Getting Great Pictures of Your Pals
Shooting people underwater, mmmmhh, now there’s a thought I’ve entertained on many occasions, not always for the right reasons mind you, but I bet I’m not alone eh?
No this isn’t about spearguns and murderous intent, sorry to disappoint some of you I’m sure, this is about getting good shots of your fellow divers, your buddies or even complete strangers totally unaware they are making a key part of your picture.
Why get shots of other divers anyway?
Well I can’t speak for everyone else I’m sure, but one of the reasons I take diver shots is often purely pragmatic, as part of my role at Scubatravel is to get publicity photographs for marketing reasons, so I spend a lot of time getting pictures of other people taking pictures.I’m aware this all sounds a bit cold and calculating, I assure you it’s not, taking pictures of people engaged in the activity I love is actually more of an indulgence than a chore, so for me it’s a win win. I also find that during the workshops when the participants are engrossed in a subject, that there is often a queue for that subject, so rather than metaphorically twiddle my thumbs until my turn, it gives me an opportunity to get some interesting shots, and keep my skills up to scratch.
Getting divers in your shot can give a sense of scale to your pictures, and is a great way to portray the underwater world to non divers.
Sometimes though rather than just giving scale the divers can be the subject themselves.
So lets have a look at some examples of diver shots i’ve taken this past year all for different reasons, and with a few tips and things to think about along the way.
Sometimes the divers are the subjects themselves, so try and inject a bit of dynamism. Eyecontact is great if you can get it, but if not try and get 3/4 head on shots or sideways holding the camera. In the bottom right the camera itself has become the main subject.
You won’t be surprised to hear that this is a completely set up picture. My friend Ozzer a very amenable fellow, has allowed me to direct him slightly, i.e. up a bit down a bit etc etc, achieved using (polite) hand signals. I will also usually get the diver to switch on the modelling lights of their strobes to lend a bit of a focal point and interest. The exposure and strobe positioning I have worked out beforehand to save a bit of time. So that when Ozzer reached the right position I was able to get my shot without taking too many. It’s also worth mentioning that if you find yourself the subject of a anothers photograph, to switch on your modelling lights as they may forget to ask, or alternatively if you’ve a torch switch that on, and signal a questioning ok sign to confirm if they want that or not. They usually do.
Here was all about showing what it’s like on a night/dusk dive without myself using a strobe, so technically it was quite tricky. The dive was technically a dusk dive, but we had a very narrow window of opportunity, measured in minutes, where there was enough detail left in the background, lit only by the failing daylight, but dark enough to give a sense of the mood and feeling. I watched my buddy Paps who luckily had a powerful torch and the beam was playing around the reef and cutting through the gloom like a light sabre. The exposure was down to less than 1/15 of a second and a high ISO, so a steady hand aided by this cameras very good image stabiliser allowed me a chance.
A sense of scale and size is the intention with this shot. Here, I’ve had to wait until the pair of divers appeared in the correct position, this type of shot requires patience. There is also a passive aspect to it all. The divers of course have no idea that they are part of the shot, so it’s up to you to position yourself in the best possible way. This requires some planning and forethought. If you’re deeper too you need to keep half an eye on going into deco, its quite easy to lose track of time when taking pictures!
By waiting for the diver I could get a few shots with the clownfish peeking over the anemone, as luck would have it the fish had settled into this position after a minute or two. The foreground is the main part of the picture but this shot needed something in the blue water negative space, so again it was another passive diver I had to wait for to get into position. When doing these sort of shots, you usually have ample time to get a few shots without the diver in shot, and to check out your exposure and flash positioning is fine.
This shot started out as a quick grab shot as I waited at the ladders at the back of the boat. These two crew were larking about, so I realised it would make a great picture opportunity. So after popping up and asking them to do it again and swim down to me, accomplished with bad Arabic and hand signals! I was able to get a few pictures with them both in frame with the boat in the background. Shots like this are better framed on the diagonal, it lends a bit more of a dynamic to the overall result.
It’s not always underwater that picture opportunities will present themselves. So if you want to do justice to your trip and get some lovely warm hearted people shots, then make sure that even on the wet deck your camera is ready to shoot with settings that’ll be appropriate. As soon as my camera is out of the rinse tank, when I remember to that is, I set it up for close up people pictures. And one of the strobes I will often point up towards the ceiling giving a nice flattering overall light.
Getting shots of your friends in all circumstances is a brilliant way to reflect their personalities. However Ozzer shown above on the right has a big enough warm hearted personality that even underwater obscured with dive and photo kit,and he has a very big camera rig, he still manages to spread the love even at 30m!!!