Just a quickie this week to show my thought processes when composing a few shots that I’ve taken recently on the last two Winter Warmer photo trips.

When looking for pictures, and I urge you to look for pictures rather than subjects, more of this in a bit, I try to find a suitable background and frame for my photo and then wait for various elements that make up the finished photo to fall into place.
Now this doesn’t mean in the case of the first shot here, I’ve just framed the Barge and then waited ages for the Butterfly fish to appear, I noticed them hanging about the tip of the bow (or stern, nobody really knows with the Barge) prior to the shot, but rather than home in on them as frame filling subjects I decided to let them make an eye drawing focal point for my shot and not to occupy centre stage.
Figuring that their striking yellow bodies would be contrast enough against the rusty barge and greenish surroundings to make them stand out and hold their own with the balance of the picture.
And so they didn’t need to occupy the whole frame and dominate the proceedings with size alone, their colour would do that.

 

Waiting for this pair of Butterfly Fish to move into position, and framing the shot of the Barge three quarters side on like this, has allowed the stark yellow colour contrast of the fish to draw your eye into the shot, it's also no mistake that I have placed the tip of the bow on one of the invisible lines and intersections of the classic rules of thirds grid.
Waiting for this pair of Butterfly Fish to move into position, and framing the shot of the Barge three quarters side on like this, has allowed the stark yellow colour contrast of the fish to draw your eye into the shot, it’s also no mistake that I have placed the tip of the bow on one of the invisible lines and intersections of the classic rules of thirds grid.

 

 
I mentioned looking for pictures rather than subjects, what I meant is try and see the bigger view, and to visualise the image rather than getting caught up with the subject matter.
This can be a great way for you to start becoming picture orientated rather than getting too centred on the subject matter.
It’s all too easy to just collect fish ID shots, and thats fine, I still do it myself, if I find something new, but I would suggest that you start to think about the finished shot, and try and compose your subjects as part of an image, rather than just in and of themselves.
Place that Crocodile or Scorpion Fish into a scene, or really make a portrait and character study out of that Moray or whatever takes your fancy.

 

In the second shot, again a pair of Butterfly Fish draw your eye into the scene, although they are competing visually with one of the impressive fan corals at Ras Nusrani a local and very productive dive site I often include on our Relaxed or Winter Warmer itineraries.
As the rest of the picture background is more striking than the metal work of the Barge, they have to work harder to draw your eye in, however the fact that they are a synchronised pair, and are bright yellow helps them win in the picture dominance stakes.

 

 

 

Fan corals at Ras Nusrani with a halo of Anthias and a pair of bright yellow contrasting Butterfly fish, against a dark blue background.
Fan corals at Ras Nusrani with a halo of Anthias and a pair of bright yellow contrasting Butterfly fish, against a dark blue background.

 

 

 

Of course it has helped that I have rendered the background a nice dark blue by using a fast enough shutter speed, and to see how to achieve this please click here.

So whilst compositional skills are vital, it is also important to get a handle on basic exposure and the technical aspects of achieving your envisaged end results.
And combining your technical skills with your artistic eye is the key to underwater photography that is beyond fish ID.
In the last shot no more so.
This was a shot that couldn’t have been achieved without a couple of things coming into play.
One was the use of high speed flash synch, and to see what that is and how it is much easier to achieve with a compact camera with manual controls than a Mirrorless or DSLR camera please click here.

So I’ve found this Banner Fish eating a jelly, and I wanted it to really stand out against a much darker background, so I shot from the hip using a very fast shutter speed, and only enough strobe power to light up the fish, as I am shooting straight up and towards the sun peeking behind two boats up above, I had to take a couple of shots to make sure I had centred the fish correctly, you’ll see from the quirky angle of the background that the fish itself was my priority, and this case I’ve positioned it more centrally, more by luck than good judgement to be honest.
Only with a shutter speed of over a thousandth of a second was I able to make the background so dark and the beams of sunlight to register in the top right of frame, impossible at this time of day with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.

 

 

 

Banner fish eating Jelly,m using high speed flash synch on a Canon G7x inside a Fantasea housing, with a dome port attached.
Banner fish eating Jelly,m using high speed flash synch on a Canon G7x inside a Fantasea housing, with a dome port attached.

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to join me on a workshop trip and have me show you these techniques and skills in the field then please check out my forthcoming trips page and click here.

And if you’d like to see what a typical photo trip is like then please click here

and here

And if you have any questions about underwater photography don’t be shy and just drop me a line anytime.

Duxy