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80. Barredfin Moray Eel (Gymnothorax zonipectis)


A Barredfin Moray Eel (Gymnothorax zonipectis), surrounded by Dancing Hinge-beak Shrimps (Rhynchocinetes durbanensis), has found refuge in a small opening in a coral patch.

This relatively small moray eel, with a maximum length of 50cm/20 inches, prefers the shallow detrital waters (with a lot of rubble) of reefs and lagoons in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific area. They are easily identifiable by the white irregular blotch underneath their eyes, small spots on their jaws, and their brownish and cream-marbled speckles over their entire body.

Although not uncommon, these eels are seldom seen due to the fact that they are only active at night. This solitary, nocturnal, and quite secretive hunter of crustaceans and small fish hides during the daytime under ledges, crevices, and in small caves.

The bigger shrimp cleaning the chin of the eel (only its silhouette is visible) could not be identified but is probably a White-banded Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis).


The moray was in an almost impossible position to film. Big branches of corals blocked easy access to the subject, which I would have preferred to film frontally. On the other hand, by filming the eel from that awkward angle, I could add some blue in the lower part of the picture and was able to film the silhouette of a shrimp, creating a cool optical effect.

This shot consists of three parts: the illuminated main subject, which is the Barredfin Moray Eel accompanied by a few Dancing Hinge-beak Shrimps, the silhouette of the bigger White-banded Cleaner Shrimp, and the blue background. Because silhouettes rely on contrast, they are best visible against a bright background. Without the coral structure blocking the illumination of the bigger shrimp by my submersible video lights and the sunlight-blue background from the water, this shot would have a totally different look, and the silhouette would have been absent.

Another crucial aspect of the silhouette is its clean outline. As silhouettes are actually only two-dimensional, it is very important that the alignment is sharp and clean. Because all details are invisible, it is really important that the outline is not blurred. A hazy or indistinct outline of the silhouette would result in a big stain rather than a beautiful silhouette in your image. Often other items in the background interfere with the silhouette's outline. To avoid this, you must adjust your aperture so that possible visible items behind the silhouette are as blurred as possible and have been merged with the background, making them almost invisible. Reflecting blurred items in the background can result in bokeh, which would upgrade your image or video clip even more.

Silhouettes are a great way to improve your underwater footage to a more dramatic and cinematographic way of telling a story and keeping your audience engaged. By obscuring a subject's details, the silhouette creates a specific intriguing mood in the overall picture. Obtaining beautiful silhouette shots in underwater videography is not easy at all, as most subjects do not cooperate with the underwater videographer. In this video clip, I was lucky that a coral branch blocked the frontal access to the moray eel and obliged me to lower the camera so much that a whole new filming angle and setup were created.

Filming location:

This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺

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