The Underwater Tribe visited Raja Ampat a few weeks ago and enjoyed one heck of a great trip! We chartered the smaller vessel Antares all to ourselves in order to pick and choose the dive sites that we wanted to go to, when we wanted to go! It was a very relaxed and chilled trip with just a few dives per day, but the whole trip was very productive photographically. As you will see when you watch this video, we encountered some incredible moments with manta rays throughout the week, both oceanic and reef varieties. Enough with the chatter, please watch the video to see the highlights, if you are interested in joining us on our next trip to Raja Ampat please consider joining us on the Mermaid II vessel in March 2017, more information at Raja Ampat 2017 with the Underwater Tribe.
Filter photography has really come into it’s own with the advent of digital photography and the ability to white balance underwater. Although it has been used for a long time with digital video underwater, red filters and white balancing did not really become popular with still photographers until the early to mid 2000s. The use of a filter underwater allows the photographer to filter out some of the nasty blues and greens that dominate the colour spectrum deeper than 10 feet and bring back a warm colour balance along with a lot of contrast and typically a beautiful blue. Shooting with a Filter of any sort is actually quite easy, here are a few tips to get you started:
Don’t Use Strobes – to get the most from a filter it’s best to use with natural light only
Stay Shallow – as the shot will be illuminated with natural light, the best results are typically from 15 m (50ft) or shallower
Keep the Sun Behind You – the key to illuminating the subject properly and getting the best colour is to have the sun helping
Shoot Slightly Down- although this sounds like the opposite of what is drilled into new photographers (Shoot UP!) in natural light or filter photography shooting on a slightly downward angle helps
Use manual white balance and re set it prior to shooting each new subject
Concentrate on using a wide angle lens, this will provide the best potential for filters. Macro is best shot with strobes
That’s it! Now it’s just a case of getting your hands on some filters and a nice shallow dive site. Our friends over at Magic Filters provide the best and largest range of filters for underwater photographers so head on over to their website to have a look at their products.
500px is a photo sharing site similar to Flickr or any other number of photo sharing sites out there but it does offer something of a twist. For photographers who are interested in selling some of their images via “royalty free”, 500px offers a 70% commission to the photographer for any and all sales using their 500px Prime platform. Also, 500px is a great site to have a look at some incredible photos from all sorts of different photographic genres. I now put a lot of my “seconds” on this site in order promote and hopefully make a few $$ in income along the way.
Over on our Bali Academy of Underwater Photography website, we have a series of articles called “How To??” which are very short posts discuss “How To” shoot a certain type of photo or photography style or even post processing techniques. If you haven’t had a look at the site before there are several of these short posts on the site as well as a few full articles, check them out on the Tutorials page.
Limited Depth of Field composition is a very effective and stunning form of photography when it’s done well. Although it does look complicated, it’s actually a very easy technique to setup. Here are a few steps to follow to learn “How To” take macro underwater photos with great bokeh.
Choose an fstop between 1.8 and 8, the more open the f-stop the less DOF there is
Strobe strength has to be at a very low power or else utilize TTL
Choose subject accordingly, a flat subject will not “show off” the bokeh properly, therefore subject selection is key
Don’t forget the background, a colourful background will enhance the “out of focus” aspect of the background itself. Bright colours work well
Use a fast shutter speed: the DOF is very narrow so any little movements from the camera will be multiplied in the photo, using a fast shutter speed helps
Use manual focus or focus lock, keeping a very narrow area of a macro image is hard to do, using manual focus helps so that the lens does not “hunt” while focusing
That’s it, very simple yet effective hints for trying this fun form of underwater photography
One of my favourite underwater photo subjects are turtles, it doesn’t matter if it’s a “relatively” common hawksbill turtle or green turtle or any of the other more endangered turtles, I am always happy to encounter any turtle when diving. On this particular encounter on the island of Layang Layang in Sabah, Malaysia, I ran into this friendly hawksbill turtle who was happily munching away on sponge embedded in the hard coral. As with any turtle encounter, I stopped and watched it for a few moments to see if it would be spooked by my presence or if it would allow me to get closer. After watching it for a while I decided that it wasn’t bothered by my presence and so I slowly moved closer in order to take a few photos. After snapping a couple of shots from the side I then decided to see if the turtle would allow me to approach from the front, as this photo can attest, it sure did! As I moved from the side toward the front I realized that the turtle was allowing me to get quite close, but as I started to maneuver my strobes closer to the port the young hawksbill turtle decided that it was a lot more interested in my dome port than the sponges! Abandoning the idea of moving my strobes, instead I started backpedaling away from the hungry hawksbill while snapping off a few photos and trying to avoid “turtle bites” on my port! My guess is he/she reacted to the reflection of another turtle in the port and the attempted biting was in order to scare off a potential competitor. After I backed off again the happy hawksbill went right back to munching on sponge and ignoring my ungainly presence. Although I didn’t necessarily get the lighting correct on this shot, it is a photo that stands out as it was really a funny situation with a personable turtle who was intent on showing me who’s the boss!
Layang Layang, Sabah, Malaysia – Nikon D90, Aquatica Housing, 10-17mm lens, f10, 1/100, Sea and Sea Strobes
When diving in Bali or Lembeh or a myriad of other sites with sandy bottoms, do you ever see a cloud of dust rising up in the distance? When you get close the disturbance it often turns out to be a big school of striped catfish churning up the sand in search of food. These social fish with their distinctive barbed mouth are a common resident in the Indo Pacific area and always make an interesting photo subject in both macro or wide angle formats. This shot was taken in Bali at Seraya Secrets with a Nikon D7000 and Aquatica housing, 105mm, f22, 1/250 and Sea and Sea strobes
I recently arrived back from a short trip to the Komodo National Park in Indonesia and it was another great trip to this wonderful location. The highlight of the trip for myself was that we were able to swim with dozens of manta rays in the south at a site called Manta Alley. The mantas themselves were all at the surface feeding for the entire morning, so even though we tried jumping in the water to dive with them, we weren’t having much success with encounters. Therefore, we did the smart thing and surfaced from our dive in order to snorkel with them instead! These beautiful animals did not feel any threat from our presence and willingly swam alongside us for minutes at a time. We enjoyed the encounter so much we even came back and jumped in a second time! Although the water was cold and somewhat green, that doesn’t really matter when you are surrounded by mantas does it?!? Interested in a trip to Komodo, join the Underwater Tribe on an adventure there in September 2015!
Over on our Bali Academy of Underwater Photography website we often post short “Photo Tips” in a section called “How To??“. This page is dedicated to very short tutorials with quick tips on helping you improve your photography; for those interested in longer tutorials we reserve those for our “Articles” page instead. So head on over to the site when you have time and check them out! Here is the latest “How To??” article below
How To? Shoot Stunning Coral Reef Garden Photos
Nothing shows the reality of a healthy coral reef better than a wide angle photography of a beautiful hard coral garden. To shoot a coral garden effectively there are a couple of things to keep in mind that will help to achieve the best results.
1. Stay shallow! The best results will be in less than 10 metres of water
2. Turn off your strobes and use the sun at your back, the sun will illuminate the coral and bring the colour in
3. Shoot at a slightly downward angle, this will allow you to frame as much of the interesting coral reef as possible
4. Use a fisheye lens or a higher f-stop (such as f11) in order to avoid bad corners from a rectilinear lens. Bad corners will show very obviously with intricate corals filling the frame
5. If possible utilize a red filter or magic filter and manual white balance settings. Using a filter will help filter out the blues and greens from the image and create a more even colour tone. Also, shoot in RAW so you can experiment with WB in post processing.
6. If time of day and conditions allow, try to include sunrays at the edges of the photo in order to add a second element in the composition. Including a distant diver or freediver is another excellent choice of a secondary subject.
I am just back from a great voyage to the Komodo National Park! It was my first trip there in 2015 but it won’t be long until my second, heading there again in two weeks time. The diving was amazing as always and I will be posting a short video of a snorkel we had with around 30 mantas at Manta Alley! Here is a teaser image of the scenic lookout on top of Gili Lawa Darat to keep you entertained until I can upload the mantas.
One of the more unique looking photos you can take are of fairly common subjects but shot in an abstract way. A simple way to do this is with a macro lens and using your “artsy” eye to see outside of the box. In this photo of a wrasse in Bali I go right up close and personal and only focused on its pectoral fin rather than shooting the entire fish. This style of photograph works extremely well with varied colored tropical fish which have interesting and unique designs. Try out shooting abstract photos the next time you are shooting macro.