Outa Here!

The Red Sea, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

Underwater photograph of a clearfin lionfish at night on the reef at the Paradise dive site, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
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Touring Egypt 28: This is one of the most alluring, exotic-looking fish I have seen in the Red Sea. As you can see, the clearfin lionfish sports bright stripes and lovely bright-white, feathery streamers on all fins. Where the more common lionfish (also known in some parts of the world as the “turkeyfish”) is stubby and sports obvious spines in its fins, the clearfin seems delicate and ornate.

I spent most of my last trip looking for a good shot of one of these. Though pretty common, these clearfin lionfish can actually be hard to find and even harder to photograph — much harder to shoot than the common lionfish. Clearfins are shy, retiring to a fault, and have a terrific instinct to hide whenever a bumbling, bubbling scuba diver is near (especially if that diver has a camera). It is hard to believe how fast they can move, despite the gossamer fins and streamers. As soon as a camera comes near, they invariably turn to the reef and sprint for a hiding-hole.

I have seen many clearfin lionfish in the Red Sea, but this is probably the best photo of one that I have taken. The underwater photographer has a better chance at night: These nocturnal hunters are out and about on the reef, giving the alert diver a chance to see one up before it can get to cover. On this particular night dive I happened upon a group of three. This unlucky straggler was last in line to get into the hole, and that exposed him to my greedy strobes. Even so, there was no chance to get a closer shot or one of his face: It simply could not be done without reaching in to turn him around. Grabbing him would be wrong and unethical in any case, but if in doubt the poison and spikes in those streaming fins would make a good motivator.

(Canon PowerShot G9 in an Ikelite case with two Ikelite DS-125 strobes wired for TTL exposure, integrated lens at 9.9mm, ISO 80, f/5.6 at 1/60 sec. at night.)