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 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.
One of my more popular photos, the Pregnant Pygmy Seahorse, was taken in 2010 at Cannibal Rock in Horseshoe Bay, Komodo National Park, Indonesia. After spotting this pygmy seahorse a few days before, I made a mental note to prepare my camera for “super macro” for my next visit to the area. In all honesty, I didn’t expect this particular seahorse to still be so “pregnant” looking when I arrived 5 or 6 days later but I was more than happy to see it was still in this condition when I arrived. When shooting “super macro” I use a Nikon 105mm lens coupled with a Kenko 2X Teleconverter which creates a 210mm lens. However, as I was using a crop sensor camera this setup has macro capability of about 2.5X lifesize (with my basic math). Shooting with a teleconverter (TC) is extremely annoying as the autofocus takes a very long time and will “stutter” at the slightest movement of the button. Therefore, the best way to shoot when using this setup is to preset the lens to manual and “rack it” all the way to minimum focus distance before putting it in the housing. This way the lens is set to its optimum “super macro” setting and will be able to take photos quickly without the issue of the auto focus losing focus. On this photo I waited patiently beside the seafan and rocked gently back and forth with the lens until the pygmy was in focus before taking any photos. A lot of time and patience was spent (I won’t mention my deco obligation) on this set of images while waiting for this notoriously shy subject to turn toward the camera.
Nikon D90, Aquatica housing, 105mm with 2X TC, f 14, 1/250, Sea and Sea YS 120 strobes