Shooting at times outside of the regular itineraries, can give you loads of great picture taking opportunities that you couldn't get in any other way. Click here to see why.

On the workshops and trips, we often operate a freedom policy at certain dive sites where it’s logistically feasible which we call “Open Deck”

Open Deck

This simply means that, if we are staying at a site which we find photographically productive like the Thistlegorm, and everyone who want’s to and is familiar with the site, then between the hours of Ohmigod What Time is It!!! (0530am) and Beer O’clock  (1830pm) you have your four dives to spend as you wish, bearing in mind sensible diving practices i.e. surface times, depths, profiles etc.
You and your buddy, (or not if you’re solo qualified and suitably insured) can get in the water at whatever time you wish, and for as long as your tank pressure allows.

 

 

 

Having the freedom of an Open Deck policy on some of our liveaboards is a huge advantage over a lot of the other boats in the area as you get to dive when you want to and not with the crowds.
Having the freedom of an Open Deck policy on some of our liveaboards is a huge advantage over a lot of the other boats in the area as you get to dive when you want to and not with the crowds.

 

 

 

In fact on our Winter Warmer we regularly spend a couple of dives at one of the most photo productive dive sites in the Northern Red Sea called the Barge, and to see why we like this site so much please click here.

This policy has proven to be a big hit with lots of repeating customers, and not always photographers, I’m starting to get folk who just like this style of diving. It’s also good for newbie divers too as the guides on the boat are usually more free to look after the beginners, and finish off referral courses etc. And photo diving is more often than not gentle with few currents and in great light, with lot’s to see, so it’s a win-win all-round.

Anyway I digress as per usual, what I wanted to talk about is one of my favourite times of the diving day. And that is the hour around sunset or sunrise, i.e. the half hour before and after the sun has disappeared (or appeared) above the horizon line.
Here’s a sunset split at the Barge which was taken at this time just as the sun went down, i’ll do a post about sunset splits another time.

 

 

The fringing reef of the island itself is very close to the moorings and a fantastic place to practice your sunset split shots.
The fringing reef of the island itself is very close to the moorings and a fantastic place to practice your sunset split shots.

 

Light Fantastic

This hour around sunset which we generally term as dusk, has a more specific term, and it’s one of my favourite words, crepuscular.
This wonderful word is mostly used to describe animal behaviour changes, during this time. Typically the daytime reef fish are looking for somewhere to bed down. There are fish that use this time to hunt and the larger predators from the fringes of the reef start to come into prey on all the active fish at this time.
So as an active time on the reef for lots of encounters it’s a great time to be in the water.
For the word geek,s crepuscular time in the morning is more specifically called matinal or in the evening vespertine.

Here’s a link to a video of some dolphins I shot at dawn to see why it’s often worth getting up early on a liveaboard which is over on our Facebook page.

Anyway I love getting in the water at this time to dive or take pictures and it’s usually much easier to achieve this on a dive itinerary with an “open deck” policy.
The other advantage to this of course is that at the busier locations you will more than likely be diving outside of the more rigid times that the other operators use, so you’ll also more than likely be diving with a lot less people getting in the way.

 

 

The Photo Geeky Bit

Special consideration has to be made at this time of day when taking pictures. Not only will the ambient light be a lot less on the whole. It will also be changing from minute to minute.
The pesky thing is though, your own eyesight will adjust much more readily to the changing light and will do so automatically, and you may well think that the prevailing conditions are brighter than you think.
However the camera will think otherwise, and depending on the mode you’re using, hopefully manual, then you may well find that you are being asked to choose very slow shutter speeds, or alternatively if you are using the camera on any of the auto modes, the ISO if also on auto could be choosing very high ISO’s.

 

 

 

Whilst it seemed like it was bright enough for me to shoot the foreground and background at a reasonable speed, I've had to drop down to a 1/4 second to record any detail in the background. Luckily I am quite steady aided and abetted by the image stabiliser on the camera.
Whilst it seemed like it was bright enough for me to shoot the foreground and background at a reasonable speed, I’ve had to drop down to a 1/4 second to record any detail in the background. Luckily I am quite steady aided and abetted by the image stabiliser on the camera.

 

 

 

 

I wrote an earlier blog about shooting in low light conditions that applies here, called Shooting in Available Dark so please click here to read this if unfamiliar.

The advantage to learning how to adjust and use your camera on manual though is that you will be able to react to the rapidly changing circumstances, and make better decisions for your photo outcomes than if you let the camera do it all itself.
If you struggle using manual controls on your camera and the relationships between aperture, shutter speeds and ISO’s leaves you in a muddle. I can thoroughly recommend this teaching aid called Camera Sim which works on all platforms Mac or Windows, and tablets or phones. It’s very cheap too (often free) and I’ve had much success helping people understand the basics of photography with this useful tool for understanding any camera in manual. There’s even a new version in 3D which looks very exciting but I haven’t had a play with it yet, so will reserve judgement until I’ve had a go.

In short though if you’re using your camera manually and you don’t want to use very slow shutter speeds, and more of this later, then you will need to raise your ISO if shooting with the available light, or accept that your backgrounds are going to be very dark if you’re using your strobes.

 

 

 

Even though I've tried deliberately not to get any movement visible in this shot, keeping the background so I can see it meant a slow shutter speed so movement blurring is inevitable if you look closely.
Even though I’ve tried deliberately not to get any movement visible in this shot, keeping the background so I can see it meant a slow shutter speed so movement blurring is inevitable if you look closely.

 

 

Slowing things right down

After a lifetime of taking pictures I’m pretty well versed in the intricacies of exposure in changing light, so I’ve been experimenting with using my strobes and ISO settingas as slow as I can to keep the noise down in the original pictures (this helps keeps the noise down) and Click Here for a video on reducing noise in the editing.
So I’ve been shooting in the shutter speed range of around 1/60 second and slower to around 1/10 second, this is to help lighten my backgrounds but I’ve also been using this to exaggerate motion by combining slow speeds with my strobes, whilst panning the camera, Fast Fish blog click here or alternatively keeping very still and letting the fish do the moving Fast Fish Take 2 click here.

 

 

 

This turtle I could have shot at a faster shutter speed but I wouldn't have recorded any detail in the background and it wouldn't have heightened the sense of movement in the picture.
This turtle I could have shot at a faster shutter speed but I wouldn’t have recorded any detail in the background and it wouldn’t have heightened the sense of movement in the picture.

 

 

 

 

So, to mix things up even more on the dusk dives,and to get the backgrounds to be blue rather than black, I’ve been experimenting with shooting at durations longer than a second, and in some cases as long as three seconds! Crazy I hear you say, how can you possibly try and hold things steady for that long without moving? Well to be honest, I don’t  it’s just not possible, although I can hold it steady enough for the camera to be roughly pointed in the right direction.

I’m liking some of the results I’ve been getting and they have a dreamlike quality to the backgrounds. which with the ones I’m posting here of a hunting Lionfish are sharp where it counts as the strobe has lit them in the foreground, but the very weak ambient light has managed to record some of the blurring of the fish itself as it moves, along with the background too.

 

Ive managed to isolate the Lionfish against a blurry blue background by raising the shutter speed to over two seconds!
Ive managed to isolate the Lionfish against a blurry blue background by raising the shutter speed to over two seconds!

 

 

 

 

For our second Lionfish shot I’ve managed to record some of the bait fish it was hunting as blurry ticks in the right side of the shot, however I immediately realised that I’ve made a basic flash error by not switching my strobe to second curtain flash synchronisation, as the blurring is all ahead of these tiny glass like slivers of fish.
Instead of the blurring being behind the subject which would have been the case if i’d used second curtain synch.
Oh, well next time i’ll remember for sure.
I really love the classic Lionfish portrait though, and weirdly enough although I’ve shot them many times from all angles this is currently my favourite, I think because of the deep blue background with just a hint of surface suggestion and reef.

 

Schoolboy error, I've forgotten to put the strobe into second curtain synchronisation mode, and so the blurring which should be behind the Lionfish' prey, is in front of it. This was shot at over two seconds.
Schoolboy error, I’ve forgotten to put the strobe into second curtain synchronisation mode, and so the blurring which should be behind the Lionfish’ prey, is in front of it. This was shot at over two seconds.

 

 

 

There’s no denying it’s a challenging time to take pictures and record the scene accurately, so maybe stop worrying about photographic accuracy and create an impression of that time of the day.

If you too would like to experience the freedom of our “Open Deck” policy which I implement on a lot of our Red Sea photo workshops, then why not come along and see for yourself, why it’s a relaxing and great way to dive.
Here’s a link to my upcoming trips page. Click here

*STOP PRESS* Our new Red Sea Relaxed itineraries starting in the summer of 2016 will allow you at select sites the freedom of Open Deck diving, check them out in more detail and click here

 

Duxy