Shooting with the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Strobe in the Sea of Cortez

The Sea and Sea YS-D3 Lightning strobe produced beautiful wide angle and macro photos during our recent photoworkshop in the Sea of Cortez
By Nirupam Nigam

One of my favorite things about leading the Underwater Photography Guide's photoworkshops is bringing along new toys to try out and show our guests. During our July 2020 Sea of Cortez photoworkshop aboard the Rocio Del Mar, I had the pleasure of bringing a pair of new Sea & Sea YS-D3 Lightning strobes with me to use in my underwater photography. The Sea of Cortez is the perfect place to try out a new strobe with clear water, lots of sun, and a variety of lighting conditions that are a result of the Sea of Cortez's unique underwater topography. From deep, dark, silty walls, to shallow, clear coves the YS-D3's needed to be able to handle different qualities of water and light. They also needed to be able to keep up with fast sea lions and finicky little jawfish.

Over the course of the week, I was very impressed with the quality of light from the YS-D3's, but most importantly their speed. When I was taking photos with low strobe power on dark walls, the strobes had literally no recycle times below 1/4 power. This made it very easy to capture well lit photos of quick fish - perfectly in sync with the strobes. At higher powers the YS-D3s do have a recycle time, and at full power they are very similar to the speed of the YS-D2Js. But it was at higher powers where I really appreciated the quality of the beam. When I shot wide angle photos with the YS-D3 dome diffusers, I found the light to be much more even. The diffusers also helped greatly reduce backscatter when I was photographing sealions - who tend to kick up a lot of silt. Overall, my initial impressions of the YS-D3 made me want to upgrade my Sea & Sea YS-D2Js. In this photo essay, I will go over some of my favorite photos from the trip and why I think the Sea & Sea YS-D3 strobes excelled in these particular situations.

Sea & Sea YS-D3 Strobe




Join us for our next Sea of Cortez Workshop or book other Sea of Cortez trips with Bluewater Travel!

Sea of Cortez Workshops 2021


July 2

July 24-31, 2021

August 7 - 14, 2021

Starting at $2,845


Read the 2020 Sea of Cortez Trip Report



The Sea & Sea YS-D3 is AVAILABLE NOW at Bluewater Photo:


Sea & Sea YS-D3 Lightning Strobe


Read Bluewater's full review of the Sea & Sea YS-D3 Lightning

Read Bluewater's review of the top accessories for the Sea & Sea YS-D3




This is the Rocio Del Mar - our vessel for the trip. The Rocio Del Mar is a spacious and fairly luxurious dive liveaboard with an outstanding crew and rather astonishingly good food. If you're interested in our full experience in the Sea of Cortez's Midriff Islands, check out the trip report I wrote on our photoworkshop.


King Angelfish Photographed with a Nikon Z6, Ikelite Nikon Z6 Housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D3 strobes, and a Nikon 8-15mm fisheye lens

This photo of a King Angelfish (Holacanthus passer) is one of my favorite photos from the trip and highlights all the great things that the YS-D3 brings to the table. King Angelfish are notoriously difficult to photograph and tend to shy away from divers. Even if you can get close, they tend to swim out of range within a matter of seconds. When I took this photo I knew there was a fish that was about to come out of a hole in the rocks, so I did behind an adjacent rock. When it did emerge, I jumped out from my hiding place and photographed him in a matter of a few seconds. I set my camera to shoot 3 frames per second. The sky was dark, as you can see in the photo and I was rather deep on a rock wall. Thus I only needed a little bit of strobe power to light the shot, and my strobes easily kept up with my 3fps frame rate. The strobes managed to light every shot in the series! Not missing a shot is something I haven't experienced with other strobes, and I really appreciate the speed on the YS-D3. I also found the light to be really nice and even - especially with the dome diffuser accessories. Moreover, I didn't need to remove any backscatter from this photo as the diffusers help eliminate backscatter. 


Scorpionfish Eye photographed with the Nikon Z6 camera, Ikelite Z6 housing, and single Sea & Sea YS-D3 strobe with the YS-D3 snoot

One of my favorite things about the YS-D3 is the number of inexpensive, useful accessories that you can purchase with the strobe (for more on that, check out Bluewater's review). I used the YS-D3 snoot that is made by Sea & Sea specifically for the YS-D3. It's one of the most affordable snoots on the market and works quite well. It even has a built in prism that concentrates the targeting light so I could properly aim my lens at the eye of this scorpionfish. The circular effect in this image is from the saga magic tube


Black coral photographed with dual YS-D3 strobes, dome diffusers, Nikon Z6, Ikelite Z6 housing, Nikon 8-15mm fisheye. 1/160, f/11, ISO 200

I like this photo because it shows just how wide of an angle the beam of the YS-D3 is with the YS-D3 dome diffusers. I was also easily able to focus on this wall of black coral, even though I was far from the wall using the YS-D3 target lights. They are much brighter than the target lights on the YS-D2J. I've forgotten my dive light on a couple dives, and I've even been able to use the target lights on the YS-D3 as my primary dive light (though I would probably recommend somthing else for a dive light as you don't want to rely on your strobes for light). 


Sea lions photographed with dual Sea & Sea YS-D3 strobes, Nikon Z6, Ikelite Z6 housing, Nikon 8-15mm fisheye lens. f/11, 1/125, ISO 400

I like this photo because it shows just how nice the beam quality is from the Sea & Sea YS-D3. This photo was captured in a well lit cove full of sea lions. The beam from the strobe is just subtle enough to add color to the sea lion without making the viewer think that there is artificial lighting in the image. This photo also shows that the beam is just slightly cooler than the YS-D2J. Even though you can edit white balance easily in lightroom if you have a RAW file, the colors do come out slightly different. I can't decide if I like the rendering on the YS-D3 or the YS-D2J better, but they both produce beautiful results. All in all, the YS-D3 is now my favorite strobe from Sea & Sea and I think it's worth the upgrade. 



The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


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


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


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