Story Behind the Shot "Underwater Circus"

Lucie Drlikova
Lucie Drlikova shares the story behind her Ocean Art category-winning image

 

Story Behind the Shot "Underwater Circus"


Lucie Drlikova shares the story behind her Ocean Art category-winning image

Text and Photos By Lucie Drlikova

 

Lucie Drlikova Underwater Circus

 

 
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Underwater Circus was created as a series of 3 pictures in March 2014, Prague/ Czech republic.

My first idea was to create a walking ballerina on rope, but somehow I was still missing something, something different, special for me. One day I saw a yellow clown wig and at that moment I got the idea about the underwater circus. I love circus from my childhood, all the clowns and acrobats. Sad soul behind the happy face. So it was decided! I knew I needed experienced models, as it would be quite difficult to synchronize them all. The girl on the rope was clear for me from the first moment - my best friend Zela is always ready to help me with all my crazy ideas and she is a certified freediver, therefore comfortable underwater. I started to tailor the costumes on her.

Finding two male models was also not so difficult either. Laci and Robert voluntarily offered themselves. Actually, I am very lucky with underwater models in the Czech. As a certified scuba diver and freediver, we have a big community in Prague and everybody knows each other. I have shot the Czech Championship in freediving many times and I also support many free diving activities, so if I need something, the community is happy to help me ni return.

There are only a few swimming pools in Prague with a depth of around 13 feet. The Czech freediving team uses one of them for their training, and they were so kind as to offer me the use of this deep pool and to help with divers' safety for this picture. Safety is a very important part of a shoot like this. When I am shooting in such deep pool, I always use safety diver/ freedivers. 

 

Training and Setting Up the Pool

I always have to cover the swimming pool wall, as I do not want to have the tiles visible in the picture. First, I made a very big white fabric backdrop (I sewed 6 white blankets together), but then I figured out that it was a little transparent underwater and I could still see the tiles. So I prepared the same big fabric, just in a light blue color (for this I used 2 big photographic background fabrics sewed together). 

Next, I bought a 17 foot rope and we started to train and practice the position that I wanted to see in the picture in my living room. 

I always try to prepare the position with models on surface, before we go in the water. I believe that when everybody understands exactly what I want from them on the surface, they will also do it in the water. 

Approximately 2 hours before the shoot, I started to work on the makeup of the girl and to glue the mustaches on the men. I always do the makeup by myself. I use colors which are waterproof or creamy, and stay on in the water.

Then we started to cover the pool with the fabrics. The edges of the fabric were weighted with diving weights to tighten the fabric. 

When everything was ready, we went through all the details and position once more with all 3 models. 

 

The Pool Shoot

First, we needed to synchronize the two men with the rope. We tried for about 20 minutes, making them the same weight, which means taping some weights on the one floating to the surface first. We tested until we found exactly how much weight was required so that both men were on the same level. 

Next, we brought in the girl and started to synchronize all of them. It was definitively not done on the first shot, we just continued to try and try until the moment came when all were in the exact right position.

We did the same with the other 2 planned pictures, which were easier as it was only 2 people and then 1 person in the pictures.

All together it took us approximately 3 hours (including the work covering the pool).

Everybody was quite tired but happy! It was 11 pm and we were so hungry, so I invited everybody out for pizza :-)

The next day I started to work on post-production and prepared the final pictures for print. I was excited - the pictures turned exactly how I imagined them in my head. 

 

 

View the gear Lucie used, settings and the Ocean Art prize she won

 

 

"Underwater Circus" Companion Photos

 

Lucie Drlikova

Underwater Circus II

 

Lucie Drlikova

Underwater Circus III

 

 

View all the Ocean Art winning images

 

 

About the Author

Lucie Drlikova was born in the Czech Republic, is domicilied in Prague, and presently lives and creates her art in Miami, Florida.

She has spent many years in top managerial positions abroad, with photography being her hobby and escape from the reality. Her biggest passion has always been scuba diving, from which it was only a small step to underwater photography. Lucie starting shooting marine life and not long afterwards she added her desire to create her own scenes.

She studied at the Institute Of Digital Photography in Prague. Lucie has won a number of awards, at home and abroad, in the area of underwater photography. Her work has been published internationally.  www.luciedrlikova.com

 

 

Further Reading

 

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Story Behind the Shot "Kirra Underwater"

Ray Collins
Ray Collins shares the story behind his Ocean Art winning image

 

Story Behind the Shot "Kirra Underwater"


Ray Collins shares the story behind his Ocean Art winning image

Text and Photos By Ray Collins

 

 

 
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Without getting too deep or philosophical, this image was the start of a new direction in my life. I was starting to look at the ocean, and the world for that matter, with a renewed perspective. You see, i had given up drinking alcohol a few weeks before, not because it was some crippling thing for me, but I just found I was dedicating the best parts of the day to it on weekends. Any photographer will tell you the most favourable light is the golden hour, which happens in the first and last hours of each day. So rather than going to the pub, or being hungover, I would go and make images instead. It started as a year-long experiment that I enjoyed so much it's been well over 2 years and counting.

 

Anyway, back to the shot...

My then fiancée (now wife) and I were on a road trip up north and the water clarity was amazing. You could see the sand through the backs of the waves as they broke along the beach. I used an 8" dome port, which I do a lot of my underwater work with, and swam around for about 20 minutes. I seen this wave break past me, captured it, and knew that was the shot. When I swam in Amber, my wife, had coffee and banana bread waiting on a beach blanket ready to start our day.

 

View the gear Ray used, settings and the Ocean Art prize he won

 

 

More Incredible Wave Photos from Ray Collins

 

Ray Collins wave photo

Beneath the Vortex

 

Ray Collins wave photo

 

Ray Collins wave photo

 

Ray Collins wave photo

 

 

View all the Ocean Art winning images

 

 

About the Author

Ray CollinsI bought my first camera in 2007 to shoot my  friends surfing around home, and within a few short years progressed to having companies such as Apple, Nikon, United Airlines, Isuzu, Qantas, Patagonia, National Geographic and Red Bull using my unique images across their international campaigns. I feel pretty lucky, as there were no plans it all just grew organically. Please check out more of my seascapes and moods of the ocean at www.raycollinsphoto.com or on instagram @raycollinsphoto

 

 

Further Reading

 

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4K Underwater Video with the Panasonic GH4

Underwater Photography Guide
Testing the Panasonic GH4 in Nauticam Housing for Underwater Video in 4K Resolution, Including Lens Tests.

 

4K Underwater Video with the Panasonic GH4


Testing the Panasonic GH4 in Nauticam Housing for Underwater Video in 4K Resolution, Including Lens Tests

By the Underwater Photography Guide

 

 

 
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The Panasonic GH4 has a reputation among underwater photographers as an affordable way to shoot video in 4K resolution. The mirrorless camera uses interchangeable lenses for composing the perfect shot, while the small size results in small housing options for divers - great for travel and maneuverability in the water.

Bluewater Photo recently tested the GH4 in the Nauticam Panasonic GH4 Housing in Southern California's rich kelp forests with the following lenses:

 

 

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Video in 4K

 

View all our camera and housing videos on the Bluewater Photo YouTube Page.

 

 

Tutorials for Underwater Video

 

Further Reading

 

 

Support the Underwater Photography Guide:


The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips

 

Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.

 


 

 
 
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Rolling in the Deep: Komodo Wide-Angle

Dustin Adamson
Video & Behind the Scenes Commentary for Rolling in the Deep - Wide-Angle

 

Rolling in the Deep: Komodo Wide-Angle


Part 2 of 2
Video & Behind the Scenes Commentary for Rolling in the Deep

 

View Part 1: Behind the Scenes of the Macro Video

 

By Dustin Adamson

 

Komodo

 

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A couple of years back I decided I wanted to make a series of underwater short films illustrating the type of marine life someone could expect to see when visiting a particular destination. I didn’t want narration or a story… none of that. I wanted the natural beauty of the subjects, along with camera and lighting artistry to take center stage. Looking back to the olden days of film, the use of the word ‘Rolling’ when someone was filming always appealed to me. I pondered how I could incorporate that word into my series. That is where the name ‘Rolling in the Deep’ came from. This installment of the series focuses on the macro subjects of Komodo, Indonesia.

Coral Reefs are diverse underwater ecosystems. Many people think that coral is just underwater plants, when in fact they are a bunch of tiny animals forming colonies. Did you know that coral reefs cover a mere .01% of our world’s oceans yet contain up to 25% of all marine species? They are crucial to overall health of the ocean. This is why conservation of these precious underwater treasures is so important.

I saw some of the most pristine reefs I have ever seen while in Komodo, however, I also saw some of the most devastated coral reefs I have even seen! During the film you will most likely notice the beautiful and graceful Manta Rays. If you look closer, you will see a reef that has been devastated by local Indonesian dynamite fishing. Komodo has “National Marine Parks” set up, but oftentimes the laws aren’t followed and nobody is there to enforce the rules. 

 

Komodo

Lone turtle under a sunball

 

Planning

Shooting wide-angle with a DSLR can be challenging. First of all, having enough sunlight is the key for me. I personally prefer natural light when shooting wide, and have always found lights to look strange and unnatural. This is personal preference, of course. White Balance is the other challenging thing. Whenever the light changes underwater, I change directions or ascend/descend 10 feet or so, I set a new custom white balance. I use either the sand or a white slate to get my white balance. This works the majority of the time.

One of the negative aspects of shooting DSLRs underwater is the lack stability while shooting. DSLR housings aren’t made like traditional video camera housings, so I find the best way for me to get as smooth a shot as possible is to extend my tripod legs so that I have a wider hold on the housing (as opposed to using the housing handles).

 

Komodo Reefscape

Komodo Reefscape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reef scenes in Komodo, Indonesia

 

Gear Used

During my trip to Komodo, I was using a Canon 5d Mark II for my camera. This is a full frame camera, so combining it with a Canon 15mm fisheye lens makes for a very wide view. It can be challenging to keep unwanted things like divers, bubbles, boats, etc… out of your shot. I prefer this fisheye lens to rectilinear wide-angle zoom lenses due to the sharpness it brings. Some underwater videographers don’t like the distortion of the fisheye, however. For my tastes, I would rather a sharp image and distortion rather than the soft edges of a rectilinear wide-angle zoom lens.  Again, this is all personal preference.

I do not use a red filter. With a good white balance, the colors that a DSLR can provide are much better and more realistic than those recorded with a red filter. I have always found red filters to be more trouble than they are worth. They are useful for some cameras, but not ideal for DSLR video.

 

Komodo Reefscape

Dustin filming the reef

 

VIDEO:  Rolling in the Deep - Wide-Angle

The reefs in Komodo, Indonesia are fantastic overall! Combine that with the current and all you have to do is hit record and shoot while drift diving. From both an underwater and topside perspective, Komodo should be on every divers bucket list.

 

 

 

View Part 1: Behind the scenes of the Macro video

 

Bluewater Travel has all the info you need to book your dive trip to Komodo.

Join our guided trip to Komodo in March 2015! We'll have 2 specials guests onboard with us - Aggressor owners Wayne Brown and Wayne Hasson!!

 

About the Author

Dustin Adamson has been diving for 18 years. He has been filming underwater for the last 3 years, and has won multiple international awards for his videos. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah and taught himself filming and final post production. He and his wife Tyra are both contributors to www.oceanshutter.com. The best way to follow their adventures and ask them questions is to ‘Like’ their Facebook page www.facebook.com/oceanshutter

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Rolling in the Deep: Komodo Macro

Dustin Adamson
Video & Behind the Scenes Commentary for Rolling in the Deep - Macro

 

Rolling in the Deep: Komodo Macro


Part 1 of 2
Video & Behind the Scenes Commentary for Rolling in the Deep

 

View Part 2: Behind the Scenes of the Wide-Angle Video

 

By Dustin Adamson

 

Komodo

 

 
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A couple of years back I decided I wanted to make a series of underwater short films illustrating the type of marine life someone could expect to see when visiting a particular destination. I didn’t want narration or a story… none of that. I wanted the natural beauty of the subjects, along with camera and lighting artistry to take center stage. Looking back to the olden days of film, the use of the word ‘Rolling’ when someone was filming always appealed to me. I pondered how I could incorporate that word into my series. That is where the name ‘Rolling in the Deep’ came from. This installment of the series focuses on the macro subjects of Komodo, Indonesia.

The underwater world is more than Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins. Sure, these are all very exciting to see underwater. I certainly wouldn’t stick my nose up at them. And I most certainly would be regretting my lens choice if I had my macro lens mounted to my rig and one of those creatures decided to make an appearance. However, the ‘small’ stuff below the surface has just as much to offer as the ‘big’ stuff. If you examine each creature individually, they are all unique in their own way. They all have their own personalities that can be quirky, happy, angry, and mysterious. Combine this with beautiful colors and some of their behaviors and they are all very intriguing to say the least.  

 

Komodo

Common Reef Cuttlefish

 

Planning

Shooting macro video with a DSLR is extremely challenging. The depth of field is razor thin. As a result, any movement from the animal or your camera can really ruin your shot. When setting up my shot, I always view my surroundings to make sure I am not going to ruin any corals. Once I determine the site is okay to shoot, I then adjust the legs on my tripod and my lighting to the approximate positions. I then swim in closer to set up the actual shot.

In this video, I am sometimes shooting as close as an inch away from the subject. At that distance lighting becomes very difficult. Lighting is very important for me. I like my video to have a specific ‘look’ to it. I love black backgrounds! In order to get this, I need there to be very little ambient light. 90% of this video is shot on night dives. This can be nice for lighting, but it also introduces what I call “sea lice” that swarm your lights. The longer you stay with a subject, the more that will congregate around your lights. I have yet to figure a way to avoid this issue and you will see this in many shots in the video. 

Patience is something that I struggle with at times. Sometimes it can take a whole dive to get the shot that I am looking for. The frogfish yawning, or better yet, actually capturing prey! This can be an entire dive. Or not happen at all. A good example of this is the opening shot of the video. The snail moving across the frame looks like a simple shot. It took me 30 minutes of placing my camera ahead of the snail, just to watch it move across the frame out of focus. I had to repeat this half a dozen times to get it in focus, each time having to readjust legs on my tripod and the lighting. 

 

Komodo

Juvenile Flamboyant Cuttlefish

 

Gear Used

During my trip to Komodo, I was using a Canon 5d Mark II. This is a full frame camera, so combining it with a Canon 100mm Macro lens makes the depth of field a challenging endeavor. When you nail the focus, however, the shot looks amazing! Unfortunately the compression the video hosting sites use really degrades the video quality. You should see it uncompressed in its full HD glory! The quality of the sensor and the lens is top notch. It is only rivaled by systems that cost 10 times as much. 

For lighting I was using Sola 4000’s with a custom made snoot. I wanted to narrow the beam of the light and a snoot was the only way to do this.  Because of the weight of the lights, I used ULCS clamps and arms.

For stability, I used the Xit404 tripod mount and legs. For me this is essential equipment to get steady and smooth shots in areas with strong current.

 

Komodo

Orange frogfish waiting for prey

 

VIDEO:  Rolling in the Deep - Macro

Macro subjects in Komodo aren’t as dense as in places like Lembeh or Anilao, but the opportunities are still fantastic. Combine that with the beautiful reefs and the clear water and it makes Komodo a worthy destination to visit. I encourage anyone who has shied away from macro video to give it a shot as it can be very rewarding. Stay tuned for part 2 of the Rolling in the Deep series. This will focus on the ‘Wide’ scenes in Komodo.

 

 

 

View Part 2: Behind the scenes of the Wide-Angle video

 

Bluewater Travel has all the info you need to book your dive trip to Komodo.

Join our guided trip to Komodo in March 2015! We'll have 2 specials guests onboard with us - Aggressor owners Wayne Brown and Wayne Hasson!!
 

About the Author

Dustin Adamson has been diving for 18 years. He has been filming underwater for the last 3 years, and has won multiple international awards for his videos. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah and taught himself filming and final post production. He and his wife Tyra are both contributors to www.oceanshutter.com. The best way to follow their adventures and ask them questions is to ‘Like’ their Facebook page www.facebook.com/oceanshutter

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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DIY: Charging Your Battery with Tinfoil

Brent Durand
A Trick to Charge your Battery without the Correct Charger

 

DIY: Charging Your Batter with Tinfoil


A Trick to Charge your Battery without the Correct Charger

By Brent Durand

 

 

 
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Underwater photography takes creativity, and while the majority results in excellent photos and video, some of the most creative efforts happen above the surface. Over the years we’ve seen a wide range of DIY techniques, from rigs to take housings through the surf on beach dives to homemade buoyancy arms to very interesting airline packing techniques. But tinfoil and batteries is a new one.

On a recent Bluewater Photo day boat trip, BWP & UWPG owner Scott Gietler turned on his camera to find the battery had no power, even though he had checked the power the night before. The camera was in the housing overnight without a lens on it, and that had somehow drained all of the power from battery.

 

Scott didn't bring his charger, because he didn't think there was any way he would need it. The D7000 charger is very specific, and the other chargers on board did not fit that particular battery. With no battery charger on board for his D7000, Scott thought he was very much out of luck for the day.

Fortunately, an ingenious diver suggested using tinfoil to complete the circuit from her charger (which was for a Nikon full-frame camera battery) to his D7000 battery. Brilliant!

Scott ran with the idea, and found some aluminum foil. Two strips of foil later and a littlel fiddling around with the pressure of the tinfoil, the circuit was established, charging Scott’s battery. He was able to do three great dives at Anacapa Island, taking photos. You can see the underwater photos he took here. Nothing earth-shattering, but better than no photos!

 

Safety First!

While this was a great solution to a temporary problem, we would NEVER leave this charger unattended. Charging a battery in this manner could bring a fire risk, especially if the foils touched for more than a few seconds. In fact, touching the 2 pieces of aluminum foil did cause some tiny sparks. This solution is only for emergencies, and only if there is someone around who has experience with electrical wiring or circuits.

Rule #1 - Only try this if you are confident the charger has similar volts/amps as your charger you left at home. You are definitely taking a risk when using a charger not meant for your battery. Otherwise you can fry the battery or charger. Ideally it would be a very similar battery - e.g. another Nikon charger if your battery was a Nikon.

Rule #2 - Don't let the circuits cross, and don't leave the battery unattended, even for a moment. Lithium batteries can easily catch on fire. If they do, water will put out the flames.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Story Behind the Shot: "Shout"

Allen Walker
How do you Capture a Dynamic & Exciting Shark Photo?

 

Story Behind the Shot: "Shout"


How do you Capture a Dynamic and Exciting Shark Photo?

Text and Photos By Allen Walker

 

Shark photo in Aliwal Shoal South Africa

 

 
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The photograph "Shout" was taken off Aliwal Shoal at a spot known as Shark Park to help promote shark conservation and encourage underwater photographers to visit South Africa and to establish KZN as a prime destination for shark photography. 

Location of the photo: "Shark Park", Aliwal Shoal MPA, Rocky Bay, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

 
So what is involved in getting an image of this nature?

  • A good team
  • Preparation
  • Suitable conditions
  • Subject knowledge
  • Execution

 

A Good Team:

As in all wildlife photography, it often takes a team to capture an image. As the photographer you have to be able to seize the moment that all the elements come together and take the shot. Not only is missing the shot disappointing, but also a huge let down to the TEAM who made it possible. For shark diving and creating awesome images it is imperative to have a good team that understands the requirements, including a good skipper, a good bait man and a good observer who keeps you informed of the sharks all around you!

The skipper must ensure the boat lies correctly and doesn't interfere with the photo (i.e. into or away from the sun, with the current or against it). The bait man needs to be accurate and precise once he has been able to draw sharks in, as he controls the activity of the sharks and their movement. The observer is there for safety and ensures that the photographer is constantly aware of all the sharks around the camera.

 

Preparation:

It is important to ensure that everything is prepared and ready - you cannot mess around with gear on the boat and if you have left something behind then it will mean you either do without it or you go all the way back and fetch it (where time and fuel add up quickly).

Furthermore, preparation is not just about the boat, bait, skipper and conditions - it is about a pre-conceived image. You need to plan the shot you want in order to ensure you have everything you need to make the shot possible.

 

Conditions:

Doing photography work on a boat and on the surface is not a good idea if the conditions are not right. In our case, an 8 meter semi-rigid inflatable is the norm for diving, and they are not the most stable boat in rough conditions. Ensure you have chosen the correct dive days by using local knowledge of the weather and ocean conditions and trust their advice on whether or not to go out or postpone for a better day.

Visibility & strong current are also important factors to take into account. Visibility less than 5m and current stronger than 1.5 knots can present challenging conditions. Most importantly, if you are not seasoned to work in these conditions then DON'T!

 

Subject Knowledge:

The most important aspect of photographing and working with sharks is “Subject Knowledge!" Yes these are wild animals and like so many people say and believe, you cannot predict what an wild animal will do. I beg to differ; a good understanding of the animal and its behavior will ultimately get you the shot you are looking for. It is the knowledge about the animal that will give you the confidence to delay the shot a few split seconds, which is the difference between good and great. If you do not have that knowledge, ensure you are with someone that does as this will really make the difference.

 

Execution:

This is it, time to put your idea into frame and capture it for the world to see. Here are a few tips:

  • Be patient
  • Let your team do the work - odds are they have much more experience at their jobs than you do.
  • Ensure your settings are correct for the conditions. Shoot test shots with your hand about 30cm of the dome port in the water and counter check the colours on camera to reality (i.e. colours of your hand above water).
  • When working with the actual animals ensure you wear dark gloves.
  • Tether the camera to a secure buckle on your BC or on the boat, depending whether you are swimming or hanging over the side.
  • Listen to your spotter to know what is happening and where the sharks are coming from, and always focus on what is in front of you!!! Do NOT take your eye off the ball (sharks) at any given time when there is bait in the water.
  • Continually wipe dome port to ensure it is free of bubbles.
  • Keep the animals as calm as possible when baiting - big splashes and chaos results in zero images.
  • Always have one person spotting for the cameraman to help direct him/her find the action while managing the camera gear.
  • Control amount of bait in the water.
  • No more than 1 to 2 pieces of bait at a time or it becomes dangerous since the photographer cannot watch all the bait.
  • When photographing from the boat the photographers get a false sense of security. They must remember stay vigilant - if they want to talk or ask questions camera must be lifted out of the water. This is VERY IMPORTANT!!!
  • TAKE THE SHOT, SEIZE THE MOMENT!!! Do not get disappointed; it could take days, months, years to get the shot you want, but think of it this way: every shot you do get may not be the shot you want, but it is a shot you have got that no one else has!

 

The result:

A crazy cool image that will make your heart fill with pride and show the beauty sharks to the world!

 

Tech Info:

Camera:  Canon 7D
Lens:  EF 8-15mm f/4L FISHEYE USM
Housing:  Hugyfot
Port:  Zen
Strobes: I non
Focal Length:  9mm
Shutter:  1/160
Apeture:  F11
ISO:  320
Strobe Setting:  Manual – 5.6 (Half Power)
Subject Distance:  0.3m
White Balance:  Manual
Metering:  Spot
Focus:  AI Servo
Shot:  Multi Hi

 

 

About the Author

Diving has been part of photographer Allen Walker's life for many years. After picking up a camera in 2007, Allen quickly strove to portray the beauty of the ocean and now sells imagery and works on commercial shoots around the world. He also works hard to support local and worldwide conservation issues.  Allen Walker Photography

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus: Story Behind the Shot

Brent Durand
Capturing a Fleeting Cephalopod Encounter

 

Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus

- Story Behind the Shot -


Capturing a Fleeting Cephalopod Encounter

Text and Photos By Brent Durand

 

Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus

 

 
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My eyes followed the dive guide’s gaze towards the white sand between two rocks. I knew I was looking for a blue-ringed octopus but didn’t see anything and inched a bit closer.

Until this point, I had been further down the reef, calmly waiting for a tiny nudibranch to shift position among some hydroids when I felt a firm tap on my shoulder. I looked up to see our dive guide frantically beckoning me to follow him. Intent on capturing the image I had set up, I made the sign for nudibranch and pointed at that spot. He then blew out a big stream of bubbles and pecked one arm with his other hand – the unmistakable sign for blue-ringed octopus – and kicked full speed across the reef with me in hot pursuit.

As my mask got closer to the sand, I saw the iridescent blue rings and recognized the octopus in front of me as the cephalopod launched itself across the ground. Excited to see my first blue-ring of the trip (Bluewater Photo’s Anilao workshops), I begun a lighting-fast reconfiguration of my camera gear from super macro to “octopus position,” knowing this was a fleeting moment. The excitement intensified as the octo lifted off the sand slightly and I saw a male octopus clinging to the female in mating position. Incredible! I’m sure I breathed out some excited words as I finished changing camera settings and took a first shot. The octos were moving quickly across the reef and I fired a shot each time I had a satisfactory composition through my 100mm macro lens. In a matter of seconds, both octopuses disappeared safely into a small hole.

 

Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus

 

About the Blue-Ringed Octopus

The blue-ringed octopus (hapalochlaena lunulata) is sought-after by underwater photographers across the Indo-Pacific. They generally inhabit shallow waters around rubble, rocks and muck sand areas, spending their time hunting small crustaceans.

Blue-ringed octopuses are infamous among divers for their extremely toxic venom (TTX), which is powerful enough to kill humans.

Learn more about the blue-ringed octopus in our comprehensive marine life feature.

 

Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus

 

Gear and Camera Settings

I captured these photos with a Canon 5D Mark III in an Aquatica housing using the Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro lens. Light came from two Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes on the end of Ultralight arms & clamps with Stix Floats.

Settings:  ISO 200, 1/160s at f/16

 

Mating Blue-Ringed Octopus

 

 

Tips for Capturing Behavior

 

Practice

When action is unfolding quickly it must be second nature to change camera settings and strobe positioning. Experienced photographers will be able to set up a shot before even actuating the shutter, leaving only small tweaks necessary to capture the image in mind.

 

Study the marine life in an area before the trip

You’ll learn a lot and it will form a good base for learning more during the trip, especially if it is an underwater photo workshop. Not only will you recognize what is going on around you, but you’ll have more fun talking about your dives with fellow divers.

 

Become friends with your dive guides

We’re all divers and share some amazing experiences underwater. If your guide knows how much you appreciate their experience and hard work, they will be more inclined to show you their favorite critters.

 

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Bryde's Whale: Story Behind the Shot

Francis Perez
Incredible Photo Series of Bryde's Whale Engulfing a Bait Ball

 

Bryde's Whale: Story Behind the Shot


Incredible Photo Series of a Bryde's Whale Engulfing a Bait Ball

Text and Photos By Francis Pérez

 

 

 
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The Canary Islands are one of the best places in the world for viewing marine mammals. On Tenerife’s south coast there is a permanent population of Pilot Whales and Dolphins, and every year gigantic whales, especially Bryde’s Whales, are seen passing along the coast.

Last year (2013) was a very special year with abundant sea life. From January to May, the ocean was filled with food for these immense animals, including large schools of Mackerel.

 

The Idea:

I already had some interesting whale photos taken underwater from the summer of 2012. My objective for 2013 was to photograph the whales while they were feeding. I knew that it would be a very difficult task, having to be in the perfect position at the precise moment.

 

The Shot:

On a miserable, cloudy, windswept day (and what seemed to be the trend of the past few weeks) we were about to turn towards shore when in the distance I spotted a skirmish formed by shearwaters and seagulls battling on the water’s surface, marking the spot where a great feast was taking place.

Under the surface, many Spotted Dolphins swimming with Yellowfin & Albacore Tuna, followed by three colossal Bryde’s Whales, were all preparing to attack the immense ball of shimmering silver and blue striped Mackerel.

 

 

My aim was to photograph one of these giant whales assailing the immense sphere. After several failed attempts to capture the perfect shot, I waited patiently with my camera prepared until my friend at the helm maneuvered the boat to the ideal spot. He placed the boat south of the conflict just as the giant whale made a run for the rotating ball of mackerel. At the precise moment, placed just behind the pending feast, I shot in burst mode to capture as many images as possible of the attacking whale. It was one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever experienced at sea.

This type of photography is difficult because you only have a few seconds to capture the perfect moment. Camera settings must be adjusted previously so that you’re ready for the shot.

The Bryde's whale surfaces rapidly, so high velocity settings must be used (i.e. fast shutter speed). The very cloudy conditions that day added another challenge, as I had to compensate for the high shutter speed with a high ISO. But for this image sequence luck was on my side, as the whale’s throat is very white, and the photo would likely have been overexposed hadn’t it been for the overcast conditions.

A strobe isn’t advisable to use as it is bulky and impairs streamlined movement in the water. Using no flash also helps avoid irritating the animal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WOW !!

 

Gear & Settings:

Camera:  Seacam Housing for Canon 5D, Canon 15mm f/ 2.8 fisheye lens

Settings:  f/8, 1/160, ISO 400

 

 

About the Author

Francis Pérez is an underwater photographer, economist specializing in development economics and lover of marine biology.

View more of Francis' photography at www.uwatercolors.com

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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Experimenting with Color Strobe Gels

Brent Durand
New Technique: Create Vibrant Color with Strobe Gels

 

Experimenting with Colored Strobe Gels


New Technique: Create Vibrant Color with Strobe Gels

Text and Photos By Brent Durand

 

 

 
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Meet the Disco Squid. They get funky when the sun sets, breaking out into moves and grooves illuminated by synchronized color strobe flashes. Diving in the midst of a large market squid run is an incredible experience - something worth seeking out. Thousands of these small squid swarm the shallows in a mating frenzy, leaving undulating blankets of egg baskets on the sand bottom. The excitement of diving a squid run is enhanced at night when walls of squid jockey to be close to dive lights while predators lurk in the shadows feasting on eggs. Make sure to check out photos from the most recent squid run at Vet's Park in Redondo Beach.

 

Planning the Colored Gel Shoot

I dived several times a week until late at night during the squid run last summer, presenting an opportunity to start experimenting with creative photo ideas. I was using both strobes and video lights for maximum creative flexibility and to attract as many squid as possible. 'Should I try zoom shots… no, not good with so many squid. Spin shots… no, not exciting with white squid. What about adding color to the living white canvas in front of me?  Yes !!'

The next day I borrowed a 3rd strobe from Bluewater Photo and taped a purple, orange and green strobe gel to each. I used medical tape to keep the gels secure on top of the diffusers through the surf entry and exit. The third strobe arm clamped directly to the ball mount on top of my Aquatica 5D MkIII housing, which allowed all three strobes to be spaced evenly. Ultralight triple clamps at the end of the main strobe arms allowed attachment of two I-Torch video lights.

While the extra lights and strobe were easy to manage in the water, it made the rig heavy on land. The sandy beach entries required some concentration, especially with drysuit, weight and steel 120 tank!

Check out the gear photo below:

 

Three strobes with colored gels and two video lights create the ultimate squid rig.

 

Up All Night with the Disco Squid

I made sure to balance the light from all three strobes while trying to avoid backscatter in the sandy water. One of my dive buddies (Kelli from Bluewater Photo) said the strobe flashes looked like… you guessed it – a disco party.

The biggest challenge in shooting a wall of squid is composition. Sure, you can just point and shoot at the wall of squid, but where is your focal point? A wall of squid is interesting because of the large number of creatures in front of you, but the story of a squid run is told through movement and energy. This led me to constantly seek compositions and patterns in the walls of squid, eventually incorporating slow shutter speeds, zooming and other creative techniques to the colored light produced by the strobe gels. All of the photos below came from a single dive.

 

Squid move in every direction lit by the colored strobe gels. ISO 100, f/14, 1/200.

 

A wall of squid propells away, leaving white traces of their path. ISO 100, f/14, 1.0s.

 

 

Shooting Tips

  1. Use a small dome. I was using a 9" dome at the time, but now that I have a 4” dome would opt for that instead. Why? It’s easier to light the center of the frame in the unforgiving sandy water.
  1. Stop down to increase depth of field. This will keep more of the scene in focus.
  1. Use a fast shutter speed for the blackest background possible. This will also minimize backscatter, which is very apparent in the next photo. This is, of course, unless you're intentionally dragging the shutter (see photo above).

 

Squid stacked in layers of color above an egg basket. ISO 100, f/14, 0.6s.

 

Several mating squid swim by in a densely packed group. ISO 100, f/14, 1/200.

 

At the end of the dive, several brave squid swim ahead up the steep slope to the beach. ISO 100, f/18, 0.5s.

 

Thoughts and Conclusion

The walls of squid were the perfect subject for testing colored strobe gels underwater. I'm generally a fan of portraying marine life naturally, however new techniques, technology and styles of photography are always interesting. Look at how quickly Fluoro photography is catching on, with talented photographers like Mike Bartick leading the charge.

Sometimes it's hard to commit to experimenting, spending valuable underwater photo time shooting photos that may not be any good, but if you don't experiment you'll never find something unique.

So what experiment is next? I've got an idea - we'll see if it works!

 

About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor-in-chief of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.

 

 

Further Reading

 


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


 

 
 
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