Covers – Diver Magazine October 2016

It’s getting increasingly difficult to get an image on the cover of Scuba diving magazine’s nowadays. There are so many extremely talented underwater photographers around the world and the competition is fierce. So it’s with an element of pride that I share my first covershot of 2016. As a bonus, my backlit image of a Balinese Rhinopias forms the cover of the internal Indonesia supplement in the same issue.

 

Covershot Diver October 2016

Covershot Diver October 2016

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Through the Lens 5. Composition (Portrait)

Through the lens_01Another thing I see a lot is the fact that nearly every photo taken underwater is in landscape orientation. As the centre point bullseye composition tells us that the shooter’s been lazy, so does the fact that they haven’t turned their camera through 90 degrees to capture some shots in portrait.

The same compositional tips apply as in TtL 4. But this time you’ll have the camera and housing on its side, that means your likely to have to move your strobe(s) and I’m sure this is something the lazy photographer can’t be bothered to do … Their images will suffer as a consequence.

 

 

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Through the Lens 4. Composition (Landscape).

Through the lens_01If you want your underwater images to stand out from the crowd you’ll need to start thinking about composition. This is a fact that can’t be ignored, there are so many “ID” type photos out there, where the subject sits smack bang in the centre of the frame, although these types of image sometimes work, they invariably tell me that a photographer has been lazy with the camera and the focus point selector.

There are many camera models on the market, one thing they all have in common is they have more than one focus point, some have loads, others not so many, but they do all have them. It’s down to you to choose which one to use and the lazy shooter seems to always rely on the default point in the middle of the screen. Yes, this more often than not results in a sharp, in focus image, but unless the subject matter is very strong it’s likely to bore the pants off the audience.

So, go and get your camera and its manual and look-up how to change or move the focus area, and while you’re at it check out what the different focus modes are all about, continuous servo, single servo and manual all do different things. You really do need to get your head around this and apply it underwater.

Below are a few tips on achieving classic composition by just moving the focus point around.

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Through the Lens – 3. Choosing the settings.

Through the lens_01Jon Arden asked the following question on social media, “How do you tie the aperture, speed and ISO together to get the correct exposure and which one should be compromised first? Read somewhere, always try and get lowest ISO and around f/8, then adjust speed as required. True or false? Assuming a generic large fish (shark, manta)

Thanks Jon, this leads me onto the next piece of the jigsaw.

As can be seen from the illustrations in TTL-2, the aperture (f-stop) and lens focal length determine how much of the scene will be in focus in front and behind of the subject; to all intents, this is where the artistic content of the final image can be formed.

So, the first thing to consider when selecting the correct settings is what do we want in focus? This as we now know is down to the aperture and is therefore the very first we should set.

The shutter speed is then adjusted to gain the exposure required for everything our underwater strobe lights don’t illuminate, this is normally the background (in many cases blue water), the adjustment range here can be huge, from as slow as 1/10 and up to the cameras max flash synch speed of between 1/250 and 1/320 (camera model dependant).

Last but not least is the ISO setting, this increases or decreases the sensors sensitivity to the light striking it but adds electrical interference the higher we go, this interference shows as digital noise in the final image. We can adjust the ISO to gain smaller apertures and faster shutter speeds for given exposures, but at the cost of image degradation if we overstep the mark.

In summary, you were very close Jon, but f/8 although a great starting point is going to limit the artistic content of your work, not so much for Mantas and Sharks because of the shorter focal lengths wide angle lenses have but certainly in the world of close up macro shooting where f/8 on a 100mm lens at minimum focus distance is going to deliver a depth of field that could be described as “paper thin”.

If all of the above has fried your brain cells, here are a few real world examples to illustrate the thought process and theory. In the first image below (Wonderpus) I wanted to separate the animal from a really boring, dirty black sand background, I couldn’t get the camera low enough to shoot the subject with a plain water background. Instead I chose to open the aperture to f/5.6 and reduce the depth of field to such an extent that the background was rendered soft and totally out of focus. The tentacles can just about be made out behind the octopus but the leading eye is pin-sharp. I also shot this image at 1/320 to get as dark a background as I possibly could and actually lowered the ISO one click below its native setting of 200 to help in this department.

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The second image is almost the polar opposite of the first. These Bumpheads were cruising the shallow reef slope minutes after the dawn sun had broken the horizon. Underwater it was almost dark, with very limited ambient light, I wanted to show the fish cruising the reef slope and also the detail of ripples at the surface whilst giving the impression of the early morning light. This required a huge depth of field; an aperture of f/16 sorted that out. A shutter speed of 1/5 was needed to get the ambient light exposure correct, this proved too slow, so I upped the ISO from 200 to 320 enabling a faster (1/20) shutter speed that didn’t result in motion blur for everything the strobe light didn’t reach.

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Through the Lens – 2. Back to Basics

Through the lens_01I’ve received a number of Emails from photography enthusiast friends asking if I could explain the basics with regard to how Aperture, Focal Length, Shutter Speed and ISO settings play their part when choosing camera settings and how these choices affect the final images.

I’ve put together some illustrations, which, I hope will explain how the Aperture (f-stop), and the lens Focal Length will affect the Depth of Field (DoF). I’ve also added some illustrations to explain how Aperture and Shutter Speed affect Exposure and how increasing the ISO can degrade image quality by adding unwanted digital noise.

As I’ve said before “A picture paints a thousand words” ………..

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Through the Lens – 1. Snooting in Bali.

 

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In the waters just off the black sand beaches of Tulamben in North East Bali lie some of the best muck diving sites to be found anywhere in the world. Possibly the most prolific for small and rare critter encounters is Seraya Secrets. It was here that I captured these images of tiny (10mm) juvenile hairy frogfish (Antennarius striates). These mini predators use an appendage on the top of their heads which resembles a small worm as a fishing lure to entice prey close enough to capture and consume. The frogfish I encountered were colourful specimens (orange and yellow) lying on a silty, black sand substrate.

Thought process: I wanted to try and show the detail of the frogfish’s hairy appearance and to separate the fish from a cluttered and unattractive  background by placing it in a small circle of light directed from slightly behind the fish. Using a fast shutter speed (320th) and small aperture (f/29) the camera would only register the high intensity beam from the Inon Z240 slave strobe leaving everything else totally black.

Technique: I briefed Norris, my photo assistant / spotter / guide on how to use the Z240 and Retra light shaping device (LSD) to provide a small area of light to the fish’s head. With the main strobe linked via fibre optic cable to my D800 / Subal rig and the slave firing via its slave sensor I pre-set the strobes to minimum and full power respectively. Norris used the Z240’s bright LED focusing light to target the light beam while I focused on the subject through the Nauticam Super Macro Converter flipped down over the camera’s Nikon 105mm lens, composing the shots before pressing the shutter button.

A picture paints a thousand words:

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The Results:

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Through the Lens

From July 2016, I’ll be adding images with details of how they were captured in a series of “Through the Lens” features on the Wade Imaging Blog.

The features will provide an insight into the thought and technical processes required to get the best from the photographic opportunities presented in front of the camera and captured “Through the Lens”.

Just look for the Through the Lens logo (below) to identify all the relevant blogs.

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Big Time. Socorro feature.

Diver Magazine’s June Mexico supplement included my feature on the diving in Socorro, along with an image of Clare Rattle with a Manta at San Benedicto Island for the supplement cover.

 

Mexico Supplement June 2016

Mexico Supplement June 2016

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Diving with Mantas and Sharks – Socorro Islands

I’ve been out on a trip to the Revillagigedo Archipelago, also known as the Socorro Islands, this is not a place for lovers of coral reefs, the underwater topography comprises volcanic basalt with the only colour offered by barnacles and algae growth. What did we go here for? …. Pelagic wanderers in the form of Mantas, there’s also a lot of sharks, whitetips, silkies, hammerheads, galapagos, duskies, silvertips and tigers. Our home for the trip was onboard the Nautilus Belle Amie and the trip was hosted by my best buddy, JSA at the Scuba Place.

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Digital Clinic London Dive Show 2016

It was great fun to work with the very talented Saeed Rashid and Scuba magazine editor Simon Rogerson on Friday’s Digital Clinic at the London International Dive Show held at the Docklands Excel exhibition centre. Image courtesy of Paul Colley.

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Zen DP-170. 170mm Dome Port.

The latest addition to my underwater shooting armoury, Zen DP-170. This domeport is compact, light and suitable for fisheye lenses like the superb Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG or Nikkor 16mm f/2.8 D. coupled with a 20mm extension it can also be used with my Kenko 1.4 teleconverter.

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Digital Photo Clinic London Dive Show 2016

Come and join Saeed Rashide and I at the Photo Zone, centre stage at the forthcoming London International Dive Show, where we will be available to give advice on all things Underwater Photography, Saeed is a leading authority on post processing techniques using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop as well as a talented Underwater photographer. Me? I can help you muddle through the maze of settings, techniques and places to visit to get the best from your dive / photography trips. We both very much look forward to seeing you all at the Excel Exhibition centre over the 12th to the 15th February.

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The Twilight Zone, Soma Bay, Egypt.

The feature on Soma Bay, diving the East coast of the Red Sea a few miles South of Hurgadha has been published in the January Travel feature in Diver Magazine.

The Twilight Zone Soma Bay

The Twilight Zone Soma Bay

Sharm el Sheikh Photo Challenge. Diver magazine feature.

In July this year I visited Sharm el Sheikh as a guest of Alun Evans at family run Elite Diving to see if I could meet the challenge of capturing engaging images of mine and photo wizzkid Saeed Rashide’s top ten subjects to photograph in the waters around Sharm. Alun found 9 out of 10 subjects which included the shoaling fish aggregations at Ras Mohammed  national marine park. Unfortunately I fell short on the challenge and was unable to get shots of Turtles, they seemed conspicuous by their absence. Oh well I’ll just have to go back and try again. The feature was published in the December issue of Diver magazine.

Sharm Top 10

Sharm Top 10

Dive Show. NEC Birmingham 2015.

The 2015 Dive Show Photo Zone centre stage was decorated with six of my images printed at 60″ x 40″ that’s five feet at the longest side, really proud (and slightly relieved) they stood up to close scrutiny.

Saeed and me doing our thing.

Dive Show images courtesy of David Eaton.

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