PHOTOGRAPHY UNDER…. WHAT???
Underwater photography is an amazing pursuit. One cannot imagine what is necessary to photograph sea creatures. If you are curious, i will here explain the equipment i used and their principal functions.
In 2006 i started doing underwater photography with the Nikon D200. I was vastly content with this camera, mainly because the learning curve was less arduous than i expected.
In addition i had great satisfaction from the outset with regard to the macro. Even with a single flash, the results i got fulfilled my expectations.
Less satisfactory results however, with regard to the environment photos. Mainly due to inexperience at the time and in part due to the limitations of the D200 in that it was not able to yield back the colour depth and “breadth of chromaticity” i was looking for. Essentially i felt an abyss away from the overall quality that were obtained with the film working with analog camera.
2012 opened a new “era” for me, having received the new Nikon D4. It was for me a big step forward, not only in terms of performance. In fact, the potential of the D4 not only allowed me to refine the results of the macro but made it possible for me to give vent to improve the quality of my photographs and environment in this field. Compared to the D200, the yield of the D4 was much more satisfactory.
At the top of this page, you can see an appealing analogue camera for those who may not be compelled by the D200 or D4. Barbara in fact carries a Nikon RS underwater analog SLP camera and snaps her photos on Velvia 50 film.
Both the D200 and D4 are fitted to face the challenge of the depth of the sea due thanks to the aluminium housing produced by the Austrian company Seacam.
The Seacam of underwater housings are excellent in numerous respects. The accuracy of each component design and the attention to every detail of the work, makes this product one of the bed on the market for quality, reliability and durability.
So far i have only used underwater Nikon objectives and the types of the same that i employ are mainly two; macro and wide-angle.
The macro objectives, “micro” as well, as catalogued by Nikon, serve to obtain images of tiny subjects thanks to strong enlargement ratios. Macro for more thrust, use the 105mm f/2.8 VRII, producing clear goal with a good setup to speed of focus and a great reduction of the vibration system. Quality which is essential, for example, when you want to focus the eye of a shrimp symbiont which continues to change position as it hops among the branches of it’s crinoid.
The other lens for macro photography is 60mm f/2.8 real goal as “handyman”. The 60mm and perhaps the aim that i use most, is for two reasons; Firstly is the 105mm mount which i use predominately when i want to shoot small subjects like the Pygmy Seahorse Pontohi, whose average body length is 8mm, whilst i can resume all other subjects with 60mm. The second reason is that the 60mm has a minimum focusing distance of just 22cm fire whilst that of 105mm has 31cm.
Therefore with the 60mm, compared to 105mm, there is a third less water between the camera and the subject i want to capture and this in immersion makes a substantial difference because it means also a reduction of the amount of suspension that you can have in a photo.
The wide-angle objectives that i use for the environmental photography are the 14mm, 16mm and 20mm Fisheye. In the early years with the D200, i used mainly two optical; the 10.5DX Fisheye and the 12-24mm.
The subjects that i take are “brushed” by the light produced by two Seaflash 150D of Seacam connected to the housing and then directly to the D4 with cables and waterproof connections.
These powerful flash, 150Ws coupled with a beam of light 130°, shed light perfectly on any type of subject so that it can return all the wonderful shades in any lighting situation.
The Seaflash allows you to work seamlessly with the Nikon TTL but i still prefer to control them manually. The aluminium arms and associated tightening are always Seacam.
I am happy to share the details of our baggage condition (or rather “plight” might be a more appropriate term), in order to elucidate to the layman the trials and tribulations involved in having the passion to take us around the world with these types of equipment.
Often we have been perceived by the ordinary travellers as “out of our mind.” That instead of going on holiday to rest, we complicate our lives by taking around the world bags worthy of a Tibetan sherpa.
Hence we present ourselves at check-in, with all the necessary materials for two cameras with about 80 kilograms of luggage.
In these cases, which of course are never big enough, we put the diving equipment (weights, and cylinders excepting of course), a limited items of clothes and all the photographic material which are too sensitive (such as battery chargers, arms of flash etc.) At nearly quintal of checked-in luggage, are then added the 3 hand luggage that we can take into the cabin, totally dedicated to photography equipment. In our case, the hand luggage’s are two profoundly strong trolleys that weigh about 14 kilos each!!! Surely a Guinness record but necessary as they contain custody, flash and portholes. The third hand luggage is a backpack, size 650 with Lowepro camera bodies and objectives. Barbara, with the nonchalance which only ladies can muster, pretends nothing is amiss and embarks with a fourth, un-allowed hand luggage. This bag contains the final objects that have nothing to do with diving but basic living. Crammed in and wrinkled are a few books, a couple of t-shirts, a bathing costume, deodorant and a toothbrush. A contingency against the remote but not altogether impossible scenario of lost luggage.
In the management of these bags, we live at time in tragic/comic situations that are often as a result of our ongoing “concealment” of the hand luggage trolleys’ weight. Regulation states that the hand luggage must not exceed 7 pounds, otherwise it must be checked-in at the hold, something we absolutely cannot afford given the delicacy and value of their contents.
One of the more entertaining incidents when boarding a plane, acting as blasé as possible, is lifting these trolleys weighing as heavy as anvils up to the over-head compartments. Usually there are protesting noises and squeaks as we force them in and despite the disparaging looks of neighbouring passengers, we continue, turning a blind eye, exchanging surprised comments to each other of, “what a strange noise… it’s not our luggage…. ours being so innocent and average…!”.
Nor does the drama finish there. For as soon as we land, we have to rush immediately once the secure seat-belt light is off, to be the first to open the over-head compartment, to avoid any “rock slides” decapitating unsuspecting passengers or even causing a puncture on the passageway floor of the aeroplane!!!
A ‘thank you’ as deep as the Blue to Barbara for making me discover the underwater and her companionship on each dive.
A ‘thank you’, to you for having visited this site. If you liked the animals i photographed, i request you a commendation. Voice and pass on the fact that the creatures that inhabit our seas and land are wonderful. Only by making known their beauty can we preserve them for our children.
It is the tool that allows you to use the underwater camera. This fully waterproof case can be made of plexiglass, carbon or aluminium. The aluminium diving suits, like the one used by myself, can operate without any problems up to 80 meters deep. Well beyond the limits of recreational diving.
Light and Water
For an underwater photographer it is very important to know how the propagation of light in the water take place.
It should first be taken into consideration that not all the solar radiation is able to reach in depth. A portion of light is lost because it is reflected from the sea surface. The amount of light reflected depends on the inclination of the sun, on the time and latitude. For example, if the sun is at the zenith (i.e. perpendicular to the surface of the sea), the reflected light does not exceed 2%. On the opposite, for example at sunset when the sun is low on the horizon, the reflected light can arrive at 30%. The daily average of light reflected is 7%.
The part of radiation that has not been reflected and that can penetrate into the sea is then progressively absorbed by the water layers that it crosses. This phenomenon, called selective absorption, causes the different wavelengths that make up the light from being absorbed by the water at different depths. On average only 1% of the light can exceed 100-150 meters deep.
This term refers to the micro particles in the water such as plankton and the sand moved by the current or most simply raised by a careless kick. When these particles are illuminated by flashes of light, they are reflected in the picture, causing the appearance of many white spots which are not always possible to be completely eliminated in Photoshop.
The underwater photographer must pay close attention to the suspension because if it is true, that this is always present, it is also true that there are some devices to limit it’s impact. First of all, being careful not to lift the suspension with the kick and then placing the distant flash and angled with respect to the lens shooting. In this way the lens will let come in only a small percent of the flash of light reflected by the micro particles.
This means making an immersion moving very slowly, searching for small or microscopic creatures that can only be seen by the guides mounting on a macro lens camera i.e. a lens thanks to it magnification capability allows you to shoot very small subjects.
This is to dedicate a dive to photograph subjects of medium to large size and the environment around them, by fitting wide-angle lens.
Shooting In Manual
In the camera there is a program function called M which stands for manual exposure mode. In manual exposure mode, we have full control of the shutter speed, aperture and flash power adjustment.