Amazing Anilao

Banca boats ready to take divers to see the amazing cast of creatures awaiting in Anilao. 

Amazing Anilao

There are just a handful of places in the world that combine the elements of consistently excellent macro subjects with easy diving, beautiful scenery, and guides with laser beam eyes. Anilao, Philippines is one of those places. Anilao is more than just macro; there are beautiful sites with huge fields of coral covered with the pastel hues of thousands of anthias, gorgeous rock formations and drop offs, and so much more. 


Not just macro; Anilao features some beautiful coral reefs.


At the dive site called Twin Rocks, it is tough to decide whether to shoot wide or macro. With some lens setups, like the Nauticam wet wide lenses, you don't have to choose. 

I've had the good fortune of getting to hang out in Anilao several times now, and I am looking forward to going back again this year. Despite being halfway around the world (12 time zones) it is actually really easy to get to. Flying to Manila is possible with only a stop or maybe two from most US cities. Once in Manila, I like to overnight at one of the hotels near the airport, and then it is just a couple of hours by van to the resort. 


These little crinoid shrimp are tough to shoot as they shy away from the lens and blend so well with their hosts. 


Some different lighting on this seahorse, shot with a snoot positioned above and slightly behind the subject. 

Don't forget about the nightlife in Anilao. No, not the clubbing/partying kind, but rather the world class night-diving kind. If you want a non-stop parade of some of the oddest creatures on the planet, the Anilao pier is the happening place at night. For even more of a challenge, several of the dive operators are now getting into "blackwater" or "bonfire" diving. 


An emperor shrimp taking a ride on a sea cucumber at the Anilao Pier during a night dive. 


That's no moon; it's a juvenile puffer on a bonfire dive. 

Shooting tip: To me macro is all about unique lighting. I try to think about how the light (both ambient and artificial) affects not only the subject but the background as well. When shooting wide angle, the strobe light typically doesn't affect your background, but with macro it often does. 


A little side and back lighting make the hairs on this small frogfish stand out, and almost make him glow. 

Image the light coming from your strobe cone shape about the size of one of those dog collars your poor pooch has to wear to prevent him from biting at his stitches. What is inside the cone is lit, and what is outside isn't. The cone also represents the approximate distance that your strobe is going to be truly effective. Now, as you aim your strobe, picture that dog collar - it will tell you where the light is going to fall from that strobe.  

Anilao is a great place to get your super macro on. This was shot with the Nauticam SMC-2 on the Canon 5D Mark IV with 100mm f2.8L lens, Nauticam Macro Port 94, and Nauticam NA-5DMKIV housing. 

With lots of smaller subjects and beautiful reefs, Anilao is also ideal for close-focus, wide-angle work. 

The angle of incidence is also key. Generally, the steeper the angle (i.e. more direct), the less shadows you'll see. So, if you want to bring out the texture in a subject, trying bringing the light in more from the side or even backlighting the subject. 

The super tiny green shrimp with backlighting. 

This all takes some practice, of course, but that's ok because you are in Anilao. I can't think of a better place to practice. 

Here we are taking advantage of a more shallow depth of field to de-emphasize the background and make the mantis shrimp pop out a bit more. 

Your banca boat awaits.

Chris Parsons and his partner Rima live on their sailboat, enjoying the 70% of the planet not covered up by land