Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ocean Photography

Hope is not strategy, but applying the fundamentals is.
Roughly 15 years ago, as one of my underwater photography seminars ended, a student pulled me aside and said something like "I understand the material you covered, but I really want to be good at underwater photography, so will you please tell me what you really do, you know, the things you don't usually share with others."As an instructor, I felt a little kick in the gut, as if I had been accused of holding back the most valuable information.
That incident caused me to make certain that early on in my in my seminars I get two very important points across to every student. Those points are that to consistently produce pleasing image, you must get a grasp of fundamentals of underwater image making, and the more often you apply those fundamentals, the more likely you are to be pleased with your photographs. in other words, the "secret" information us, do your best to apply the fundamentals, and when you can;t apply them, change something so you can. Don't just shoot and hope that because your mother loves you, a miracle will occur and your images will be great.
Below are five fundamentals concepts. In the two images that accompany this piece, you can see you can see that even though the subjects are different, and that one is wide-angle while the other is macro, the same concepts helped make each shot a winner.

1) Proper exposure and sharply focused subjects are musts. Don't just read about but be sure you learn how F-stops, shutter speed, ISO, strobe power and strobe-to-subject distance work together, to determine exposure. Those concepts are not difficult, but until they are mastered, your composition is usually irrelevant.

2) Get close to your subject. Getting close translates to sharper images and richer palette of colors in your images. When you think you are close, get closer.

3) Get low and shoot up. At least consider this approach. An upward angle often adds dramatic appeal and helps you separate your subjects from their background so your subjects stand out in your images.

4) Pay attention to the background. No matter how colorful marine creatures appear to us, in many cases they have evolved to blend into or "break up" in their immediate surroundings and background. Try to compose your images so subjects are separated from their surroundings. With small reef creatures, look for color contrast between subject and background. With bigger animals, try shooting them against blue (or green) water backgrounds, not dark reef or water.

5) When composing your shot, check the edges of your frame for potential problems. Too often unwanted intrusions such as other divers fins or a half of a fish often surprise and disappoint us with we review our pictures. Those surprises weren't seen wen composing the shot because we only concentrate on the center portion of the frame.
Applying these concepts will help you consistently get good result. More insights into the fundamentals will come your way in the future issues.

Article and images are from Dive Training August 2008

9 comments:

Becky said...

Excellent points, Ashley. They apply not only to underwater photography, but all photography.

Inquiries said...

Very true! I wrote the bottom of the post but it is not there! Hum.

Buck said...

2) Get close to your subject. Getting close translates to sharper images and richer palette of colors in your images. When you think you are close, get closer.

Unless you happen to be photographing sharks. Or sea-snakes.

You can have all the underwater photography ya want, Ash. I'll stay on dry land, thankyouverymuch. ;-)

Jenn said...

I'm cracking up...I'm with Buck !

Bag Blog said...

Wow, I had the same thought as Buck! Great minds...

Inquiries said...

Buck: Sissy! ;)

Jenn: Are you a sissy too? ;)

Lou: Another sissy! ;)

Buck said...

Did you just call me a sissy? Why, yes... I believe you did! Let me remind you: it takes a brave man to look cancer directly in the EYE for over 40 years, all while puffing merrily away. Wait. That makes me stupid instead of brave, don't it?

Lemmee get back to you on this...

Inquiries said...

Buck: I'm just teasing you. Everyone has their comfort level. I love the ocean but I hate any bug. Hate them! Everyone has their quirks. :)

Buck said...

Well, I knew you were teasing me. At least I hoped so...

And I, of course, was teasing right back, ya know... :-)

Speaking of bugs... didja ever read this post over at my place? That oughta bring your "Ewww!" factor up jes a lil bit... :-)