Underwater Photographer Spends 20 Years Capturing Photos of Microscopic Plankton

Ryo Minemizu Underwater Photographer

Larval fish of ‘Dendrochirus.'

Japanese underwater photographer Ryo Minemizu has dedicated his 20-year career to capturing some of the smallest organisms in the sea—plankton. Shooting primarily in the shadow of Mount Fuji in the Osezaki sea and off the Okinawa coast, Minemizu goes deep underwater to discover the beauty and diversity of these microscopic creatures.

His dedication sees him spending two to eight hours underwater every day, where he sets about photographing these tiny organisms. As they typically measure between 2 mm and 40 mm, Minemizu has had to develop special techniques to achieve his incredible photographs. Through trial and error, Minemizu developed the Black Water Dive, a night dive with underwater lighting to bring out the best of larval plankton.

“Plankton are intriguing and beautiful creatures. They symbolize how precious life is by their tiny existence,” the photographer writes. “I wanted other people to see them as they are in the sea–that was my motivation for beginning to shoot plankton underwater, which is quite a challenge. Most plankton are so small and their movements are hard to predict. I have devoted my past 20 years to presenting their tiny figures, colors, and textures to capture their vivid beauty.”

Minemizu's photographs are full of detail. The plankton are so complex that it's difficult to believe how small they actually are in size. Through his skilled and carefully thought out marine life photography, Minemizu is able to capture the vibrant colors and anatomical complexity of the plankton, which are some of the most abundant organisms on earth. And in doing so, he reminds us of just how vital these often unseen creatures are to the food chain.

After years of focusing on the scientific community, Minemizu is bringing his brilliant photography to a wider audience. His touring exhibition, Jewels in the Night Sea, opens at the Canon Gallery Giza in Tokyo on August 20, 2018, before moving to Nagoya and Osaka. Ryo Minemizu prints are available for sale via Fineprint Photo.

For over 20 years, underwater photographer Ryo Minemizu has challenged himself to capture the beauty of plankton.

Underwater photography by Ryo Minemizu

Batesian mimicry, larval fish of ‘Soleichthys.' Body length: 20mm

Ryo Minemizu Underwater Photographer

Unknown a larval ‘Gymnapogon.' Body length: 35mm

Larval Tripod fish by Ryo Minemizu

Larval Tripod fish.

Photo of Marine Life by Ryo Minemizu

‘Megalopa' larva of ‘Eplumula phalangium.'

Ryo Minemizu Underwater Photographer

Larval fish of ‘Hoplichthys.' Body length: 30mm

In order to photograph these microscope creatures, Minemizu developed the Black Water Dive, a night diving technique using special lights to illuminate the plankton.

Underwater photography by Ryo Minemizu

‘Hyperiidea' on ‘Nausithoe' jellyfish. Jellyfish umbrella width: 20mm.

Underwater photography by Ryo Minemizu

‘Megalopa' larva of deepwater carrier crab.

Ryo Minemizu Underwater Photographer

Larval fish of ‘Liopropoma.'

Photo of Marine Life by Ryo Minemizu

‘Tornaria' larva of Acorn worms

larval Barred soapfish by Ryo Minemizu

Larval Barred soapfish.

Photo of Marine Life by Ryo Minemizu

Larva of ‘Pleurobranchaea'

Ryo Minemizu: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Ryo Minemizu.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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