Macro PerspectiveIt is the different angle that makes this common christmas tree worm look interesting again.
Light is PhotographyEverything in photography is about light. Observe it, love it, capture it, and it will become your most powerful ally.
Spinning CoralsThe spinning technique results in a new and unique view of a quite common coral.
Macro BokehAn open aperture such as f/2.8 or f/3.5 gives macro subjects a new kick. Give it a try!
Up To The SkyIt is often the angle that can change the expression of a photograph, even one with a quite uninteresting jellyfish in it.
Underwater Photography: Shooting Common Subjects In A Different Way
Not every underwater photographer has the opportunity of expensive travel around the world, visiting the most exotic places to take the "shot of all shots"... like '25 sailfishes forming a heart', 'great white sharks feeding on the dive guide', or 'the birth of a pigmy seahorse'...
We frequently visit the closer, easier to reach, dive spots. They are the places where many take their shots and after a while, they get to know every single stone, plant, or fish by name.
There might come a time when hundreds or even thousands of images are captured of the same subject or scenery, enough to seriously frighten off even the toughest and most uncomplaining visitors at your evening photo presentations. Boredom might take place, and the question that was born as a mild breeze evolves into a proper hurricane- "What more can I do?"
Under no circumstances do I want to suggest that your underwater photos are boring! If you like them, they are good, end of story. But if you frequently dive the same places, maybe this article could give you a little new "creative input".
I often notice that many u/w photographers are stuck in one of two corners:
- They are just happy with a correctly exposed shot and don't really mind the rest.
- They often shoot photos in a documentary (or identification) style; technically well done, but, in the end, are just a reflection of what already exists. This comes with the question, "What is nicer? The photo or the subject?"
Documentation has always been a main leg of photography (and deserves our highest respect) and science relies on proper documentation shots of marine life and scenery. But maybe you would like to do something different... and even be different (in the best case)?
I would like to encourage all u/w photographers to step back a little from "technology dictatorship" (when your photo gear dominates your mind) and risk a small walk on the creative side, trying to see things underwater with a different eye and, as a result, capturing shots that stand out from the masses.
Good - and expensive- photo equipment helps, but technology can't buy creativity. Real creativity comes from your heart and soul, not from your camera. So let's work on this! No need for "high tech" or expensive dive trips to exotic destinations to achieve it- just a little "creative think-over" and the courage to do something different.
Although there are many ways of shooting a common subject differently, here are a few creative ideas for your next photo dive in the nearby pond, channel, muck area, or wherever you happen to be :-)
Blur with a plan
Maximum depth of field is a classic of underwater macro photography. Try the opposite! Instead of f/11 or f/16, try something like f/2.8 or f/3.5. This creates a smooth, blurry background with a pleasing Bokeh, and isolates your main subject from distracting background elements.
Set your camera to center focus point, 1/6 s and f/16 or even f/22 (set your ISO according to the light circumstances). Rotate your camera quickly around its middle axis (center of lens) and take the shot during that rotation. This ‘swirl’ works great with corals, also with the not-so-interesting fire corals, props of shipwrecks and airplanes, and even with just blue water.
A different and even "un-common" angle of view can give the same subject a completely new expression. Upward or “eye-to-eye-level” angles are the classics, but how about extreme upward angles?
Hint: for some really unique angles, we sometimes need to shoot “out of the hip”, meaning with no reference to the camera's viewfinder or life-view. That's a very common technique from street photography, and it works great for underwater too.
Minor changes in your light setup/settings can make the same subject look totally different. Don't leave your strobe(s) always in the same position. Try out different positions and see what happens. When diving in very shallow waters, forget about strobes, work with the ambient light, as it is the most beautiful light ever! As photography means nothing more than “painting with light”, the light makes the difference between an average and a great shot.
This works with very simple and common subjects as well – it doesn't have to be a whale shark ;-) Keep your eyes open for light beams, light patterns on the seabed or reef, and for the interplay of light and shadows. There are lots of opportunities in all waters and at every dive spot.
Happy bubbles, happy shootings, and always be safe!
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Distracted by too many things while shooting underwater images? Let's work on a mindset! Part 2 of the series: During the photo dive.
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