If you have ever tried to shoot an image through a window or worse yet through a screen window, then you have encountered the problem with auto focus. Auto focus saves me about 99 out of 100 times. But even the computer can be fooled.
So here you see the screen though it be out of focus it is still discernable. Ok! Now try focusing on a moving jellyfish. My buddy was suddenly looking up at the sun while we were near the end of the dive. I thought he’d gone mad from the cold water. I looked up and saw what else? The sun! Ah! Aha! A jellyfish. They are rare to see around here. And even more difficult is trying to shoot an image near the surface. Everything is moving in 3D. Does that make it 6D if the subject and the photographer are both moving? Do you count the camera too? And I’m dizzy. Yes, the motion is making me dizzy! Shoot! Keep shooting and hope for the best. Nope, it ain’t gonna happen today. Some days you lose. The autofocus does not work on things so translucent. Blind luck. I shot enough. But nope, not a single keeper. Yes, yes, National Geographic comes back with the shot. We were at the end of the dive. I was cold. Now I was dizzy. And I could not see the darned thing well enough to focus. Nope, it wasn’t happening on this day.
Another rule: never put your gear to sleep till you leave the water. As we swam to the stairs I swam over a collector sea urchin. Yup, broad daylight. Usually they are seen only at night. Surprise! And the waves tossed me but I got a shot. This might not seem to special either. But it is something we don’t see frequently. I’m still happy to say it is something different. Yeah, been there, done that…..
I’ve posted about these fish in the past. The swim in loose schools. Seemingly ubiquitous to the reef I hardly take notice of them. About once a year now they school in a tight bunch. And even more amazingly they swim in circles with their mouths open. They look spooky like monsters out to eat everything in their path. Then they slow down, close their mouths, and dissemble peacefully once more. Shooting tips: With my strobe setup I am not prepared for a ambient light image. I have settings ready to go. But it takes seconds. This school waits for no one. The water was not exactly crystal clear which made for another problem. And then the fish are not close nor would they come to close to me. So as they call it, aim the camera, point, and shoot. And I do and I did.
Next trick is in Photoshop. On the camera the image is washed out and barely discernable. I know what’s there but anyone else would be less than impressed. The trick: Jules taught me when we were editing our dives together. On a Mac: command- shift-L, it is auto level. Magic. Color correction and bringing up detail is done magically. Hey, I’m not into complex layers and nuances. I just want to admire something in a few seconds. Maximize your effect in the least amount of time.I cannot adjust levels the way that autolevel does its magic. I’ve tried; it doesn’t work fast for me.
I provided a before after shoot. And the others are here because I was too undecided to just pick one image. Fascinating fish behavior made graphic by the luck of being on site and with the help of Photoshop. It all happens infrequently.
I was happy to be there when the school went round. There’s a rule. Don’t swim with anything bigger that has potential to eat you. The big school swirling around with mouths open is intimidating.
A quandary? Digital allows you to shoot multiple images of the same subject. Memory is limitless; batteries are rechargeable; you can experiment and not hoard resources. Frequently I may shoot more than a hundred images in a dive. I shot way more than that before. But lately I ask the question, “Is this a photograph?” Then I stop and don’t shoot a fish tail swimming away from my lens. A lot has to do with taste. But even so the same settings can give different results.
Therein lies the decision to keep one or the other. Can you imagine discarding images? Some do so ruthlessly. They discard all images in a first pass. I hoard. No discards. Hey, it’s ok. Memory prices are inexpensive. The bottom line – this guy waited around for me to take two images. The actual situation is that he circled and came back to the same position. This made me shoot twice and I was surprised that difference I got.
I’ve been shooting clownfish since I’ve had an underwater camera. They are easy. They are gullible. You approach their anemone and they protect it. So they don’t swim away. Sometimes they even nip at you. Up until now exposure has been an issue. I am always overexposed. Can’t seem to get detail. The highlights are always washed out.
Ah! Eureka. Learned a new trick and it is paying off. I’m so happy when I learn a new trick! Old dog and all that… but it is what is so much fun. My day job is challenging. Yup! But my hobby is self-taught. I learn on the fly watching others and not taking lessons. Yes, it’s a new breakthrough lately and I’m still tickled about it. And I will readily admit that I am out of the box ready to post image. So lately there has been no need to do much in the way of post processing. Laziness has made me better at composition, cropping, and exposure.
Last year at this time I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing with whom. Do you? Sorry, I ain’t telling.
So “A” is for the bright red coral accent that makes me think of the letter “A.”
Fair enough? The technical trick I learned is to isolate the subject by fading out the background ambient light by making the strobe the dominant light source. It’s like night diving which I love so much. So finally it dawned on me to do this more. I had heretofore been concerned with battery life. I’m shooting less and more particularly. I don’t really want to manipulate my images post processing like crazy in Photoshop. Mostly I am getting away with Lightroom and some cropping on occasion. Hey, it’s working better and better.
And yes, it was a very nice valentine too…
Another new one! I have never seen this. Actually it looked more like a random coral. It actually photographs quite well. But the muted color underwater fooled me. Now that I made you look, it resembles a party dress.
I would never have noticed it except for my dive buddies. Everyone had a shot at getting an image. Then they moved off along the reef. The problem with subjects is that they move and you don’t see them again. So take your best shot. You might not get another for a long time if ever. The nudibranch moves slowly as measured in millimeters a minute. But they move. And this guy moved under the coral.
Bad for my shot, so… I played with the wildlife. I moved it gently and got more shots. Ok, I thought I was free but Marie asked me if I had moved it after she swam away. Don’t ask don’t tell. You must admit the name is pretty clinically boring for a rare subject. Technical note: if you shoot underwater, and most of you don’t – I now understand strobe lighting better and how it makes better images. How did I do without it? Here I used a fast shutter and increased the F stop. The lighting was really nice. Maybe next I go over to two strobes.
This is a technical point to make about shooting. And it is probably not relevant to the smart phone/iPhone crowd because you don’t have a real camera. Noise is what the purists complain about when the ISO is too high and the image is grainy. And I say, you could not even hope to get an image before digital was in wide use. Right now the cameras are able to get a decent image in virtual darkness. What latitude and opportunity! This image is at ISO 6400. Don’t bother if you don’t know what ISO means. It’s an old film term. And then I let the camera pick its settings. All I did was set the parameter that the minimum shutter speed needed to be at least 1/100 sec. And then I enlarged the image. Yeah, pretty neat! Sometimes I surprise myself. So this image in virtual darkness will not make purists happy. Sure zoom and shoot with flash and so forth. Street photography in the dark is an art. And this cat was not waiting around for me to set up things. Right tool right place, cameras rule!
This is the fulfillment of a childhood desire. Once, I almost visited Niagara Falls too. We were only 40 miles away during a rugby tournament with Jules. She refused to go. It was too far. We were headed back to Hamilton College in the other direction. Oh well, at least half my dream has come true. I had seen pictures as a kid. I had always wanted to visit. And until now my travels did not bring me here. Amazingly a day after Thanksgiving the parking lot was full of cars from many states away – as far as Michigan and beyond. I find it fascinating to imagine that one would find themselves in the middle of West Virginia at this time. Tech: to get an image where the water is silky smooth, use a long shutter exposure. I’m lazy and don’t travel with a tripod. Handheld I still managed a decent image, good enough to post even if it’s not exhibition quality. The image I remember seeing is in winter with bright blue sky and the ice formed and partially covering the falls. I am an opportunist and will not wait until the snow and ice form. So, for now this is my trophy memory. I’ve now been there and another wish fulfilled.
The crystal ball as I call it is shiny and reflective. It really is a coral. I see it frequently enough and saw it in my book depicted with the same ball shape as you see. It needs a little polish, eh? And black and white? Or should I say white and black. Camouflage and confusion keep predators from targeting you. For me it is a matter of getting the right exposure. I think I’ve finally caught on. It’s like shooting snow. My recent shots are better. I always seem to over expose the light sand. No, you do not get to see an example. Trust me (I’m from the government and here to help…)
Ok, if you must, and want to, know, I use an underexposure now. Then I bring up the light to get everything to be more evenly exposed. It’s still a work in progress.
The Pacific Coast Highway has endless possibilities to catch breathtaking views of the rugged coast. You can stop frequently or not. If you stop, how often? Fortunately, this all depends upon an understanding companion. Fine and good, now, another observation. We stopped. I got my shot. Dramatic.
And there on the other side of the road….well it was a choice – you include the house for depth of field or do you let the fence be your foreground element of interest? Which side of the road?