What Ketut had found in the blackness – and was asking me if I wanted to photograph – was a juvenile
It’s dark. Out of the gloom, Ketut’s slate suddenly materialises in front of my face, weakly illuminated in the few rays of his dive light escaping between his fingers. He’d written one question on the slate: “bobtail?”
It was a classically understated question. What Ketut had found in the blackness – and was asking me if I wanted to photograph – was a juvenile bobtail squid, about a fifth of an inch long.
The minuscule squid was hunting around a hydroid, seemingly picking off pixel-sized crustaceans. It was flitting around on a jutting corner of reef, and being swirled randomly back and forth, up and down, by the eddies of a current that, in open water, was almost too strong to swim against. Ketut finding it in the first place was impressive enough, but then he turned and led me back through the darkness and the current, and somehow relocated it. There followed 20 minutes of that all-too-familiar cramping exertion underwater macro photographers experience when the only thing not moving is the reef itself. Ketut sidled in like a living beanbag to help brace me against the current. With my legs and fins pumping, hands attempting to hold the camera steady, neck craning, and eyes squinting hard through the viewfinder in search of the squid, I eventually resorted to just squeezing off a frame every time something blundered into focus.
ABOVE: Ketut Suardika, 9-year veteran dive guide at Wakatobi Resort RIGHT: Ketut’s benighted, bobbing and weaving miniature squid