Looking Down

 

A few blogs back I did a post about Looking Up please click here

So I thought it only fair to address the issue of shooting in totally the opposite direction so this mini-blog will look at a few examples of shooting down, and the compositional and technical issues associated with. With are generally conditioned to try and shoot up when underwater, but there are very valid reasons and circumstances where shooting down is the best choice, for compositional and aesthetic reasons.

My first choice of picture was taken with only available light and custom white balance to get the colours correct. I was very shallow in fact on the surface looking down. I’ve framed to try and convey the size and sense of scale of the reef with the main part of the pinnacle closest to me in the foreground.
To get a grip on available light I’ve done a four part series on Available Light shooting and to see part one of this please click here

 

 

 

The top of Shark Reef in Egypt only possible to get in and keep clear and colourful by using a very wide angle lens.Shooting down slightly and using custom white balance to get the colours back.

The top of Shark Reef in Egypt only possible to get in and keep clear and colourful by using a very wide angle lens.Shooting down slightly and using custom white balance to get the colours back.

 

 

 

 

My second choice of picture is a standard reefs cape this time in the vertical, if a reefscape can ever be called standard ! And I’ve shot pretty much straight down a small wall in the Red Sea.
Ive tried to compose in the vertical with the hard corals arranged in a loose semi circle, of different textures and colours.
I try to expose so that the deeper ares of the picture is a nice dark blue and so I will adjust my shutter speeds accordingly.
This sort of shot can be achieved in available light if the corals close to you are in the first 6m or so, although I tend now to mostly shoot the pictures with the help of a strobe to give a nice punch of colour although there is no reason why you couldn’t do this with custom white balance to achieve a similar result.
To see how to balance the foreground exposure with the back ground then you may want to check an earlier blog about using flash that you can see here.

 

 

 

Here I've shot straight down, and I've used two strobes to evenly illuminate the scene in front of me. Adjusting the shutter speed to give me a nice rich dark blue. I could have shot available light here as I was shallow enough, however I was also casting a shadow on the scene so it was better to get punchy colours with the strobes.

Here I’ve shot straight down, and I’ve used two strobes to evenly illuminate the scene in front of me. Adjusting the shutter speed to give me a nice rich dark blue in the background depths. I could have shot available light here as I was shallow enough, however I was also casting a shadow on the scene so it was better to get punchy colours with the strobes.

 

 

 

Getting Technically Artistic 😉

In the next shot, I’ve only shot down at an angle nowhere near as steep as the previous shot. And I have pictured the hard corals and Anthias to the left looking downwards to the technical diver at the bottom right, I have deliberately shot like this to split the picture from warm tones on the left to cooler blue tones on the right, with the diver their to give a sense of scale.
Because of the shallow angle you can still see the surface, I am only in the top 5m, and that lends some overall connection, with the surface suggestion.
As the reef wall was mostly in the shadow I’ve again used strobes to partially illuminate the foreground scene and I find that this really helps to set the bright orange Anthias off against the blue of the deeper wall.
I took a few shots of this scene, but ultimately chose this one because I thought the divers bubbles were in the most aesthetic position, and the Anthias make a nice crescent of orange in the centre of shot.

 

 

 

 

Here i've tried to convey a sense of scale to the proceedings by showing the technical diver on the wall at Elphinstone Reef

Here i’ve tried to convey a sense of scale to the proceedings by showing the technical diver on the wall at Elphinstone Reef

 

 

 

 

 

This shot for me was all about the quirky red fish slap bang in the centre of shot, and was simply a matter of waiting for its curiosity to be piqued, and to poke its head far enough out to let me get a shot.
The way I exposed for the shot was identical to the approach I used for the first shot in the sequence, and I used the five minutes wait or so, for the fish to make an appearance , to get my exposure and framing just to my liking.
And my preferred way was to frame the table coral in an upturned ‘U’ as symmetrical as was possible with the fish a splash of red in the centre as way of contrast.
Looking straight down on top of the reef.

 

 

 

 

Here I've framed straight downwards, with the small red fish contrasting to the warmer colours of the reef and the further depths.

Here I’ve framed straight downwards, with the small red fish contrasting to the warmer colours of the reef and the further depths.

 

 

 

 

For my final choice of shooting down, I’ve eschewed the more symmetrical approach of a couple of the previous pictures, and framed with the fractal like stag horn corals piercing the reefscape, as way of an introduction to the shot, from the left. And I’ve tilted slightly away from the vertical so as to be able to easily see the greater depths and the school of Fusiliers sweeping around the contours of the depths of the wall.

 

 

 

The leading focal point of the warm toned but spiky Staghorn coral at the left balances out the warmer curves of the blue depths. Well thats what is going on in my mind anyway.

The leading focal point of the warm toned but spiky Staghorn coral at the left balances out the warmer curves of the blue depths. The Fusiliers were an added bonus. Well thats what is going on in my mind anyway.

 

 

Shooting reefscapes like this I find a great exercise in composition, and I gain great pleasure out of making the disparate elements fit pleasingly into a frame.
Making the hard edges balance with the softer ones, the shapes fit together all into a pleasing whole that conveys to, me at least, a nice satisfying whole.

 

Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post please keep calling back to see more.
and if you’d like to put these things into practice with me on a dedicated photo trip then please check out my trips page here.

*STOP PRESS* Starting this year we are rolling out a great new itinerary called Red Sea Relaxed perfect for photographers or anyone who likes a slower paced dive trip. Check it out in more detail and click here.

 

Duxy