Photo Tips 2

For more information on classes, trips, and photography schedules and costs - E-Mail Peggy Goldberg at pgoldberg@goldenimages- photo-scuba.com or talk to her in person at 352.591.1508.

 Bracketing and Patience

Underwater photography is very unique in many ways -other then the fact you are doing it underwater! Last time, we touched upon the subject of types of cameras, how  important our buoyancy control is underwater, and how, unlike land photography,  we must get very close to our subjects and look up toward the light.

Angelfish in 3-D
Taken with a Nikonos IV / 16mm lens at f8 - strobe on 1/2 power at less than 2' from angelfish


Unlike land photography, we are very limited in the time we have to take the picture...not only due to depth and air constraints, but our subjects are  constantly moving, and we have nanoseconds to determine exposures, composition  and distances for focusing and strobe lighting. We don't have the luxury of  taking "in house dupes" (taking several of the same photos for duplicates)  unless you are photographing invertebrates, or objects that do not move.  Unfortunately, we tend to go brain dead underwater and forget how to operate that object we hold in our hands! So, you still want to try it?
One of the mistakes that is common to beginning photographers is that they swim up quickly  to a subject, take the picture, and swim on to another subject. In order to get consistently good shots, you must take as many pictures as you can at that time.  You will be amazed that you can take 6 shots of your subject, yet only one (or  none!) will come out as you'd hoped.

Barracuda with cleaner Blennies
Taken with Nikon 90 in Nexus housing - 60mm lens at f11, strobe on TTL Approaching slowly,  this 6' barracuda allowed me within 4' of it while it was being cleaned!


Backscatter, caused by particles in the water lit up by your strobe, poor  composition (cutting off the fishes tails, for instance), out of focus, over and underexposing, choosing the wrong speed, are but a few of the things that can go wrong - causing you to smack your head and go "Doh!" Often, it's not as if we can just go back out and try again, like you might with land photography.
You need to try to get the picture by changing strobe positions, bracketing  by changing exposures one or more stops, and experiment.....once you really know your camera, film, and whether or not your strobe is putting out the kind of  light you need for the apertures you are selecting, you will start to get consistently better shots.
Expect in the beginning to get about 2-3 "keepers" in a roll. Later on, you  should have a major part of the roll as acceptable...maybe not great, but, at  least in focus, well composed, and fairly well exposed.
By now you have  probably guessed underwater photography consists of a lot of hanging or laying around in one spot....you are pretty much right. First, you can't see things if  you are finning like mad, trying for distance on the reef. You will also scare  away most marine life. Second, part of the secret of getting good shots is to know your subjects - and how can you do that if you don't take the time to observe their behavior and get to know them?
I am often asked, when I do my slide programs , is "How did you find that? And how do you know what it is?" The answer to that question is -" An underwater photographer has to be better than a hunter, and be non-threatening- a part of the reef and its inhabitants.
You will spend a lot of time looking at your pictures, going to libraries, talking to biologists, and reading about behaviors. And sometimes, you will have the pleasant surprise to photograph something that no one else has seen or yet identified. I have found three unidentified creatures in the last 3 years!
So, take a deep  breath, relax, and concentrate on getting to know what your camera can do under  different lighting conditions. Learn when to stalk your subject, and when to wait for them to come to you.
Read every fish/coral/marine creature ID, and marine behavior book you can find, and you will find you are getting more keepers and surprises on that roll.

 

 

Unidentified worm eating a Ruby Brittlestar.
 Taken with a  Nikonos V with a closeup lens - f22- strobe on TTL Found on one of the most dived places in the world - The Aquarium in Grand Cayman at night! This purple worm was over 6' long, and very sensitive to light - the other end went under a coral head. Has so far eluded definite identification.

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