Thousands of Portuguese men o’ war are blown onto the coast of New South Wales, Australia, during strong winds. These cnidarians are floating colonies of four kinds of organisms dependent on one another for survival. Rafts of them trapped in a sheltered bay provided a chance for Matt to photograph them. On this attempt – one of many – he was in the water at sunrise to catch the eerie light and the clearer water brought in by high tide. A breeze pushed the animals along like tiny sailing boats, making framing tricky. Despite his wetsuit, Matt didn’t manage to avoid being stung. But the main problem was lighting. Strobes weren’t an option as they illuminated all the particles in the water. So he used fibre optic snoots, pinpointing the light and bringing out the luminosity and beauty of an often unappreciated creature.
Nikon D300s + 10.5mm f2.8 lens; 1/15 sec at f13; ISO 250; Aquatica housing + 20cm acrylic dome; Inon Z-220 strobe + fibre-optic snoots.
Bass Point, Shellharbour Village, New South Wales, Australia
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Matthew Smith, United Kingdom/ Australia
Drawn to water and its interactions with light ever since early family snorkelling trips, Matt bought his first SLR camera in his teens to capture what he loved to see around the UK coast. As his photography skills grew, he began to travel more widely to get the pictures he imagined. Now based in New South Wales, Australia, his photographs have received international recognition.