Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
Photographing them is really a challenge, because of their tiny size. Just think: the seahorses in the picture above are about as big as the nail of my little finger!
So, to observe them, some divers take a magnifying glass. And underwater photographers like me take pictures of them with a lens macro, which captures tiny subjects down to the smallest detail.
Spotting them during a dive is not easy. They are most often found in huge fan-shaped coral "bushes", the gorgonians. To find them, it's a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack...
So every time I choose to put the macro lens on my Canon Eos 7D, my two Indonesian guides Andi and Edi, from the resort Triton Bay Divers, carefully inspect the gorgonians and corals around.
It's a bit of a competition between them, to the one who will be the first to find the adorable pygmy seahorses!
But it is a game of patience, a delicate quest, not always successful. I am always very impressed when one or the other of my precious guides manages to find these mini sea horses, kings of camouflage, in the middle of the branches of a huge gorgonian...
In Triton Bay, I am spoiled. I discovered, as the days went by, that the three most famous and coveted species of seahorses are found here in abundance. bargibanti, denise and pontohi (I present them below).
So there is both variety and profusion in the same area. It is rare. Really, this bay of Indonesia, located in West Papua, south of Raja AmpatThis is a confirmation of its status as a "hot spot" for biodiversity. I was talking about it in this first post:
Here is the pygmy bargibanti seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti, also named seahorse pygmy gorgonians). It most often has small bumps of pink-purple or yellow-orange color.
The bumps of the bargibanti serve as camouflage and allow it to blend in with the branches of the gorgonians of the same color, which are also bumpy when their polyps are closed. In its pink-mauve version, it is the most common pygmy seahorse, the one I have most often photographed during my dives in the Indo-Pacific area. I also discovered in Triton Bay a variant with red humps and white body: this type of seahorse, particularly rare, is nicknamed "Santa Claus" by my guides, who are overexcited if they find one!
The pygmy seahorse denise (Hippocampus deniseThe yellow pygmy seahorse (also called Denise's pygmy seahorse) is smaller in appearance. It also has small protuberances, less numerous, and its color also varies according to its environment, from yellow-brown to pale pink.
It is similarly very gifted to pass unnoticed or almost in the branches of gorgonians that it inhabits. Less common than the bargibanti, it is very coveted by underwater photographers.
Finally, there is the elusive and delicate pontohi (Hippocampus pontohialso called Pontoh's pygmy seahorse). A rarity as difficult to spot as to photograph.
Its white body decorated with red and yellow patterns allows it to play hide-and-seek in the middle of the "twigs" of coral and seaweed leaves where it likes to shelter, on walls or underwater drop-offs... And I even saw once its cousin the servensiless flamboyant, with a brownish color.
Orgy of seahorses
These graceful little seahorses don't like photos - not at all. They are very shy and hate being in the spotlight. With their tails curled up on their branches, as soon as they realize that someone is interested in them a little too closely, they prefer to swivel slowly... and stubbornly turn their backs to the camera! It is sometimes exasperating.
So it takes time, sometimes a lot of time, to manage to photograph one from the front or from the side. The most annoying is when it decides to change branch. It then takes a long time to find it again! The help of a guide with lynx eyes is essential...
Fortunately, I spent ten days in Triton Bay, diving three times a day. This was enough time to take pictures of pygmy seahorses... Their delicate beauty never ceases to amaze me.