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 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

 

 

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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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The Squid Eye: Story Behind the Shot

Els Van Den Borre
It takes more than luck to shoot macro detail on a large subject

The Squid Eye: Story Behind the Shot


It takes more than luck to shoot macro detail on a large subject

Text and Photos By Els Van Den Borre

 

 

 
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Halfway through our night dive in Bali, my eyes suddenly notice the waving light of a dive torch. My husband and loyal buddy Bruno Van Saen draws my attention and then makes me the ‘quiet, quiet' gesture. Bruno quickly turns off his dive light and switches to just the small pilot light on one of his strobes. And then I see it! He had found a squid that was not afraid of us and who even became attracted to the small beam of light.

Just a few hours before, I was able to convince a good girlfriend to lend me her 105mm macro lens for the very first time. So with this 105mm lens and the squid as a photo subject, I had little choice but to follow one of our golden rules in underwater photography: either go for a photo in extreme close-up or you back off and fill the frame with the subject. I soon noticed that each time Bruno took a photo, the squid jumped backwards a little bit as the strobes fired. After watching several shots I was prepared and knew what to expect!

 

Capturing the Shot

Squid are easily overexposed. I wanted a close-up shot of the eye and knew I had to keep the power of the strobes pretty minimal. I also decided to start with an aperture set to f14 combined with a shutter speed of 1/250s. And then it was my turn to shoot. The squid kept posing into the pilot light of Bruno's strobe, and I hoped this moment would last a little bit longer. Slowly I moved closer and let the squid get used to my presence. Another of our golden tips in underwater photography is to find an animal that is curious and doesn’t mind being photographed. This squid in Bali was that animal.

Little by little I approached my subject to try to capture the shot, until hovering face to face with the squid. I slowly moved forward until I saw a clean diagonal composition, and… click.

I carefully pulled back to check the picture on my camera display. A quick adjustment and 3 photos later I captured the image I had in mind. Yes, you read that correctly: the eye of the squid photo is one of only 4 shots. Both Bruno and I do not take hundreds of pictures of a subject. Our mantra is to spend a little more time and work to prepare for the shot. Of course, we do occasionally miss a shot while pre-setting the camera for the image in mind.

 

My Camera Gear

The image from the eye of the squid was taken using a Nikon D90, iso 100, F/32, 1/250sec. My two Inon Z-240 strobes were directly mounted on the arms of our hugyfot housing. The strobes itself are put under a 45 degree angle as well as downwards as sidewards.

And … one last thing, once back in Belgium we made sure to buy the Nikkor 105mm for ourselves!

 

 

 

Three of my golden tips for successful underwater photography:

  1. Find a model. Some animals love to be photographed. Do not spend your time on animals that are always hiding. Find a curious animal for your photo shoot!
     
  2. Approach slowly and observe. Before making the shot, give the animal time to get used to your presence. Use those moments to choose the right settings on your camera and strobes.
     
  3. Shoot an extreme close-up or fill the frame when using a macro lens with a larger subject. Use your chosen lens optimally and try to achieve the picture you envision. Also, don’t just stop at a close-up photo, try for an extreme close-up (without touching your subject)!

 

 

About the Author

Els Van Den Borre was born in 1975 in Belgium, Ninove.  She finally made an introductory dive in the open sea at the age of 29, and was shooting photos underwater less than a year later. Since then, Els has won multiple gold medals at several international underwater photo competitions.

Together with her husband and loyal buddy Bruno Van Saen, she received the 'palme d'or' in the 2012 World Festival of Underwater images in Marseille. Most recently, Els was the grand prize winner of the Scuba Diving Magazine photo contest 2013.  www.elsevandenborre.be

 

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: Cave Reflection

Jannik Pedersen
Combining Cenote photography, a dive model & reflection into a winning image

Story Behind the Shot: Cave Reflection


Combining Cenote Photography, a Dive Model & Relection into a Winning Image

By Jannik Pedersen

 

 

 
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My winning photo in the ‘Compact wide-angle’ category of the 2011 Ocean Art competition was shot in cenote ‘Dos Ojos’ in Mexico.

During a holiday in Mexico I based myself in the coastal town Tulum, which is a good gateway to explore the cenotes.  Prior to my holiday I had almost one thousand dives logged from years of ocean diving, but I had no experience in cenote or cave diving and only little idea of what awaited me in the underworld of the cenotes.

 

The cenotes of Mexico

Mexico offers some fascinating ‘Cenote Diving’ in the underground river system of the Yucatán Peninsula.  A cenote is a sinkhole, formed by the collapse of the roof structure of an underground river system. The cenote makes an entrance into cathedral-like caverns and a vast network of caves.

Cenote ‘Dos Ojos’ is one of the largest and most famous cenotes because of its easy accessibility and fascinating rock formations. It is a fresh water system with water so clear that it seems like air. The diving in Dos Ojos is done in shallow water no deeper than 10m with a water temperature around 24ᵒC, giving you plenty of bottom time to enjoy the beautiful cave system.

 

My camera system

I have always shot with compact cameras underwater as the price and weight of a DSLR-system still is set-back for me. Some months before I went to Mexico I invested in a Canon PowerShot S95 camera, Canon’s own housing, INON wide-angle lens and dual INON D2000 strobes (read about the newer S110 camera). This set-up allowed me to shoot in manual mode, which opened up lots of opportunities (and challenges) in capturing a better photo.

 

The Shot

I was fortunate to have a private dive-guide, which gave me the freedom to capture some beautiful photos of the cenote.  I informed my guide that I was planning to use him as an underwater model.  I have always enjoyed taking photos with a diver in the shot as it often creates a unique mood.

A bit into the dive I saw a reflection appearing in the roof of the cave system.  A large air pocket had formed making magical mirror-like scenery.  I quickly visualized the opportunity for a special photo and swam to a spot where I was able to capture the scenery with a reflection of my dive guide.  I did a few shots as my dive-guide slowly swam under the air-pocket. I ended up lowering the shutter-speed and increasing the flash output. Final settings were:

Camera: ISO 100, 1/8 sec. at F2.0 - Strobes: in Manual mode, full output

 

Diving in the cenotes turned out to be a perfect playground for an underwater photographer. There is a great variety of different cenotes, each with its unique and mysterious scenery.  It gave me lots of opportunities to play around with different exposure and strobe settings and the dual strobe system was very useful, since a strong and wide flash was needed to light up the cave sceneries.

 

About the Author

Jannik Pedersen is from Denmark and started diving in 2000. Since his first dive he has been fascinated by scuba diving and the ocean.  Between 2006 and 2011 he worked as a divemaster on liveaboard boats in Thailand and Burma, where he developed a strong passion for underwater photography.  You can find more of Jannik Pedersen’s underwater photography on his website: www.jannikpedersen.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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