So excited to see nine of my photographs licensed by the Solomon Islands for use in a postage stamp collection. These are the nine species of anemonefish found on the nation’s coral reefs.
For us, the Solomon Islands have been a consistent favourite for extended diving in diverse habitats and lush biodiversity since our first visit in 2005. We’ve returned many times to the dive ships Bilikiki and Spirit of Solomons, in various roles from honeymooning guests to onboard managers to photo pros, ever searching for one more species and the perfect shot. Ten years on and the Solomon Islands Postal Corporation’s philately department has licensed a collection of my photographs that celebrates all nine of the nation’s endemic species of these most charismatic little fish.
Normally I enjoy photographing fish in more of a portrait style: images that demonstrate some behaviour, or show the fish connecting with the viewer. However, these nine images all needed to be ID shots, photographed from the side to show as many identifying marks and colourations as possible. Anemonefish swim fast, they twist and turn, they interact with their partners, they dash out into the water column then dive back into their anemone… all told, they are difficult fish to photograph side on—at close range, with a macro lens. Add to this the requirement of a clean background for text and graphics: no areas of bare rock, no straying body parts from other anemonefish in the colony, just the one anemonefish surrounded (but not obscured) by anemone tentacles.
The original Nemo are common in the shallow waters of the Solomons. They are easily approached, and always a delight for snorkellers and divers alike. They rarely stop moving which makes them a challenging subject worthy of long, card-filling dives.
One of the more common anemonefish species, and most easily recognised by the thinner second bar—compared with the similar-looking Clark’s anemonefish whose second bar is fatter than the first.
Orange skunk anemonefish
This Orange skunk adopts the typical safety pose laying deep in the comfy anemone host. This species’ anemone-of-choice has short tentacles, leaving the fish open to clear ID shots.
The longer tentacles of Entacmaea quadricolor often fully obscure their residents, especially when extended rather than “nippled up”.
The White-bonnet anemonefish is a hybrid of A. chrysopterus and A. sandaracinos. The fish has one of the smallest ranges: it is only found in the Solomons and in Papua New Guinea, right in the area where A. chrysopterus and A. sandaracinos species ranges overlap.
Clark’s: the most wide spread and variable of this collection. Clark’s are also the least fussy when it comes to which species of anemone they can live in.
Pink skunk anemonefish
The beautiful soft colours of the Pink anemonefish, living in the appropriately named Heteractis magnifica—the Magnificent anemone.
Saddle-back (or Panda) anemonefish
The Saddle-back (or Panda) anemonefish is the most aggressive towards intruders. And what breeders!—their colonies have large numbers of juveniles ready to step up when required.
The Spinecheek anemonefish is quite spectacular. The female’s colours can be deep maroon, much darker than her clownish-looking fella. The spines on the fish’s cheek are unique to this species, which puts this anemonefish in its own genus: Premnas (all the other anemonefish in this collection belong to the genus Amphiprion).
Perhaps this philatelic collection will help raise awareness among Solomon Islanders of the beautiful biodiversity under their care, as well as attract more international visitors to their shores. For me, it is an honour and a thrill to see my work used this way.