Backlighting Fun

Occasionally folk will say to me post dive, on me asking how them how it went will tell me that they struggled to find anything to shoot.
I sympathise, as it can be quite frustrating when you don’t seem to be able to find interesting subjects.
However it’s very rare that there isn’t anything at all to see, and often it’s just a slight change of tack that’s needed to deliver you up something.
On dives like this, I will often use the time to shoot patterns or textures, and there’s nearly always a bit of the reef to point your camera at to give you some worthy outcomes. Particularly if shooting macro.
It’s also a great opportunity to try new things like different styles of lighting.
I was having a dive like this recently so decided to shoot some fan and soft corals using backlighting.
All I did was position my strobe in such as way as to have it pointing back towards the lens, so that by positioning myself carefully, I could illuminate flattish, fan corals and soft corals, so that their pattern was being shown almost in silhouette.
I say “almost” silhouette because different types of corals will allow more or less light to pass through them. ie some fans have quite dense structure so will only pass light through the very edges, resulting in the coral polyps at the edges being the only bits showing up against this light source. As you can see below in this small section of an Indonesian fan coral.
A small seafan illuminated from directly behind showing the filigree like tiny coral polyps.
A small seafan illuminated from directly behind showing the filigree like tiny coral polyps.
If the subject matter is more translucent then the internal structure of the corals will be more evident. The thickest parts of the coral pass through less light than the edges so the effect can be as if the coral itself is emanating light. With the finer edge areas being brightest lit.
Underwater Backlighting Title Shot
Underwater Backlighting Title Shot
By playing around with your lights like this you can gain valuable experience of new ways to do things, arming you with a useful technique to bring into play, for some future situation.
Here I’ve used this same technique to capture a Whip Goby, a relatively common animal across the world but none the less, very beautiful, especially when lit from behind to see this creatures inner workings. I must give main credit to this shot to my colleague Caroline Worley, who on the previous dive had taken a shot exactly like this, and actually a little better which inspired me to shamelessly copy it!!
A Whip Goby shot using backlighting.
A Whip Goby shot using backlighting.
This also makes the less inspiring dives more rewarding, which can give your confidence a welcome boost.
You don’t have to stop there with your backlighting either, try moving the lights around and shining them less directly back towards the lens and seeing what happens, giving you new insights and dramatic new ways to picture your subjects.
Go on give it a go on your next dive, you might get a surprise.