll doesn't offer the best dive sites of the Maldives, so if there were no mantas at Hanifaru it could have been a bit of a bust. In the end, our group was very lucky and had an amazing day with 40-50 manta rays swimming in the bay. Of course I wanted to capture the moment from different perspectives, from above, from same level as the manta rays, and from underneath. I was preparing for a silhouette shot of a manta with the sun at its back, waiting in a depth of around 5-8 meters and looking up to the surface. As I prepared, there was a moment when not a single manta but a group of several rays passed by and I seized the chance to take my wonderful shot.

The best images of the series, of only three to four pictures including the winning shot from Ocean Art Contest, have not been cropped at all. Just some bubbles and backscatter were removed as well as saturation adapted in a reasonable manner. The shot was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II in a UK-GERMANY housing. Lens was a Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens @15mm and the dome port without sunshades. Time setting was 1/320s with f/9 at ISO 50. Two Ikelite DS-125 strobes were set on manual. In total I took about 200 to 300 pictures of the manta rays and would only consider ten of them good ones. It's not easy to get in the right position and capture the right shot at the perfect moment, but this is what motivates us underwater photographers, to always get a better shot than last time.


About the Author

Tobias Friedrich is an avid diver and underwater photographer, winner of our 2011 Ocean Art Contest, and the mind behind


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