Photographer Snags Image of Rare Tasmanian Spotted Handfish

There are only 3,000 spotted handfish still crawling around in the wild, and they all live on the silty bottom of Tasmania’s Derwent Estuary. As you might imagine, that kind of population and habitat makes them tricky to photograph. That’s why it’s so impressive that photographer Nicolas Remy managed to get a perfect shot of one.

The judges for the 2022 Underwater Photography Guide’s Ocean Art 2022 contest felt the same — they awarded Remy first place in the Coldwater category in the website’s annual contest.

Remy’s award-winning photograph of the elusive and unusual spotted handfish. Photo: Nicolas Remy


“During last Tasmanian winter, I spent nine hours diving a patch of the Derwent River…where I knew a few spotted handfish lived. The water was dark and silty with about two meters visibility, and I used two strobes with snoots to illuminate only the handfish and less of the floating particles,” Remy told Underwater Photography Guide.

The photographer used a Nikon D810 camera with a Nikon 105mm AF-S Macro lens and waterproof housing. Also in his tool kit? Patience, determination, and 16 years of practice.

a headshot of nicolas remy

Nicolas Remy resigned from a corporate job to become a full-time underwater photographer. Photo: Nicolas Remy


“I have been scuba diving since 2007, and I had read two underwater photography books before even starting scuba. That’s how excited I was to take photos underwater!” Remy told ExplorersWeb. “Fast forward a few years, I have spent over 1,300 hours taking photos underwater and turned the passion into a living, as I have left a corporate IT career to become a full-time underwater photographer.”

All that work paid off. Remy’s award-winning photograph is a striking example of the beauty — and weirdness — of a critically endangered species.

A round of applause for the spotted handfish

About 12cm long when full-grown, handfish are recognizable by their “modified fins that resemble human hands,” according to the Marine Biodiversity Hub. Because they lack swim bladders, spotted handfish use their modified appendages to scoot along silty riverbed bottoms.

They are related to anglerfish, and like those deep sea baddies, they have a lure above their mouth to entice prey animals like shrimp and worms. That’s also where their interesting yellow and black spots come in. The coloration functions as estuary-bottom camouflage from both predators and prey.

That also makes them hard to photograph, a fact Remy knew well before he jumped into the 11˚C waters of the Tasmanian estuary. But it was a shot he had to take, given that habitat degradation and invasive species have crashed the once robust spotted handfish population in the last five decades.

“Underwater photography can help conservation by growing empathy for species that most people will never see, and perhaps haven’t even heard of. And I thought the critically endangered spotted handfish very much needed extra love,” said the photographer.

For his winning photograph, Remy won a dive trip to Malepo, Colombia, an island in the eastern Pacific Ocean. There, the photographer is “hoping to photograph various species of sharks: schooling hammerheads, silky sharks, and perhaps whale sharks.”

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).