Pick your moment…..

The technicalities of getting good underwater shots is all well and good, and having the best kit possible to record in super sharp detail, in very low light is to be aimed for, sure.
But all of this comes to naught, if, even with the settings adjusted just so, and your strobes position perfectly, you take your picture only to find that a stray fish has blocked out your divers face, or that there is a set of unwanted fins, dangling awkwardly in frame.

This happens because folk spend a lot of time and attention on getting into a great position and adjusting their kit accordingly, but then fail to see the offending fish, or the set of fins in the frame.

So in this post all I am going to say is, before you press the trigger, scan around the frame and watch for the ‘spoilers’.
This will pay dividends and you will have less situations where upon downloading your pics and viewing them on screen, you end up crestfallen, because of unwanted occlusions or things in shot, and your framing will be the thing people focus their  attention on.
The more you practice this edge scanning of the shot the better you’ll get at it.
However if the shot is there, and there is still an unwanted element in your view and you can’t easily reframe without missing the moment, take it anyway, and you may well be able to easily remove it using some of the new content aware photo technologies available in Photoshop and similar. Click here for an example of this.

 

 

 

 

Both these shots were taken nearly ten years ago now, on a basic digital compact camera, no strobes, only natural light, and custom white balance.
Both these shots were taken nearly ten years ago now, on a basic digital compact camera, no strobes, only natural light, and custom white balance.

 

 

 

This pair of pictures above were taken with a Canon Ixus 700 compact camera and only using available light, custom white balance and a very wide angle lens. I have taken many thousands of pictures since on equipment costing much more money, but at the end of the day what makes these two shots, taken on much humbler gear, is all about picking the moment.
They were both taken on the same day at different sites, so luck had as big a part to play, sure.
With the top picture the dolphins were with me for only about 30 secs in total, and I was on a safety stop, they went past me once in this formation, and instinct and experience helped me pick the moment. In the second picture we were lucky enough to have the dolphins with us at the Ulysses for nearly the whole dive, and so my main issue was trying to get my framing right, without having others in shot, this was one of about three that worked ok.
You can do this too, by simply taking more pictures, and when you don’t get the shots you want, evaluate on the computer, or even on the camera screen, and resolve to fix your errors next time. This way you cannot fail to improve your timing.

To see how you can get to grips with available light shooting here is a four part series I did about the subject so please click here.

 

 

 

 

This type of picture is all about the "decisive moment" yes you need to make sure that your camera settings are correct but its more about the framing and waiting for the creature to block out the sun entirely, giving those lovely beams of sunlight.
This type of picture is all about the “decisive moment” yes you need to make sure that your camera settings are correct but its more about the framing and waiting for the creature to block out the sun entirely, giving those lovely beams of sunlight.

 

 

 

The Manta shot above was shot with a later model compact camera and again a wide-angle lens, but this time I also used a strobe to throw a little light onto it’s underside. If you’d like to know about shooting with strobes here’s a couple of links to get you up and running.

For the basics of underwater flash photography please click here.
and for strobe positioning and more advanced strobe use please click here.

 

 

Picking the moment was critical to this shots success. A moment or two in either direction and the diver taking pictures would have been blotted out by a foreground Batfish.
Picking the moment was critical to this shots success. A moment or two in either direction and the diver taking pictures would have been blotted out by a foreground Batfish.

 

 

For the above picture, I would be fibbing if I told you that this was the only picture I took, but for the other shots around this picture, there was either the diver in an odd position or a Batfish was hogging the limelight. And whilst the decisive moment is something you should strive to attain, there is no harm in also working the shot, which I previously covered and if you’d like to see what I mean please click here.

 

I’d like to finish on a couple of pictures taken topside, I’m as keen a land based photographer as I am underwater, and I always have a camera with me so I can put into play at a moments notice, exactly what I’m talking about, the “decisive moment” I am sure you all also have a camera with you 24/7 too. It doesn’t have to be a high end DSLR in fact something smaller and more compact and you’re more inclined to have it with you.
Like most people I always have my phone to hand and these next two pictures I have endeavoured to pick the right time to take the shot just using my iPhone
In the case of the sunrise I only had seconds to get the beams.

 

 

Taken with just my iPhone, as my other camera was inside its housing, this scene was begging for a shot, so I waited for the best time and quickly took a shot.
Taken with just my iPhone, as my other camera was inside its housing, this scene was begging for a shot, so I waited for the best time and quickly took a shot.

 

 

 

This impressive sunrise was taken as the beams of light broke through the clouds and illuminated the scene so dramatically. If id gone back to my room for my better camera I would have missed the moment.
This impressive sunrise was taken as the beams of light broke through the clouds and illuminated the scene so dramatically. If id gone back to my room for my better camera I would have missed the moment.

 

I got up the next morning at the same time, with my ‘better camera’ and the perfect choice of lens, but this particular display didn’t give me a repeat performance, proving that the best camera is the one you’ve got with you at that moment !!

 

I have gone through my old pictures for this post, some of them taken ten years ago, on very basic digital compact cameras to try and stress the point that todays blog is less about the kit and more about your “decisive moment”  Henri Cartier Bresson probably the most famous of documentary street photographers of the 20th Century coined the phrase “decisive moment” to highlight when the exact point to take your picture is. And this will only come with instinct and practice. I strongly urge you to check out his work and have a fun time Googling the pictures of a photographer many consider to be the finest exponent of his art. And he only used a very basic simple camera with one lens, no zooms, no strobes just an almost supernatural sense of timing the decisive moment.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, I post regularly at least once a week, so do please check out some of the topics I cover.
Better still why not join me on a photo trip sometime? I conduct these photo trips all over the world, at some of the most photogenic locations, they are for everyone, whether you shoot with a compact, a GoPro or a high end DSLR or Mirrorless camera.
Here is the link to my trips page please click here

And if you’d like some idea about a typical photo trip and what they entail please check this out. Click here.

Thank you.

Duxy