Inventors of the Camera Pivot, used by underwater photographers worldwide. Made for the Motor Marine II, Nikonos cameras, and some housings
MAKERS OF THE MOST VERSATILE, LIGHTEST WEIGHT, & MOST FLEXIBLE ALUMINUM ARMS ON THE MARKET
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Adapters for video & camera housings, Nikonos, RS, and all strobes & video lights.
Often copied, never equaled, This will be the last set of arms you will have to purchase. If you are tired of fighting with your current arm system, it doesn't hold where you put it, takes two hands to undo a clamp, or you can never get your strobe positioned where you want it, check out Ultralight's arm system.
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The Nikonos V
A Statement From Ocean Optics
It is now official that the Nikonos V camera is to be discontinued following a final production run of 3000 cameras.
As users of the Nikonos system ourselves, and as dealers whose name has been synonmous with the Nikonos line since 1976, we very much regret Nikons decision.
However, once Nikon confirmed the news we immediately made a significant investment in Nikonos V bodies, lenses and strobes.
Ocean Optics Ltd, our sister company which has provided servicing of the Nikonos for a quarter century has also stocked up heavily on spares to ensure continued aftersales to existing and new owners. We will continue to manufacture our close up lenses and macro tubes as we have done for over two decades.
We hope this makes our continued commitment to the finest underwater camera ever produced unambigous!
The Ocean Optics Team London
Tony White's Undenvatei1 Photographic WoHd
Photographic Workshops and Tours I Fine Photogmphic Gklec Prints la it jW n dream to b* able to take wonderful photographs like these,
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WaL/ld you lita to extend yOur knowledge W\z Indonesia, Mozambique, Southern Bed Seo, Kangaroo Island or Turkey ?
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A little known photographers' paradise
By Steve & Jenny Powell
Like many underwater photographers in the UK, we had pretty much given up on UK diving. Living in the Midlands, trips to the coast had to be planned well in advance and were usually blown out by the vagaries of the weather. A move to Guernsey in the Channel Islands in 1998 gave us the opportunity to resurrect our UK diving and with it green water photography.
Guernsey is one of a group of islands off the coast of Normandy in the Gulf of St Malo known as the Channel Islands. Guernsey is the second largest in the group yet covers only 25 sq miles. Since 1066 AD the Channel Islands have remained possessions of the English Crown however they have their own governments and are not part of the EEC. The main industry is Offshore Finance and they enjoy a more favourable tax status than the UK, for example there is no VAT or Capital Gains Tax. The capital of Guernsey is St Peter Port situated on the east coast and surrounding the pretty harbour often described as one of the most picturesque in the world.
Guernsey boasts one of the largest tidal ranges in the world. A spring tide can give a range of up to 10m and even an average neap tide gives a range of 3m. These big tides are both a blessing and a curse for the underwater photographer. The vast amount of water flowing in and out of the Channel causes some very strong currents, which means the exposed sites are covered in current loving species like Jewel Anemones and large Sea Fans . It also means that the visibility often improves very quickly after bad weather. The downside is that picking the time of your dive to coincide with slack water is critical. For the non underwater photographer there is some very exciting diving to be had.
Guernsey may be a small island but the proximity of its sister islands, Herm, Sark, Jethou, and Brecqhou means that the variety and diversification of the dive sites in such a small area is spectacular. It is interesting that many Jersey divers travel to Guernsey and Sark because they consider the diving here to be so much better.
For underwater photography the following sites are some of our personal favourites:
Nikon F5 in Subal housing always set to manual. Flash, Subtronic Mega Colour or SB25. Sea and Sea YS30 slave for macro shots. Set to TTL with -1EV for the wide angle shots. Flash arms, Ultralight. Film, Fuji Provia 100 slide.
The settings are best guess, I bracket a lot and don't take notes underwater!
Havelet Bay, St Peter Port
A shore dive with very easy access that can be dived at all states of the tide except a low spring. The bay is protected from all but strong south easterlies by the harbour wall and the picturesque Castle Cornet, which once served as the military stronghold to protect the town of St Peter Port. Maximum depth is 10-12m. This is superb for macro photography, there being vast numbers of Snakelocks Anemones with resident Periclimenes sagittifer, Scorpion Spider Crabs Inachus sp and Slender Spider Crab Macropodia tenuirostris .
This spectacular reef is a small sea mount reminiscent of a Maldivian thila! It can be easily circumnavigated in 20 minutes but it is best to linger on the west and south sides, which are completely covered in Jewel Anemones of every colour imaginable. Many small invertebrates live amongst the anemones. Here you will find the Periclimenes shrimp on the yellow boring sponge. The very photogenic Painted Topshell is common here. Across the sand heading slightly south there is often a large shoal of Sandsmelt, a real challenge for wide angle photography.
Parfonde South of Jethou
This is a sheltered reef, very picturesque in the shallows, where masses of granite boulders form swim throughs, overhangs and small caves amongst areas of sparkling white sand domed and carved by the currents. The boulders are home to myriads of fish including Cuckoo Wrasse, Ballan Wrasse, Pollack, Conger Eels, Tompot Blennies and the shy Black-Face Blennie. Moving south there is a superb wall which goes from the surface down to 20m where it becomes a boulder slope down to sand at about 25m. The cracks in the wall are again home to numerous crustaceans.
L'Etac South of Sark
Many local divers consider this to be the best reef dive in the whole of the Channel Islands. It is subject to very strong currents, is sheer sided, deep and can be challenging for the underwater photographer. Here there is an abundance of the beautiful Sunset Coral. The visibility is often superb making it a good site for wide angle photography.
Winters are mild but windy giving some fairly rough seas. The best time for visiting divers is May to September. Condor Ferries serve the island from Poole and Weymouth. There are easy links from many regional airports. Local knowledge is vital for safe
TP..' - f diving and ex fisherman Graham Eker who owns and runs Dive Guernsey (www.geker.freeserve.co.uk) has more than 30 years experience of local waters. He operates a hard boat licensed for 10 divers. He provides diving services to many local divers so it is not necessary to book the whole boat and small groups can be easily accommodated. Accommodation can be arranged through travel agents or the Guernsey Tourist Board (www.guernseytouristboard.com)
Steve & Jenny Powell email
The Seals Of San Simeon California by Edwin Marcow
The sky was dark and threatening, black clouds hung on the horizon menacingly. The air was charged, as if something was about to happen. The male bulls appeared excitable, their grotesque bulbous shapes dotted the shore like a Manhattan skyline.
The stage was set for battle, like giants of Greek mythology who had been asleep for aeons and were slow to anger, but whose wrath was violent and vindictive. So the male elephant seals, squared up to each other as Gladiators.
The male bulls weigh up to 2,300 kg and grow to a length of 4.5metres.They have large, imposing tusks that can inflict fatal wounds on a lesser opponent and with their pronounced proboscis they are a very imposing sight to behold.
Papa Bear , as Andrea liked to call him, was such an imposing sight. He was the alpha male and he had a lot to defend. He had the prize of a large colony of females, who were sure to pass his lineage on to the next generation. He would pass on one day, but his genes would live on through them. This was now all under threat however, as younger bulls threatened his dominance.
We were in San Simeon, California to photograph and document what we observed and we encountered more than we hoped to dream.
A lone younger male charged up the beach on Papa Bear1s right flank, full of spirit and impertinice. On his left flank, two other males now gave chase. Papa Bear moved his enormous bulk down the beach towards the shore line. As he did so, he swung right to the first male. The earth shook and trembled, as a roar went up from Papa Bear and this young upstart stopped in his tracks. There were still the two males on his left flank, however, who were steadily moving up the beach. Things looked ominous. Maybe the game was up for Papa
Bear. He turned and charged straight at this moterly crew he saw before him. Another roar bellowed in the air, tusks bared for all to see. He had no choice, his only defence could be to attack, otherwise he may lose all that he pervade. His right to all the females as long as he could muster the strength and stamina to fend off repeated and sporadic assaults on his dominance of his harem. Would be lost this very afternoon.
At first, the younger males stood their ground, refusing to give up any advantage they had made. Papa Bear drew closer, still bellowing and baring his tusks as he went on. A terrible battle was about to commence -someone had to lose. Then, just when one thought there was only one option but to do battle, the two younger males turned and like a bunch of alley cats on a hot tin roof, they scattered like the four winds before them.
After a brief rest and a chance to eye all that he behold, Papa Bear went on to mate with a receptive female that did require some coxing to his advances. One can only assume that this mating so soon after his successful defence of his realm was twofold; firstly, to propagate his lineage and secondly, to send a message to the younger males and in particular, to the three that he had just stood down.
Life for the average sea lion on the Californian coastline is a precarious existence,they are predated by White sharks and Orcas who patrol the shoreline. Life for a young male is especially dangerous as older established males will capture and kill them long before they reach maturity. This will result, in that their mothers will be receptive to mating.
The Northern Elephant seal lives in the Pacific Ocean, 30 degrees north latitude. This mammal has very thick blubber and as a result of this was hunted to the brink of extinction in the 18001s. They are intelligent and social mammals that congregate in colonies and in smaller groups in the water, called rafts.
Their breeding areas are called rookeries. Males will fight for mating dominance and often bear deep scaring from such battles. The Northern Elephant seal has no external ears . This pinniped is born black, with the fur turning a dark silvery brown as they mature. The whiskers [vibrisse] on the snout function to help the
seals sense of touch, the nostrils remain closed in the resting state. Male bulls weigh up to 2,300 kg and grow to a length of 4.5 metres, long whilst female cows weigh up to 760 kg and grow up to 3.6 metres long.
Once a year, from December to March, these seals migrate between their warm breeding grounds on the the Californian and Mexican coastlines and their cold feeding grounds in the northern Pacific Ocean, near Alaska.
Northern Elephant seals are carnivores. Males will dive to depths of 800 metres and females, to a more modest 600 metres, in search of food. They are excellent divers, able to breath-hold dive for twenty minutes. Their diet consists mainly of fish, eels, skates and rays as well as octopi and red crab. Elephant seals do not chew their food, but swallow it in large pieces, they themselves are predated by Orcas and White sharks.
Elephant seal classification; mammal, Order Carnivora Suborder Pinnipedia. Family Phocidea [earless seal]
Camera Nikon 801 Film Kodak Echtachrome sv 100 Flash Fill in
Cracking the by Alan Graham egg
All images are still frames from digital video footage
It was 15 minutes after sun set. Descending cautiously into the blackened blue, eyes straining to accustom ourselves, we knew this window of opportunity would be fleeting. We had our full moon up and we had our Admiralty tide charts calculated correctly - so we thought. Now all we needed was for the corals to perform.
This was not the Great barrier reef, where mass spawning occurs on a given November night; here, off the coast of Mauritius, little if any scientific study had been done to assess when corals, sporadic or otherwise, might spawn.
It was February, minimal tidal exchange was at its peak in the year, essential for the coming together of sperm and egg during the night ahead, 'we figured'. Two camera crews and 3 scout rescue divers peered into the black, fans of light sliced through the water, all eyes desperately trying to focus on any small pale object that drifted by.
The call came within minutes. A grunt of excitement, like a fog horn in the night, sent our blood racing. It was one of the rescue divers who had made the first discovery. He was pointing ahead of him as if he'd seen a ghost, urgently stabbing at the water, yet we could see nothing. It was not until I got to within a few strokes that I saw the object of his excitement, just a few inches from his mask: a small pale egg, perhaps 3 millimetres in diameter - and then we saw another.
We were at a depth of 7 metres, above a reef slope about 100 metres seaward from the reef crest and on the cusp of a substantial drop off. So, we had found an egg, now we had to follow its course backwards, against the current, to find the colony from where it had been released. Our task became one of urgency. It only takes a few minutes for a coral colony to release its load. How many metres up current would we have to go before reaching our goal? I mean, pulling a camera housing the size of a dustbin is slow
Dolly at 5m stop, lights on extended top-mount arms, dome port for wide angle.
Cleaner shrimp (lysmata amboinensis) 4cm, on tomato grouper -depth 25m.
going. And if we reached the spot, would we have enough time to set up lights, stabilisers and camera shot, before the action was over?
Oh.., I think I forgot to mention. We were trying to catch all this action on video, in macro, to a magnification of about 5mm across the TV screen.
Why did we choose such an unlikely place to get the shots? Because the reef is just five minutes from our hotel room, for one thing... Budgets dictate!
Anyone who has dived off shore reefs knows that weather and transport are inherantly fickle beasts. When making a TV
program of this nature will require over 150 dives, it makes financial sense to work from land, if you can.
Our company, AnD Creations, is a small independent production house, not a blond corporation with a topless budget. As such, we have many more gods than you might imagine. Besides, we had made the insane decision to go out and film a living coral reef in macro, rather than skip down to our local aquarium for the usual, banal shots in sterilised surroundings. Honestly, it did make sense back home in our living room!
Pick up any coral reef book and flick through the pages. What you see are remarkable close-ups of fascinating creatures, the habits of which have rarely been documented for television. Yes.., still photography was, and is, our mentor.
But just how were we going to compete? Where could we find help, when nothing like this had been done before? Moreover: how could we succeed at a reasonable cost?
Armed with only a storyline and an ambition, we set about solving the problems of underwater video in macro. Obvious horrors were lenses, stability and lighting; stability being the toughest challenge.
The Canon DV XL1 was our weapon of choice. Top in its class of 3CCD technology, it also met our specifications because it offered the possibility of interchangeable lenses. With a 60mm EF lens attached, our macro capability could achieve an amazing 400mm (the camera's chips being 1/7th the size of a 35mm tranny). An extender or two offered various depths of field: about 4mm at f16 with a minimum focal distance of about 15mm being a manageable standard for polyps.
Acceptable housings, for a camera which had only reached the European shelves in late 1999, were still unavailable, by our deadline of summer 2000. So, we decided to build our own.
Stanley Plastics manufactured acrylic tubes with external fixing plates and pressure sealed interchangeable ports to our specifications. Then we constructed rails, skids and telescopic legs from aluminium. Controls and cable plugs were supplied by Ikelite, with holes bored into the side of the housing using a pencil laser to line up the bit with the camera controls.
Five inch TFT monitors were stripped, then housed in separate acrylic compartments, secured to the top of the camera housing on a swivel mount which could be removed and hand-held as need be. This essential ingredient meant that we were no longer forced to place our head and body behind the camera to eye the tiny viewfinder while shooting. We could shoot vertically, from the top, pivot and track sideways, or even film at arms length while remaining comfortably in command.
Housing kits were fully adaptable, and needed to be. Shooting macro when the subject is less than a foot from your 6" port, requires that lights be managed on highly flexible arms. We chose Kowalski 50W lights (thanks Andrew at Ocean Optics), because they were small enough to squeeze in around the ports for close up work, while offering good, clean spread for wide angle shots.
Eight, 1k standard belt weights were placed beneath each camera housing on rails between the skids, before each dive. This neutralised buoyancy while allowing us to slide the weights to the front or rear of a housing during the dive to alter the pitch of the camera. Weighing in at around 25 kilos fully loaded, it took two guys to lower each overboard. But once wet, they remained perfectly stable in mid water, at what ever angle they were required to shoot.
For extra stability if working on the bottom, an extra couple of weights would sink the lot. The housings, being tubes, were more hydro-dynamic than flat sided
Cleaner shrimp (lysmata Pyjama nudibranch (chromodoris amboinensis) 4cm, rock outcrop - magnifica) 4cm, at night - depth depth 25m. 12m.
Cleaner shrimp (lysmata Pyjama nudibranch (chromodoris amboinensis) 4cm, rock outcrop - magnifica) 4cm, at night - depth depth 25m. 12m.
All images are still frames from digital video footage housings, they gave less drag across a current. Four legs, one on each corner of the housing, could extend 1 metre telescopically, allowing us to level the camera securely on uneven surfaces, tilt precisely, or pivot on one leg for panning shots in close up. Each leg was tapered to a fine rubber point, for placement without damage to substrate, while skids were the ideal option for working in sand.
And one other thing: the cost of underwater mics is unreal! So we built those, too. We spilled the guts of a standard 1.5v condenser microphone into the empty carcass of a typical, 4 cell UW torch (flashlight), with a 5 metre lead for remote pick up. Quality and frequency response were assured, while maintenance was a breeze.
I suppose that is the most important factor when you are a million miles from home: maintenance! Diving 3 times a day for 2 months puts the equipment through hell, and we had our share of hassles. Losing a few days due to equipment failure can be very costly in this business, but we never lost a single dive. Our systems were all designed by us: every knob and spring, wiring diagram and clamp was ours - even a lawn mower drive belt used for manual focus of EF lenses; we had built these babies so we could repair them, instantly.
We carried spares of everything. Three extended ports for various lenses, 2 flat and one 8 inch dome - interchangeable between housings. Four lenses, an extra monitor, and battery packs which could take standard AA or D cell batteries if our chargers or packs died in the night. We're not rocket scientists, but as one well known underwater photographer once confided in us: "underwater anything is a real hands on kind of job."
It was those words which probably gave us the confidence to tackle the seemingly impossible. We would not, however, suggest anyone try and build their own re-breathers!
So there we were, back peddling up current for all our might. The trail of eggs was slowly descending with every fin stroke we covered. The reef below was rising up to meet us, a sure sign we didn't have long to go. And yet, so insignificant was the activity, we might have passed the spawning colony altogether, had we not been looking for it. Dolly noticed it first, a release of perhaps 10 eggs in quick succession, a necklace of pearls dancing to our left, on the very edge of the drop off.
I was carrying the macro set up, so Dolly went in first with a standard flat port and zoom lens. We made it a rule, never to have the same set ups on a dive. The most agonising thing about wildlife photography, is being harassed by some cocky little creature you've never seen before that just knows you've got the wrong lens on.
I watched as Dolly and her assistant battled to place the camera legs, both their bodies as if clothes on a washing line, being swept sideways by the demon current while they worked. BCDs hurriedly evac'd, but still they floundered. Fingers clinging in ernest to the housing, fiddling with creaky knobs and pesky levers. Monitor cocked out and up, now.. ; lights extended on twisted arms, like luminescent anemones in the grip of some giant, boxing crab.
I could see that the galaxea colony was almost two thirds done, and Dolly was still struggling with focus. I manoeuvred around behind her to take a peek at her monitor, and was riveted by the sight. She had about 5 polyps on screen, and as each egg began to appear the polyps were exerting such pressure to release the enormous load that their soft tissue was literally expanded like a balloon.
With just 3 eggs left to be released, Dolly rose up and signalled me in. It was my turn to look foolish. The challenge: get a single polyp in full screen releasing its egg. With time to prepare my camera housing before approach I had less set up to do but I was breathless, my muscles trembled uncontrollably and my brain was in a mess. My worst fear was realised immediately, I couldn't get the damn polyp on screen - I couldn't find it.
I could see it if I peered around the housing, but it was like trying to thread a needle blindfolded - in a hurricane. I knew it was there.., somewhere. But where?
"Patience, Alan," I told myself. Then I told myself to shut the hell up! I looked over the housing and there was only one egg left. Desperately I fought the current and I fought the camera.. , and then finally I had the polyp on screen. A few seconds later I had focus, and watched in awe as the
Alan Graham. Ring-necked parakeet on hat (IUCN cr endangered)
egg slowly emerged. Within 10 seconds it was all over!
One single egg of millions which spawned that night, GONE.., up on a remarkable journey of hope, of survival.. , towards forever, and into the beyond.
We dived seven nights in a row during the wane of that February full moon. Five other species of coral were successfully filmed spawning, but nothing was more exciting, more exhilarating than that first time. If you'd been on shore around half past eight that night, having a leisurely moon-lit stroll along the beach, you might have thought some poor diver was being murdered for a heinous crime. A little dive boat 300 metres out to sea, was heaving and bucking, while screams of delight and cries of shear madness carried for hours and miles across the still ocean swell...
For all I know you might have heard us in Madagascar.
A shot inspired by David Doubilet's work. Southern stingray split level, Grand Cayman. Nikon F100 + 16mm FE, Subal housing. F11 on aperture priority.
Bottlenosed dolphins in the Red Sea. Nikonos V + 15mm. f4 on aperture priority.
The snorkel a uwp's best friend
Most people's first experience of the underwater world comes when snorkelling, but, once we have learned to use SCUBA, few of us regularly go back to the humble snorkel. Underwater photography usually follows learning to dive and as a result many of us will have only rarely taken photographs while snorkelling. I think that this is a big mistake. A snorkel is my favourite accessory for UW photography!
My first argument is financial. When most of us travel we pay for our diving, snorkelling on the other hand does not cost a thing. It is not known as free-diving for nothing! Consequently, on SCUBA I take my photography seriously, sticking with well rehearsed techniques, to maximise the number of good shots I can produce on each dive. But when I use a snorkel my attitude to photography changes completely.
No longer is film a precious commodity to be rationed over an hour or so of diving. With a snorkel, I may shoot only a handful of images or blast away an entire roll in a few minutes and rush back to reload.
I'll mess about with black and white, play with rear curtain flash or just snap away at subjects I wouldn't "waste" diving film on. I am free to experiment.
There is another reason why it is called free-diving. No, not because we are free from SCUBA gear but because we are free from other people, be they buddies, divemasters or worst of all, other photographers! When snorkelling we can go or stay where we want for as long as we want. We are also free to take photos in places we can not get to on SCUBA: in rock pools, rivers, sea grass meadows and mangroves, under jetties or on the reef flat. Just about anywhere wet.
But, the most persuasive reason I can think of to get my snorkel out of my dive bag and strapped onto my mask is the subject matter. And topping the bill is the water's surface. I am not known to my friends as the most artistic of underwater photographers, but the sinuous reflections in the ocean's surface even bring out my creative streak.
Add to this shafts of sunlight and my film is winding on so fast my camera starts to smoke! Shallow water and the sun also create beautiful patterns on the seabed, which are an attractive subject their own right or make a great backdrop for models or marine life.
And when snorkelling with a model you don't have to rely on hand signals to direct them. You can stick your head out of the water to tell your model that they are swimming with all the grace of S~ well, a SCUBA diver! And of course, the surface is also THE only place to take half and half, split
My dog, Goldfinger, retrieves a stone from a river on Dartmoor, UK. Nikonos V, 15mm. f5.6 on aperture priority.
But that's enough about the artistic side of underwater photography, marine life is much more my thing, and snorkelling is great for this too. First of all areas like rock pools, sea grass meadows and reef flats have a quite distinct flora and fauna to the species we encounter diving in the same locale. So snorkelling is a great way to find species you have never seen before, even in an area you know well. In addition, the lack of time constraints are ideal for capturing the behaviour of subjects, where patience often really pays off. Snorkels are also silent, which greatly reduces the chances of disturbing natural behaviour and also makes it easier to approach timid animals, such as marine mammals.
Standard underwater photographic techniques require a bit of tweaking for snorkelling, however these modifications are usually to simplify them. The shallows have the best light and colour and it is possible to take vibrant images without artificial lighting. My favourite snorkelling combinations are my housing with a fisheye or my Nikonos with the 15mm, both without flash. Shooting without flash not only makes exposure easy because aperture priority copes with just about everything, it also removes the problems of backscatter, flash coverage and TTL failure.
When lighting a picture with available light there are a few things to consider. First, to produce even lighting you must ensure that the sun is behind you (shining over your shoulder) in the same way you would on land. This causes problems when using a wide lens because you must be very careful not to include your own or the camera's shadow in your photos. I am still trying to master this one, despite slide after slide of negative reinforcement!
Macro techniques require very little modification, although with the brighter ambient light levels it is possible to take balanced light close-ups at smaller apertures, which can have a pleasing effect. I have managed a few successful natural light macro shots, but on the whole these suffer from harsh shadows and a lack of colour and depth of field. I recommend not changing things much from your standard set-up.
So, to summarise, what if I was to tell you that I had an UW photography accessory that enabled you to experiment with a variety of techniques, freed you from divemasters and other photographers, let you take pictures in photogenic environments filled with different species, let you shoot without flash and gave you unlimited time with your subjects? Would you want one? Would it be your favourite underwater photography accessory? What if I was to tell you that it is already in your dive bag?
Getting Wrecked with Mark Webster
This is perhaps the classic wreck image. The viewer immediately gets the impression of the ship lying on the seabed and the apparent discovery by the diver. However, to get this type of shot you need to plan your dive to avoid other explorers. Try and persuade other divers in your group to give you ten minutes on your own! Nikon F90X, 16mm fish eye, Subal housing, F8 @ 60th, YS120 flash. 100ASA.
Sometimes the best picture may be off the wreck. Remember to look for alternative views for your shots, especially if the site is popular and possibly crowded. Nikon F90X, 16mm fish eye, Subal housing, F8 @ 60th , YS120 flash. 100ASA.
Wrecks in both temperate and tropical waters are exciting to dive and will produce many picture opportunities. Most photographers will yearn for that "big" shot, of all or part of a shipwreck in clear water and under the right conditions these shot are attainable. But all too often these ideal circumstances elude us and so you must first learn to recognise and accept the limitations which present themselves on each dive.
Unless you have exceptional luck, visibility in British waters is rarely good enough to show large sections of a wreck so you must be prepared to tune your techniques to suit whilst perhaps saving your panoramic shots for those wrecks in the tropics. In the UK it may be best to limit you efforts to illustrating particular details of a wreck or close focus images of a diver examining wreckage. Wrecks are often a magnet to marine life and can make fantastic macro dives when the conditions are bad.
However if you are determined to produce the big picture then an ultra wide angle or fish eye lens is essential for successful wreck photography.
All extreme wide angle lenses will display some distortion and this is most obvious when photographing subjects where straight lines dominate. So you need to be aware of this problem when photographing wrecks and either accept some curvature or compose accordingly. Another problem that can arise with a foreground subject close to the camera is that of "forced perspective" which can make a feature look unnaturally large or distorted.
Flash is not always essential, especially if you aim to try to illustrate a large portion of a wreck in clear waters, but more often than not some artificial light will be required for lighting foreground detail or perhaps a diver. A powerful wide angle flash gun is the best tool for lighting ultra wide images, although you will rarely use it on full power when balancing natural and flash light. Narrower beam flash guns can also be used to good effect when only the foreground detail requires additional lighting, or you can consider using two narrow beam guns either both fired by the camera or one slaving from the other.
When using the camera's TTL light meter bear in mind that these ultra wide lenses collect an awful lot of light especially if the sun is in
Above: The marine life which engulfs wrecks is often the most interesting feature. You can use the wreckage as a background to support the composition. Nikon F90X, 16mm fish eye, Subal housing, F16 @ 60th , YS120 flash. 100ASA.
Above: The temptation is often to go for the big picture, in this case the stern of the wreck. These make effective shots, but having taken it get in closer and look for the more unusual views. Nikon F801, 16mm fish eye, Subal housing, F8 @ 60th , 100ASA.
Right: This is the same wreck, but this time much closer and using the structure of the ship to create a very graphic image in silhouette. Nikon F801, 16mm fish eye, Subal housing, F11 @ 125th, 100ASA.
use spot or centre weighted metering to scan the scene and ensure that you are exposing the target area correctly. Using your flash on manual may also produce best results if you have a foreground subject close to the lens and off centre. Background wreckage is often too distant for TTL to operate successfully causing the flash to fire at full power, which will result in over exposure of the foreground.
Exploring wrecks in tropical waters will undoubtedly make the photographer's task a lot simpler. Visibility is normally far superior and the wrecks are generally in a more intact condition due to the mostly calmer sea conditions. However, the same basic principles of underwater photography still apply and you should still be aiming to get as close as possible to your main subject to maintain clarity and sharpness. Sedentary marine life is generally more colourful which can enhance the dullest piece of wreckage, so it is worth seeking out interesting shapes covered in marine life as foreground subjects. Donit forget the power of silhouette shots against the sun, either a subject on its own or as a backdrop to your colourful foreground. Having a diver in the shot will add scale and a sense of exploration and, although cliched, a powerful torch or slave flash will also add impact.
Even if the visibility appears limited to the photographeris eye, the camera and film can often resolve much more than is apparent, particularly when shooting with natural light. Don't be afraid to brace yourself and camera against some wreckage and try a small aperture, letting the camera's automatic exposure take over for longer exposure, and you may be pleasantly surprised. If the visibility is extremely poor then perhaps you should abandon the wide picture altogether and concentrate on detail and maybe try to emphasise the way marine life is colonising a wreck
¡Above: ntroducing a diver to your wreck photographs provides that sense ofexploration. The best results come from using a dedicated model rather than hoping for a passing diver. Nikon F90X, 16mm fish eye, Subal housing, F8 @ 60th, YS120 flash. 100ASA.
Left: This shot is taken on the wreck of a small yacht. The obvious picture might be outside the wreck, but donit forget to explore the inside and look for opportunities to frame a diver entering to explore. Nikon F90X, 16mm fish eye, Subal housing, F8 @ 60th, YS120 flash. 100ASA.
Even ifthe wreck is not intact, you can us the shape of wreckage to frame a diver or some marine life which can create dramatic compositions. Nikon F90X, 16mm fish eye, Subal housing, F8 @ 60th , YS120 flash. 100ASA.
Photography inside wrecks can also produce stunning results. Obviously you must take the obvious precautions when entering a wreck, although most photographers will want to stay close to openings to include some natural light in the shot. Your biggest worry will be disturbing the visibility either yourself or by your model. In addition to stirring up silt with your fins, your exhaust bubbles will also disturb rust and other debris above you. It is best to have investigated the wreck first before you plan this type of shot so that you can work quickly and carefully.
Film choice is largely a personal one although if your aim is to photograph large sections of wreck using natural light in clear water then a faster film is preferred to enable the use of a smaller aperture. Using a film speed of 200-400ASA is normally sufficient, but you can go as high as 1000ASA or 1600ASA if you are happy to accept some grain in the pictures, or maybe try high speed black and white. Many photographers aim to keep just the foreground sharp, with the background wreckage as secondary interest or perhaps framing the main subject, and are happy to work with 100ASA in order to minimise the grain in the picture. Whatever you choose initially, donit be afraid to experiment and compare the results from differing techniques and film stock.
Author of"The Art and Technique of Underwater Photography". Hosts regular workshops both overseas and in the UK. For further details visit Mark's website athttp://www.photec.co.ukor see details at Oonasdivers site http://www.oonasdivers.com
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