Get Up Close and Not at All Personal With an Enormous Jellyfish
George Stoyle click to enlarge - highly recommended
The lion’s mane jellyfish is quite the beast. The largest jellyfish in the Atlantic Ocean, it sports more than 1,000 bioluminescent tentacles that stretch 200 feet. Any one of them leaves a sting that hurts like hell.
George Stoyle braved cold water and the risk of a nasty sting to get this stunning photo of a lion’s mane jellyfish of the Scottish island of Hirta. The image captures the glowing, diaphanous bell and the red and orange tentacles that shimmy beneath it. Dozens of fish, resistant to its venom, swarm below. “The little fish, which were using the tentacles as refugee from predators, were something you don’t often see,” Stoyle says.
The Yorkshire photographer loves marine ecology. He’s made a career of it—managing a reserve in the Seychelles, working as a coral reef ecologist in Honduras, and making films for Smithsonian. Scottish Natural Heritage hired him, along with photographer Richard Shucksmith, in April, 2015 to document the flora and fauna of sea caves in the Scottish isles.
George Stoyle with his elaborate camera gear in the Scottish isles. Richard Shucksmith
Stoyle made several dives nearly every day for a month, often descending to 65 feet. Ascending too quickly from such depths can make you pass out, so he and Shucksmith would take their time rising. They’d often linger at a depth of about 15 feet, acclimating to the change in pressure. During one pause in an ascent, Stoyle nearly bumped into the largest jellyfish he’d ever seen, floating lazily over a rocky reef. Its gelatinous body dwarfed him, its tentacles trailing behind. Stoyle snapped a few frames—using a Nikon D700 featuring two arm-mounted flashes and, appropriately, a fish-eye lens—from just 3 feet away.
Stoyle avoided the tentacles, but winning first place in the 2016 British Wildlife Photography Awards would have made a sting totally worth it.