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.
Leave the marine life lenses at home – time to learn what’s needed for a pool photo session.
By Ken Kiefer

Inside Look: Gear for Shooting Models in Pools

Ken Kiefer
Leave the marine life lenses at home – time to learn what’s needed for a pool photo session.

Shooting models in a pool is quite a bit different than the underwater nature photography that most of the readers on Underwater Photography Guide are familiar with.   Most of us are trying to capture the wildlife in the oceans and lakes in its natural environment with natural movements.  Generally, you observe the animals and determine how best to capture the angle or activity that you are hoping for.

Although many of us wish it were so, water is not a natural environment for humans.   The unnatural aspect creates some difficulties compared to land, but does come with a huge plus – communication.  You can ask a shark or fish to please face a certain direction, or repeat a great move, but probably without much luck.  Models, on the other hand, are much more amenable to direction.  You don’t have to wish a face were a little more to the right, or hope for a repeated action; you can ask for it! 

Direction and feedback is a very important component of underwater model photography.  I’m very lucky in this aspect, because I’ve been able to use my wife as a model and for testing.  This makes her a wonderful asset during shoots, since she knows what my goals are, what works, what doesn’t work, how to overcome difficulties in the water and can help guide and coach the models through the process. 

The gear for shooting models in the pool can actually be the same gear that you use for other underwater photography, or can be modified depending on your goals.

 

For years, the only time I shot anything or anyone in a pool was to test new gear, or to practice techniques/lighting/settings/etc. before a dive trip.  Once I started shooting in a pool frequently, my knowledge and familiarity with all of my gear increased tremendously.  This is very helpful for all underwater photographers, not only for the expanded knowledge and better results; but the repetition helps you become more accustomed to the assembly and maintenance of your gear.

Gear choices can be very varied, just like all photography endeavors.  I don’t have enough varied experience with multiple housings/strobes/etc. to give valid reviews on the pros and cons of the choices out there; so, I’m just going to explain the reasons that I have settled on my own setup. 

 

Cameras for Pool Photography

Currently, I use either a Canon 5D Mark 3, or a 5Ds.  For me, they are pretty much interchangeable.  I generally don’t need the much larger file sizes of the 5Ds, and mostly use the 5D3.  What I do prefer, and the reason for these cameras in my setup is the fact that they are full frame cameras.  This is a personal choice based on the fact that I like to minimize the water between my model and myself and still fit as much as possible in the frame.  Being closer allows you to get better isolation between the subject and the background.  Plus, less water between the model and your lens will help you achieve more clarity.  

 

Lenses for Pool Photography

The lens that I use the most often lately is the Canon 16-35 f/4 IS.  I’ve used the 16-35 f/2.8, both the current and the older version.  I’ve used the 8-15 f/4 fisheye and the Canon 15 f/2.8 fisheye.  For models, I prefer the aspherical lenses to the fisheyes to avoid the fisheye distortion to the model, props and background.  The 16-35 f/4 IS has proven itself to me as having more punch and clarity with less corner blur than the other Canon 16-35 lenses.

 

Underwater Housing

To protect my camera and lens, I use an Ikelite housing with an 8” dome port.  I’ve used the smaller domes, but gain a small amount of corner sharpness with the 8”.

Ikelite housings are clear, which allows you to see whether an O-ring is installed correctly or has become twisted or possibly gathered hair or dirt.  Plus, it allows me to use every button/function that I have ever needed, both easily and consistently.  The customer service that I have experienced from Ikelite for over 10 years has always been top notch.  They stand behind their products!  

 

Strobes for Pool Photography

Lighting is a big variable with shooting models in the pool.  Depending on the look that you are working towards, lighting can range from ambient sunlight to a combination of multiple strobes with lighting outside the pool.  The setup that I use most of the time is a pair of Ikelite DS-161 strobes mounted to my housing with a pair of Ikelite DS-125 strobes placed off camera to be used as slaves.  I like having Ikelite’s rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for quick change and long battery life.  Plus, the strobes themselves have a nice warm color temp and wide beam angle both with and without the diffusers. 

 

Other Gear for the Pool

Some of the other ‘gear’ that I like to use includes backdrops/chairs/props/mirrors/tents, and, of course, my lovely assistant.  Having a model with a black background really makes them pop.  I’ve done this with and without the use of backdrops, and without is much easier.  If the pool you are using is big enough to allow you to use high aperture and have the strobe light only light your model, it saves the hassle of the backdrop and creates a much more complete black.  Using a backdrop is unwieldy in a pool and gets in the way fairly often, but in smaller pools it might be the only way to achieve your goals.  The black is not complete using this technique usually because the light is going to pick up the imperfect black of the backdrop.

Experimenting with chairs and props is a really fun way to be creative.  The irritation at multiple ‘fails’ is quickly overlooked when you find something really cool that does work out!  Sunglasses/wigs/umbrellas can all add to images in different ways.

Having an assistant is invaluable at times.   Having my wife around and in the water during a shoot is one of the most valuable things I can take to a shoot.  She can move fabric and hair in the direction that I want, retrieve gear, move lights, etc. much more easily than I can while holding my camera setup.

Underwater shooting is always pretty gear intensive, and everyone will develop their own preferences in every aspect.  Hopefully my experiences can help a few of you down the path to your own creativity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ken Kiefer is an underwater photographer that specializes in big animals and fashion/fitness shoots.  He uses his images of sharks to educate children about the realities of sharks –vs- media portrayal.  

View more of Ken's work at: www.kenkiefer.com.

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A wide-angle underwater photography tutorial
By Scott Gietler

Wide Angle Tutorial on the Oil Rigs

Scott Gietler
A wide-angle underwater photography tutorial

The Southern California Oil Rigs have long been a hidden gem for California's underwater photographers, but the word is slowly leaking out. With sea lions, mola mola, cormorants and huge schools of fish visiting at different times of year, the Oil Rigs can rival some of the world's best dive sites on a good day.

I'm going to show you some classic underwater scenes from the Oil Rigs, and share some times for getting good color, composition and exposure.

All photos taken with the Nikon D810, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, Zen 4-inch glass dome port, dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 or YS-D2 strobes.


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F11, 1/100th, ISO 250. Using a fisheye lens is a must for large subjects, if you want good colors. It lets you get closer to the subject. I use a 100 degree diffuser with my strobes. Keep your strobes wide, get low, get close, shoot up. My 180 degree viewfinder helps me compose carefully.

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
Sea Lion and diver. When shooting sea lions, I wait until the very right moment to take a shot, and try to follow the sea lion around with my eye on the viewfinder. Having a camera with a low shutter delay really helps. On the rigs I usually do not have to shoot blind, because I can get below the subjects.

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F10, 1/80th, ISO 250. I always try to remind myself to shoot vertically (portrait style) 50% off the time. I need to do it more. To get fish in patterns like this, you often have to wait until they are being chased.

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F10, 1/160th, ISO 320. I always try to get different compositions of subjects - the whole body, close-up of the head, far away, and top-down.

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F9, 1/100th, ISO 250. Cormorant trying to catch a fish.

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F13, 1/80th, ISO 250. The closer I get to my subject, the more I stop down my aperture so the photo will be sharp. I was lucky that F13 allowed me to get the octopus and Garibaldi in focus, any closer to the octopus and I would have needed to be at F16. Pull your strobes in and point them straight instead of outt when switching from schooling fish to close-focus subjects. Although I pulled my strobes in close, with close-focus wide angle shots like this you may still have dark areas in the lower center of the photo - the adjustment brush in Lightroom will help brighten these up.

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F10, 1/125th, ISO 200. It always helps to have a diver in the photo, try to encourage your dive buddies to come into the picture. Read out underwater dive model tips

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F9, 1/80th, ISO 320. Who says you have to shoot up? Here are more composition ideas

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F13, 1/40th, ISO 200. When inside a school of fish, I try to breathe slowly or not breathe at all, and move very slowly, so the fish gradually get closer and closer to me. Here are more schooling fish tips. 

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F14, 1/100th, ISO 320. My dive model and I took turns taking photos of each other, and I stopped down to F14 to get the foreground and background in focus. I also had to pull my right strobe in close, to light the starfish which was close to my port.

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
F9, 1/125th, ISO 250. When shooting schools of fish, you often have to wait for the right moment when something scares the school, creating a sense of motion in the photo.

 

Southern California Oil Rigs
F10, 1/80th, ISO 250. Exposuring silvery fish properly can be very difficult, I try to take a test shot at a very close distance to the fish, and then I'll usually turn my strobes down 1 or 2 notches until the photo looks good. Taking all photos at the same (close) distance is key. I keep my strobes wide and pointing out slightly for silvery fish.

wide angle underwater photography oil rigs
100% crop of above photo

 


Diving California Oil Rigs - underwater photography
Mola mola and diver, with a D7000. Mola mola need to be approached slowly and carefully, or they will quickly flee.

 

Email me if you enjoyed this article, or to find out our Oil Rigs trip schedule. Also check out our international underwater photo trip schedule.

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Santa Monica, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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The quick or the dead – 5 tips to make sure you capture fast action underwater
By Shane Gross

Capturing Fast Ocean Action

Shane Gross
The quick or the dead – 5 tips to make sure you capture fast action underwater

Let’s face it – we humans are pathetically slow in the water. Even Michael Phelps’ top speed of 4.4 mph (7.1 km/h) pales in comparison to a yellowfin tuna’s estimated speed of 45 mph or, the fastest fish in the ocean, the sailfish’s 70 mph. With such a chasm between us, how can we possibly dream of capturing images of these fast animals? Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of shooting the fastest of the fast.

 

1) Study the Animal's Behavior

The good news is most animals are not travelling at their top speed most of the time. Before you head out to shoot those speedy dolphins or sharks you may want to soak in their behavior as best you can. YouTube, Vimeo and other online video sharing sites are an amazing resource because you can watch how the animal moves under conditions similar to what you may experience.

 

 

2) Use a Fast Shutter Speed

Unless you are going for an artistic motion-blur image crank the shutter speed to the max. If you are using strobes find out what your max sync speed is – on my Nikon D90 it’s 1/250th of a second. Most high-end, full frame DSLR’s can go up to 1/320th. If you are not using strobes you can go even faster as long as there is enough natural light. Choosing a fast shutter speed will help to freeze the action and keep your images sharp. While shooting baby lemon sharks for the first time I used 1/160 and still the eye was often not sharp because the pups would turn away at high velocity as soon as they would see my camera. Going up to 1/250 and using strobes made all the difference.

 

 

 

3) Work as a Team

If you are searching for sailfish in the open ocean you cannot do it alone. You will need a good boat captain to get you in position and tell you when to drop in. The more people on the boat looking for birds (the give-away of a baitball) the better chance you have of finding one of the most amazing natural displays on Earth.

 

 

4) Be Prepared Before you Hit the Water

If you are jumping in the water with a blue whale (or, hopefully, quietly sliding in) you will not have time to turn on your camera, adjust your settings, take a test shot, etc. Though they are the biggest animal in the world their slow, cruising speed is significantly faster that you can swim even with super long freediving fins. This means the best you can hope for is that the whale swims past you within view – that’s it. If you are in clear blue water in the middle of the day you may already have a good idea what settings you will need. If not, searching out whales can mean long days on the water with lots of down time. Ask the captain to stop for a quick minute and stick your camera over the side and do a test shot to dial in. That way when the whale pops up right next to the boat and your adrenaline starts pumping you can hop in and start clicking.

 

 

5) Shoot on Burst Mode

Once you are in the water with your sailfish and baitball you will have very little reaction time. You will basically have to point your wide-angle lens in the baitball’s direction, and when a sailfish approaches hold down the shutter button and hope – the old spray and pray approach. With enough time in the water you will come away with some shots you like.

 

 

 

Conclusion

Shooting fast action is a hit and miss game where good results come about from getting lots of chances and filling up memory cards. So get out there, shoot from the hip and hold down that shutter button. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the moment. Sharing the water with these fast animals is a privilege few get to experience. 

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Canada, Shane Gross has been living in the Bahamas for the past three years working as a SCUBA dive instructor and freelance underwater photographer/writer. His work has been widely published in books, magazines, ad campaigns, etc. He is an outspoken conservationist and ocean advocate who wishes to inspire those around him to do their part.

www.grossphotographic.com  |  facebook.com/shanegrossphotography

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

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Some of the most stunning macro images show portraits of tiny fish. What does it take? Find out in this tutorial.
By Christian Skauge

How to Improve your Fish Portraits

Christian Skauge
Some of the most stunning macro images show portraits of tiny fish. What does it take? Find out in this tutorial.

A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person, says Wikipedia.

Fish portraits go by the same definition, and you’ve seen the kind of images we’re talking about time and time again in scuba magazines and online competitions: The tiny goby or pygmy seahorse staring you right in the eye, beautifully framed – not too much else than a curious and funny face.

But every time you try to do the same you end up with an unsharp image with lots of backscatter, and the fish is looking timidly away. How do you get to the point where you’re able to capture the details, the expression and the curiosity of the fish? Luckily, there are a few techniques you can employ to get to where it matters – when you press the shutter and capture a beautiful portrait.

 

One Task, Many Challenges

There are a great many aspects to shooting fish portraits. Needless to say you need to have a steady hand, you need to know how to get close enough, and know what to do when you get there. Camera and strobe settings must be second nature, otherwise you won’t be able to concentrate enough on your subject. When you’re in the right position your only task should be to press the shutter every time the fish is in exactly the right position.

 

 

You also need to choose your fish carefully – it takes two to tango. The smaller the fish is, the harder the shot gets. Fish have a quick and easy way to avoid predators: They swim away. Since divers are usually perceived as a threat, they tend to keep their distance - especially true for free-swimming species.

Going for an easier shot may be a good idea to begin with. A fish that lives on the bottom or rests on coral or rocks is often a good choice, and species depending on camouflage are often a lot easier to work with than a lot of other fish. Scorpionfish, sculpins, frogfish and many flatfish seem to believe that their camouflage is so good that you cannot see them, and are less inclined to take off. Blennies living in a hole or clownfish in an anemone are also good choices, as they don’t want to abandon their home just because they feel a little intimidated. Often the latter will attack rather than hide.

 

 

 

Stay Calm and Collected

In order to get a good portrait you want to be more or less in front of your finned friend, which will often make it want to leave the scene: the quickest way for a fish to escape is going forward - and you’re blocking the way. This will usually make the fish turn away from you to have a line of retreat. Some fish, like frogfish, also look beautiful from the side and this may be a viable approach if you cannot get in front of them.

To be able to get close enough to shoot a portrait, you have to make the fish believe you’re not an immediate threat. To build trust you need to patient and try to inch closer to the fish without making any sudden movements. Try not to bump into the bottom, as many species are sensitive to vibration and will take off immediately if they think T-Rex is coming.

You also want to avoid coming in too fast and having to stop suddenly, as your “bow wave” will create water pressure which scares the fish. Also, your strobes must be positioned where you want them before approaching to avoid flailing arms – another sure way to scare your subject well into next week.

 

 

Fish Hypnosis

I find that shooting some “dummy” images from a distance and as I’m getting closer seems to make the fish get used to the strobes going off, making it less timid. If you wait until you’re exactly in the right spot before you shoot, your first flash may literally scare the living daylights out of your subject.

Going “upstream”, meaning against the current, is also a very good idea. If you touch the bottom any debris will drift away behind you instead of ruining your second, third and so on images with backscatter.

Once you’re in front of the fish and have started shooting, you will often find that the fish is looking anywhere but in your lens. Fish tend to get skittish when you get in their face, and will be looking for a safe exit in case things get too hairy. There’s a neat little trick you can use to remedy this. Fish are very wary of movement, which you can take advantage of: Hold your camera with the right hand, ready to push the trigger, while you quickly snap the fingers of your left hand above the camera. The fish will automatically look to where the sudden movement is – and that’s when you snap your shot!

 

 

Look for Opportunity

Shooting fish portraits is less about photography and more about diving technique, a few clever tricks and a lot of patience. Don’t underestimate knowing your camera settings by heart, and know that finding the good opportunities and being able to exploit them properly is what will bag you those brilliant, jaw-dropping portraits that make your peers drool and your mum write proud (and slightly embarrassing) comments on Facebook.

Photographically, the images are quite straightforward: You want the face of the fish to fill as much of the frame as possible. You can play with different angles – full frontal, from the side, at an angle or even from above (which works great on some flatfish). You can also play with depth of field to get a nice bokeh or try to get as much of the fish sharp as possible, but with the smaller subjects the lens often decides for you. Shooting fish that perch on a coral or rock allows you to use the water for a silky black or heavenly blue backdrop depending on your F-stop.

You should also try to vary your distance: Some fish work really well when you’re extremely close-up, while others deserve a little bit more environment. Sometimes the fish is too small or too timid to give you a choice – but shooting different shots if you can is always a good idea. Sometimes you’ll be surprised which image is the best in a series.

 

 

 

Free-Swimming Fish

If you take your time, you’ll often find that fish have a territory. Many tend to patrol around their nest, algae garden or anemone – and they may have an almost fixed route. This is something you can exploit if you take the time to observe the fish long enough to see the pattern. Find a spot where the fish is coming towards you, move your camera accordingly and just wait for the fish to swim into the viewfinder. Manual focus may be necessary to get these shots – you will have hundreds of throwaways, but hopefully also a sharp-as-tack gem on the memory card when you’re done.

With slightly bigger fish, cropping it so tight that you actually only show a part of the face may also be very effective – and perhaps a bit different. Shooting portraits of big fish, sharks, dolphins, manatees and the like basically adheres to the same rules, at least in terms of what fills your frame.

The challenge here is that they move a lot more and a lot faster, and getting in front may be all but impossible. Since this also often includes a wide-angle lens and trickier strobe positioning it’s really hard work – a lot of swimming is often required. There are no shortcuts to great portraits of bigger animals, unless you use bait or somehow manage to get the animal interested in you rather than the other way around.

 

 

 

 

Get the Shot

One of the few things I find easy about shooting fish portraits is the choice of lens: You’ll want to have good working distance, so you don’t have to be two centimeters away from the fish to fill the frame. For Canon shooters this means using a 100mm macro, while Nikonians will definitely benefit from using the 105mm VR – for both bottom-dwellers and especially free-swimming species.

Personally, I tend to shoot a lot of my fish portraits in portrait (pardon the pun) or tall format – not because it’s easier, but simply because I find that it often fits the subject matter better. It’s easier to fill the frame and background clutter is reduced to a minimum.

No matter how you choose to shoot your fish portrait, the important thing is getting the eyes sharp above all else, and having the fish look into the camera. This provides a special connection between the viewer and the animal because it looks back at him or her, interested instead of being scared - it looks natural instead of intrusive.

Don’t expect it to come together the first, second or third time you try - shooting fish portraits takes practice on many levels. Try to keep the above mentioned techniques in mind next time you see a beautiful hawkfish perched on a piece of coral – it will give you a better shot at getting the shot!

 

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christian Skauge is a former Nordic Champion of underwater photography and has won several international photo contests. He writes articles about diving and underwater photography and is published regularly in magazines around the world. He also runs underwater photo and marine biology workshops. Check out his website for more info: www.scubapixel.com.

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

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Tips and tricks for capturing shark portraits in the blue, from the open water to behind the bars of a cage
By Caine Delacy

Shooting Great Portraits of Sharks

Caine Delacy
Tips and tricks for capturing shark portraits in the blue, from the open water to behind the bars of a cage

There are a lot of opportunities to photograph sharks in the world, but getting a shot unlike others can be difficult task.  If you’re aiming to get a unique shot that is likely to capture people’s attention, then some of these rules may help with that.

 

Look Through the Viewfinder

I often see divers with cameras ‘shooting from the hip’ so to speak, especially around sharks. Street photographer Mark Cohen shot over 800,000 images from his hip through the streets of New York and made a career out of not looking through the viewfinder, but underwater photographers don’t have this luxury of ample time. We are limited to encounters, only during dives, only during trips. Shooting from the hip is a poor waste of precious bottom time, since you are unlikely to frame your shark well well enough to create a compelling composition. You’ll have a higher rate of out-of-focus shots, or those shots where the dorsal fin is in focus but the eye is not. So make sure to use your viewfinder!

 

A classic example of not looking through the lens, or perhaps not having time to readjust the focus point on the camera as the shark entered the cage. Nonetheless, expect images that are soft, or with the in-focus part of the subject not as you wished when not looking through the camera.

 

By looking through the viewfinder (and getting half my body out of the cage to get closer), I was able to target the eye for this shot and get the focus spot on.

 

While we’re on the topic of shooting from the hip, another reason not to do this underwater is to follow a lesser-known rule of portrait photography. Steve McCurry of ‘Afghan Girl’ fame uses the following intriguing and subtle technique to create some of the most compelling portraits ever photographed.  The technique has likely been part of his great success in shooting captivating portraits of people all over the world for decades, and there’s no reason why it can’t work for sharks.  What is the technique?  It is as simple as placing the dominant eye in the center, or on the vertical center of the frame. Yes, this could somewhat go against the rule of thirds and conventional wisdom, but to get into the soul of a human (or animal) this is a sure fire way to capture the essence of that being.  Try doing that without looking through your viewfinder!

 

To frame this shot, I had to wait for the shark to come towards me. Since it was so far off, I would not have been able to compose this image without looking through the viewfinder.      

 

 

Wait for the Right Moment

While strobes are getting faster and faster at refreshing their power for the next frame, you never want to rattle off those 3-5 frames at the peak moment, only to have the first two lit-up and the 3rd or 4th failing.  And as fate would have it, it seems that it’s always those later frames that are the keepers. So be selective when that shark is coming near you. Don’t start firing off frames until the frame you are anticipating and have imagined is about to occur - the peak moment.

In addition to saving strobe bursts for the right moment, waiting also allows you to observe the sharks and their behavior, and also gives you time to compose the image. Sharks are smart, attentive, and curious, but they are wary too.  If you are shuffling around, doing 360’s to try and photograph everything, then the shark might want to have little to do with you. But by being slow and deliberate in your movements and keeping a calm heart rate, and breathing slowly, that elusive shark will come closer and closer on each pass, and hopefully close enough to nudge your dome port!

 

This is an example of good fortune, I burnt my strobes’ recycle rate before this frame so they didn’t fire, but given the clear water I was able to recover the shot and got a unique perspective of this sharks oversized pectoral fins.

 

To get this shot, instead of trying to get every shot of every shark that happened to be near us, I focused on watching the sharks’ behavior, and as they were swimming in opposite directions I decided to try to get them crossing paths. I would have missed this shot if I kept going for one or the other sharks in the vicinity.

 

 

Imagine, Plan, Execute

Many moments underwater are unpredictable and are often the product of a chance encounters. But as a photographer, you should always have a catalogue of shots in your mind that you imagine getting if that chance encounter occurs. Yet the challenge lies in thinking of an exciting new way to shoot a subject that has been photographed thousands if not millions of times. Think of Emma the (iconic) tiger shark at Tiger Beach.

With some forethought, planning, and imagination you may find yourself looking through the view finder at a moment, and a composition that no-one else has ever seen. Even now, every year there seems to be that one shot of a hammerhead or tiger shark taken at a popular destination that I’ve never seen before. This is not to say that these unique images are always planned, but planning never hurts.

 

I had the opportunity to shoot baby blacktip reef sharks while in the Seychelles, doing research, and they were very inquisitive, however all my side profile shots never get that feeling across. I decided to get low and try get the shot from the shark’s perspective. I was rewarded with a very curious approach from a very small shark about 2 ft long.

 

 

Enjoy the Moment

If all that the shark(s) is doing is swimming around you, not coming in close, and all you can mange to get are side profile shots, it’s time to put the camera down for a moment and just watch these amazing animals swim around you. You only have limited bottom time, so don't waste it getting side profile shots, spend it logging that moment to your memory, and who knows, you may observe a behavior or trait that will help you get the shot next time. 

 

 


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Further Reading

Author's Gear Profile

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caine Delacy has spent his life pursing underwater adventures. It first started with a mask and snorkel, then progressed to a PhD in Marine Ecology. He has dived and conducted research all over the world including being one of the principle investigators on the biggest reef fish survey of the East African coastline. It was natural for Caine to start photographing underwater, and this has become a major outlet of his conservation efforts and exposing the world to the wonders of the underwater world, and the issues that it faces.

www.CaineDelacy.com

Follow Caine on:  Instagram  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

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Shooting tips, light casts, best subjects and techniques for using a snoot underwater
By Mike Bartick

Ultimate Guide to Snoot Photography

Mike Bartick
Shooting tips, light casts, best subjects and techniques for using a snoot underwater

Its been said many times before that lighting is everything in underwater photography. Lighting is without a doubt a prime method to create drama, add color and contrast, create shadows, add dimension and much more to each image. Controlling that light is totally up to the photographer and his/her ability to manipulate it.

In the macro world, even the most interesting of subjects are easily lost on a confusing backdrop of sponge, hydroid or algae. Macro subjects tend to hide themselves within the substrate so well that even the best of attempts can result in a linear image. 

Snoots are a highly effective tool that will enable you to isolate your subject by surgically controlling and manipulating your strobe flash to precisely where and how you want your subject to be lit. This precise method of lighting will create the desired negative space in the frame, and with a little practice, result in some new striking compositions.

 

What is a Snoot?

Snoot, snoot, snoot what the heck is a snoot anyways? Well I'm glad you asked... Simply put, a snoot is a tool placed over the strobe head. The snoot controls and directs your strobe flash by creating a narrow or broad light beam in its cast, depending on the effect the shooter desires. Snoots do not create the flash – they are merely a tool used with your existing strobe to direct the light. 

 

How to Choose a Snoot

Not all snoots are created equally, so try to find the one that best fits your shooting style and budget. There are many snoot brands on the market and depending on the build quality, they can deliver dramatic differences in performance. Optical snoots are made with lock line filled with polished fiber optic cables, while others are more barrel-style with a diffused collector and iris masks to control the diameter of the flash beam. Other designs resemble funnels, and I've even seen a beer cozy being used with the bottom removed. And while all of these different snoots might work to some degree or another there are a couple of functional features that you will want to pay close attention to.

Read Bluewater Photo's Snoot Showdown: A Review of the Best Snoots for Underwater Photography.

 

Light Quality

This is the first important feature, and should never be compromised. You will need the light at the end of the snoot to be just as clean and bright as when it leaves the strobe head. Any loss of light means compensating with higher ISO or a wider f-stop, which can result in digital noise, shallow DOF, too much contrast, etc.

 

Flash Iris

Aka the diameter size options for the beam. You will want your snoot to have interchangeable tips or a way of controlling the light from a wide cast to a narrow beam without major changes of your strobe’s position. Once your snoot is in the right position, having the ability to narrow the beam quickly is a highly desirable feature.

 

Quick tips for learning how to use your snoot:

 

•   Attach the snoot to your left strobe so that quick adjustments can be made and you can easily check images. Task loading your right hand is extremely cumbersome.

•   Tripods are another method that ads to the task load and takes away from the organic feel and freedom of attaching the snooted strobe directly to your housing (via strobe arm).

•   Use a wider lens like a 60mm lens (DSLRs) or 30mm lens (mirrorless). This will help you to see the tip of the snoot or the flash point in the top of the frame and to create a variety of compositions.

•   Make subtle changes and move the camera around slightly for final corrections rather than moving the strobe head.

 

The most common snoot technique in the beginning is direct lighting from above, but as you learn to use your new tool you will discover other ways to create drama in the frame. Front, back or side lighting, rim lighting and even super-macro techniques can all be applied.

Your images can still be over/under exposed and contrast is greatly affected by the nearness of the snoot’s tip in relation to the subject. As the snoot tip moves closer to the subject the result will be a hotter strobe flash and tighter beam. Pulling it up or away will decrease the harshness and broaden the beam, much like shining a flashlight on a table.

 

 

Underwater Snoot Photos

 

Hairy frogfish have always posed a challenge for me to shoot well. Whether the contrasty colors, sandy or algae habitat or even dark water at night, for some reason all of the shots just feel plain and very common. The first time I shot one with a snoot, I knew I was on to something different. By pulling the snoot tip up and allowing the cast to broaden, I was able to capture a slightly larger subject.

Nikon D7100

1 YS-D1 strobe 

Subsee Optical snoot

60mm lens

F9 @ 1/250

 

A brightly colored yellow ribbon eel is easily separated from the rocks directly behind it in this image. Having an undesirable or confusing background can take away from an image very easily. I enjoyed the challenge of shooting this one and trying to get it to line up properly.

Nikon D7100

1 YS-D1 strobe

Retra-LSD

105mm lens

F18 @ 1/320

 

Creating a little drama, the snoot effect will not preclude the user from shooting a black subject. Opening the aperture a little will allow for better exposures with darker subjects.

Nikon D7100

1 YS-D1 strobe

105mm lens

F13 @ 1/160

Subsee optical snoot’s

 

Blennys are a great subject to work with as they don't normally bolt from their hole when you begin to photograph them. The biggest challenge is separating them from their surroundings. What I like about the Retra snoot is that once the critter is dialed in, you can change the shape of the light cast by moving the light shaping mask. Starting with a broad and more forgiving beam and then work your way down to smaller casts. 

Nikon D300s

1 YS D1 strobe

105mm lens

f14 @ 1/320

Retra- LSD

 

Even in bright shallow water, negative space is easy to achieve when using your snoot with a fast shutter speed. Sometimes I like to see the circle of light that surrounds the subject as well. 

Nikon D7100

105mm lens

F18 @ 1/320

1 YS D1 strobe

Retra LSD

 

Snoots aren't just for exotic waters either - they can be used anywhere and at any time. One of the hidden and added benefits is less backscatter. This can be very helpful for better lighting when diving on a silty substrate or in an area that has low visibility.

Nikon D300s

105mm lens

F18 @ 1/320

1 YS-D1 

Retra LSD

 

S. smaragdinus perfectly match their algae host, both resembling green champagne grapes. The snoot lighting is a great tool for translucent subjects, as the light seems to help create the glow effect while eliminating the extra light. A wide and direct strobe flash can be a bit overpowering at times, over-lighting an area and taking away from the subtle details of your subject.

Nikon D7100

60mm lens

F22 @ 1/160

1 YS-D1 

Retra LSD

 

Re-visiting a subject with a new trick can sometimes be just what it takes to freshen it up. Setting up the snoot becomes second nature as you gain a natural feel for your lens’ working distance. The Retra snoot allows the user to operate the aiming light on the strobe and line it up with the subject. This is very helpful for subjects that aren't sensitive to it. 

Nikon D300s

105mm lens

f29 @ 1/320

1 YS-D1 strobe

Retra LSD 

 

 

The subsee snoot gives a shooter just a little more distance to work with for shooting long macro images - great for flighty subjects. The light quality is good and the lock line articulates well. 

Nikon D7100

105mm lens

F13 @ 1/250

1 YS-D1 and Subsee snoot

 

 

Snoots are a great tool to add to you kit and should be on your list of things to take on your next dive trip (to Crystal Blue - =) ). Remember, lighting is everything, so why not enhance your lighting skills, create something new in your portfolio and challenge yourself at the same time. And like always….

Have fun!

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Bartick is an avid and experienced scuba diver and Marine Wildlife Photographer. He has an insatiable love for nudibranchs, frogfish and other underwater critters, and is the official critter expert for the Underwater Photography Guide. Mike is also one of the UWPG trip leaders. See more of his work at www.saltwaterphoto.com.

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

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Essential tips, advice and best accessories for capturing wave photos and videos with your GoPro camera
By Brent Durand

How to Shoot Wave Photos with your GoPro

Brent Durand
Essential tips, advice and best accessories for capturing wave photos and videos with your GoPro camera

GoPro Hero cameras are tough, easy-to-use and produce great photos, making them a great tool for wave photography. Traditional scuba diving housings are not designed for shooting waves – they’re bulky, heavy and use the wrong ergonomics for the positions you’ll be shooting waves from. Surf housings for DSLR cameras address all these issues but they’re expensive. So, this leaves many of us shooting waves with GoPro.

There are many experienced photographers shooting waves out there, but these are some basic tips from my experiences with GoPro surf photography.

You can view a slow motion video of a breaking wave filmed with GoPro here.

 

 

GoPro Camera Reviews

 

GoPro Tutorials

1  Get the Right Accessories

Handholding your GoPro just doesn’t work… unless your fingers are the size of a jellybean. Investing in a nice handle or trigger grip is essential for good surf photos with a GoPro. The handle provides much more reach, especially for keeping the camera inside the wave as it passes by. 

There are a number of different handles and triggers available.  A great, versatile GoPro handle is the BTS GoPro MultiGrip Handle. It’s very tough, but you will need to push the camera shutter button (in burst mode) with your second hand. There are many other brands of GoPro handles available for shooting surf photos or just general use.

Be sure to wear a wrist lanyard, because at some point, the ocean will knock the camera out of your hand and you'll be glad it is attached.

 

gopro wave

Right on the sand. Malibu, California

 

gopro handle for waves

My GoPro handle for shooting waves. I have no trigger on this, but had these Ultralight parts laying around to make a great, multi-angle GoPro handle.

 

2  Use the Right GoPro Setting for Waves

Waves move surprisingly quickly; I’ve been in, on and around them my entire life and still get surprised. The best GoPro setting for wave photos is the burst mode, which has a number of different options. Chances are that your battery will die far before you run out of space on your memory card, so try shooting with 30 frames over 2 seconds. This will allow you to capture every moment of the breaking wave and then select your favorite frame. Note that the GoPro takes a second to begin firing after you press the shutter button, so account for this as the wave is about to break and you're moving into final position.

Yes, this is a bit of “spray and pray”, and you’ll have thousands of photos to glance through, but it’s the best way to ensure you get the best shot and maximize your time in the water.

 

gopro wave

Burst mode settings on the GoPro HERO4 Silver.

 

3  Stay Still and Let the Wave Come to You

Chasing a wave is a bit like chasing a fish – it’s going to outmaneuver you most of the time. The best way to shoot GoPro wave photos is to wait at the point where the wave is breaking, whether on your feet close to shore or treading water further from shore. If you read the waves well and position yourself at that spot where the wave is breaking, you’ll find yourself in “the green room” every time.

 

gopro wave

Frothy. Malibu, California

 

gopro wave

Crisp. Venice, California

 

4  Stay Safe

The ocean, and waves in particular, can be dangerous and unpredictable. Most of the wave photos you see are from photographers with many years of experience surfing, body boarding, paddling, lifeguarding and other waterman activities. Many of the photos (unless you’re Clark Little) are also shot in waves much smaller than you would expect, so there’s no reason to go out if the waves are big and there are dangerous currents and rip tides.

 

gopro wave

gopro wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gopro wave

Pangea. Malibu, California

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

Brent is managing editor of the Underwater Photography Guide and leads occasional trips for Bluewater Photo.  Email Brent at brent@uwphotographyguide.com or email Bluewater Travel about Brent's custom photo workshops.

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Bring your macro video to the next level with these simple tips
By Sascha Janson

3 Tips for Underwater Macro Video

Sascha Janson
Bring your macro video to the next level with these simple tips

 

3 Tips for Underwater Macro Video


Bring your macro video to the next level with these simple tips

By Sascha Janson

 

 

 
SHARE THIS STORY

Most cameras nowadays are able to capture HD video (some even do 4K), and more and more underwater photographers want to take advantage of that movie feature to take home some video of the amazing macro life seen while diving. It can be tricky at first, but don’t give up after one dive. Here are three tips that will help you get better results.

 

Use a Lot of Light

When shooting macro video, we want to overpower the ambient light whenever possible to get the most vibrant colors.

In the image below (screenshots from video) you can see the difference between footage filmed with only ambient light and with a high power underwater LED video light – the colors get more vibrant with the more light we put on the subject.

 

 

You can also watch the video here:

This video was shot with a Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro lens. 1/60sec, f13, (ISO was set to AUTO to show the different results best)

 

For shooting macro video with DSLRs I recommend using two LED video lights with a wide, even beam and at least 2000 lumens. Using more powerful lights will let you close the aperture on your camera further, which gives you more depth of field. If the lights are too powerful for some scenes, you can always choose a weaker power output. It’s not impossible to get good footage with a weaker light (below 2000 lumens), but the more power you have on a light, the easier it will be.

 

 

Use the Magnify Button

Of course shooting macro video with a DSLR is more challenging than wide angle, because most DSLRs generally don’t autofocus well in video mode (some of them only focus manually). Judging the focus in the Live View on the camera’s LCD (or even on a larger monitor) is sometimes very tricky. Using the “Magnify” function and manual focus helps to fine tune the focus.

 

 

In this example of a hairy frogfish it is very difficult to see if the eye is actually in focus or not, because the whole subject is on the LCD and the eye itself is tiny.

 

 

By moving the little white square to the point of interest (here the eye) and then pressing the magnify button (red arrow) we are able to fine tune the focus.

 

 

Now we have a 5x magnification preview, which is enough most of the time to be able to judge the focus (by pressing the magnify button again, we can even have 10x magnification) and we can easily fine tune the focus manually. When the eye is in focus we can start our recording. Unfortunately, this only works before we hit the record button, we cannot do this while recording. This works best with stationary subjects or at least subjects that don’t move fast.

I used a Canon 7D in a Subal CD7 housing for this tutorial, so note that the buttons are in different positions on other housings. Newer DSLRs like the Canon 7D Mark II actually do a pretty good job with continuous auto focus, but for really small subjects, camouflaged subjects or when shooting at larger apertures the magnify button and manual focus are still essential.

 

Use a Tripod

It is very important for macro videography to be steady. Even super sharp focus, perfect light and composition will fail if your audience gets seasick. Use a tripod to get steady footage!

Example video of handheld vs. tripod underwater macro video.

 

There are many different models of tripods available – you have to choose which one is the right one for you. I prefer a tripod which doesn’t add extra height to the the housing so I’m able to shoot with the port down as low as possible, but this would not be my tripod of choice for shooting pygmy seahorses.

 

DIY locline elements tripod.

 

 

 

Further Reading

 

About the Author

Sascha Janson is passionate about diving and photography and spends a couple hours underwater every day with his camera to capture special moments of the underwater world. When he’s not diving, he’s running the photo-center ‘Cameras@Lembeh Resort‘, where he helps fellow underwater photographers with camera problems, teaches courses and produces underwater videos (click here for the Lembeh Resort video gallery). You can see more of his work at uw-pix.com.

 

 

Support the Underwater Photography Guide:


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SHARE THIS STORY

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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Make dramatic improvements in your underwater supermacro photos
By Scott Gietler

Top Tips for Super Macro Photography

Scott Gietler
Make dramatic improvements in your underwater supermacro photos

Mantis shrimp eyes, Nauticam SMC diopter F20, 1/250th, ISO 320

 Supermacro can be a very demanding, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding segment of photography. Acheiving focus, depth of field, and sharpness can be very difficult, and can finding the proper subjects and conditions. It takes a lot of practice, and there will not be many "keepers". However, it can be mastered, and your persistence will pay off.

Below are a few tips that can immensely help your super macro underwater photography. If you have never done supermacro before, read our intro to supermacro article.

 

#1  Hold your left hand under your port 

Most people hold both of their tray handles when taking a macro or supermacro photo. When shooting super macro, let go of your left handle and instead support your port or wet diopter from below. It will feel strange at first, but you will find out it is a much more stable setup, and you'll be able to find your subject easier and keep it in the frame longer.

Supermacro tutorial underwater
Single soft coral polyp from Anilao, taken at F18

 

#2  Brace yourself with excellent buoyancy

Supermacro photography requires excellent buoyancy skills, as it is very important not to hit the reef or damage any marine life. There are many reefs that have so much coral and reef, I don't even like to shoot supermacro there because of the danger of bumping into something.

I usually look for supermacro subjects on large areas of open sand or over large areas dead coral, so I can gently brace my entire rig using a finger, a metal stick, or in some cases using my using a very small area of my left wristbone on the ground. This must be done in conjunction with the technique explained in tip #1 above. By using tip #1 & #2 together, you'll get a rock-solid super macro rig that can lock in your target with a minimal amount of "having your subject fly around in the frame".

Note that it is very important not be laying on the reef, or have your fins or knees touch the ground. You must keep your contact with the reef to an absolutely minimum, and only if the area you are contacting is dead. It will help to have a photo instructor watch you shoot and give you feedback your technique and buoyancy. 

Using a backplate/wing for better buoyancy, and using stiff paddle fins can help make this exercise easier.

After you are done shooting your supermacro subject, gently inflate your BCD slightly, turn away from the subject, and slowly frogkick away, keeping your eye on the subject to make sure your fin kicks don't propel water into your subject. 


Tiny single "knob" of a starfish, F25, bracing myself with my wristbone on dead rubble

 

#3  Align your key focus points in one plane

If you subject has 2 eyes or 2 rhinophores that you want to get in focus, they must be aligned in the same plane. If the subject is a shrimp with 2 eyes and 2 claws, now you have 4 points that need to be in 1 plane. Think of it as a geometry test! This tip is very important because your depth of field is very limited when taking a super macro photo.


Tiny Hairy shrimp from Anilao. I carefully aligned the shrimp so it was all in the same plane


Brent was able to expertly get the shrimp eyes and front claws in one plane, resulting in a great photo. From Manado, Indonesia

 

#4  Point your strobes inward

To bring out the detail and texture of your supermacro subject, point your strobes inward towards your port. You'll see some photos of this techinque at the bottom of our underwater strobe position article


X-mas tree worm closeup, strobes pointed inward, F22, 1/250th, ISO 320

 

#5  Get enough depth of field

When shooting supermacro, you have only a tiny depth of field. Unless your subject is fairly flat (in which case you can get away with a larger aperture to keep more detail), you'll need to shoot at a very small aperture. F8 for compacts, F11 for Sony RX100's & G7X, F18 - F22 for mirrorless setups, and F22 - F29 for cropped sensor dSLR and F25 - F36 for a full-frame dSLR. Do keep in mind that you are gaining depth of field at the expense of detail at the 100% crop level. However, for many super macro photos, the additional depth of field will be more important.


Spanish shawl, D7000, Subsee +5, F32, photo by Scott Gietler

 

supermacro tips for underwater photography
Spanish shawl eggs,  D810, 105mm VR lens, Nauticam SMC, F40. By shooting at F40, I was able to get most of the eggs in focus, although at 100% crop you can see the effects of diffraction.

 

#6   Practise on land first

This is possible the most important tip. I have literally seen fifty different photographers try to take supermacro photos underwater, without understanding that when you use a macro lens, you can only focus at one particular distance, usually 2 -4 inches from the port. Try your setup on land first, on a table, to find out what that distance is. Rock and back and forth until you see your subject in focus. Once you learn that distance, you'll notice that you can only take a supermacro photo at that distance.

 

#7 Compact shooters - zoom in!

If you are using a compact camera with a zoom, like the Canon G16 or the Sony RX100 series, you will be better off if you zoom *all the way or most of the way in* when using a wet diopter. This will give you two huge benefits. #1 - you will get more magnification, and #2 - you will get more working distance. Yes, more working distance! I know it is counter-intuitive, but just try it. Note - when using tip #7, you must also follow my instructions in tip #6 above to avoid massive frustration.


Sony RX100, F11, Nauticam CMC, zoomed in, strobes pointed inward

 

#8   Get a great macro lens

There are several good wet diopters (macro lens) on the market - I've used the Bluewater +7, Subsee +5, Subsee +10, the Nauticam Super Macro Converter, and the Nauticam Compact Macro Converter. I've used them alot! Feel free to email me to see what would be best for you.

 


5D Mark III, 100mm lens, Subsee +10 from Bali

 


Olympus E-M1, 60mm macro lens, Bluewater +7 macro lens

 

#9   Join a macro workshop

We have great macro workshops coming up in Bali, Lembeh, and Anilao. Check them out - these destinations offer great guides, a cornucopia of macro subjects and excellent conditions for supermacro photography (e.g. - not too much surge). Our LaPaz trip this September will also offer some good macro.

Anilao Dec 2015

Anilao April / May 2016

Bali Sep 2016

Lembeh Sep 2016

 

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Santa Monica, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations. 

Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in California with his wife, newborn girl and scuba-diving, photo taking 4 year old son.

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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How to capture dramatic photos of manta rays in shallow water
By Rodney Bursiel

3 Tips to Capture Manta Ray Action

Rodney Bursiel
How to capture dramatic photos of manta rays in shallow water

I recently read an article that noted human encounters with giant mantas are very rare. This may be true in most areas, but not in the Socorro Islands. If you are looking for the perfect opportunity to photograph these gentle giants, this is the place. The dive site El Boiler off the island of San Benedicto is a cleaning station where the mantas come in for a cleaning by the resident clarion fish. They tend to be very curious and love getting bubble baths from the divers.

Below are a few tips that will help you bring home some exciting images.

 


Book Your Trip to the Socorro Islands

Bluewater Travel can help you plan and book the perfect Socorro Islands dive trip. Visit BluewaterTravel.com for more info.

 

 

 

Have the Right Equipment 

There are just a few simple things that I would recommend in order to get the best shots of the mantas at Socorro. The more important tip for capturing great manta shots takes place before you get into the water:  you need to have the right equipment. You will have the opportunity to get extremely close to the mantas, so I would highly recommend a fisheye lens. For these shots I had a Nikon 10.5 DX fisheye on my Nikon D800, which I’m actually looking to trade for a 16mm FX. The lenses are essentially the same, but the 16mm FX will provide better results for my large prints. 

 

socorro manta ray

 

 

Know Your Lighting

I was shooting with dual Ikelite DS-160 strobes, but these were not necessary since the average depth for this dive was about 40 ft. You can go deeper, but in my experience there was better action in the shallower water, and better light if you don’t have strobes. I used the strobes for a certain effect; I liked adding that pop to the picture. Just be careful not to have them too strong if you are especially close. The white on the mantas is highly reflective and can wash out your shot. Also, when not using strobes, make sure the sun is behind you to light the subject with ambient light, unless you are going for a silhouette.

 

 

Position Yourself and Be Patient

Be patient and let the manta rays come to you. The mantas will make their rounds checking out all the divers, so don’t waste your energy chasing them around. You will get a much better shot if you wait. When I see a manta approaching me, I like to position myself just above or just below its intended path. Straight-on shots just aren’t as dramatic-looking in my opinion, as I like to capture more of the animal to get more energy into the shot. I also like to include the bubbles of the other divers. To me it creates a much more interesting photo. If you are going for the bubble shot though, make sure to clean them off your dome port before you shoot. 

 

socorro manta ray

 

 

Go Have Fun

Shooting mantas is pretty simple. Just relax and let them come to you, and remember: they love the bubbles, so the more bubbles around you the more action you will get. Be careful and pay attention to your surroundings – Socorro is in the middle of the ocean. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment with one of these guys and stray off course. And remember to have fun!

 

socorro manta ray

 

 

socorro manta ray

 

 

 

Also by Rodney Busiel

Author's Gear Profile

Nikon D800 with Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye lens. Dual Ikelite DS160 strobes.

 

Further Reading

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rodney Bursiel is a music, surf and underwater photography. When he is not at home in Austin photographing the music scene, he is traveling the world chasing waves and capturing the underwater world. You can see more of his work at www.rodneybursiel.com.

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