No matter what destination we are snorkeling, there is one photography question I probably get asked more than any other photo question.
“Wide angle or for the next site?”
Unless it’s a night snorkel where we are likely to encounter smaller critters in the shallow reef, I will almost always say wide angle, and here’s why. In just about all the different destinations we go to the wide angle opportunities like beautiful reefs, larger schools of fish, turtles, and manta rays are readily available and open us up to endless wide angle opportunities. Macro subjects like nudibranches and cooperative reef fish are much harder to find and photograph. I’m not saying there aren’t any macro subjects, there are just as many as the wide angle subjects if not more. The only thing is that where macro subjects are concerned, they are considerably more difficult to photograph—especially reef fish.
Wide angle subjects like reefscapes, mantas, and turtles are either non-moving or moving quite slow with more predictive behavior. While things like butterfly fish and angle fish have such erratic movements it’s near impossible to get them framed just right. Nudibranches barely move, but because of their small size we need to dive down to their level in order to properly photograph them which is easier said than done. So, in short there are plenty of macro opportunities, it’s just a matter of consistency of getting great shots. If you are ok with one in twenty shots coming out ok, by all means go for the reef fish, I’m sure the reward of getting the angle fish framed just right will be worth all the effort. However, if you want the closest thing to a guarantee that you’ll be coming back with an SD card full of beautiful photos, then I would suggest focusing on the wide angle.