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Close Focus Wide Angle Critters

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Don’t forget to pack your wide angle lens.

Last year I decided to make the the move from the pristine beaches of Mahe, in the Seychelles to the mucky slopes of Ambon, Indonesia. The Island of Mahe was surrounded by beautiful hard coral reefs, colorful fish, turtles and the occasional shark. The majority of my time in the Seychelles was spent shooting wide angle, and only occasionally did i get the chance to break out the macro lens. Now living in Ambon, it is a different story; with dive sites packed with weird and wonderful critters, the macro lens has certainly been getting a good work out. Having the luxury of spending time exploring the sites of Ambon and becoming familiar with the critters, I have noticed that there are many great opportunities to move away from the classic macro shot and to break out the fish eye lens – not only to capture some of the larger critters, but also to incorporate some of the strange and diverse habitats these critters call home.

When planning a macro trip, people often fall into the trap of thinking small. We pack our macro lenses, dioptors and tele convertors in order to capture classic shots such as the yawning Frogfish, Harlequin Shrimp on a blue Sea Star and Squat Lobster in a Crinoid. Not many people think about packing a wide angle lens for obvious reasons, but one thing Ambon has taught me is there is as much diversity available in photographic options as there are critters in Ambon Bay! There are opportunities to be had through a wider lens and the results can really set your images apart from the rest.

What is Close Focus Wide Angle?

Close focus wide angle is a technique that is typically practiced using a very wide lens. Fisheye lenses work best because of the extremely close focusing distance and the ability to focus on subjects just off of your dome port. This technique will make your subject appear larger and really pop from your background, especially

with the forced perspective this type of lens gives. Close focus wide angle is not normally associated with muck and critter diving due to the small size of the majority of subjects, but there are some species where Close Focus Wide Angle is a very effective technique.

Fresh Water Eels of Larike Village, Ambon, Indonesia, Canon 7d, Tokina 10- 17mm, Nauticam Housing, Ikelite ds160-161 Strobes. f8, 1/200th, ISO 160

Fresh Water Eels of Larike Village, Ambon, Indonesia, Canon 7d, Tokina 10- 17mm, Nauticam Housing, Ikelite ds160-161 Strobes. f8, 1/200th, ISO 160

Choosing your subject

One of the most challenging aspects when shooting close focus wide angle is finding a prominent foreground subject and also a pleasing background. If you can find both of these you have the basic building blocks for a great image. Jetties are always a good place to start as they attract a large variety of life and provide great backgrounds and light. It is always worth planning your dives under a jetty in accordance with the sun’s height; knowing which way the jetty faces and timing your dive will ensure you make the most of the light. Close Focus Wide Angle is not a technique that you are going to be able to use on tiny critters such as a Skeleton Shrimp or Boxer Crabs. Instead concentrate on larger critters such as Giant Frogfish, Scorpion Fish, Rhinopias, Octopus, Anenomes and Ghost pipe fish which all provide great opportunities with the wider lens. What you are really looking for is a slow moving bottom dwelling creature that has a balance of colour and character. A lot of the time, especially on a critter diving trip, some of your subjects are bound to be on a rubble or sand slope with only limited visibility. To combat this you want to get as low and close as possible, minimizing the distance between you and your subject. This will give you more contrast and colour from your subject. This trick is not only specific to Close Focus Wide Angle, however; getting close and low in general is a great tip to remember when shooting underwater.

Your dive guide will play a big part in helping you choose the right subject – not only because they will know what critters are around, but they can also advise you on the type of substrate or background you will be dealing with. Often a good muck diving site will have a number of critters around, so it’s worth doing a macro dive on the site first to check it out, and if the conditions look good, return with your wide angle set up.

Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commersoni), Ambon, Indonesia, Canon 7d, Tokina 10-17mm, Nauticam Housing, Ikelite ds160-161, f8, 1/250, ISO 100.

Giant Frogfish (Antennarius commersoni), Ambon, Indonesia, Canon 7d, Tokina 10-17mm, Nauticam Housing, Ikelite ds160-161, f8, 1/250, ISO 100.

Lighting

In terms of lighting and exposure, you are going to want to light your subject with your strobes; you can then control the light in your background by using your shutter speed to get the water tone you are after. As for your subject, you can control the exposure by using your aperture and strobe power. Start of with an aperture of f8 (but you may need bump it down a few stops if you want more depth of field to maybe f14). For your strobes they will have to be tucked back away from the port (about level with the hot shoe connection) and angle them a little way out from the housing so you are utilizing the softer light on the edge of the strobe beam. Your strobes will also have to be nice and close to your housing in order to illuminate the whole subject and not create large shadows.

Robust Ghost Pipefish, Ambon, Indonesia, Canon 7d, Tokina 10-17mm, Nauticam Housing, Ikelite ds160-161, f9, 1/125, ISO 200.

Robust Ghost Pipefish, Ambon, Indonesia, Canon 7d, Tokina 10-17mm, Nauticam Housing, Ikelite ds160-161, f9, 1/125, ISO 200.

Equipment

Fish eye lenses are the order of the day with this technique (Nikon 10.5, Canon 15mm and the Tokina 10-17mm). Tele convertors are also great addition as they reduce the coverage of the lens and add depth of field to your shot. As for the dome, a small dome is essential – no bigger than 6 inches in order to get as low and close to your subject as possible.

Hairy Frogfish, Lembeh, Indonesia, Canon 7d, Tokina 10-17mm, Nauticam Housing, Ikelite ds160-161, f9, 1/125th, ISO 200.

Hairy Frogfish, Lembeh, Indonesia, Canon 7d, Tokina 10-17mm, Nauticam Housing, Ikelite ds160-161, f9, 1/125th, ISO 200.

Tips

  • –  Plan your dives and speak to your dive guides. Ask them what is around and also where it is. Only use the wide angle set up if you know there may be a critter you can use this technique on. Don’t strap on the fisheye for every muck dive.
  • –  Get low and get close – this technique is all about getting as close as you can without disturbing the critter.
  • –  Have your strobes close to your housing.

So when planning your next muck diving trip, consider a wide angle set up for some of your dives. Take the time to look at some of the critters with a wider perspective to add a bit off diversity to your critter portfolio.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/joedaniels/ or
www.jldaniels.co.uk

Joe’s passion for the marine environment has led him to numerous locations across the globe, from working as a Divemaster in Australia to working on marine research expeditions in the Seychelles. One thing which has remained constant is that his camera has always travelled with him. Joe is now Resort Manager at Maluku Divers, a photography focused resort on Ambon Island in a remote part of Eastern Indonesia. To see more of Joe’s work, visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joedaniels/ or www.jldaniels.co.uk

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SeaLife announce new products for 2022

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Sealife have announced two new products for 2022 and will be launching them at the DEMA Show in Las Vegas next month.

Sea Dragon 3000SF Pro Dual Beam

SL679 – Available November 1, 2021

The new compact Sea Dragon 3000SF Pro Dual Beam Photo-Video light. The larger COB LED delivers 3000 lumens in an even 120° wide beam. The light offers an impressive 90 CRI (color rendering index) with a proprietary COB LED array that replicates natural sunlight (A CRI of 100 would be just like natural sunlight). With a simple one-button push, the underwater photographer can switch from the wide 120° beam to a narrow 1500 lumen 15° spot beam. For imaging, the spot beam offers many creative opportunities such as to create a narrowly focused snoot or stage spotlight effect.

The narrow beam feature has a long effective range making it useful to see in dark areas and discover hiding fish. The Sea Dragon Pro Dual Beam also offers two 180 lumen 88° red LEDs. Red light won’t affect your own eyes’ night vision or scare-off light-sensitive sea creatures, a simple push on the feature button shifts the light from red to the wide beam at 3000 lumens. The diver is ready in an instant to capture still or video images.

The Pro Dual Beam includes a Flex-Connect® Single camera tray, Flex-Connect® Grip, Sea Dragon EVA Travel case, adapter for GoPro® cameras, Li-ion battery, AC Charger, and international plug adapters.

Part of the Sea Dragon’s impressive performance is its powerful 25Wh 3400mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery pack, that runs the light for 60 minutes at full (3000 lumen) power.


Ultra Wide Angle Dome Lens for Micro Series & RM-4K

SL052 – Available January, 2022

The new Ultra Wide Angle Lens for the Micro-series and ReefMaster underwater cameras that increases the camera’s field-of view by almost 50% and allowing photographers to get three times closer to the subject.

The wide angle dome lens design uses high grade optical glass components arranged in a 4-element/4- group array that delivers crisp edge-to-edge sharpness. All optical elements are fully, multi-coated to prevent internal glare and maximize light transmission. The lens has a 13.3mm film-equivalent effective focal length when used with the SeaLife Micro 3.0 and is waterproof to 200ft/60m.

The lens fits all SeaLife Micro-series cameras (Micro HD, HD+, Micro 2.0, Micro 3.0) and also works with the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K increasing the tiny camera’s shooting angle to a massive 196°. The new lens is a “wet lens” and easily attaches and removes underwater. A locking ring prevents the lens from accidently detaching when bumped or in rougher water conditions. The SeaLife Dome Lens weighs 11.7 ounces (331 grams) and is negatively buoyant. A lanyard is included to prevent loss underwater and the lens can dock on SeaLife’s “Lens Caddy” when not in use.

The inner airspace is back-filled with nitrogen to prevent fogging in extreme temperature conditions. The rotatable light shade prevents unwanted glare from external lighting or sunlight, as well as protect the dome lens from bumps and abrasion.

For more information visit the SeaLife website by clicking here.

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News

New Book: Action Camera Underwater Video Basics by Scubaverse’s Jeff Goodman

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Avoid common mistakes and make great underwater video. A lifetime of knowledge in one handy book full of stunning images shot with a small action camera.

Action Camera Underwater Video Basics shows how to capture fantastic video and turn it into engaging sequences. Small cameras such as those made by GoPro, SeaLife and Paralenz are well-established in both the amateur and professional markets. Their size, quality and low cost make then highly desirable. They are easy to use, even for the most non-technical people, but they have more depth to them than one might first imagine. Award-winning underwater cameraman and Scubaverse Editor-at-Large Jeff Goodman shows how versatile they can be and how to get the best out of them.

The book looks at important camera features and cuts through the dizzying array of equipment choices. Homing in on what is useful for underwater videoing, Jeff provides the vital background knowledge needed to achieve stunning results, again and again. He discusses the mistakes that many budding film-makers make and shows how to construct meaningful video sequences which will keep the viewer interested. He introduces us to the editing process and reveals his basic technique for continued success. There is even a guide to taking better stills, both in the water and later from the video which has been shot. The book concludes with two exercises that put the theory into practice. Technology moves on at a pace, but some things always remain true. Nowadays shooting exclusively with tiny action cameras, Jeff shares his knowledge from a lifetime of work on prestigious filming projects.

About the author

Jeff Goodman is an award-winning cameraman and director experienced in wildlife, underwater, aerial and sound sync lighting camera work. Jeff has travelled the world filming in a variety of environments while working for the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery and many other international production companies. He is also Editor-at-Large for Scubaverse Media.

The book

Release 26 October 2021 | RRP £20 | Paperback | ISBN 978-1-909455-44-3 | 192 pages | 210 x 148 mm (A5). Available now from Divedup.com, and to pre-order online and from retailers.

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Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 04 – 11 November 2021 | Emperor Echo

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

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  • Free Nitrox

Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.

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