I am cheating a bit here and posting two photos, the old one on film and the recreation shot on digital 10 years later.
This is the newer digital version Aquatica Housing, Nikon D90, 1/500 at f11
One of my more iconic images was shot on film back around the year 2000 in Palau and consists of a lone mastigias jellyfish silhouetted in front of a stunning sunburst. This was done simply by aiming my Nikonos V and 15mm lens at the jellyfish and trying a variety of fstops while shooting at 1/500 (I think). I then chose that image as the best from the series. However, I was never 100% happy with the photograph as I felt the sun did “leak” a little too much from the side of the jellyfish simply due to trouble composing an image via parallax. Therefore, when I had the chance to visit the jellyfish lake at Kakaban Island in Kalimantan province, Indonesia it was one of my goals to replicate this shot. The difference this time being I was shooting with a digital SLR that allowed me to frame the jellyfish properly through the lens. Although the Jellyfish Lake at Kakaban is not home to as big of a population as the one in Palau, the jellyfish are plentiful and the lake is highly photogenic. Once again I set the camera at 1/500 and found myself a likely jellyfish model that was near the surface and spent some time shooting it. The process was easy, I simply exhaled to allow myself to sink under the surface and then framed the jellyfish to my satisfaction and then shot it with a selection of different fstops to achieve the result that you see here. I am very happy with the results of this recent shot and I believe it to be superior to the film version.
Film version, Nikonos V with 15mm, settings not recorded
I lived in Palau from 1999-2002 but never took advantage of heading up on the local plane in order to see it from the air while I lived there. It was not until I visited again as a tourist in early 2005 when I decided to take advantage of this incredible flight opportunity on my birthday! My friend Matt was the pilot (and he is still working there as a heli pilot doing charter flights if anyone is interested) of a small plane that I chartered for a one hour flight around the islands. As there were only 2 of us on the plane (plus Matt) we were able to take the door off the plane and shoot directly out into the air. For those who have never seen photos of Palau, it’s an incredibly beautiful country with hundreds of small karst islands surrounded by bright white sand. Perhaps the most picturesque area is the protected “70 Islands” preserve which is off limits to any and all visitors other than rangers and conservation teams due to the presence of nesting turtles. On this shot I simply had to lean out the window and snap away and allow nature to take care of the rest. I will let you decide if there are 70 islands or not…
As part of a continuing series of posts, the “Story Behind the Shot” are short discussions about photographs from my library highlighting interesting photos or events from 15 years working full time in the diving industry.
Story Behind the Shot – The Grey Reef Shark
Now this shot might not look like the most dramatic photo of all time, and I am not posting it here as an example of such, but rather I am posting it as an example of the changing times in underwater photography. This was taken at either Blue Corner or New Drop Off in Palau circa 2000-2002 and was shot with a Nikonos V and 20mm lens. Those two dive sites were incredible places to dive when I worked in Palau from 99-2002 and from all accounts that I hear these days, still are great sites with loads of fish action. There really is no feeling to compare to hovering over the edge of the drop off with 15 or 20 sharks parading past you while huge schools of fish fight for position in the current.
Looking over some older photos in the last few weeks has opened my eyes to what I shot then compared to what I can shoot now. This was most likely shot with Fuji Provia 100 film, but I am not sure as I don’t have the slides with me, and I couldn’t say what the settings were, maybe f5.6 and 1/90? Tough to tell when there is no metadata attached! For digital photographers out there, could you imagine not being able to change the ISO during a photo shoot? When loading a roll of 36 into the camera in the morning, I was stuck with that ISO film until I finished the roll, so, if all of a sudden I was down deep and the conditions changed to green and overcast, I was still stuck with that roll of film; nowadays, if the conditions get too dark I can just change my ISO on the fly, simple. Also, although many images looked great on film, scanning them into digital never worked smoothly and took a LOT of extra time to get rid of any dust or scratches. I don’t miss that at all! Another thing I don’t miss? Going down with a roll of film that had only 10 or 12 shots left on it and having an epic dive and running out of film in the first 15 minutes, that doesn’t happen in digital.
What I want now is the chance to spend another 5 years in Palau and French Polynesia reshooting everything I shot back then but with digital!