Hippocampus pygmy Denise. Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. March 2013.

Pygmy seahorses do not like photos

  Indonesia: Weda [Halmahera] + Bangka [Sulawesi] - March 2013

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Nothing is more annoying to photograph than a seahorse-pygmy. Too small. Too much camouflaged. Too shy. But his delicate plastic is worth a few efforts.

Half-naked asses!

After the mood picturesLet's go to macro photography ! In the waters of Weda Bay, at HalmaheraIn Indonesia, where I was in March 2013, I am fortunate to have some choice models: pygmy seahorses.

Seahorse-Pygmy Bargibanti. Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. March 2013.

But photographing them is not easy. A real challenge, even ...

First concern, with these miniature sea horses: they are more than "pygmies", they are half naked !!! To be able to observe them, some divers even take a magnifying glass underwater with them. That's to say...

With their size of a centimeter (sometimes less), pygmy hyppocamps are really difficult to spot. We find them by patiently scrutinizing the branches of the huge sea fans of Weda Bay.

Gorgon. Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. March 2013.

Seahorse-Pygmy Bargibanti. Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. March 2013.

The quest looks a little like looking for a needle in a haystack, sometimes ... But we get there. The proof.

Hippocampus pygmy Denise. Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. March 2013.Fortunately, I am helped by the lynx eye of my Indonesian guide, Radyal.

He helps me to see them, in the huge fans of coral, and especially to find them, when, the mask stuck to the viewfinder of my box, I moved a few inches and lost sight of the branch where is hiding the little sea horse on which I set my sights. It takes patience and calm, to successfully photograph the seahorses-Pygmies.

We met two species during our dives at Weda.

Whoever has pink or orange bumps, which are used as camouflage in the gorgonians of the same color, it is a seahorse bargibanti. The little yellow with a bald head answers to the sweet name of Denise.

Shy people

Second concern: little sea horses don't like to be photographed at all.

Whenever I point my macro lens at them, I get the same acrobat number around the Gorgon branch. Here they start to pivot gently on their coiled tail, the air of nothing, to go on the other side, ostentatiously turning my back ...

Seahorse-Pygmy Bargibanti. Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. March 2013.

I take a deep breath, go around the gorgon, take back my position, readjust the angle of my flash and the opening of the body. Damn it! Missed again.

The development is very delicate to succeed, on such small creatures, it is played to the millimeter. But their shyness adds to the difficulty.

Seahorse-Pygmy Bargibanti. Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. March 2013.And I really feel like they're taunting me... Chop! I'm still turning my back on you, I don't like pictures.


The repetition of this subtle camouflage maneuver - once, twice, three times - it gets very annoying!

But, by dint of perseverance, I still manage to draw the portrait.

My photo equipment : the Eos 7D and the lens Canon 60mm f / 2.8 EF-S Macro.

And I'm kind of obstinate, must say ... Able to stay stuck in front of a gorgon for long minutes, under the benevolent eye of my guide, who patiently meshes his string of bubbles.

He's waiting for me to finish, to lead me to another coral fan, a few meters away. He has even done a little round-trip, to check that the gorgon is still inhabited, since its last passage, while I plague in my regulator because of the little cooperation of my tiny model.

Hippocampus pygmy Denise. Weda Bay, Halmahera, Indonesia. March 2013.

On one of the gorgonians visited, we find a small family of sea horses. But there, I do not strive anymore. Impossible to have everyone on the photo.

I'm just taking a few shots, as a souvenir, with two seahorses in the frame. It's not so common to capture more than one at a time!

When the time comes for the first sorting of images, in the evening, on my MacBook Air, I eliminate a lot, without a qualm. But how far have I come from my very first images of seahorse-pygmy to compact, in 2008 (to see right here and the)…

I do much less "macro" since I got my new toy, the fisheye lens. Tokina 10-17great for underwater ambience photos. But in Weda, the tiny sea horses gave me back the taste of the "little one".


Travel to Indonesia: Veda and Bangka - March 2013

  Indonesia: Weda [Halmahera] + Bangka [Sulawesi] - March 2013

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  1. @Corinne : j’aime bien ces petites bêtes, mais je n’en ai encore jamais vues !! 🙁
    Faut dire aussi que ma vue n’est pas terrible, et que malgré mon masque avec verres correcteurs (eh oui ! indispensable pour les bigleux comme moi ! 8) je ne suis pas près d’en voir ! 😥

    1. @Didier: do like so many other divers, go down with a magnifying glass in your stab! It's great to watch the really small stuff, and not just the pygmy seahorses ...

    1. @Manta : oui, vraiment mimis, hein ?… 🙂
      Many thanks, but what a galley to get to get nice pictures !!!

  2. too cute these pygmies!
    I confirm it is quite annoying to photograph, especially when we love to take all his time but other photographers are also waiting for this rare moment ....
    Anyway well done !!

    1. @Laurence : Weda, c’était idéal pour la photo, je dois dire… Dans ma palanquée, juste le guide et un plongeur hollandais qui avait noyé son appareil quelques jours plus tôt, donc j’étais la seule photographe !!! 🙂
      No need to wait for your turn near the gorgon ...

      The other photographers were dispatched to the other palanquées. Long dives, very quiet, no-one around ... Ideal !!!

  3. Superbes photos, Corinne. Mieux qu’avec ton compact en 2008 (Avec mon petit APN Lumix, j’ai fait de mon mieux, quand sur 2 sites sauvages de l’île de Samal -Philippines- nous avons découvert plusieurs couples de Bargibanti) 😉
    You express so well - with humor - the difficulty of photographing them; yes, they have the art of making us a pirouette under the lens and pass on the other side of the gorgon!
    A magnifying glass, yes, it can help to observe ...
    Good bubbles

    1. @Siratus : merci ! 🙂 Je suis devenue plus habile par la suite, avec mon petit APN compact, mais quand on passe au reflex avec un bon objectif, la différence est incomparable… Quant à ces satanés hippocampes, oui, il y a de quoi devenir chèvre, à vouloir leur tirer le portrait !

  4. j’étais tellement concentrée sur tes hippo que je n’avais pas remarqué la présence de toutes les crevettes 😛 ……

    1. @Laurence: You'll laugh, too, when I took the photos underwater, I was so focused on the Denise, to try to capture it in the right position, to apply myself on my focus , lighting, etc. etc. I did not notice the cute prawns around, which add a lot of interest to the photo ...

      Only after, discovering my images on the screen of the computer, I finally saw them!

  5. MAGNIFICENT your pygmies, really!
    Et qu’est-ce que j’apprends ? tu n’as pas de loupe quand tu plonges 😉 Indispensable pour un vieux comme moi si je veux voir ces adorables créatures…

    1. @Pit : mille mercis, de ta part, le compliment me touche 🙂
      Well no, not (yet) magnifying glass. But that's one of the little accessories that I'm thinking of taking with me for the next few times ...

  6. The little Denise yellow he has his guard to eat small fins, shrimp are many to have elected home in this gorgon. Is it true that the pygmee feeds on shrimp, bigger than it? Otherwise what ?

    1. @Lisemet : je ne sais pas du tout quel est le régime alimentaire de l’hippocampe-pygmée… Je vais chercher ça, tiens… 😉

  7. Hello Corinne and congratulations for these images that make me wait! I will try to bring back some pictures of these pygmies !! Lilliputiens !!