Harlequin Shrimp

29-Oct-2015 Back to Image Gallery

Harlequin Shrimp


The Harlequin Shrimp is the `Holy Grail’ of shrimp subjects for the underwater photographer. They are also rare, so rare in fact that despite decades of undersea exploration I would never encounter any until our sharp eyed Balinese dive guides took me to a pair during our 2008 Bali Safari.

They are the most endearing little creatures and quite bold, although only 5 centimetres in size they did not retreat from my camera and refused to leave the remains of their starfish meal.

Photo Data: Location: Seraya, Bali, Indonesia. Genre: Macro with twin strobes. Photo Data: Nikon D200, Nikkor 60mm Lens, Seacam Housing, Dual Seacam Strobes and Manual Exposure Mode. ISO 100 Exposure f32 @ 1/8th sec shutter speed. Image by Kevin Deacon.

Photo Hints: As these shrimp are not shy they are fairly easy to photograph. After making sure I had some nice images of the Harlequin Shrimp I decided I would like to create an image that showed the shrimp and the background of their habitat. A unique aspect of the environment at Seraya is the thousands of mini White Sea fans that cover the sand slopes and I wanted to reveal this.

So I chose a very slow shutter speed of 1/8th of a second which would allow some sunlight to reveal the background during the exposure, after the strobes had fired.

Keep in mind I was using a Nikon D200 and like many DSLR cameras of this era using high ISO settings would create `noise’ in the image. If I shot this today with my Nikon D800, the 36 Meg sensor would allow me to use much higher ISO levels with no loss of image quality so I would not have to use such a slow shutter speed to create the same image.

Interesting Facts: These shrimp feed on Sea Stars regardless of the size; this includes the Crown of Thorns sea star which is a giant in comparison to the shrimp. They will feed from the tip of the seastars arms progressing at leisure to the central disk which keeps the sea star alive until fully consumed. They will also cut off a sea star arm and drag it to their lair to consume safe from other predators.

Common names. Harlequin Shrimp. Paddle Shrimp.

Latin name. Hymenocera elagans (Indian Ocean variety)
Hymenocera elagans picta (Pacific Ocean variety)

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