They Call ‘Em Sun Corals

By Gary Parr 10 years ago2 Comments

As common names go, few corals carry a more accurate name than the Sun Coral moniker often applied to Tubastrea coccinea and Tubastrea aurea. Their yellow and orange colors are unmatched by any other sessile invertebrate.
   When photographing my Tubastrea colony, the challenge was not to deliver the brilliant colors. That’s relatively easy to do. The extra component I wanted to add was to convey the translucency and delicacy of the tissue without giving up any color intensity. Several previous attempts didn’t deliver the image I wanted, so I decided to do a little “shooting in the dark.”
   The first step was to haul my butt out of bed when it was completely dark and the polyps were in full “bloom.” This time of day/night also allowed me to have complete control over the amount and direction of light that would illuminate the colony.
   Composition was also a challenge, as it is with all colony photos. Basically, it’s difficult to determine what to include and what to leave out. For this shot I wanted to show polyps at several angles and to have the top of the image be extended tentacles against a black background.
   Once I found the desired arrangement, I used a diffused remote flash, placed to the side and slightly behind the polyps, to bring out that translucent glow that I felt would make the image a level better than what I’d been able to achieve previously. I made four images, each with the flash in a different position. The image I chose from the four is one of my favorite coral shots because, to me, it makes the polyps look like a small cluster of suns.
   Technical details: 1/30 sec., f/18, ISO 400 , 7D, Sigma EX180 macro, diffused remote flash, remote release, tripod.–Gary L. Parr,,


 Gary Parr

  (82 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 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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