Many underwater enthusiast said that human encounters with giant mantas are extremely rare. This is probably true in most places, but not on the Manta Point Nusa Penida. If you’re looking for the ideal location to photograph these gentle giants, this is the place to be. The Manta Point, located off the shore of Nusa Penida Island, Bali, is a cleaning station where mantas come to be cleaned by the resident reef fish. They are naturally inquisitive and enjoy taking bubble baths from the divers. Despite of their gigantic size, these majestic creatures are very gentle and gracious. An encounter with them can easily be the highlight of any diver, and the opportunity to hang out with them for few minutes should be treated with an utmost gratitude.
Of course, you don’t want to go home empty-handed after a spectacular meeting with Manta Rays. So here’s our tips to get a stunning photo of Manta Rays that will sweep everyone in awe.
Get Close on Cleaning Stations at Manta Point Nusa Penida
The majority of manta encounters occur at cleaning stations, where mantas circle, hover, and even queue for their spa treatment. Take care not to get between the station and the open water, as this will give the mantas access to both. They frequently stay for the duration of the dive once they arrive. There are both cleaning stations and feeding grounds at Manta Point Nusa Penida, as well as deep walls and shallow plateau that makes the dives more interesting.
Prepare the Best Equipments
Before you get into the water, the most important tip for capturing large Mantas is: you need the right equipment. You can get very close to the mantas, so we would highly recommend a fisheye lens. Our recommendations are Nikon 10.5 DX fisheye for Nikon D800 to capture the whole body of Manta Ray. They are large and you want to photograph the whole body with its surrounding water to create an impressive shoot!
Capturing Their Majestic Form
Mantas have an elegant and unmistakable shape that looks great in photos — whether in color, silhouette, or monochrome — when their symmetry is captured. Manta looks great at every angle, but they are at its best when photographed from above or below. When shooting up, expose for the surface rather than the sun, as the trick is to only shoot when the manta is blocking the sun from your lens. Try to anticipate one and time your breathing so you don’t exhale right before it arrives. This prevents bubbles from appearing in your image.
Taking Their Silhouettes
Mantas feed on plankton and are thus rarely found in crystal-clear blue water. However, regardless of the conditions, you should plan to turn off the lights because mantas look fantastic as silhouettes. The technique is easy: Switch your strobes off, expose yourself to the surface and wait until a manta passes through the center of Snell’s window. It might be worth locking the camera’s focus because the rapid change in light levels caused by the manta blocking out the sun can sometimes confuse the autofocus. If the rays aren’t coming in close enough, find a colorful foreground subject, such as an anemone or soft coral, and use the manta’s silhouette as a background.
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Get Ready in Your Position at Manta Point Nusa Penida
When you first dive to Manta Point Nusa Penida, observe the surrounding and try to find the best spot to wait for the Manta. Be patient and allow the manta rays to come to you. Do not try to chase or come to them as you will scare these precious animals. The mantas will check all the divers around and don’t waste the energy that chases them. If you wait, you’re going to get a better shot. I like to position myself right above or just below the desired trail when I see a manta approaching me. Snapshots are in my opinion not as dramatic as I like to capture more animals to get more power into the shot. I also like to include the other divers’ bubbles. It makes for a much more interesting photo in my opinion. However, if you’re going for the bubble shot, make sure to clean them off your dome port before shooting.
Are you ready to hang out with these majestic creature in Bali?