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No Flash

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No Flash

Thu, 13/10/2011 - 23:21
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Taking photos underwater without a flash is not common, but it actually is easier than using a flash. I have a few tips and advice for getting good results.

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Taking photos underwater without a flash is not common, but it actually is easier than using a flash. I have a few tips and advice for getting good results.

Underwater photography can be challenging. It is not easy. On dry land, you don’t encounter to many obstacles, but under water, you have to ‘fight’ for every single ray of light. Not only is light diffused by the water but also absorbed by particles and scattered everywhere.

These are reasons good enough to invest and bring your own sunshine with you, in the form of a strobe. However, a good strobe often costs much more than a digital camera. On the other hand, if you have clear water and adequate natural light, you can produce nice images as well.

Subjects

Natural light photography can be divided into two categories. The first category affects the subject in which colour is subordinate—for example, when you shoot wrecks and backlit images. The second category affects shooting in shallow water (less than three metres depth). Ideal models are marine mammals and all animals that usually hang around just below the surface. In addition, good subjects can also be offered by coral landscapes, reflections, snorklers and freedivers.

Techniques

Natural light photography is much less complicated than flash photography. For the best results, select the aperture priority auto mode. Shutter speed priority you can use when you know the speed of the subject.

Be careful photographing dark subjects. If the subject doesn’t fill at least 60 percent of the image, the brighter parts will influence the aperture, and the subject will appear even darker. In those situations you should overexpose.

The better cameras usually give you the possibility for exposure correction. Set your camera on +1/3 or +2/3.  In your manual this is sometimes referred to as exposure compensation. If you don’t have this option, there is a little trick that will achieve the same effect.  Lower the sensitivity setting—the ISO setting—from 100 to, for example, 85 or 65. Analogue photographers should always make several exposures with different settings.

Natural light photography can be divided in two categories. The first category affects the motive, in which colour is subordinate - for example when you shoot wrecks and backlit images. The second category affects shooting in shallow water (less than 3 metres depth).

Filters

On land, you can use UV-filters, skylight or a polarizing filter, but underwater anything but a magenta or red filter is useless. These filters enhance the red colour in the water, and under good conditions, also the blue tones. An ideal solutions is the so-called “magic filter”.

The principles for filters are the changing the colour temperatures and smoothing out the colours. The magic filter is not meant for balancing the absorption of colours under water, but for compensating for the missing colours. However, be aware that the filter works only on digital cameras and can not be used together with strobes.

White balance

To get good results at any depth, it is essential to get your white balance right. You have to change your white balance whenever you are changing depth or angle relative to the sun. Filters work best in clear water and by strong sunlight. For the best contrast between the subject and the background, try to capture the subject in open water. If you keep this in mind, you will be able to make colour-saturated images down to 15 meters. This seems to contradict the laws of known physics, but it works.

You can get filters for most fisheye and wide angel lenses (www.magic-filters.com) and for most compact digital cameras as well. Images done with the magic filter don’t need to be processes afterwards, if you remembered to get the white balance and the exposure right.

The only disadvantage with filters are that they only work with digital cameras. ■

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