Photo Gallery: Split-Shots

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The second feature in our new Gallery series where we let the photos tell the story… This week, Nick and Caroline focus on photo technique with split-shots.

Split-shots or over-under shots are where some of the image is above the water and some below. It is a great technique most commonly done with a wide angle or fish-eye lens in a large dome port. To attempt these shots, it is best to wait for very calm water, to help you get a smooth transitional line from above to below. If you are shooting in the shallows on a sunny day, then you may not need to use strobes, but as the top half will be brighter, it is sometimes vital to have the strobes lighting your underwater subject. When you get the shot right, these can really enhance your portfolio of images.

Tips: Use as large a depth of field as you can (small aperture of say f16); try to move your camera gently so as not to create any bubbles around the port; dunk and shoot before the water starts to run down the dome and creates smears (you can even use spit to help improve this technique). For more from Nick and Caroline, visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Image 1: Swimming Pig in The Bahamas
These wonderful swimming pigs in The Exumas in The Bahamas make the perfect split-shot subjects. The water is clear and calm and it is almost always sunny and the pigs swim around in shallow water. A perfect place to try this sort of shot, especially as they always swim with their snouts sticking out of the water like snorkels. Tokina 10-17 lens, f/13, 1/125, ISO 100. No strobe used.

 

Image 2: Manatee Pair in Crystal River, Florida
This is another perfect destination and subject for the split shot. These gorgeous creatures love to swim up to you and will get in close enough to fill the frame. The location is lovely too with trees growing around this fresh water spring. Alas, we did not get nice sunny weather, that would have made this shot so much more appealing. Nikon 16mm lens, f/9, 1/80 ISO 400.

 

Image 3: Paddy Swimming
Paddy (or any other co-operative water loving dog) makes a perfect subject when you want to practice this technique! He loves to swim and can be called in (or tempted with a ball) to get close to the camera. The sea conditions were not perfect, with some swell and waves, but we love this shot capturing just his eye out of the water as he swam along the stone jetty at Trefor Pier in Wales. Tokina 10-17mm lens, f/13, 1/400, ISO 320.

 

Image 4: Blacktip Shark & Bird
It is not often that you can get a shot of a shark swimming and a bird flying in the same shot! There is plenty that could be improved, but the opportunity was a fleeting one and the shot grabbed. This was taken at Aliwal Shoal in South Africa, where it is rare to get calm seas and split shots were the last thing on our minds. But it is a shot we love for that very reason. It is harder to hold the camera in the portrait orientation for split shots, but well worth practicing for these moments. Nikon 16mm lens, f/10, 1/160, ISO 200.

 

Image 5: Lemon Sharks in The Bahamas
This was taken lying on the platform on the back of the boat and dangling the camera in the water! There was quite a big swell and so it was hard to time when to hit the shutter button. The sharks stayed with us as we came up from an excellent dive and this was an opportunity we had to grab for the captain said we needed to head home. Tokina 10-17mm lens, f/18, 1/200, ISO 500.

 

Image 6: Caroline Surfacing in France
A great way to capture the start of end of the dive is to get a split shot of the boat (and in this case boat captain) with a diver below. This shot was taken whilst diving in France on an epic road trip and shows Caroline just about to finish the dive. Nikon 16mm lens, f/11, 1/125, ISO 250.

 

Image 7: Cuban Crocodile
A split shot does not have to be 50% above the water and 50% below. Experiment with how much you want to feature from under the water and at what angle. This shot if a very close-up portrait of a crocodile taken in Jardines de la Reina in Cuba. We wanted it to show both the underwater seagrass habitat as well as a little of the mangroves in the background. Tokina 10-17mm lens, f/16, 1/60, ISO 250.

 

Image 8: Stingrays in The Bahamas
This shot was one we planned before getting into the water, with our guide standing on a deserted small idyllic island and stingrays in the shallows. The clam water and the ability to keep the glass dome dry before taking this shot all helped, as did the sunshine. Tokina 10-17mm lens, f/20, 1/200, ISO 400.

You can now get wide angle and fish eye lenses and domes for almost every underwater camera, from a GoPro to a top end SLR, so go out and try getting a split shot. They are very rewarding when they work out, but they do take a bit of practice! Why not let us know how you get on?

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

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