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Duxy’s Underwater Photography Blog: Available Light, Part 1

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available light

This blog is all about getting back to basics, and learning how to master the art of available light while shooting underwater.

When I first got into underwater photography, I only ever shot available light, eschewing the benefits of strobes until much later. I did this because although I was involved in professional photography onland, I never imagined that I would want or need to be weighed down with too much kit on a dive, so I shot with only a compact camera and a very wide angle lens. This helped me to understand the requirements of the fast growing number of divers keen to document their underwater experiences, for whom diving definitely took first place over photography. This coincided with the compact digital photography market place starting to produce very capable small point and shoot cameras, with useful functions for underwater use.

And so I started to champion this style of unhindered shooting as a great way for all divers to get great pictures, and my first articles were all about how to do this effectively and with the minimum of expense and equipment.

I have since also embraced the use of strobes too, but this style of minimalist photography is still enormously appealing.

This shot below was taken on my first ever Liveaboard trip nearly 9 years ago with a digital camera and using an add on fisheye lens with an old Canon Ixus compact camera, and this was the moment when I realised that this “new fangled” technology had some enormous benefits over the bulkier, strobe laden kit of the past.

Go Wide

So, what first to think about with available light shooting?

I would personally suggest that you think very seriously about tricking out your camera with a very wide angle lens.
If shooting with a compact camera, and your camera is a compatible one, then the lens as it is will be fine if you are shooting fish ID shots of the usual reef denizens.

However if you want to get good colours and great shots of larger things, like the dolphins in the main photo above, or clear shots of wrecks or reefscapes, then you need to go much wider than the camera will go with its built in lens.

Why is this?

Well the medium within which we choose to indulge our hobby, even at its clearest, is much denser than air, and colour contrast and clarity will drop off very quickly as you increase the distance between you and the subject. Those dolphins above were around a metre or so from me, which is one of the reasons you can make out the finer details in the shot.
And if I had been using the camera unenhanced without a lens attached that had nearly 180 degrees of view, then to get this group all in shot I would have needed to have been around 10 metres or so away.

available light

Both pictures were taken with the same compact camera. The top shot was just the camera on its own. And to frame it like this I had to be around 5m away. However with the wider angled lens attachment I am now only a meter away for the shot at the bottom. Which is much clearer and sharper simply because I am a lot closer.

Get Close

Getting close to your subject is the key element here, and if it’s a larger subject like a wreck or a reefscape, pod of dolphins or your buddy even, then the only way that the shot is going to be as clear as the shots you see in the magazines is if you are using a wide angle lens much wider than you may be accustomed to. These attach using simple adapters or screw into the front of your housing, and really expand on your underwater photographic possibilities.

If you are in the market for a simple compact camera and want better than average results in these scenarios then please get in touch at duxy@scubatravel.com and I will give you the current up to date advice on what the best choices are for underwater. Sadly just because a camera is great on land doesn’t automatically make it suitable for underwater use.

Of course this simple physics issue also applies to higher end cameras like DSLR’s or Mirrorless cameras, but generally those folk have already come to that understanding as they have travelled up the learning curve, and purchased the relevant lenses and equipment.

available light

The top of Shark Reef in Egypt only possible to get in and keep clear and colourful by using a very wide angle lens and a technique called Custom or Manual White Balance.

Banishing the Blues in Part 2

The shot above was taken with a fisheye lens attached to one of the early Mirrorless cameras, and what I have explained above is one of the reasons the shot is clear and showing good contrast. However in the second part of this series I will be showing you how to get the great colours we associate with this type of shot, by using a variety of techniques to remedy the boring blues that blight a lot of available light for underwater photographers.

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Scuba Travel new logoDuxy is the in house photo-pro for UK-based dive tour operator Scuba Travel. To find out about availability on Scuba Travel’s underwater photography workshops hosted by Duxy click here.

Duxy has worked for nearly 20yrs in the dive industry, starting at the pointy end of dive tourism in Sharm as a guide and videographer, transitioning into a fixture back home in the U.K. helping and advising on all things underwater photographic, and as a popular speaker at shows and dive clubs delivering talks. He now works as the in house photo-pro for ScubaTravel and has conducted nearly 40 overseas workshops for them, helping all flavours of underwater photographer with everything from GoPro's to DSLR's to improve their shots. He speaks fluent Geek but his motto is that what really counts at the end of the day is 'pictures not pixels'.

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Nauticam NA-α1 Housing for Sony α1 Camera now shipping

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The Sony α1 is the company’s flagship full-frame interchangeable lens camera.  Designed around the new 50.1MP Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor and the BIONZ XR processor, the α1 is truly a camera which can do it all.  It’s 759 point Fast Hybrid Autofocus system offers advanced subject tracking and real-time eye autofocus on both humans and animals.  The optimized processing within the α1 allows it to achieve 30fps continuous shooting at full resolution along with 8K 30p and 4K 120p 10-bit video recording.

Nauticam has supported the Sony Alpha full-frame line since the original a7 with professional grade aluminum housings that offer intuitive access to all the controls and functions of the cameras. As the cameras have evolved, so have the Nauticam housings. The NA-α1 underwater housing provides fingertip access to all key camera controls in a rugged and reliable aluminum underwater housing. Ergonomic camera control access is one of the defining strengths of a Nauticam housing, and the NA-α1 continues this tradition.

Integrated DSLR-housing styled handles with ergonomic rubberized grips and stainless steel stiffening brackets add stability and accessory mounting points. The NA-a1 also features dual rear thumb-levers that are easily reached from the handle that access three of the most-used controls on the rear of the camera. The right lever actuates the AF-ON and RECORD buttons while the left lever is mapped to the PLAY button.

Atop the housing on the left side are controls in the form of a MODE dial and FOCUS mode lever. The C1, C2 buttons as well as the EV compensation dial also have direct access from the top of the housing. The C3, which is typically assigned to control switching between the EVF and the LCD screen is easily reachable on the rear of the housing from the left handle.

For more information visit the UK Nauticam website by clicking here 

or to visit the USA Nauticam website click here.

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Nauticam NA-C70 for Canon EOS C70 Cinema Camera Out Now

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The Canon EOS C70 packs a lot of the features we love about cinema cameras into a small mirrorless style body.  With a Super35 sensor using Canon’s next generation Dual Gain Output, the C70 also includes Dual Pixel CMOS AF autofocus, a built in ND filter and is the first EOS cinema camera to use Canon’s new RF lens mount.  When you combine that with the “Canon Color” we have come to love underwater, this makes for one of the most compact and capable cinema cameras to date.

Utilizing the small form factor of the C70, the Nauticam NA-C70 is ultra-portable yet offers full access to the camera’s critical functions.  Regardless of where a button or control dial may lie on the camera body, Nauticam engineers obsess over making sure that access to that control on the housing be intuitively placed for ease of use to insure no shot is missed while searching for a button or dial.  To take this a step further, Nauticam has also integrated the Nauticam to Canon SDK Control Board in the rear door of the housing which places a variety of electronic control functions at your finger tips.  This connects to the camera through pogo pins between the rear housing door and the front camera tray eliminating the risk of straining any cables while opening the housing for media or battery changes.

For more information visit the Nauticam UK website by clicking here or the USA website by clicking here.

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

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www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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