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Macro Photography in Utila: Part I

We all marvel at beautiful underwater shots and wish we could take similar photos.  According to Utila photographer Brad Ryon, it’s not as hard as we think.

Utila, one of the Bay Islands in Honduras, offers fantastic diving, welcoming people, diverse culture and amazing natural beauty. It’s also a great place to hone, or even begin to develop, your macro photography skills. Best of all, you needn’t be a skilled photographer to start practicing macro photography in this island paradise.

Brad Ryon, Utila transplant and owner of Re/Max Realty on the island, was not always a macro photographer.  Even now, it’s still only a hobby, when he’s not showing properties or hosting camera crews filming for HGTV.  However, he has perfected his macro talent on Utila, becoming a photographer we much admire.

Ryon began diving as a youngster, certifying at 18. He pursued his passion for the marine world by working in Hawaii as a marine-mammal biologist and doing coral studies on Glover Reef in the mid-90s. He used telephoto lenses and dabbled in some macro, though mostly above water. So why Utila?

Why try macro photography in Utila?

As the story goes with many who end up here, Ryon planned to spend three days on Utila during a Central American vacation. He left two weeks later after buying property. Once established on the island, Ryon turned his attention to what drew him here in the first place: the marine world and photography.

What can you see in Utila?

The Mesoamerican Reef offers fantastic diversity in general, but Utila offers significant diversity in a very small area.  There is diving right off shore anywhere around the island.  Simply wade into the water and you’re on world-class dive sites and healthy reefs.  For example, Little Little Bight (not to be confused with Little Bight nearby) and Jack Neil Point, on the south shore, are good for photography because of the mixed environment of patch reef, sand, gravel, and wall that support lots of different creatures.  You will find hard and soft corals, small blennies, gobies, wrasses, tarpon, barracuda, jack and cobia, eagle and stingrays, sharks and octopus, just to name a few.

The waters are calm most of the time and the diving is easy around Utila, so you don’t have to go deep.  In fact, when Ryon first arrived, he had to snorkel because he had no tanks or a compressor, so he was always in 15 feet of water or less.

How amazing can Utila’s macro life be? Ryon has, on three separate occasions, found an octopus nest with females guarding eggs.  The best photos came from 50 dives over six weeks. During his dives, he photographed the growth of the embryos in their eggs until they hatched. Obviously, an extended vacation may be in order. But Utila nonetheless affords a novice photographer the opportunity to photograph a huge variety of subjects.

In our next article, we’ll dive a bit more deeply into the technical aspects of macro photography on Utila. We’ll also offer some tips and tricks from Ryon on how to get started. Stay tuned!