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