Story Behind the Shot: Octopus Mother

A mother octopus guards the next generation
By Kat Zhou

The winning photo for the "Best Macro" and "Best of Show" in the Ocean Art 2022 Competition was taken at the Blue Heron Bridge, West Palm Beach, Florida. See all Ocean Art 2022 Winners Here


Camera System

The camera used to take the winning photo of Ocean Art 2022 was a Nikon D850, one of the best DSLR cameras to date. The lens that was used was a Nikon 105mm Macro Lens which enables us to see the eyes of the baby octopus and texture of the skin of the mother octopus in detail. The camera and lens were inside a Nauticam Housing, which is an aluminum housing. Two Inon Z330 strobes and a BigBlue Dive Light was used as well to properly illuminate the subject.


The Shot

“This photo shows a Caribbean reef octopus guarding her eggs, found off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida.  Like all other species of octopus, this mother does not eat while she tends to her eggs, and she will die after they hatch.  It was a bittersweet feeling to watch her protect her eggs, knowing that this sad end was coming!

West Palm Beach is my favorite diving destination in the USA for the variety of both wide angle and macro subjects it offers, and I visit a few times each year to dive and photograph around the area.  I had started seeing photos on social media of this reef octopus with eggs in early March 2022, and I was ecstatic to hear that she was still there when I visited later in the month, as I had never seen an octopus with eggs before.   Over the next three weeks, I spent 4 dives observing her.  Though it was fascinating to watch her protect and aerate her eggs, it wasn’t possible to get good photos on every dive, as she was situated in the middle of a tube, and she would often either block the eggs with her arms or move so far back into the tube that it wasn’t possible to get both the octopus and her eggs in focus.  On the dive that I obtained this shot, there were fewer divers around than normal, and she seemed much calmer as a result.”


Kat Zhou with a Sperm Whale

What Does Winning Ocean Art 2022 Mean to You?

I started underwater photography in 2019, which has truly given me a new appreciation for the ocean and all the creatures that call it their home.  Browsing the tutorials, tips, and tricks on Underwater Photography Guide has been (and still continues to be) a monumental source of information along my learning journey.  I’m incredibly honored to be recognized in Ocean Art by the site that I owe a lot of my underwater photography knowledge to!  I’m also very thankful for all the friends I’ve made along the way and the mentors who have been open to sharing their pointers and secrets.  I love getting to share the beauty of the West Palm Beach area with others, and it means a lot to me to have been selected for this award.

I’d like to acknowledge two amazing photographer friends who helped me get this photo: Michael Walker for showing me the location of the octopus, and Steven Kovacs for lending me a lens that I forgot toc bring with me on my trip to use for this shot!



Kat Zhou is a photographer based in San Francisco, California who is passionate about underwater, landscape, and wildlife photography.  She especially loves the underwater world for its diversity and vibrance, and she loves exploring new scuba diving and freediving destinations around the world.  When she’s not out photographing, she works both as a software engineer and a private adventure trip planner.  She also loves hiking, cats, gastronomy, craft cocktails, meowing at every cat, dancing crazily to really fast music, aesthetically pleasing bathtubs, and also definitely cats.

See more of Kat’s photography on Instagram or on her website.


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