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Overlooked Photos of 2020 #4: Manta Rays at Sunset


Photo taken in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii — February 25, 2020


Manta Rays, it turns out, are a lot like photographers: they’re attracted to light. Or at least their food is attracted to light.


We learned this at Rays on the Bay in the Sheraton Kona Hotel. Every night just after sunset they shine a spotlight into the ocean below the restaurant to attract plankton…which in turn attract Manta Rays. Spectators flock by the hundreds to a viewing area above the light hoping to catch a glimpse of the huge rays — and more often than not they are rewarded.


Not to be left out, charter companies also offer evening snorkel tours to watch the rays. Participants come out by boat, then hang onto light arrays that beam into the ocean. That’s what you see in this photo — the blue lights are attracting the plankton and Manta Rays and the tourists are hanging on and watching.


* Why I didn’t post it: I quite like this photo despite a number of technical issues I hope you don’t notice. Shooting this in nearly full darkness without a tripod was, to put it mildly, challenging. I resorted to lying flat on the concrete and holding my lens through the guard rail for stability. Even so, the high ISO I used to avoid a three-minute exposure created some digital noise. But technical perfection isn’t everything. A photo can be technically perfect and perfectly boring. I love the colours in this photo — the orange of sunset, the blue of the lights in the ocean…and above the crescent moon.


* I took a lot of photos in 2020, more than in any previous year. Some I shared, but looking back I’ve found many I didn’t. Maybe I thought they weren’t good enough, maybe I had something else to post or maybe…I just plain forgot. As the year winds down I’m rectifying those oversights and posting some photos I overlooked earlier in 2020.

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