Photographing jellyfish and their underwater ballet

12 photos

Sun photographer Algerina Perna shares her fascination for jellyfish — otherworldly creatures, she says — that have intrigued her ever since childhood.

Jellyfish have intrigued me ever since I first saw them while playing along the Jersey shore as a young child.

I was both fascinated by and fearful of these otherworldly creatures that looked like wobbly clear glass bowls turned upside down, magnifying the sand grains underneath them. Fascinated because they were unlike anything I had ever seen before; fearful because everyone had warned me of their sting. Since then, my interest has waxed and waned, alternating between the summers I didn’t get stung, and those that I did.

Many years ago, the National Aquarium of Baltimore “Jellies” exhibit introduced me to a variety of sea nettles from other parts of the world. I was captivated by their color: shimmering translucent variations of burnt orange. I was mesmerized by their movement, which was like watching an underwater ballet.

Revisiting my fascination for jellyfish, I recently photographed the jellies at the National Aquarium using a Nikon D700 and a Panasonic point-and-shoot (modelI DMC-ZS7). I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of the photos taken with the Panasonic.

My strategy in taking the photos was to use the lowest ASA possible for the best resolution. To accomplish this, I waited until the jellyfish floated to the lightest part of the tank, which had lights on the top, sides and bottom. Each tank differed in brightness.

The basic anatomy of the jellyfish is as follows: The bell or hood is the rounded part at the top. The gonads, eye spots, mouth, and stomach pouch are all located under the hood of the bell. The tentacles are the long thin strands which have poisonous cells on their surface that sting the jellyfish prey. The oral arms are the long ruffled appendages hanging below the bell. They bring the food up to the mouth.

All the information in the accompanying captions is from the exhibit and website of the National Aquarium.

I hope you enjoy viewing these jellies as much as I enjoyed taking their pictures.