(Blog published on Sportdiver.com, July 2013)
When you hear the loud song of the cicada, when you sometimes have to stop the car because the rain falls down in buckets, when mosquitos buzz you inside while you are enjoying the evening cooldown, when life gets slow and al fresco restaurants choose their annual closing dates ... you know summer has arrived in the Caribbean.
But it's not all doom and gloom! Tarpons, jacks and groupers soon await a feast with the return of thousands of silvery fish showing up in coastal waters each year between June and August: the silversides. During the daytime, they rest in big schools inside of caverns, swim-throughs, grottoes and wrecks. Their massive schooling behavior makes the little fishes less vulnerable — as their continuous movement could give any lurking creature a headache.
Not only predators rejoice in their arrival but local dive operators tend to jump for joy! Cayman diving is always spectacular, but the silversides are pure magic. To be able to show this sight to underwater lovers gives a lot of fulfillment and happy faces all over.
For lucky residents like me, who are also avid divers and underwater photographers, the first messages about silversides appearing in social media, trigger my Pavlov reaction: "I need to see them now and often please".
Partly because swimming through the silver curtains is pure magic, but also because it's a huge challenge for an underwater photographer to play with light in the grottoes and caves filled with reflecting fish. My favorite dive site offers this experience with silversides: Devil's Grotto (part of the Eden Rock shore-diving location).
To merge the natural sunlight entering the swim-throughs with artificial strobe light AND to do that subtly, without overexposure, kept me busy for some dives.
Last summer, the arrival of a new camera rig overlapped the return of the silversides, and during most of my time in the water with them, I was just figuring out how to operate my new toy.
This year, I had specific images in mind I wanted to try over, always with my personal twist of course. I'm a woman, after all.
The images above are my attempts to meet very specific goals, and the captions explain what I was trying to achieve and how I got the shots.
Even just reviewing the pictures and processing them makes me hum an old favorite song of me. I got the tune in my head when I drove out for my first dive with the silversides this year and I guess it won't leave until they disappear ... "Summer loving, had me a blast, summer loving, happened so fast … "
Oh boy, oh boy, how I love this hot, rainy summer!
Originally from Belgium, Ellen lives on Grand Cayman, and travels the world as an underwater photographer.