Technique/Tutorial

Underwater photo tutorials, techniques and tips for all types of underwater photo and video, including macro, supermacro, wide-angle, composition and best camera gear.
Philip Thurston shares his tips in creating an epic backlit wave photos
By Philip Thurston

The Art of Backlighting Waves

Philip Thurston
Philip Thurston shares his tips in creating an epic backlit wave photos

The fundamental principle to good photography is understanding light; where it’s coming from, and where it is going. In this article we are going to explore the art of backlighting when it comes to moving masses of water and waves.

If you’re on an east facing coast, morning is going to be your time to get creative with back lit lighting. For western facing coasts, you don’t have to get up as early, as it’s the evening that’s going to provide these kind of shooting conditions. Light bounces and reflects off surfaces with greater densities, so when it shines down into or across water, it creates all kinds of refractions, sending light in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions, creating a myriad of beautiful colours. To utilize this natural phenomena, it comes down to positioning - where you are in the water in relation to the wave and the sun. The position the sun rises throughout the year is always moving, and so is the place in which a wave breaks. The variables to consider can be swell direction and size, tides and winds on the day.

Having to align so many conditions and elements can be difficult, but that’s one of the joys and burdens of wave photography. Getting a really top notch shot is hard, and if you miss an opportunity, it might not come back around for awhile, if ever. The key to nailing an epic backlit wave shot is to align yourself with the wave and light source (sun) as best as possible, so that the wave breaks through the light, illuminating the pitching lip, face of the wave and back of the wave as it breaks past you.

 

The Hulk

A favourite of mine shot on the South Coast, NSW, Australia. On a running tide, reefs like this can create all kinds of crazy shapes, all the more angles for light to bounce off!
Canon 5D Mark 2 and Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 at 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 160. 

 

Spend Time in the Water

Shooting backlit waves may sound easy enough, but it’s a multitasking mastery of sorts that really only comes with good old experience and practice! To progress, get out and swim around as much as you can with your camera and housing, so that changing settings on the fly and keeping yourself composed becomes second nature. The more things that become second nature to you, the more capacity you will develop when it comes to capturing that finite moment. While you’re at it, be mindful of how the changing light direction affects the waves.

Practice is going to teach you the fundamentals about handling the wave environment. Honestly, the biggest advantage I have in wave photography is simply being comfortable amongst the waves. I’ve spent enough time amongst them that all the stressful elements that comes with shooting waves like tidal surges, undertows, impact zones and hold downs, whitewash and wipeouts, creatures and impending crests, don’t stress me out as much because of the experience I’ve had with them. Thus I’m able to focus more on positioning myself to get the shot. It’s all about getting in the right spot - having the correct settings and pressing the shutter is the easy part.

 

Atomic

A stormy morning (which often provides amazing lighting) shot when the sun just popped out for a minute or so, illuminating the lip of the wave with the turquoise and green colours.  Shot on the south coast, NSW, Australia.
Canon 7D Mark 2 and Canon 8-15mm f/4 at 1/1000, f/4.5, ISO 640.

 

Exposure for Backlit Waves

With a backlit subject, you can generally approach the shot in one of two ways. You can expose for the shadows, creating a very high key effect, or expose for the highlights, creating a silhouetted sculpture of the wave. Both have equally epic and very different qualities to them. I’d encourage mixing both of them up by experimenting with your shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

Time of day is obviously important as well. For me on the southeast coast of Australia, early morning is going to be the opportune time to get out and get creative with backlighting, and depending on the time of year, that low lying light doesn’t last long! (Tongue twister right there..)

 

Generous

An open ocean bombie that the sun was rising directly behind - a recipe for epic shots! While beautiful, it was a nightmare to stay in the right position with the huge amount of water swirling and moving around, and no real defined sweet spot or channel to sit in. Shot on the South Coast, NSW.
Canon 5D Mark 2 and Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 at 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 320.

 

The Hydra
A great example of backlighting, exposed in between the highlights and shadows, shot early in the morning on the south east coast of NSW. Not even really sure what is happening in this image!
Canon 5D Mark 4 and the 70-200mm f/2.8 at 1/1600, f/6.3 and ISO 100.

 

Time Warp

A combination of back lighting and in-camera shutter blur to create this effect. Something that a lot of practice will help you achieve, as you really need to be comfortable in the water enough to give your full focus on the camera controls. 

 

Viper
An image created by exposing for the shadows, creating a high key effect in the highlights with a bit of golden light leaking over the lip. Shot on the south coast, NSW.
Canon 7D Mark 2 and 50mm f/1.2 at 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 100. 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Thurston:  My goal with Thurston Photo is to create beautiful imagery and literature that provokes positive thought and inspires people to see life from a new perspective. Through my experiences and lessons learnt, I've come to know my purpose in life is to inspire faith in others to live a life of fullness with an eternal perspective, and to help others realise their own dreams, potential and purpose that's worth pursuing with all their heart. I strive to be conscience of this with my words, output and actions. I really do enjoy what I do and I think that makes a big difference with the result. I'm known to happily spend hours straight in the ocean or spontaneously launch myself into the wild in the hope of encountering and capturing creation in a new and exciting way.

Website:  www.thurstonphoto.com          Facebook:  /thurstonphoto          Instagram:  @thurstonphoto

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Improve your marine life behavior shots with these tips for maximizing photo opportunities and and telling the best story of the encounter
By Serge Abourjeily

Tips for Capturing Marine Life Behavior

Serge Abourjeily
Improve your marine life behavior shots with these tips for maximizing photo opportunities and and telling the best story of the encounter

As photographers, we are always after images that have a strong impact on the viewer. Of course, nice colors, good composition and a good mastering of your photographic equipment and technique are essential. But in underwater photography – like in most types of photography – you also have to tell a story. Behavior is a very good way to do so.

"How did he get that shot?" This question is the greatest compliment you could receive on a behavior shot. Here are 3 straightforward tips that I would recommend to anyone asking that question.

 

Know Your Subject

There are always lucky shots and if you dive with a camera often enough you will capture special moments. However your chances to get it done on a more regular and predictable basis increase if you learn more about your subjects. Some key behavior shots are reproduction (mating, spawning, courting, laying eggs, guarding eggs, hatching, nesting), feeding and cleaning.

So you need to know where your subject lives, what it feeds on, when and where it mates, where it lays its eggs – and what time of the month and day it does it. Is it a cleaner? Does it get cleaned – and if so – by whom? Where is the cleaning station? These are all questions you should ask the dive guides and dive operators you are diving with. You should then make a plan based on this information, choose the appropriate lens and go shoot.

 

Goby Oxygenating its Eggs
Little Gobies stay with their eggs. Watch their position ... even if they move when you approach, they’ll come back to the exact same position.
7D Mark 2 / Nauticam Housing / Nauticam SMC / EF 100mm L Macro / 2 x Sea&Sea 250
ISO 200 / f13 / 1/250


Read the Pattern

If you watch fish or other animals, their movements and behavior often seem random at first. Here it pays off to observe before shooting. Watch what your fish does. Displaying male fishes, fishes in cleaning stations, courting fishes ... they often follow movement patterns that you can use in your favour. Learn how to position yourself in a spot to where you know your subject will return. This will not only help you to get the best angle, but also to set up your camera and strobes for this particular angle and create the image you want. This strategy is clearly better than swimming behind your subject and leaving the results to pure luck.

 

Grouper with Cleaner Wrasses at South Africa
Big Groupers in caves or under overhangs are often in company of cleaner wrasses. They are not very shy and you can get very close – watch your strobe position!
7D Mark 2 / Nauticam Housing / Tokina 10-17 / Zen Minidome / 2 x Sea&Sea YS 250
ISO 320 / f8 / 1/60s

Become Invisible

In underwater photography you always want to be close to your subject. The problem with behavior shots is the comfort zone of your subject. If you go too close, they often stop doing what they would be doing if you weren’t there. The key is to become invisible. Of course, not literally... but there are ways to make subjects more tolerant towards you. Much more tolerant if you do it right.

The first thing is always to choose the right subject. If you have a choice of several, then always go for the one in the best position and/or the one that seems least shy. So if you want to become invisible to a garden eel you have to choose the one that lets you come closest before retreating into his hole.

Then you can start working on becoming invisible by simply approaching in a sensitive and observing way. Use good buoyancy control, move slowly, exhale slowly and steadily – even with small bubbles only from your mask if you have to. And always watch your subject. Whenever it starts changing its behavior (for example, a garden eel that stops feeding and begins to retreat, or a goby warning its shrimp and freezing its motions) you have to stop. Breathe even more carefully, move even slower and maybe even move back a bit. As soon as your subject starts behaving normally again you restart your approach with the same care. Repeat this cycle several times. You will see, that after some time you will end up much closer to a relaxed subject than you would have guessed is possible. Spending 5-20 minutes just stalking and becoming invisible can pay off for some shots.

Lizardfish with Cleaner Shrimps at Lembeh Strait
Cleaner Shrimps often hang around little anemones. Locate those cleaning stations and see what’s around. Lizard fishes are very common visitors and are relatively easy to capture as they stay around for a while.
7D Mark 2 / Nauticam Housing / EF 100mm L Macro / 2 x Sea&Sea 250
ISO 160 / f11 / 1/250

 

For me, these three steps work really well and I think you should give them a try. But in the end, don’t become blind to everything else around you when working on a behavior shot. Just because you are planning to capture one specific behavior doesn’t mean that other stuff doesn’t happen. So keep your eyes open – the more knowledge about behavior you have in your head (Tip number 1), the more chances you will get to capture it.

 

Dolphins Feeding on Sardines
Sometimes the best preparation for a behavior shot is not done by yourself but by very experienced dive operators – like the skippers on the sardine run in South Africa. They learned how to observe the birds to spot baitball action.
7D Mark 2 / Nauticam Housing / Tokina 10-17 / 1 x Sea&Sea 250
ISO 320 / f9 / 1/160

 


Nudibranchs Laying Eggs and Feeding on Eggs
This Hypselodoris bulloki is laying its egg ribbon while it’s beeing eaten at the same time by a Favorinus Nudibranch. Always watch Nudibranch eggs very closely!
7D Mark 2 / Nauticam Housing / EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro / 2 x Sea&Sea 250
ISO 160 / f18 / 1/250

 

Male Anthias have lots of females, and they protect them against intruders … and if you stick around long enough also against yourself. Find the right spot and wait fort he right moment.
7D Mark 2 / Nauticam Housing / EF 100mm L Macro / 2 x Sea&Sea 250
ISO 320 / f10 / 1/250

 


Take a Look at Serge's Gear

Canon 7D Mark II  -  Nauticam NA-7DMKII Housing  -  Sea & Sea Y-250 Pro Strobes 


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Serge Abourjeily has been a u/w photographer since 2005, living and working in Indonesia. He has spent the last 7 years in the famous Lembeh Strait (recently as Dive Manager at NAD-Lembeh) where he collected a lot of experience with critters and macro Photography. Beginning in 2017, Serge will be working on the Samambaia Liveaboard, cruising the Indonesian seas enjoying wide-angle AND macro. 

www.serge-mondial.com

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Tips for selecting underwater images that will stand out to judges and win photo contests
By Brook Peterson

How to Choose Award Winning Images

Brook Peterson
Tips for selecting underwater images that will stand out to judges and win photo contests

Competitions are a great way to find out how you measure up to all the great photography out there.  Competitions are also a good way to get you some recognition for your work by getting your name out there among other members of the underwater photography community. Having a good understanding of what makes a good image is critical to being a top notch photographer, but it is also important to remember that some aspects of the judging process are subjective.  The following guidelines will help you pick your best images for any competition.

 

Stand Out

First impressions are important, especially when hundreds or thousands of images have been submitted to the judges.  There is always a preliminary elimination where the competitions judges will go through the images and select those they think are worthy of a second look.  If your image stands out, and catches a judges eye, it is more likely to make it to the next round. When I prepare to choose my images, I put them all in the grid view of the Library module in Lightroom.  Any software that allows you to see several images at once will work.  Then I let my eyes wander around the images and I pay attention to which ones I look at several times. Of those I will pick five or six, and then use other techniques to eliminate from there.

 

 

Eliminate

Now let's say I chose these seven images, because they caught my eye the most:

 

 

Detach Yourself

Now it is time to eliminate further. Sometimes this part of the process is difficult because you have emotional attachments to some of the images even though they might not be winning material. For example, the hunting eel image was very exciting to me because I captured the thrill of the hunt.  However, the image has several issues.  It is too dark, part of the eel's body is cut off, and it isn't tack sharp.  So I will eliminate that one.  The same is true of the amphipod inside a tunicate.  This was a difficult shot and although that carries some weight, a judge might eliminate the image because part of the tunicate is cut off, or that little piece of algae in the top right is distracting. You see, you want to choose images that are as technically perfect as possible so that a judge has no reason to eliminate it.  I would also eliminate the wire coral shrimp because the wire coral does not go perfectly from corner to corner.  That leaves us with these four images:

 

 

Fine Tune

Each of these images is composed well, lit well, the focus is tack sharp, they are eye catching and they tell a story or give a sense of character.  The images are colorful and interesting.  Certainly the level of difficulty in making the image is a factor. At this point, any one of them could be a winning image.  The rules of many competitions might be specific to how much you can crop an image, or how much editing you can do.  I would have to eliminate the goby on the whip coral if global changes are all that is allowed, because I had to remove a distracting bit of coral from the image with the healing brush tool in Photoshop. (A local tool).  Now I will compare my image with its RAW counterpart and determine how much editing I have done.  The less editing the better.  If your image makes it to the semi-finals of a competition, the judges will often ask to see the RAW file for that very reason.  You will want to submit images that have the least amount of editing and are sound in every other way to give yourself the best chance for a winner.  Remember to be honest with yourself and try not to let your emotions override your judgement.  Most of all, remember that when the Judges have a large number of images that are perfect in every way, the final call will be subjective, so if you feel you should have won with your image, try entering it again in a different competition.  Maybe some other judge will choose it over the others.

 

This column originally published on Brook's blog, titled And the Winner Is...


A young sea lion barks at the camera. This image earned Brook the Best of Show award in the 2015 Socal Shootout.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brook Peterson is an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer who enjoys capturing the beauty of the under water environment throughout the world. She is an original member of the SEA&SEA Alpha program. Her work has been featured in both print and online magazines.  She is the owner of Waterdog Photography and authors a blog on underwater photography and techniques.  More of her work can be found at:

www.waterdogphotography.com  |  Facebook  |  instagram@waterdogphotography_brook.

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Underwater photo tips for capturing dramatic photos of fast-moving sharks paired with a crisp sunburst
By Mike Ellis

Shooting Tips: Sharks and Sunbursts

Mike Ellis
Underwater photo tips for capturing dramatic photos of fast-moving sharks paired with a crisp sunburst

A few years back I worked as boat crew during a shoot for the Animal Planet network.  Their main goal was to shoot nighttime shark sequences.  In keeping with my regular hours, my goal was to be up at sunrise. I carried through with my various boat duties and also made sure fresh bait was in the water to help keep the sharks around.  Early to rise also meant I was the only one up and therefore had the ocean all to myself.  The conditions could not have been better…a gentle east breeze, sunshine with the occasional passing cloud, clear blue water and yes, sharks.

Not long after sliding into the water, I noticed what I will say was a very lazy swagger to the sharks posture and demeanor.  It appeared this was going to be a very uneventful dive.  Especially since most of the larger sharks had left the shallow waters for the cooler waters found in the deep.  This left me with a bunch of Lemons… sharks that is.  I got my Nikon all warmed up with some of my normal type shots.  But then as I was standing in 18 feet of water just taking in my surroundings with sharks swimming over my head, I spread my strobes as far as they would go and just started composing and capturing that slow swagger in the rays of the sun.  I enjoy the results of that combination so much, it easily became something I strived to do with every dive. 

 

Shooting Tips

 

Dealing with a big bright ball

I have yet to see a digital camera work as good as a film with the same settings with the sun, so I try my best to block out the center mass of the sun with the subject or an object. I found that the camera and I could work with the sunrays a lot better using this technique.

 

Flash sync speed

My first DSLR was a Nikon D70s. It was a great camera with a flash sync speed of 1/500 sec.  Now it seems like the fastest sync speed you can get is 1/250 sec. But If you shoot in Manual without iTTL you can cheat by using a small piece of tape over the hot shoe pins that control sync.  Just leave the main pin untaped and try turning up your shutter speed till you start seeing a black line on the bottom of your photos, then back off untill it’s gone. I was able to get my D90 to go to 1/250 (normally the max is 1/200). That might not seem like a lot, but when shooting in the clear shallow waters with midday sun every little bit helps.

 

Calm is cool, but rougher water at golden hour is magic

If you can see the light rays you can grab them. On the way back to the swim step I looked west and saw lots of shark action that I did not see from below. Shooting horizontal in that special hour just under the surface, I waited and watched till the sharks and the golden sunrays came together for this shot. I had turned down my strobes to ¼ power so as not to drown out any of the magic.

 

A large part of the best sunburst / light ray photos I have captured have been in the winter or spring as the air column has less water in it. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Any day that has low humidity and wind under 15 knots can produce great underwater sunburst photos. With wind above 15 knots, I find the salt in the air just makes for a blinding whiteout underwater. 

As always with underwater photography, get close, trust your histogram over your display, compose so the majority of the sun is not in the frame and above all have fun trying and learning new techniques.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Ellis: Sharing bottom time with some of the smartest & friendliest in the ocean to some of the largest & most feared (by some), has given me unique opportunities to photograph the popular, playful Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, to the less popular, agile Tiger Shark & much more.  It has also strengthened my compassion towards them & the vital roll they play in the delicate balance of the oceans.  It is my hope to convey this thru my photography.  That people will look upon my images & share my concerns of acts of greed & inhumanness that bring many to their plight. And also to feel the heart n' souls of the ocean & how we all need each other.  "For the oceans!"

onaiaphoto.com   |   Instagram.com/onaiaphoto   |   Facebook.com/mike.ellis.9678067

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Secrets and guidelines to capturing great shots with Canon 5D Mark IV when shooting in less-that-ideal visibility.
By William Winram

Shooting Tips: Canon 5D Mark IV in Poor Vis

William Winram
Secrets and guidelines to capturing great shots with Canon 5D Mark IV when shooting in less-that-ideal visibility.

It had been more than 20 years since I had last dove in La Paz, Mexico and this was long before I ever thought about taking photos underwater.  Our time in La Paz was to be split between sessions with the whale sharks and sessions freediving on a line working on technique with our young ambassadors and instructors before heading out to sea with the Nautilus Explorer to tag scalloped hammerhead sharks in the Revillagigedo Archipelago.

 

Notes on Testing the 5D Mark IV

Prior to the trip, I procured myself a new Canon 5D Mark IV and did some tests in the pool back home to see that the extension ring for the Canon 16-35mm lens was optimal and allowed for clear images. With my previous camera (Canon 5D Mark II), I was never able to capture the same clarity in my photos as I could with the Sigma 15mm fisheye.  I later discovered that the issue was that the extension ring not properly sized for the lens.

And so I spent an hour in the pool playing with my new camera.  Not easy shooting in the pool since I only use natural light and the pool is not particularly well lit, but it was enough to know that the housing set up worked for both lenses.

 

 

 

Canon 5D Mk IV in La Paz

Day one in La Paz, Mexico was the first day in the sea with the Canon 5D Mark IV. We arrived to the dive site after a 10-minute ride in a panga.  Almost immediately there were whale sharks.  I jumped in, turned the camera on and took a look around, assessing that there was barely 2 meters of visibility as the water was filled with plankton!  I spun around, grabbed the edge of the boat and pulled myself up enough to place my camera back on the bench in the boat.  I was not at all excited at the limited photo opportunities possible with such poor visibility and actually thought that it was hopeless.  After all, earlier in the year I had been in the Maldives with visibility much better than this and even then it was challenging to capture an image that was not “foggy” with the plankton. 

I paused as I placed the housing on the bench and decided to persevere with the camera to at least get comfortable with the set up and controls of the new system.  This was, after all, a chance to work with the camera before heading out to the Revillagigedo Archipelago.

 

 

As I turned around and dropped back into the water a medium-sized whale shark swam into view, opening its mouth to feed.  I snapped the first photo and as I reviewed I was shocked!  I looked at the image in the camera, looked out into the murky bay, back at the image, back into the murk… how was it possible that the camera captured an image that even my eyes did not see!!!  

I was completely blown away by the camera and as I compared the images to those from buddies shooting with the 5D Mark II, it was clear that the Mark IV was on a completely different level.

I still needed to be mindful of the position of the sun relative to myself and my subject, or else even this camera was challenged by the poor visibility.  As the morning progressed and as the sun moved higher into the morning sky it became more challenging as the sun lit up the plankton.  The key, it seemed, was to be in the water early in the morning when there was sufficient light but before the sun was too high in the sky.

 

 

Out of five days we had two that were really good for both the lighting and the sharks - when the whale sharks showed up early in the day so the sun was low in the horizon but with still enough light to get some nice photos.  The other days it seemed the whale sharks decided to start their day later in the morning and with those overhead light conditions I found it much more difficult to get close to a clean shot.

I cannot complain about the number of sharks we encountered nor the conditions, but I left La Paz pining for a return trip during a season that had better visibility.  I am hoping to return later this year and to spend a bit more time in the area enjoying La Paz and the Baja Peninsula with the Canon 5D Mk IV.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

William is an ocean explorer, IUCN Oceans Ambassador,  founder of The Watermen Project NPO and Deepblu Brand Ambassador.  His images are taken during scientific and conservation related missions around the globe on a single breath of air and using only natural light. 

www.WilliamWinram.com   |   www.TheWatermen.org

 

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Comprehensive tutorial on producing sharp underwater photos, starting in camera and ending with detailed post-processing enhancements
By David Fleetham

Pro Tips for Achieving Sharp Focus

David Fleetham
Comprehensive tutorial on producing sharp underwater photos, starting in camera and ending with detailed post-processing enhancements

Focusing takes place twice for me: once in the camera when I capture an image and then a second time when I work on that file in Lightroom/Photoshop. We will look at both of these moments in this tutorial and how I personally deal with obtaining a sharp photograph.

Shortly after digital cameras became standard for underwater photography, most housing manufacturers added an ergonomic control to effortlessly access a button on the back of the camera that you can set through a custom function to engage focus. On my Canon 5D Mark 4 this is marked as the AF-ON button and is one of three buttons together on the upper right corner of the back of the body. It is my understanding that a similar control is available on Nikon. Through the custom menu, I also turn off the shutter release to autofocus and use the AF-ON button exclusively to activate the autofocus. It can be challenging to have the correct feel for the shutter through the housing control and this is only exaggerated in cold water with the addition of gloves. Using this back-button focus technique eliminates (accidentally) shooting a frame when you are trying to focus with the shutter.

Lastly, I select the AI SERVO mode for focusing and turn on all the focus points in the camera. While holding the housing underwater I can then focus with my thumb and at the same time pull the shutter release with my trigger finger.

 

 

This two-step process takes a little getting used to, but it is now second nature for me. In the case of a wide-angle moving subject, I will hold the AF-ON button/lever down, allowing the camera to constantly update the focus while I am able to shoot frame after frame at the time of my choosing. This is essential for sharks, sea lions or dolphins that will keep a distance and then abruptly come up to kiss your dome port.

For macro, the AF-ON button can be used to “lock” the focus, in that when you are not holding down the lever, the camera will not change the focus. Often I will focus, frame and shoot a subject and then release the AF-ON button and recompose the composition and at the same time move the camera in and out to alter that critical plane that is sharp. I’ll shoot several images of the same subject, playing with its placement within the frame. This helps to eliminate the tendency many photographers have of centering the subject in a composition.

 

Post-Production to Enhance Sharpness

Once back in front of my computer I will then do my standard adjustments of color, highlights and shadows and any other needed corrections in Lightroom. The only thing I do not adjust is sharpening. Next, open the RAW file in Photoshop through Lightroom's 'Edit Photo In' tool and create five identical layers of the file.

 

 

On the top layer I go to FILTER – OTHER – HIGH PASS.

 

 

You will immediately see your image turn into a strange-looking cloudy negative.

 

 

Don’t panic. You will also see the HIGH PASS dialog box with just one adjustment called RADIUS. I start with it set at 3.5 for a file from my 5D Mark 4. The size of the file you are working with and the image itself will determine what the best setting will be. This is often a matter of trial and error. Click OK and then go to the layers panel and pull down the blending mode menu that is on NORMAL as default. Move down the menu and select OVERLAY.

 

 

Your image will now return to something you are more used to seeing, only sharper. Zoom in, move around the image and click the eyeball icon to turn visibility of the layer off and back on. You should see a substantial difference with sharpness of your image.

If you are pleased with the amount of sharpening, go to the LAYERS menu and select MERGE DOWN (keyboard shortcut COMMAND – E on a MAC) near the bottom.

We are not done yet. Double click the top layer (the sharpened one) and rename it 3.5.

 

 

I do this to remember the setting at which I ran the HIGH PASS filter. Next, drag that layer down one level. Now you now have an original layer that has not been sharpened on the top.

 

 

Click the three eyeball icons on the lower layers to turn them off.

 

 

Next, select the ERASER TOOL (E). In the case of this scorpionfish, I only want to sharpen the fish itself. I find that if you sharpen areas that are not in focus you tend to just add noise and/or unwanted artifacts to these areas. This is particularly true of blue water or any negative space that is a color gradient. Turn the OPACITY to 100% and then erase what you want to have sharp. Use a large enough brush to have a reasonable feather at the outside of your subject.

 

 

In doing this, you now have a graduated border leading to the sharpened subject. Anything besides the subject that is also in focus I will erase, in this case the coral polyps across the lower middle of the frame.

 

 

Now turn all the layers back on and click the 3.5 layer off and on to see the extent of what you have done.

 

 

If this looks good, you can flatten the image and then save it as you wish. If this is not what you want, you can then throw away the 3.5 layer and repeat the whole process using a higher or lower RADIUS setting to increase or decrease the level of sharpening.

 

Other Sample Photos Using These Techniques:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Fleetham is one of the most published underwater photographers in the world.  He began diving and photographing underwater in 1976 and has been in Hawaii since 1986.  David's photographs have been published around the globe, with over two hundred magazine covers to date. In 1991 his photograph of a sandbar shark appeared on the cover of LIFE. It is the only underwater image to ever be published on the cover. His award winning work has been published by National Geographic (he has done several assignments for The NGS), The Cousteau Society, and every North American diving publication.

Website:  DavidFleetham.com

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Take your underwater photography to the next level with these tips and tricks for lighting, composition and more
By Brook Peterson

Picture Perfect: What Makes a Good Image Great

Brook Peterson
Take your underwater photography to the next level with these tips and tricks for lighting, composition and more

There are good images and there are great images.

When I was a new underwater photographer, I entered a contest online that had the theme, "Schooling Fish."  I had a few images of schools of fish, so I entered two that I thought were pretty good, and since the contest limit was three images, I threw in the only other image I had of schooling fish, which I didn't think was very good.  As it turns out, I won first place with that image.

Since it was an online contest, it was open to comments from the public, and someone wrote underneath the image, "No offense to the photographer, but I don't see what's so great about this image." Frankly, that person voiced my feelings exactly.  Luckily for me, another person posted a comment that explained exactly why the image was so great.  He said, "This image leads your eye from left to right and swirls around the school ending up where you started only to compel you to look again."

 

 

Composition and the Viewer's Eye

I learned a valuable lesson from this experience, and that was that I needed to learn what the elements of a good image are so that I could use them to my advantage in the future.  All too often I didn't understand why some images were better than others, and I thought that every photo I saw, that had something in it I had never seen before, was "great!"  So my first lesson in learning to make a good image was to look for elements that would lead the eye through the image.  Since western civilization reads from left to right, a good image will reflect that familiar direction.  We interpret this as "good composition."

There are a few composition guidelines that can help you achieve this.  The most familiar of these might be the "rule of thirds."  This is when you divide your image into thirds both horizontally and vertically and the important elements of the image, such as the eye of a fish, are placed on the intersecting lines (about a third up or down, and about a third from the left or right of the image.) The "S" curve is another device (anything that leads the eye in the shape of an "S"), The Fibonacci sequence has a fascinating array of spirals, patterns, and the "golden mean" which are shapes occurring in nature that "feel" good when our eyes see them.  For some people, the ability to discern these shapes is quite natural and we consider those people "gifted" or "talented" when they apply those abilities in art.  Post processing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop has these patterns associated with the crop tool so you can see what they look like.

 

Lighting

Good lighting is crucial to good image making.  There are lots of mistakes in underwater lighting that have become so common on social forums that our eyes are becoming accustomed to them. A common mistake is lighting the outsides of a subject, with a shadow in the middle.  This occurs when the strobes are turned too far out, or are blocked by the camera's housing and cast a shadow through the middle of the image, like this:

 

There are a lot of other lighting problems with this image too.  The strobe on the left is turned up too high, causing the light to be harsh.  The water is dark and ugly, and could have been corrected with a higher ISO or larger aperture.  The lighting in the image below is much better.

 

An image that is properly lit will have even lighting throughout the subject, without any highlights that appear white, and without any fall off of light through the middle. The viewer's eye should not be able to immediately tell whether a strobe was used, or whether the image is naturally lit.  When we are under water, everything we see has a blue cast, so we have to use strobes to bring the color back.  Our challenge as underwater photographers is to make images that don't have a blue cast, but that also don't have an obvious use of strobe.  The image below shows a large sponge that is properly lit from top to bottom, with a beautiful blue background.  The viewer must look closely to see that the ground around the sponge has a blue cast.

 

Provoking Thought

One last thought on making good images great.  The image below would have been a good photo of the USS Kittiwake without the diver, but it becomes a much better image with the diver standing next to the wreck.  This causes the viewer to react to the size of the ship relative to the man, and provokes a sense of awe and maybe even gives a sense of the mysterious.  Perhaps it causes the viewer to imagine the ship is haunted by the ghost of the man standing next to it.  In any case, that tiny added element provokes thought, and that makes the image GREAT.

 

With thousands of images flooding our social feeds, these few techniques are often overlooked when producing artistic and meaningful images.  If you can remember that you want to create an image that causes the viewer to pause and allow his eyes to wander about the image, you have created a GREAT image.  If you create an underwater image that lets the viewer forget that you had to use an artificial light source, then you have created a GREAT image.

 

This column originally published on Brook's blog, Waterdog Photography.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brook Peterson is an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer who enjoys capturing the beauty of the under water environment throughout the world. She is an original member of the SEA&SEA Alpha program. Her work has been featured in both print and online magazines.  She is the owner of Waterdog Photography and authors a blog on underwater photography and techniques.  More of her work can be found at:

www.waterdogphotography.com  |  Facebook  |  instagram@waterdogphotography_brook.

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The best photo and video settings for shooting the Canon G7 X Mark II underwater, including depth of field, shutter speed for strobes and more
By Brent Durand

Canon G7 X II Best Settings

Brent Durand
The best photo and video settings for shooting the Canon G7 X Mark II underwater, including depth of field, shutter speed for strobes and more

The Canon G7 X Mark II is a powerful compact camera capable of creating some exceptional underwater photo and video... with the right settings, of course.

It's one of our favorite compact cameras, built around a large 1" image sensor and a great lens. A fast processor enables lighting-quick autofocus for both photo and video shooting. The small size of the compact system is the perfect compromise between easy travel and excellent image quality.

This guide discusses the best settings for capturing traditional underwater imagery, and while these settings can bring home award-winning images, we also encourage you to experiment with new settings and adjustments.

If you haven't yet, be sure to read our complete Canon G7 X II Review for Underwater.

 

Jump to section:

Canon G7X Mk II Specs     |    Menu Setup

Best Photo Settings     |     Best Video Settings

Underwater Housings

 

Canon G7 X Mark II Specs

  • Bright f/1.8 (w) - f/2.8 (t), 4.2x (24-100mm equivalent) optical zoom lens with IS and 9-blade iris diaphram
  • 1-inch 20.1 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • New DIGIC 7 image processor
  • Multi-angle 3.0 inch capacitive touch panel display
  • 1080p Full HD video recording
  • In-camera RAW conversion/editing (customize and view edits prior to sharing from camera)
  • WiFi and NFC built-in
  • U.S.A. retail price: $699.99

 

Canon G7 X II Menu Setup

*Note: These are settings we suggest changing from the camera default as shipped. If we have not mentioned it, then the default setting is where it should be for basic underwater photo and video.



Shoot Menu

Note that advanced menu items are not visible in Auto mode.

TAB 1

  • Image Quality:  RAW. If you do not post-process your photos, then set this to JPEG with the L / smooth icon.

TAB 2

  • Face ID Settings -> Face ID:  Off. We haven't tested how well this works with marine life, so leave it off for now. Certainly turn it back in if tracking (human) subjects topside.

TAB 3

  • The default is single AF and 1-point AF, which I recommend as a general default. This means that the camera will find and lock focus and shoot each time you push the shutter. Alternatively, you can experiment with Continuous AF and ;-)+Tracking AF.

TAB 4

  • AF-assist Beam:  Off. Underwater, we use a focus light instead.

TAB 5

  • Flash Settings -> Red-Eye Lamp:  Off.

TAB 7

  • Movie rec. size:  For advanced video shooters only, you can change the default from 1080p30 to 1080p60 in order to open up the possibility of slow motion during post-processing.

  • Auto slow shutter:  For advanced video shooters only, turn A-SLOW to OFF. Because you are editing multiple clips together on one timeline, you do not want the camera to automatically slow down the framerate during some shots and not others. Beginners will enjoy leaving A-SLOW ON, as it will enable brighter video shooting in dark conditions.

 

Setup Menu

For most shooters, the setup menu does not need to be adjusted. All the settings accessed here are specific to individual shooter preferences or local region (i.e. NTSC vs. PAL). Tab 4 contains Wireless settings, which are very useful if you're syncing to your mobile device for faster online sharing of images/video. Copyright info is also useful, but I add all copyright info during import into Lightroom.

 

MyMenu

This green star menu allows you to move commonly used menu items into one single folder. When I shot Canon compacts and DSLRs underwater, I would put all my common settings here and then leave the camera on this menu when diving. Then, if you need to adjust a deep menu setting, you simply tap the menu button and everything is right there. Very fast, very efficient.

 

 

Best Underwater Photo Settings

There are many photo effects we can create through different settings combos, along with infinite room for experimentation. Changing settings to create an effect underwater can quickly become a daunting and even frustrating task (we're underwater, after all), so I always recommend that divers have a default settings combo to fall back on as starting point when things get confusing. These settings are a starting point for shooting with the Canon G7 X II, so write them on the back of your hand, tape them to the housing or simply memorize them.

We are also assuming use of one of two strobes. If you're shooting with a dive or video light, be sure to read our article on Underwater Constant Lighting.

 

Macro Settings

  • Mode:  Manual
  • ISO:  125
  • Aperture:  f/9
  • Shutter Speed:  1/250

These settings are a great starting point for shooting larger subjects like fish down to small subjects like nudibranchs. The small aperture (f/9) creates enough depth of field to ensure that most of the subject will be in focus, while the shutter speed blocks out all of the blue/green ambient light in favor of the powerful strobe light. The low ISO ensures best image quality with minimal noise (graininess).

Strobes:  Your strobe(s) should be positioned close to the housing, near the subject. Read more about underwater strobe positioning. If you are shooting strobes on manual power, try starting at 1/2 power and then adjust from there. You will find that lighter subjects will require less strobe power than darker subjects, and vice versa. If you are shooting your strobes through TTL (automatic) then you're already set.

Read our Easy Ways to Eliminate Backscatter.

Diopter:  Are you shooting with a macro diopter like the Bluewater +7 or Nauticam CMC? If so, use these same settings, except stop your aperture down to f/11. You may need to increase strobe power by 1/3 stop.

 

Wide-Angle Settings

  • Mode:  Manual
  • ISO:  200
  • Aperture:  f/5.6
  • Shutter Speed:  1/125

These settings are a solid starting point for shooting wide-angle underwater, including reefscapes, divers and big animals. The aperture creates the depth of field we need while creating a nice blue color in the water, while the shutter speed lets enough ambient light into the camera to properly expose the scene. The ISO is also slightly more sensitive than for macro in order to pick up more ambient light without introducing much visible noise.

Note that specialized settings combos are required for scenes like sunbursts, split-shots and fast action.

Strobes:  If shooting with a single strobe, position this at a diagonal above the housing, ensuring the front of the strobe is at least several centimeters behind the housing port. If shooting with two strobes, these should also be behind the port, but extended to the side of the housing. Manual shooters should start with their strobes on 1/2 power and adjust from there. If the subject is more than 2 meters away, then turn off your strobes to minimize risk of backscatter (since the strobe light won't travel that far anyways). Read more about strobe positioning.

Wet Lenses:  No need to adjust settings when shooting with a wet wide-angle lens.  If your housing/lens combo requires zooming in slightly to avoid vignetting, then always remember to do this when setting up these defaults.

 

Phew - that's a lot!  Join me on an underwater photo workshop to learn how to apply these settings, the photography concepts behind them, and how to react in changing shooting conditions. Great photos go beyond just the settings.

 

 

Best Settings for Underwater Video

The Canon G7X II allows you to start recording video at any moment. It's as simple as pushing the red button. That's it! I recommend this automatic video method for everyone except the very serious video shooters who really want to control the effect of each shot. If you fall into this latter camp, then the settings below are for you.

 

Macro Video

  • Mode:  Movie
  • Shutter Speed:  1/125 (*assuming 1080p60fps)
  • Aperture:  f/8
  • ISO:  200
  • Video Light(s):  Close to housing and subject.

 

Wide-Angle Video

  • Mode: Movie
  • Shutter Speed:  1/60
  • Aperture:  f/5
  • ISO:  400
  • Video Light(s):  Behind port, out to side of camera.

 

How to Set Manual White Balance

Manual white balance is an important setting for serious underwater video shooters. While the Canon G7 X Mk II doesn't have one-touch white balance, it is still a simple process to set a manual white balance. Practice this a few times and it will become second nature.

  1. Take a photo of a white or neutral gray subject that fills the frame: palm of hand, white sand, white coral, white balance card, dive slate, white fin, etc.
  2. Press Menu and navigate to: Shoot Menu tab 6.
  3. Click Custom WB and navigate to your white balance image.
  4. Click Set, then Ok.
  5. Exit the menu.
  6. In your camera settings, make sure you have changed the default Auto WB to Custom WB.
  7. Shoot away.

 

Great Accessories

These are some accessories that will take your Canon G7 X II photo and video to the next level.

 

Bluewater +7 Macro Diopter

 

 

Nauticam Compact Macro Converter (CMC-2)

 

 

 

Dyron Super Wide Angle Lens

 

 

 

I-Torch V10 Focus Light

 

 

 

Dual I-Torch Video 2000 Video Lights

 

 

 

 

Underwater G7 X II Housings

Interested in the best underwater housing options for the Canon G7 X Mk II?  Visit the Best Canon G7 X II Housings section of our in-depth camera review article.

 

 

 An ornate ghost pipefish poses for a portrait with the Canon G7 X II in Fantasea G7XII housing in the Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. ISO 125, f/8, 1/200. Shot with a single SeaLife Sea Dragon flash. Photo: Brent Durand

  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer and story teller from California.
BrentDurand.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is a writer for the Underwater Photography Guide, an avid diver and adventure photographer, and shoots underwater any time he can get hands on a camera system. He can be reached at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

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Camera and menu settings for getting the best underwater video from your Panasonic LX100 camera, including sample 4K videos
By Basil Kiwan

Panasonic LX100 Settings for Underwater Video

Basil Kiwan
Camera and menu settings for getting the best underwater video from your Panasonic LX100 camera, including sample 4K videos

The Panasonic LX100 is a very capable camera for underwater photography and videography, as well as a small but advanced compact camera that is great to carry around.

The image sensor is a 16MP micro four-thirds sensor that Panasonic has used in a number of its interchangeable lens cameras. It is a multi-aspect design (see aspect ratios below) with an effective resolution of 12.8MP.

The lens, designed for Panasonic by Leica, is fast with a maximum aperture of F1.7 – 2.8 depending on the focal length, which is handy in low-light or when you want to isolate your subject with a shallower depth-of-field. The lens also has optical image stabilization, which is useful but not as powerful as the in-body image stabilization in Panasonic’s most recent cameras.

The color and image quality produced by the LX100 are really pleasing, and there is a lot of detail because of the larger sensor (for a compact camera) and the very high quality lens. The camera shoots 4K video, using the same software engine as the well-regarded Panasonic GH4, and the video quality is superb.

 

 

Key Video Features

Video Formats

 The LX100 records in 4K: UHD (3840x2160) at either 24p (cinema frame rate) or 30p (TV standard) recording at a bitrate of up to 100MBs.  It also records full HD at up to 60p.  Even if you only intend to view your video in HD, you should capture in 4K because the resulting HD video will be more detailed, and because recording in 4K gives you some great video editing options. The color and resolution really pop compared to regular HD footage shot in HD. The noise also gets compressed, resulting in cleaner footage.

 

Video File Formats

MPEG-4 or AVCHD (just choose MPEG-4)

 

Lens

The LX100 has a fixed lens, with maximum aperture of F1.7 – 2.8 over the zoom range.  The lens can close focus, particularly at the wide end, where the minimum focus distance is just 1.18 inches.  (very useful for close focus wide angle shots)

 

Autofocus

The side of the lens has a switch for manual focus (MF), autofocus (AF), and macro autofocus (AF with a flower) – for close focus situations.  I generally use autofocus with video, except when shooting macro shots, where I would try out manual focus.  I generally find manual focus underwater to be very challenging, particularly with current and surge.  That said, it is worth experimenting to see what works best for you in various shooting situations.

The LX100 has a contrast detect autofocus, using Panasonic’s proprietary DFD (depth-from-defocus) technology.  Single autofocus (AFS) is very quick and accurate, but the continuous autofocus (AFC) can sometimes focus hunt in low light situations.  

 

Other Features:

The camera offers focus peaking for manual focus, and/or magnified (Picture-in-Picture) view (also available in pinpoint autofocus, something I found useful).  The LX100 also has available zebra patterns to warn of over-exposure, although I don’t generally use them.

Key Physical Camera Settings

Although the LX100 is a very capable video camera, its body design is biased towards still photography, with a somewhat retro feel.  Despite its small size, the LX100 has several buttons (including 3 function buttons (Fn1, Fn2, Fn3) on the back of the camera) and dials as physical controls that make it easy to manipulate your exposure variables, setting them as you wish.

The camera menus are pretty clear and easy to navigate, and you can reconfigure most of the physical controls on the camera in myriad ways.  It is worth spending a bit of time before the dive to customize your settings, because it will enable a much faster response underwater to photo & video opportunities.

 

1.  Shutter Speed

The LX100 has a retro-style dial on the top, making it simple to set the shutter speed.  The general rule for video shutter speed is to double the frame rate in order to have a more natural motion cadence in your video. If you are shooting 4K at 30fps, then set your shutter speed to 1/60.  If you are shooting 4K at 24fps, then set your shutter speed to 1/50 (since there is no 1/48 shutter speed).  Keep in mind that those are relatively slow shutter speeds, so you will find that in many lighting situations (even underwater), that you need to close down your aperture and/or lower your ISO in order to keep your shot from being overexposed.

 

2.  Aperture

 The LX100 has a very bright lens for a compact camera, with a maximum aperture of F1.7 to F2.8 (depending upon the focal length).  A ring around the lens controls the aperture and is very intuitive to use.  Shooting at a wider aperture provides more light, allowing you to shoot clips at a lower ISO with less noise (grain) in your video. 

Aperture also controls depth-of-field, and the LX100 lens has a bright enough aperture to shoot a fairly shallow depth of field, particularly in close focus situations.  However, LX100 uses a micro four-thirds sensor, with a crop factor of 2.2x in comparison with a full-frame camera.  Shoot at F2 will give you a depth of field equal to about F4.5 on a full-frame camera.  The advantage of a crop sensor for shooting video is that the greater depth of field (relative to a full frame camera) is actually useful as it makes it easier to maintain focus and sharpness (particularly on moving subjects).  The LX100’s lens is exceptionally sharp throughout its focal range, even with the aperture wide open, so I never hesitate to shoot with a wide aperture, to keep my ISO low (for less noise), stopping to achieve my desired depth of field.

 

3.  ISO

The ISO button on the LX100 is the top control button on the back control dial.  Sometimes I set the ISO to Auto ISO, but underwater I generally pick an ISO manually and leave it there to help control noise.  The LX100 has a large sensor for a compact camera, but in comparison with a full frame camera the noise performance suffers. I generally don’t shoot beyond ISO 800 if I am shooting scenes with a lot of blue water in the background, and ISO 1600 if I am shooting scenes with a coral reef or rock in the background (however, I am a bit zealous when it comes to trying to control noise in my video). 

 

4.  Aspect Ratio

Panasonic has configured the sensor with a multi-aspect ratio sensor, with a switch at the top of the lens for setting the desired aspect ratio.  This arrangement gives more flexibility in terms of composition of your image at a small cost in maximum resolution (though this allowed Panasonic to design a more compact lens for LX100).  The camera can shoot images with a 4:3 ratio (using 12.8MP of the 16MP in the sensor), a 3:2 ratio (more common to SLRs, using 12.2MP of the 16MP), a 16:9 aspect ratio (wider ratio, common in video, using 11.3MP out of the 16MP in the sensor), or even 1:1 aspect ratio (for those Instagram photos, using 9.5MP out of 16MP).  It is ultimately a matter of preference, but I generally shoot still photos with the 4:3 ratio (for maximum resolution), and video with the 16:9 ratio (for the wide cinematic look).

 

5.  Custom White Balance

The white balance (WB) is set using the right button on the back control dial.  It is important to set a good custom white balance, particularly when shooting video in ambient light, and to adjust the setting at every 10-20 feet change in depth.  Fortunately, the LX100 can reliably set a custom white balance. I carry a white plastic card and was able to get a good white balance at pretty much any depth (at least down to 60 feet – I don’t tend to shoot video at depths beyond that as there too little light).  The camera can bank up to 4 custom white balance settings, which speeds up changing your white balance.  The ease with which you can change and adjust white balance is particularly helpful.

 

6.  Reconfiguring the Function Buttons

The Panasonic LX100 has 5 sets of menus that are accessed through the “menu/set” button on the back control dial.  These menus are:

a)  “Rec” – the small camera symbol

b)  “Motion Picture” – the video camera symbol

c)  “Custom” – the wrench with the “C” next to it

d)  “Setup” – the wrench symbol

e)  “Playback” – which has the (triangular) play button symbol next to it. 

Select the Custom Menu, which has 9 screens of options, and go to screen 7 to “Fn Button Set” where you can reassign options for the 3 function buttons.  I strongly recommend reassigning “Utilize Custom Set Feature” to one of the Fn buttons.

 

7.  Utilizing Custom Settings

The LX100 allows you to store 3 separate sets of custom camera profiles (C1, C2, C3).  Once you establish your desired settings on the camera, you can save them by going to the first page of the Custom Menu and then saving those settings as “C1”, “C2” or “C3”.  These can then be recalled at an instant as long as you have reassigned the “Utilize Custom Set Feature” to one of your function buttons. (You can also turn off the custom setting, effectively giving you a fourth custom profile.) 

I set my Fn1 button “Utilize Custom Set Feature” so that when I press it I see my custom profiles as follows:     

  • C1 settings for Still Photos
  • C2 settings for 4K Video
  • C3 for 4K photo (allows you to use the shutter button to shoot video)

 

Specific Custom Video Settings

These settings can be saved into one of your custom profiles (#7 above) as a quick starting or reference point when setting up the camera or reconfiguring for a different shot.

 

1.  Photo Style

Located on page 1 of the Motion Picture Menu.

The LX100 does not have a log profile or other flat video profile (like the Sony RX100 V).  The LX100 only has various “photo styles” which apply to both still images as well as video. The best you can do is to shoot with a “Natural” or “Standard” photo style, modified as follows to lower the contrast and flatten the picture:

  • -3 on Contrast
  • -5 on Sharpness
  • 0 (unchanged) on Noise Reduction
  • 0 (unchanged) on Saturation

You can experiment with the photo styles to see what yields the most pleasing results for your eye.

 

2.  I-Dynamic

Located on page 2 of the Motion Picture Menu.

I turn this off for shooting video because it introduces a bit more noise in the shadows, though the difference is probably marginal (so it’s worth experimenting).

 

3.  Using Contrast Curves

Located on page 2 of the Rec Menu.

In the Rec Menu, look for the “Highlight Shadow” setting.  There are different default options, plus 3 different custom settings that you can create (using the back control dial to scroll).  The LX100 does not have a log or flat profile, but you can compensate to a degree with a custom curve.  I recommend turning down the highlights (-5), but leaving the shadows unchanged, since raising the shadows can introduce more noise in the video. But with that said, you can experiment and revise your settings.

 

4.  Video Autofocus

Located on page 1 and page 2 of the Motion Picture Menu.

On page 1, under “AFS/AFF/AFC”, you might want to set this to AFF or AFC for continuous autofocus.  On page 2, set “continuous autofocus” to “on”.  The LX100, like other Panasonic cameras, uses a contrast detect autofocus system.  It uses Panasonic’s proprietary DFD technology, which is very snappy for single autofocus.  I usually used AFS, but found that my better video clips were when the camera was set to AFC.  However, like other contrast detect autofocus systems, it can hunt in low light.

 

5.  Live View vs. EVF

Located on page 9 of the Custom Menu.

I usually use the camera’s EVF, as the image is brighter and more detailed than the live view monitor on the back of the camera.  There is a small sensor next to the EVF that automatically moves the image display to the EVF when you hold the camera up to your eye.  In underwater situations, it is nearly impossible to use the EVF through the camera housing and my scuba mask; you must rely upon the live view monitor on the back, which is of decent quality.  To keep the camera set on live view, open the Custom Menu, go to the 9th page of options, select “Eye Sensor” and set the “LVF/Monitor Switch” to “MON”, to force the camera to stay on live view.  Otherwise the camera housing will usually trip the sensor, moving the display to the EVF.

 

6.  AF/AE Lock

Located on page 1 of the Custom Menu.

Set the AE/AF button to AF in order to enable back button autofocus. It is handy for both video and still photos.

 

7.  iA Button Switch (Intelligent Auto (iA)

Located on page 8 of the Custom menu.

The LX100 has an “intelligent auto” button on the top of the camera (marked “iA”), I would recommend taking manual control of your exposure variables.  Unfortunately, the iA button cannot be reprogrammed to a more useful function.  However, you can go into the custom menu and set the iA button to “press and hold” in order to invoke intelligent auto (as opposed to single press, which increases the likelihood of using it accidently).

 

Once you are done with the above settings, go ahead and save them as one of your Custom profiles.   

 

 

Sample Panasonic LX100 Underwater Video

Caribbean Blues Interlude by Basil Kiwan. Originally filmed at 4K in the Turks & Caicos. Be sure to increase the playback resolution by clicking the HD button.


Diving the Red Sea by Basil Kiwan. Originally filmed at 4K in the Red Sea. Be sure to increase the playback resolution by clicking the HD button.

 

 

Conclusion

The LX100 is a small but very capable compact camera, pairing a comparatively large sensor with a really nice Panasonic-Leica lens. The 4K video quality is excellent, with great color and resolution, and is a lot of fun to work with. The above settings will help you get started on shooting some incredible video.  As always, you can contact the team at Bluewater Photo for full details on shooting with Panasonic cameras.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Basil Kiwan has been hooked on diving since 1997, and is an enthusiast photographer on land and underwater.  He enjoys capturing the beauty of both the natural and human worlds, and when he gets a chance, he loves to work as volunteer photographer with his favorite hometown animal rescue.

More of his photographic work can be found online at: www.visualartsdc.com.

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Quick tips to ensure that you are picking your best and most creative photos when entering underwater photo competitions
By Martin Toole

How to Choose Photos for a Competition

Martin Toole
Quick tips to ensure that you are picking your best and most creative photos when entering underwater photo competitions

It's the end of the year, which means one thing in photography, finding your best shots and photos to enter in to a competition. In a few weeks, the underwater photography competition at In-Water Photographer of the Year will be closing its doors for entry. So now is the best time to have a look through this years photographs you have taken and to see whether any could be entered in to this in-water comp.

In this post, we'll have a look at how you can choose your best and most unique photos as well as looking at how you can improve the photos or the dive spots you frequent to get more out of your photograhy.

 

Something Unique

When taking underwater photos, you want to be looking for something unique, something that either hasn't been photographed before, or something that you've seen before, but with a fresh twist on it. A photo I love which was entered in the competition last year, is of a freediver swimming perpendicular to the shot and against the lines of this beautiul pool in France.

 

The few things I like about this photo and that make it stand out to me are as follows:

-It's a normal 25m swimming pool, nothing new going on here, but this time, it's empty, but for one freediver at the opposite end of the pool. It's very rare you ever get to see an empty pool when you're swimming or training, especially one which has a freediver in it. They add to the symmetry, they're literally swimming against the flow of the lines. But this is how it works, the pool markers and lanes take your eyes to the freediver who is sat in the middle of the shot. When you get there, your visual journey is complete, as the top half of the photo, because of it's symmetry, is also the same as the bottom with its stunning reflection.

What I love about this photograph is that the photographer, Alex Voyer has managed to get so much more out of a scene that is seen daily by hundreds of thousands of people. It's just a swimming pool, but it's been asked a few questions and out of it is a lovely artistic photograph.

 

Rare Interaction

Are there any rare spectacles in the surrounding waters? Even if you don't live near tropical waters, you can still find something rare and interesting. With this one it is important to ask around, local fisherman, spearo's, the local scuba diving club or a freediving club. Someone will know of some underwater spectacles, things you can get involved with and see for yourself. Here in Wales, we have a few things we can see from the shore and even more when we head out on a boat. Once a year there is the spider crab migration in to the shallows and in Pembrokeshire you can see hundreds, if not thousands in a few certain spots. If you time it right, and find the right shoreline, you could see something really special. 

There are also organised trips around the world to see particular fish, sealife, whales etc and here in the UK is no different, there are basking shark trips, blue shark and other shark species offshore trips, whale watching boats and one of our favourite is the seals at Farne Islands.

This was an organised trip, but it's still something quite rare to be able to play and hang about with these grey seals. We dive all year round, freediving and scuba and we have had many wild interactions with harbour and grey seals but have never some this close as we did at the Farne Islands. Above you can see a sea lion, they are playful animals and this photo depicts a rare interaction perfectly. A freediver swimming with the sea lion as they look at each other, both in shot and well framed showing the close proximity to each other.

 

Artistic Vision & Framing

Do you have any photos or ideas you are yet to take which involve a familiar seen, but would like to enhance? Or do you wish to mix up things that you are involved with in your daily life within your photography? There are many ways you can create a more visually appealing and artistic photograph. 

Last years winner and my personal favourite from the competition is of the Colombian U21 Underwater Hockey Team. There coach stands forefront in the shot whilst the players have all jumped in to the scene from outside of the pool. They've created another form of action, expressed this underwater sport in a unique way. The photographer, Camilo, could have taken a well framed action shot from the game, but he decided to tell a story instead, with a single photo. It's very powerful, you get drawn to the lone person at front but immediately taken away by what is going on around him. To me, it's very much like playing underwater hockey, you have to be focused (just like the front figure is) whilst there is splashing, bubbles, kicking, knocks, apnea, co2 increase and lack of oxygen all going on under the surface.

 

In-Water Photography

All the photos mentioned have minimal, if any post processing, most of the work was done before the photo was taken and then framed well. This sort of philosophy, mixed with water and a minimal of diving gear is what In-Water Photographer of the Year photography competition is trying to promote. If you take photos on one breath? Whilst our snorkeling, surfing, swimming with friends? In-Water Photographer of the Year is the perfect photo competition for you.

Click here to learn more about and enter the In-Water Photographer of the Year contest.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Toole:  I'm an avid freediver, scuba qualified and love spending most of my spare time in open water, lakes, rivers or the ocean.  There are new angles, new perspectives, sports being seen in a new light, all from the perspective of the ocean lover with fins on. I found a lot of the photos I wanted to take I could do without any scuba gear on, so now I take all my photos whilst freediving and snorkeling and there are plenty of other people doing this too. I created In-Water Photographer of the Year 2 years ago to celebrate all that is photography in-water, with a minimal of gear on.

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

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

 


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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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