Coral Forest

By Gary Parr 10 years agoNo Comments

Photographically, corals aren’t really interesting to me until I get close. As I move in, there is a point at which I enter a kind of alien world and start to see things I don’t normally see. This photo of Seriatopora is an example of that alien-world effect.
When I approached this colony, owned by Paul Law of Paul’s Corals, Mukwanago, WI, it wasn’t the colony that caught my eye. It was the repeating pattern of tall, slender “trees” that make an endless alien forest in which you could become entrapped forever. Once you enter the forest, there is that inner glow that piques your curiosity and sucks you in even deeper as you seek its source.
The challenge in capturing this image was to decide which portion of the colony to photograph, i.e., where does the image start and where does it end? I tried to find a section that offered a progression of spikes from front to back. The frustration is that I couldn’t get lower and use an upward angle because the coral would distort in the image.
The other challenge with this coral in particular, and SPS colonies in general, is that you’re almost always dealing with very strong metal-halide lighting that causes a wide exposure range from top to bottom. To keep from over-exposing the tops, you have to underexpose the overall image and then adjust the shadow areas in post processing. The pure-white growth tips are always going to be white and blow out at the very tip, but you have to minimize that so the image doesn’t visually become a bunch of white points.
Whenever I look at this image, I enjoy the polyps, colors, and the repeating pattern of vertical lines. But the little thing that makes this image work for me is that inner glow at the base of the colony that looks as if there is a camp fire lighting up the floor of the forest.
Technical details: 1/12 sec. @ f/22, ISO 400, Canon 7D, Sigma EX 180 macro, tripod, remote release, mirror lockup.–Gary L. Parr,,

  Corals, Photography

 Gary Parr

  (81 articles)

Reef Threads is a podcast and blog that discusses the most interesting subjects from the various forums, blogs, and magazines supporting the reef hobby. Reef Threads is produced by Gary L. Parr and Christine Williams Pasagelis, two veteran reef hobbyists. Gary has been keeping aquariums for most of his life, starting with a 1-gal. bowl of guppies. He has kept reef aquariums for the past 15 years. His current tanks are a 65-gal. LPS and leather reef and a 40 breeder that contains azooxanthellate corals. Gary’s other hobby is photography. He specializes in macro photography and currently spends most of his time photographing coral and marine fish. You can see Gary’s work in the Reefs and Animals sections of his website, You can contact Gary at Christine Williams started keeping fish while she was still a fetus. While the aqueous environment did lend itself to the hobby, it limited her to freshwater species, and so she decided to be born several weeks early. Through sign language, she demanded that her parents convert her crib into a reef aquarium and thus started her illustrious career in marine ornamentals. After completing her studies in biochemistry and molecular microbiology she went to work at “Animal ER” where unfortunately she was not filmed for the Animal Planet channel (though her feet did make a cameo during a rescue segment). She frequently lectures on reef topics including marine animal disease, fish husbandry, human-tank zoonosis, and fish cognition. Contact Christine at

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