Death in Waiting

Pietro Formis's Image

Pietro Formis (Italy) discovers a Mediterranean stargazer peering through the sandy coastal waters.

Pietro approached the stargazer with care so as not to disturb it. Combining the concentrated light from the flash with a slow shutter speed and deliberate movement from his camera, Pietro presents the stargazer lit through a curtain of turquoise water.

The stargazer buries itself in the sand by wriggling its body until it’s invisible except for its eyes and teeth, then it lies in wait. Wiggling the worm-like appendage extending from its mouth, it lures unsuspecting small fish and invertebrates to come dangerously close. When the bait works, the stargazer explodes from its hiding place, grabs the prey in its huge mouth and swallows it whole.

The stargazer’s coastal, sandy-bottomed habitat is under pressure from erosion and pollution. It is also often caught as bycatch.

Behind the lens

Pietro Formis

Pietro Formis


Pietro’s love of the sea led to him developing a passion for underwater photography. His work’s been featured in international magazines and has won many international photographic awards. He delivers conferences and leads photography workshops in Italy and across the world. In 2019, he published the book Aqua: Mysteries of the Underwater World, which was awarded Best Underwater Book of the Year at Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.

Image details

  • Canon EOS R5
  • 100mm f2.8 lens
  • 1/6 at f16  •   ISO 160  •   Marelux housing  •   Inon Z-330 strobe + Marelux SOFT snoot
  • Rijeka, Croatia
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