Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shooting Underwater

One thing that is pretty evident from looking at underwater photos is how easy it must all seem. I must admit that if creative intent was not an issue, all one has to do was just ensure one's camera and strobes are set up correctly and then fire away.

However there are always a few difficulties encountered when shooting underwater that are easily forgotten when reviewing the best of one's photos in the comfort of one's home.
I mention the "best" because for every one decent photo taken, there are probably five out of focus, disjointed, crap looking ones that accompanies it.
Some of the difficulties I personally have encountered are as follows,
1. Strobes not strong enough (Diffusers left on)
2. Auto Focusing cannot lock on even with bright focus light especially when shooting at a 105mm focal length.
3. Subject keeps moving.
4. Underwater camera rig getting heavier and heavier causing arm to ache.

Take these cute little Hippocampus Denise Pygmy Seahorses for example. I was shooting with a 105mm macro lens, had both strobes on and had a huge focus light on. I guess because the subject itself is ridiculously small, the auto focus function of the lens had a heck of a time locking on to the subject, and in this case I wanted the eyes to be the tack sharp. The seahorse kept moving which didn't help and at this point I will stress the importance of a really good dive guide who understands your needs enough to do what is necessary without going so far as to traumatising or injuring any marine organism for the sake of getting the shot.
And all this while my rig kept getting heavier and heavier and my arm muscles felt close to breaking point!
Hence after careful review of what transpired, I realised that for the really small stuff, one really needs to go manual on the focusing. Secondly having buoyant strobe arms are an absolute must.
These are lessons I hope to build upon as I plan for next year's trip to Bali and Lembeh.
As for the subject itself, I was thrilled to have been able to photography these guys and if diving physiological concerns were not an issue, I could have stayed on for hours.

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