Eye Contact in your Underwater Photography.

 

Just a quick blog to illustrate that it’s often important to have some type of eye contact in your underwater pictures. You are probably instinctively aware of how important eye contact is between us human beings already, and of course we subconsciously make eye contact with friends and strangers when we are engaging with them.
And when we take pictures with people in them we usually try and get them to look into the camera lens, and if we are trying to take candid shot’s of people, it’s often quite hard to not get some eye contact, as soon as they become aware of the camera pointing in their direction.
This is because eye contact is one of the fundamental instincts we have. And eye contact usually tells us if the person we are communicating is happy or sad, angry or benign.
And usually far quicker than any verbal cues we may have.

When shooting marine life however this instinct is still very present and we try and get some form of contact with the animal via their eyes, so that our pictures show some connection with the person taking the shot, and then in turn with the viewer.

 

 

 

 

 

Maya is looking straight down the barrel of the lens here, and theres absolutely no question that there is eye contact in this shot.

Maya is looking straight down the barrel of the lens here, and theres absolutely no question that there is eye contact in this shot.

 

 

 

This first picture of a freediver Maya, wouldn’t have worked so well if she hadn’t been looking right down the barrel of the lens, and becomes more powerful with the strong eye contact.
With this shot and a few others I shot at the time, this one with the quite steely gaze held, was the most engaging of the sequence, there was another where Maya was smiling, but she wasn’t looking directly into the lens, and it doesn’t work as well.
We were only in shallow water and we had discussed the shots prior to her free diving down to me, which of course is something that you will need to think about when planning shots like this, because whilst the free diver will be able to pop up and down from the surface, it wouldn’t be the best of dive practices if you did the same.

 

Two eyes are better than one

These next shots of fish, shooting close focus wide-angle, with one exception where the Damsel Fish has been head on to me, are all shot with only the one eye making contact.
And whilst I am not going to anthropomorphise, and imagine the fish communicating in some fashion with me, the shot with both eyes I think conveys more interaction.

 

However because of the very diverse nature of the physiology of different fish, and their eye placement, sometimes getting head on shots is difficult, and it can be a better shot of the whole animal with only the one eye making contact.

 

 

 

Here we've got the fish head on, but even though this is the ideal scenario, it's not always the shot with both eyes making contact that will automatically work the best.

Here we’ve got the fish head on, but even though this is the ideal scenario, it’s not always the shot with both eyes making contact that will automatically work the best.

 

 

Here the fish is side on to the lens, and isn't too bad, as a record of a creature in it's environment.

Here the fish is side on to the lens, and isn’t too bad, as a record of a creature in it’s environment.

 

 

The angle and position of this shot is my favourite though, and I think it is the more characterful in the series.

The angle and position of this shot is my favourite though, and I think it is the more characterful in the series.

 

 

 

From a practical standpoint with these shots of Damsel’s I’ve shot with my fisheye lens and have prefocussed manually to a point only an inch or two in front of the dome and then waited until the fish swam into the best position, even with a fish eye lens and it’s greater depth of field than shooting a macro in a more traditional sense, you still need quite a lot of luck and to get your timing right. This will result in quite a few shots that are either out of focus or you’ve cut a bit of the fish, so persevere, until you get the one where everything falls into place.

Patience will be rewarded when trying to get eye contact, and you will have to slow yourself down.
A photo trip where you can take your time and repeatedly dive the same site is the best way to get great shots.
Why not join me sometime on just such a trip and find out why more and more people are realising it is a great way to dive. It’s calm, no rush, and massively photo productive.

Here is a link to my trips page please click here.

Duxy