David and Goliath: A Photo and Video of an Underwater Tornado of Fish

For the past three years, San Diego-based photographer Octavio Aburto has had a specific photo idea brewing in his mind. He wanted to photograph the incredible underwater tornado that forms when massive groups of fish congregate to reproduce. This past November, he finally got his photo opportunity while diving with his friend David at Cabo Pulmo National Park in Mexico. The beautiful 24-second video above shows what Aburto witnessed.

Here’s the photograph that resulted, titled “David and Goliath” (Aburto’s friend is the diver in the photograph):


Aburto has submitted the photograph to National Geographic Photo Contest 2012. The photograph has also drummed up a good deal of attention after he shared it through Facebook.

Mission Blue has published a great interview with photographer. In response to a question regarding how the image came about, Aburto states,

The conditions were right — the water was very calm and the visibility was great. David and I actually had to stay in the water for almost an hour before we started photographing. We ended up swimming all over the place following the fish and waiting for them to start performing the courtship behavior. When the fish formed the tornado, David happened to be in this position filming this spectacular event.

What’s funny is that many viewers are having a hard time believing that the photograph is real. Aburto has been receiving emails from skeptics who wonder how he managed to get so many fish to form such a dense ball.

David and Goliath [National Geographic via ISO 1200]

Image credits: Photograph by Octavio Aburto and video by David Castro

  • Typical PetaPixel User

    Obviously fake.

  • Bj Del Rosario

    I would love to hear how you came to that conclusion.

  • Dave Reynolds

    That is an incredible shot and experience.

  • Black Seed

    The variation in the objects and the pixels is possibly too large a data set, to run the simulation and render the video even with several flops of processing power is perhaps too large an undertaking. You should reconsider your opinion.

  • Mantis

    You missed their user name.

  • Nick

    I love those ignorant people who clearly have done or seen little in life instantly shout fake! Get out in the real world and see the true wonders of nature you moron.

  • Nate Matos

    That photo makes it looks a lot higher speed and more menacing than it really is. Should I be disappointed the tornado of fish didn’t destroy gobs of underwater double-wides as it moved? Because I am…

  • eraserhead12

    Don’t you mean “pshht coulda done better if I encountered a tornado of fish”

    But seriously, what a breathtaking image.

  • Nathan Blaney

    Only thing wrong here is how short the video is. More, please.

  • Rodrigo Abello

    Awesome pic. Once more it shows how small we are in comparison to other elements.
    Great pic.

  • Todd Williams At Magnolia

    I saw barracuda do this once while diving in the early 1990’s. My Nikonos was on the boat! Just amazing.