Olympus p-mini DIGITAL & 3m housing
Japanese camera manufacturer Olympus have a long history of producing 'weatherproof' cameras and their latest digital compact ^-mini DIGITAL is no exception.
My review camera was gold but there are also five other colours available and I think this says a great deal about the camera. This is a camera for those who want to be seen with it.
Rather like the Apple iPod Mini which was underspecified and not much cheaper than the original iPod (yet is much more popular amongst youngsters), the ^-mini DIGITAL is very much about style. You only have to look at it to appreciate that.
However, this is no dumb blonde camera. Its 4 mp chip produces excellent results at the touch of a button. Sure there is the usual shutter lag but this comes with the territory. Other than that you have a fully automatic point and shoot camera that not only looks good, it performs well. Sure there are 14 'scene's which can be selected but I suspect that the majority of people attracted to this camera will like its up front simplicity with added flexibility if needed. Similarly with the zoom it's 2x which is less than most by comparison but more than adequate to this cameras purposes.
Now our idea of waterproof is not the same as Olympus's. To them it really means 'moistureproof' i.e. don't run it under a tap but you'll be fine in the sauna, though why you should be taking pictures in there is nobodies business. Whilst to us mild eccentrics this is nowhere near waterproof enough, to your non-mild eccentric it is a very useful specification because you don't have to worry about
the camera. It is designed to be rugged and still perform.
For those who want to take the camera underwater there is a very dinky 3m water resistant housing, the CWPC-01 which is only just bigger than the camera (obviously) and has all the controls to operate it to that depth. Being just 3 metres means that the majority of controls don't have to have O rings but can be operate through more elegant gaskets.
Just like the camera, the housing is very stylish and attractive and looks much nicer than those brutish 40m housings with their butch O rings, bulky
fillter threads and oversize controls. I suspect the majority of users will take it in the swimming pool despite the fact that it will perform well on shallow coral reefs.
The ^-mini DIGITAL and CWPC-01 are perfect for the image conscious who are concious of their image.
A quick click on the UR Pro website will tell you that UR Pro's Colour Correction filters are not only well used but also well loved by underwater cameramen and filmmakers. The Stan Waterman's quote sums it up really "URPRO filters provided dependable color balance to an otherwise monochromatic blue world.. .1 depend on them". More recently photographers have discovered that UR Pro's filters can work similar wonders when combined with digital still cameras. I am a big fan of their CY filter, designed for clear, tropical water and when I heard that they were releasing a new product, the shallow water CY filter (SW-CY), I had to try it.
UR Pro's justification for the SW-CY is to provide a filter suited to work between the surface at 8m (25ft), the standard CY filter is designed for an overlapping but deeper range of 3-20m (10-60ft). The two filters look identical, but have quite distinct filtration characteristics.
Most still photographers find that the most pleasing filtered images come from shallow depths (<10m/ 30ft). In deeper water (>10m/30ft), although filters improve significantly on reality, the shots can still look a bit drab. Furthermore filters work by subtraction of light so at depth we are forced to use higher ISOs to compensate for the ever-decreasing illumination, which introduces noise. Videographers can get away with these compromises because movement enlivens their images, but drab colours in a still image just leave the viewer wishing for flash! So the new SW-CY promises to be well suited to the favoured filtration depth range of the still photographer.
I decided to test the SW-CY filter on two camera systems. First I did the fully automatic evaluation using an Olympus 5060 with an INON WAL using AUTO white balance and shooting JPGs. Then for those who like more control I tested it on a Nikon D70 with a 20mm lens shooting in RAW and custom white balancing using the dropper in Photoshop's Camera RAW Plug-in. On the same dive (I did a lot of popping back to the boat) I shot the D70 with a CC40 Red filter (on the 10.5mm lens) and a standard UR Pro CY filter on a 17-35mm lens. All these shots were taken in 3.5m (14ft) of water near Stingray City Sandbar.
The SW-CY worked very well on the Olympus 5060 and nearly all
Diver and stingrays. The UR Pro Shallow Water filter produced pleasing colours, including skin tones, in AUTO white balance. Olympus 5060 + Inon WAL + UR Pro SW-CYfilter. No flash. 1/80 @ F5.6 ISO 100.
of the images looked fantastic straight from the camera. The colours of sand, stingrays and skin tones were all very pleasing. Human skin tones are notoriously tricky to get right but I thought that they were recorded with impressive accuracy. In short with the SW-CY the 5060 produced great colour with auto everything, point and shoot simplicity.
The only problem I encountered was the camera's AUTO white balance would get a bit confused occasionally and a few pictures came out slightly yellow. I am not sure what was causing this, but a simple post processing application of AUTO COLOUR in Photoshop solved this minor glitch.
Unsurprisingly, the SW-CY also yielded excellent results with the D70 again producing accurate skin tones and natural environmental colours. I tested the filter against a standard CY and a 40CC Red filter and, after custom white balancing, all
Diver and stingray. The UR Pro Shallow Water filter also worked well with the DSLR when shot in RAW and white balanced with the dropper tool (on white T shirt) in the Adobe Camera RAW Plug-In for Photoshop. Nikon D70 in Subal Housing, 20mm lens with UR Pro SW-CY filter. No flash. 1/100th @ F7.1 ISO 200.
Three images of stingrays. All three filters produced most satisfactory results after custom white balancing as before: a) UR Pro SW-CY filter on 20mm lens, b) UR Pro CYfilter on 17-35mm lens, and c) Kodak Wratten 40CC Red gel on 10.5mm lens. All Nikon D70 in Subal Housing.
three produced excellent results. The SW-CY required the smallest white balance correction of the three relative to a "standard" daylight, but none required large white balance corrections. These corrections were small enough not to have a detectable effect on image quality (large white balance adjustments in RAW do degrade image quality).
One point of interest is that the camera's AUTO white balance produced more pleasing colours straight from the camera with both the UR Pro filters than the 40CC Red. It is possible that the Colour Correcting (warming) UR Pro filters make it easier for the camera to AUTO white balance than the Colour Compensating (adding red) 40CC Red Gel.
On the negative side, my only frustration with the UR Pro filters is that these glass sandwich filters can only be fitted to lenses that accept screw filters. This notably excludes my two main wide angle lenses: the 10.5mm and 16mm fisheyes.
In conclusion the SW-CY is excellent and works well (as is clear from the images). I would expect most photographers would not want to buy both the CY and SW-CY given the large overlap in their operational depth ranges. Which filter to choose depends on what, where and why you shoot. If you want a versatile filter to use while diving then the standard CY is still your best choice. However if your reason for getting in the water is photography, and you are prepared to constrain your diving within the depth range of the filter, then the SW-CY used in the brighter light of the shallows is an excellent choice.
Alexander Mustard [email protected]
In-depth photography portfolio with trade secrets revealed, Best Dive Sites
Rated as the Best underwater photography magazine in the Asia Pacific
save up to off newsstand price
SUBSCRIPTION 6 ISSUES (ONEYEAR) / Renew my Subscription (FREEX'piorerMembership)
□ Singapore S$32/D Malaysia S$35/ □ Australia A$37.50/ □ Hong Kong S$35/ □ Asean (excl, S'pore & Malaysia) S$45/
SUBSCRIPTION 12 ISSUES (TWO YEARS)/ Renew my Subscription (FREEX'piorerMembership + NEWSayNo toSharkFinsT-Shirt)
□ Singapore S$60/D Malaysia S$65/ □ Australia A$70/ □ Hong Kong S$85/ □ Asean (excl, S'pore & Malaysia) S$85/
photo Annual (2003)
US$10 postage included -world wide Or
Golden Dolphin DVD ROM Biennial Edition - postage included
To subscribe or order the Photo annual 2003 email: [email protected]
SINGAPORE: Asian Geographic Magazines Pte Ltd, 36 Jalan Puteh Jerneh, Singapore 278058 AUSTRALIA: Asian Geographic Magazines, PO Box 2138 Carlingford Court Post Office, Carlingford,NS\N 2118 (A$ payment accepted, A$ cheque made out to Asian GeographicMagazines). SINGAPORE Tel: (65) 6298 3241, Fax: (65) 629120681 AUSTRALIA Tel/Fax: (61) 2 9686 3688
Panorama photography is nothing new but now, with the digital age, it has never been easier. There are several inexpensive, and sometimes free, software programmes which can blend your individual images together and produce a stunning vista which would not normally be possible in a single shot.
My introduction to panoramas happened quite by chance on a January holiday in New Zealand. (A holiday, by the way, is a diving trip without the diving!) We were staying with friends on the outskirts of Auckland and they took us to Devonport, a peninsula which overlooks downtown Auckland. It was a beautiful fluffy cloud, sunny day and the view as we came over the hill was absolutely breathtaking.
Armed with a simple Olympus C40 entry level digital camera (4mp which produces jpg shots about lmb in size which will print excellent A4 prints) I stood in one place and took 5 consecutive shots from left to right making sure I had left plenty of overlap from one shot to the other. It
took no more than 30 seconds.
Subsequently on a motorhome trip the next week to South Island, NZ we stopped on Crown Ridge to take in a spectacular view of the valley below. No single shot could take it all in one so again I took another series of shots from left to right. Anyone who has been to South Island NZ (as our brave Lions rugby team will soon be doing) will know that there are countless such scenes which cannot be captured in a single shot.
Fast forward back home to the tail end of a British winter and I downloaded my digital photos onto my laptop (a true holiday, by the way, is a diving trip without the diving and without a laptop and internet access!). Once I had dealt with the e mail backlog and sorted out the Nikonos repair estimates I started to look through my images from NZ.
Opening the first frames from the Auckland vista in Photoshop I started to blend them all together and after a while I had built a credible single image panorama by correcting slight exposure and perspective variations.
Now I'm a great believer in "fate" or "kismet" and for some reason I was looking at the list of applications on my Apple laptop and one jumped out at me. "PanoramaMaker" (www.arcsoft.com) seemed to shout to me that I should open it because it suggested that it could 'make panoramas'.
Seconds later (and obviously without reading the instructions) I had imported the same Auckland shots and was amazed, about a minute later, to see that the programme has not only produced an excellent panorama but it was also better than mine which has taken about half an hour to create! Within minutes I had several panoramas completed which only needed slight retouching to make them complete.
With these land panoramas in the bag I was keen to try the technique underwater but had no underwater trips planned in the forseeable future. Once again 'kismet' surfaced after a chance meeting with Alex Mustard to photograph his shiny new Subal housing for the Nikon D2x digital SLR camera. He mentioned he was looking for a last minute trip to the Red Sea to test his new outfit and within a couple of hours we were booked on MV Snapdragon out of Sharm el Sheik for a week joining a 'normal' diving trip.
On the check out dive I passed my buoyancy test with flying colours and took down my Olympus C40 in its PT-012 housing with a UR Pro CY colour filter. Alex gratiously agreed to steal himself away from his new housing combo to pose for me for my first underwater panorama. The result was not very successful but it illustrated exactly what is needed to produce a good panorama.
The following guidelines may seem obvious but here goes: Stay in one place and rotate your body rather like a tripod. Make sure you keep as level as possible.
Overlap each shot by at least 25%.
The beauty of digital photography is the speed of results. After each dive I was able to open PanoramaMaker, import the shots in sequence and about a minute later I was looking at the finished image.
With my original Auckland
The first trial underwater was not very successful but it illustrated exactly what is needed to produce a good panorama. This is six shots cut and pasted together to show that I should have kept the camera more level and used manual exposure to keep it consistent from frame to frame. Olympus C40 PT-012 housing, standard lens at wide, UR Pro CY colour correcting filter.
Taking 4 or 5 vertical frames and blending them together with PanoramaMaker produces a shot which shows a large subject, such as this wreck the Carnatic in the Red Sea, in its juxtaposition with the reef. Olypmus C40, PT-012, Inon WL-165, UR Pro CY colour filter
(Above) The same wreck shot a few years later and joined together as a panorama. Olypmus C40, PT-012, Inon WL-165, UR Pro CY colour filter
(Left) A single frame shot of the Ghiannis D shot on film a few years ago with a 16mm full frame fisheye lens
panorama I was using the standard lens which is about 35mm. Underwater this would not be wide enough for large subjects so the ideal lens needs to be the 35mm equivalent of around 20mm.
The WL-165 Inon wide angle lens is very wide (165°) but it produces very little geometric distortion and PanoramaMaker coped well when joining these images together. With such a neat camera package I was producing final images which would produce prints about 210 x 600mm in size with a file size of around 5mb.
Theoretically you should not use a full frame fisheye lens for panoramas because of the geometric (barrel) distortion it produces. That, however, is the worst thing you can say to me so I decided to try the 10.5mm Nikkor on my Nikon D70 in a Subal housing behind a low profile dome which produces noticeable edge distortion at wide apertures. Add to this that the dive was to be on the Thistlegorm at 7.30am (i.e. when the sun was very low in the sky) and that the subject I wanted was at nearly 30 metres so things were stacked against me.
Actually I had another reason to try the 10.5mm because I had a theory that whilst the geometry may be distorted the central dimensions
(Above) Despite the barrel distortion of a full frame fisheye lens, PanoramaMaker did a good job stitching 5 vertical shots together.
(Below) A typical single shot of the engine on the starboard side of the Thistlegorm. Subal/Nikon D70, 10.5mm lens, CC30 red filter 1/30 @ F5.6
the frames to the right have managed to capture the silhouette/shape of the bows giving a strong feeling of size and scale.
Having dabbled with panoramas, they are a technique I will be doing a lot more of in forthcoming trips. They can be produced with comparatively inexpensive digital cameras and are not difficult to shoot.
remain pretty much constant. By this I mean that a diver kept in the centre line of the frame will remain much the same proportionally when at the edge. With rectilinear wide angle lenses a divers body elongates towards the edge of the frame.
The railway engine off the starboard side of the ship lies about 15-20 metres from the wreck so I swam about 8-10 metres away from it so it looked quite small in the frame. Using a manual exposure (so the exposure didn't vary from frame to frame), I took 5 vertical frames from left to right.
Back on board, I discovered a panel in PanoramaMaker which lets you preset the lens being used. I chose 14mm (the widest) and it did an excellent job but struggled with the tone transitions between each frame. This gave a vertical band of darker water which was soon evened out with the help of Alex Mustard's subtle use of Photoshop.
Having finalised the panorama, Alex insisted on adding a diver from another shot for scale which is on the front cover but personally I prefer the non-diver version. The final result, to me, is most pleasing especially as
Best Value Aluminium Housing for Nikon D70
Aluminium housings have long been the choice of professionals for protecting their expensive cameras. But they've always been costly. Now Ocean Optics brings you a stunning deal that means you can have a professional level system housing from Nexus for the same price as a plastic case.
Nexus are one of the most respected leaders in underwater housing design. They also provide the best thought out port system for the extreme macro photographer and some outstanding optics for the wide angle specialist.
If you thought that you could onlyaffordanordinary housing for your precious D70, think again!
Nexus D70 Housing - The Best Value Aluminium Housing for Your Nikon.
^^ ^^ 7 Bush House Arcade, Bush House www.oceanoptics.co.uk
OCEAN OPTICS Aldwych, L ondon, WC2B 4PA °[email protected] °cean°p tics.co.uk
Tel 020 7240 8193 Fax 020 7240 7938
A two and a half hour flight from London there is a dive site which must rank in the world's top ten. The visibility is in excess of 50 metres - guaranteed - and in theory one side of the dive is in America and the other is in Europe. Welcome to Silfra cracks, Thingvellir, Iceland.
Silfra is a dive into the earth's crust where it is very gradually splitting apart. The resulting cracks are filled with glacial water which melts and is filtered through the volcanic rocks. It is pure fresh water in an area with virtually no marine growth or life producing water clarity easily in excess of 50 metres. As if the visibiity were not enough, the topography is not far from unique underwater.
Any downsides? Well, yes. The water may be crystal clear but it's only around 2°C and you have to walk all your equipment at least 50 metres over varied terrain. This is dry suit country for sure and you are unlikely to be able to go more than 30 minutes underwater before your hands stop co-operating and your brain loses its power to concentrate. It is physically very hard work but diving here is like nowhere else and the discomfort is but a fleeting irritation compared to the sensory overload this dive will produce.
It all started with an e mail from Charles Hood, senior correspondent at Dive Magazine here in the UK. How did I fancy a press trip to Iceland for 5 days in April? Like most things with me I said "Yes" without giving it any thought. It was only when I checked on the internet and found that the seawater temperature was around 5°C at this time of year that I realised I hadn't done a dry suit dive for a couple of years and even then it was in Cornwall in July when the water was a balmy 17°C.
Iceland Express is a low cost airline which has increased tourist numbers in Iceland significantly.
(Top) A panorama of the inland lakes and cracks at Silfra where the continental plates drift apart by 2 cm per year
(Left) Little and Large at the diving platform at the beginning of the dive (Below) A panorama of three shots at the lagoon at Silfra Cracks. The water is crystal clear with in excess of 50 metres visibility. Nikon D70, Subal housing, Nikon 10.5mm fisheye. F5.6 on Auto. Preset white balance. Available light
They fly fro, London Stansted, Frankfurt and Copenhagen to Reykjavik on a daily basis. Well I say Reykjavik but actually the airport is in Keflavik which about 30 miles away but this is really handy because the dive center is in Keflavik!
The Dive Center was founded and built up by Tomas Knutsson, a go getting Icelander who has been diving these waters since the 1970's. He runs a very efficient centre and caters for small groups with varied itineraries. We had just four days to sample the local dive sites which is obviously not enough but it gave us a taste of the diving which can best be described as similar to UK diving but with usually more marine life but much colder water. Most of the dives are from the shore but, weather permitting, inflatable and hard boat dives can be arranged.
tn my first dive I managed to go for 30 minutes before my hands told me to get somewhere warmer or they were thinking about falling off. Fortunately I was not alone as
both Charlie and Tomas's hands were giving them the same ultimatum.
As it has been a while since I either shore dived or had to wear a dry suit (I need an 18kg weightbelt!) my body was threatening to join my hands by the end of the first day (that's how it should be said properly, by the way. Not 'by then end of 'day one").
After a couple of pints of Guiness in the evening in the compulsory in every town abroad 'tyrish' pub and an excellent seafood meal in one of the many excellent restaurants in Keflavik we both agreed that the diving had more marine life than the UK but at nearly 6° colder it was offering little encouragement to spend good money getting more marine life in colder water. "Ah well, we're here now" we said. Let's see if it gets any better tomorrow. Little did we know what was in store.
Wednesday dawned and Tomas was in a good mood. In recent years he had tenaciously formed a local PADI Project Aware activity which had expanded successfully in his "Blue Army" - a group of local volunteers who clean up beaches and remove tons of scrap tipped into the sea at various vantage points. His "Blue Army" had taken on another sponsor that day who provided much needed funds to contine and expand the campaign. Unknown to us, Tomas's good mood was also caused by the inner knowledge that he was about to blow our diving socks off with today's diving. Silfra cracks is just over an hour's drive from Keflavik. We loaded the Toyota Hiace with everything we needed for the day including a small flask which we presumed was Tomas's coffee. Little did we realise that this flask would help us last the maximum time in the water which was 2°C.
We had heard Silfra cracks was a great dive but we just weren't prepared for just how great a dive it
(Top) A sample of pure fresh water from Silfra Cracks was the perfect addition to our nightly celebration with a glass ofLaphroaig (Left) A diver is essential to give a sense of scale.
Nikon D70, Subal housing, Nikon 10.5mm fislieye. F5.6 on Auto. Preset white balance. Available light
is. Our anticipation wasn't dampened by having to lug all our gear about 50 metres to the access platform. We were intimidated by the thought of the water being just 2°C. That's just 2° from when it starts to solidify, remember.
All fears melted away as we looked down into the still water at the beginning of a 5 metre wide crack. It was prefectly, perfectly clear. I had never seen such clarity.
As we slipped into the water, despite a good dry suit and undersuit, hood and gloves it still took our breath away. The pain on our unexposed cheeks (face cheeks, that is) was headacheingly intense. Fortunately this soon faded as we started our dive swimming along the narrow, boulder strewn crack. Our eyes widened as we took in the enormity of the scene but I'm sure I heard Tomas chuckling into his demand valve. He knew we were being blown away with the starter course and he had a main course
(Above) On a calm sunny day the dazzling colours and rock formations reflect in the still surface water
(Left) Cliarlie Hood with one hand on America and the other on Europe. Both shots Nikon D70, Subal housing, Nikon 10.5mm flslieye. F5.6 on Auto. Preset white balance. Available light up his sleeve which would top that several fold.
After about 10-15 minutes we went over a series of small boulders and into a steep sided ravine but as we looked forward we could see a steeply sloping sand bank rising up to meet the land. As we were shallow I surfaced to see how far away the land was and was amazed to see it was well in excess of 50 metres. Absolutely unbelievable. This is Silfra Hall.
All the while Charlie and I were clicking away with our 10.5mm full frame fisheye lenses on our Nikon DSLR cameras. The tonal range from surface to ' seafloor' was usually too great for the digital cameras to cope with but as long as we kept the surface out of frame it was mostly OK.
We had planned to finish the first dive at this point rather than swim back into the very slight current. All of our hands were once again
Tornas Knutsson founded and runs The Dive Centre in Keflavik. This is a very well rim PADIfacility just 5 minutes from the airport. In addition since 1995 he has worked tirelessly to clean up the Icelandic environment under the PADI Project Aware and has formed The Blue Army group to clean the coastline. It has removed over 42 tons of debris dumped in the sea from pier ends and other access points. He has received numerous awards and also runs a youth programme Kids Aware.
revolting (well, you know what I mean) so we surfaced into the pleasant 10°C land temperature and then took our scuba gear off and carried our tanks about 200 metres back to the Toyota to eat and, more importantly, pour the contents of Tomas's 'coffee' flask into our gloves. This was, obviously, just hot water and the effect was orgasmic. We had successfully negotiated with our hands to let us go for another dive.
After another 200 metre walk back with a fresh tank we were well knackered but warm in our dry suits. Suitably kitted up Charlie was the first to dive. He surfaced almost immediately and took the good Lord's name in vain quite loudly. "You've just got to see this" he said excitedly. We were kitting up next to 'Silfra Lagoon'. On the surface it is a circular area of water bounded by gently sloping land. Underwater as we ducked down we were treated to the most amazing scene I think I have ever seen. The colours were breathtaking, the clarity seemed infinite and the surface reflections were to die for.
Great care is needed to avoid kicking up the fine silt with your fins but fortunately there is a slight but constant outward current which cleans the site remarkably quickly.
Swimming back the way we had come gave us another angle of view to expose yet more shots on. The sheer scale was difficult to capture without a diver in shot so we took it in turns to take shots so we had two divers in
frame. The day was cloudy but the diffused light help keep contrast levels down.
The swim back took about 30 minutes by which time our hands were up to their usual tricks so we were exhausted but extremely pleased to be climbing up the metal steps to the dive platform.
Now at this stage, you have a choice. The first is the most tempting - namely get this heavy gear off my back asap and I'll come back and collect it later when I've changed. The second choice is more painful but quicker in that you keep everything on and tramp back to the truck. It's up to you.
That evening Charlie and I looked at our shots on the laptops and we were pleased with them for a first attempt but gradually we both began to think that we had not maximised the potential of the site and a slightly different dive plan was needed.
The next day Tomas smiled again as we asked him to reschedule the rest of the trip to go back to Silfra as many times a possible.
Charlie had come up with a good idea to maximise our photographic potential at this site. He suggested that on the first dive he would take photographs and I would model and vice versa on the second dive. This would leave the photographer to concentrate on his shots with a dedicated model. The plan worked very well and all shots in this article were taken on this day.
We also rethought our dive plan to avoid the 200 metre and back tramp with our cylinders between dives. This time we snorkelled out to the best location and then continued our dive with plenty of air left to swim back to the platform.
The cracks at Silfra are without doubt a world class dive site. True, the water is very cold indeed and access is not ideal but this is but a minor negative rewarded by stunning scenery in water which must be some of the purest on earth.
Now I've left this last bit of information til now in the hope that readers will have drifted away and to save Tomas from an avalanche of e mail bookings. Keep it to yourself, but from London you could dive the Silfra Cracks in a weekend! Iceland Express have daily flights from Stansted (and Copenhagen and Frankfurt as well). Their flights start from £68 one way and the flight time is only 2.5 hours.
In addition there is comfortable accommodation at Hotel Keflavik and several good restaurants in the town so there is no need to hire a car unless you want to take in some scenery.
Finally, no visit to Iceland would be complete without a visit to The Blue Lagoon. This is a geothermal Spa where you can enjoy bathing in
water at 35°C and it is known for its positive effects on the skin. It is the most visited attraction in Iceland and is well worth a visit.
And finally finally we went on a whale watching trip on our last morning. This was a two hour cruise looking for minke whales and dolphins. I think they were on holiday that day but we didn't care. We were still basking in the wake of the Silfra cracks.
Raja Am pat)
Limited participation photography speciality trips aboard the SMY Ondina liveaboard in Indonesia.
(See the BEST of Raja Ampat with our photographer groups
Our goals: maximize dive time, minimize travel time, insure a compatible group to dive the best sites at the perfect time to see & photograph the amazing profusion of soft corals, schooling fish and small creatures, v_/
Photo Galleries 6t Details at
or call 817.626.0636 in Texas more trips at:
Vive La Difference
In the last issue of UWP I wrote a first impressions review of the new Nikon D2X and said I'd report in my field experience in this issue. In short, the camera is superb and its image quality exceeds that of all other Nikon digitals and also the best slide film, and by quite a margin once that film has been scanned. tn a personal level, the D2X means I no longer have a reason to expose film. For me the digital debate, the question of whether digital is as good as film, is concluded.
That said, I always thought that the digital debate was barking up the wrong tree. People seemed far too concerned about taking exactly the same shot on film and digital and seeing how each performed. Instead we should accept both are now capable of producing excellent quality results. More importantly we must learn that digital IS different from film. Understanding and then exploiting the differences offered by this new technology is the big issue of digital. The key to exploiting digital is NtT just to repeat the images we took on film. What is exciting about digital is the ability to shoot in new ways and create types of images that were impossible before. Vive la difference!
So instead of going on about how great the D2X is. Its arrival makes it timely to review a couple of the ways the techniques of underwater photography have evolved in this digital world. I'd like to give more examples, but I only have space to touch on two areas of digital imaging and discuss how they have changed the way we shoot. These are post processing and first the LCD screen.
The simple LCD screen on the back of a digital camera offers a variety of examples of how the techniques of underwater photography have evolved. With a compact camera we no longer have to hold the camera to our eye, we can shoot with the camera out in front of us, reducing the critical camera to subject distance, or place the camera level or below subjects when there isn't room for us to fit.
Far more importantly the LCD is crucial to the technique of digital photography because it allows us to critically review our images while we are in the water. Image review has two main benefits to the quality of our pictures. First we can adjust our settings until we produce increasingly polished results - this constant review and optimisation during shooting is key to the technique of digital photography. To exploit the technology to the full we should examine focus, depth of field, exposure, lighting and composition, refining each until we nail the shot. Then second, armed with the knowledge that we have bagged the classic shot it is time to experiment. Success in the LCD screen should encourage us to try different camera angles, different combinations of aperture and shutter speed, different compositions - basically looking for images that offer something new.
One of many possible examples is refining the classic theory of complementary colours. This theory states that for the greatest impact a subject should be set against a background colour of contrasting hue (a colour from the opposite side of a colour wheel). Complementary colour theory is nothing new; Vincent Van Gogh once wrote "I am thinking of decorating my studio with half a dozen pictures of sunflowers, a decoration in which the raw or broken chrome yellows will blaze forth on
When we are aware of what can be achieved in post processing it can change the way that we take images. This image would be impossible to produce in camera, but I was able to show the model the finished picture later on during the same afternoon. Nikon D2X + 10.5mm, Subal Housing, f4.5 @ 1/ 640th.
The LCD screen should encourage you to experiment once you have the standard shot. Once I had taken the standard left hand image of the pygmy seahorse I chose to extend my exposure to create a blue background version, right. Nikon D100, Subal Housing. 105mm +4 dioptre. Leftf32 @ 1/180th, rightf32 @ l/15th. Subtronic Alpha and Inon Z220. This shot was hand held.
various backgrounds of blue, from the palest malachite green to royal blue". And underwater photographers have followed suit, setting warm coloured subjects (red soft coral, orange sponge, yellow seafan etc) against cool blue water. The LCD screen simply allows us to assess how these colours are working together and adjust them until we get the perfect match. Foreground colours are hard to change, but we can control the hue of blue water with our shutter speed - an underexposure gives us a deep blue and an overexposure and vibrant cyan - until it becomes the ideal compliment.
Furthermore we are not the only ones who can benefit from the LCD screen. When working with models the LCD screen is a massive benefit allowing the model to see exactly
Comparing the resolution of the D2X and scanned Velvia shot with the same lens. The Velvia has been scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 5000, the resulting file (55MB TIFF) is about 20 megapixels. The D2Xfile is smaller 12 megapixels, but I have uprezzed it in Photoshop using Image Size to 20 megapixels. Then crops of the images are presented at 100%. It is clear that the digital camera captures more and shows it more cleanly that the slide/scanner combination.
how they appear in the final image. I don't usually have the chance/finances to travel with a dedicated model and often end up working with the dive staff at the places I visit. I cannot overstate how useful I have found the LCD screen in turning first time underwater posers, into the perfect
The LCD screen helped me get just the right amount of zoom blur on the picture of the angelfish (Nikon D100, 28-70mm, fl3 @ 1/lOth, Subtronic Alphas). But in this digital age we must question whether my precious time underwater might have better spent adding the zoom blur in Photoshop as in the diver picture (Nikon D100 + 10.5mm, f8 @ l!90th, Subtronic Alphas).
models. The LCD also includes them in the process, and makes the whole experience much more fun.
Post processing can obviously be used to correct the mistakes we make when taking pictures. But it is far more powerful tool when we are inspired to change the way we shoot underwater knowing what is capable in post processing. This is important because it allows us to create images than cannot be produced in camera. Peter Rowlands' panorama article in this issue is a perfect example of this approach. Creating a final image that combines a thought that encompasses several presses of the shutter.
It is not by whim that David Doubilet's great book is called "Water, Light, Time". For the
The challenge with digital is not to master the new methodologies of digital, but to try and exploit them to create images that could not be created with conventional techniques. In this image I have tried to utilise the characteristics of filter photography to achieve an image with colour penetration that would not be possible in a flash lit image. Nikon D100 + 12-24mm, UR Pro CYfilter. Subal housing. F4.8 @ l/40th.
underwater photographer is always running out of time. Time with our subjects is perhaps our most precious commodity. To fully exploit digital we should be aware of what can and cannot be achieved more easily in post processing, and manage our time underwater appropriately. For example perfecting an exploding zoom image may take 10 minutes out of a dive - so why not achieve the effect in Photoshop? Integral to this approach are the ethics of digital manipulation. Personally I get far more pleasure from an image I created in camera, but we must be careful not to stick our heads in the sand as the world changes around us. I must add that I find digital manipulation far more palatable when it is used, such
Complimentary colours. With reference to the colour wheel I selected a dark blue water colour (underexposed) to accompany the yellow sponge and a cyan water to go with the orange frogfisli. Both Nikon D100, Snbal Housing.
as in compositing, to create an image that is clearly impossible to produce in camera.
The easy mistake to make with post processing is to think it is a cure for all woes. Dave Lloyd, the art editor of DIVE magazine who regularly coaches on Photoshop, refers to Adobe's finest as "Photoshop The Destroyer" since all manipulations act to remove data (and to some degree degrade final image quality). Significant colour correction and manipulation as well as cropping etc all reduce your final image quality and should be done in moderation.
Probably the best area for exploiting post processing software lies in the flexibility of RAW files. Many people shoot RAW because it allows them to optimise exposure after taking an image, but what really gets the creative juices flowing is being able to adjust your film's colour balance and contrast after shooting (with minimal loss of image quality). Armed with the knowledge of what RAW can achieve we can get back into the water and shoot photographs that weren't possible or practical on slide film.
Traditionally, telephoto lenses have been considered unsuitable for underwater photography because shooting through too much water means the resulting images lack contrast, clarity and colour (except for blue that is). RAW files and good RAW conversion software is an effective way to overcome these problems allowing us to adjust the colour balance and inherent contrast of our "film stock" to compensate. From an ethics point of view I find this acceptable because all we are doing when manipulating RAW is taking decisions away from the camera (or its programming) and giving them to the photographer. Now we can exploit the different perspective that these lenses offer.
A second example is available light photography with filters, which can produce stunning results when the colour balance is fine tuned with the appropriate RAW conversion software (as has been discussed in several articles in UWP). Remember that the advantage of RAW is that if such significant manipulations are made on JPG or TIFF files in Photoshop it introduces unacceptable noise levels.
I'm afraid I have only had space in this article to scratch the surface of life in this new digital world. The real challenge to the photographer is not grasping the methodologies, but in coming up with images that exploit the new technical possibilities in creative ways. Filter photography, for example, allows us to add colour to our images in a completely different way to shooting with flash. No longer is colour limited by strobe aiming and the inverse square law. Its is our job to devise new types of underwater images that exploit this colour penetration away from the camera.
After years of being limited to the same handful of classic techniques, suddenly the world of underwater photography has changed. Of course digital cannot break the laws of the physics (of light underwater), but we are certainly empowered to bend the classic rules of underwater photography. These are exciting times with novel techniques and new ways of shooting waiting to be discovered. Surely there has never been a better time to be an underwater photographer.
Alexander Mustard [email protected] ustard. com
What links these sites?
London's premier watersports centre 11-14 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5AQ Tel: 020 7930 5050 Fax: 020 7930 3032 ematl:[email protected]
www, ocean Ieisu re.co. uk
A new look at macro lighting
As we all should already know, strobes produce white light (5400 to 5600 Kelvin), and we use strobes underwater for two main reasons. To illuminate an object, or to replace colors that would otherwise be absorbed. It's as simple as that, or is it? As a commercial photographer, I've spent nearly a decade lighting my subjects from every physical angle possible and there's a lot more to lighting than meets the eye.
The truth is, there are many techniques commercial photographers use to achieve those glossy product advertisements you see in magazines (think about those 'mood' shots of hand phones and watches) They were of course done in a studio, but here's the question. Why can't we use some of the same approach in underwater photography? Besides it's size and output, studio strobes are no different. They all produce white light, it's how we use them that makes the difference.
With that in mind, I would like to share with you two simple lighting techniques commonly used by commercial photographers called 'bounce' and 'cutting'. It's nothing new to photography, just that it's hardly been used underwater. (Even if some divers do use them, they are sure as hell are not sharing the secret!)
Was this article helpful?
Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.