Re­peat­ing Treats

The most eye-catch­ing nat­u­ral pat­terns come from re­peat­ing shapes, most com­monly seen when an­i­mals gather to­gether

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TIP Begin­ner

School­ing fish are the clas­sic sub­ject for re­peat­ing pat­terns, par­tic­u­larly when the cur­rent is run­ning to line them up or they are in po­lar­ized schools and mov­ing as one. Search for schools where all the fish are the same species, size and color. Fish are most likely to hold their ar­range­ment when you do not ap­proach too closely. One of the pri­mary laws of un­der­wa­ter photography is to get as close as pos­si­ble, but when it comes to fish for­ma­tions it can pay to keep your dis­tance so they main­tain their order for the shot.

TIP In­ter­me­di­ate

The vis­ual con­tent­ment we get from look­ing at pat­terns in­creases when they are as close to per­fect as pos­si­ble. This is much harder to achieve when work­ing with mov­ing an­i­mals. Pho­tog­ra­phers of­ten spot a great shot from a dis­tance, but by the time they are in po­si­tion, the chance is gone. Pa­tience is the an­swer be­cause those im­pec­ca­ble for­ma­tions are worth wait­ing for. Don’t be too greedy, and don’t be afraid of crop­ping in: Three per­fectly aligned shrimp are bet­ter than eight with one chopped in half by the frame.

TIP Ad­vanced

Once you’ve cap­tured a few per­fect pat­terns, it’s time to break the rules — as all true artists do. Look for ab­stract, non­re­peat­ing pat­terns, such as the de­tail on the flanks of trop­i­cal fish, which are of­ten a riot of color with­out sym­me­try or rhythm. An­other op­tion is to turn your school­ing shot on its head by wait­ing for one fish to swim past in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. These eye-catch­ing, again­st­the-flow shots are some of the best-sell­ing images, reg­u­larly cre­ated by artists in Pho­to­shop to be used in ad­ver­tise­ments.

Once you’ve cap­tured a few per­fect pat­terns, it’s time to break the rules — as all true artists do.

The blue eyes and white legs of these per­fectly aligned danc­ing shrimp jump out against the orange sponge.

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