Just a quickie prior to my second Winter Warmer of 2016, this was shot last month and is a sunset split at Gordon Reef, which is a great place to have our “Open Deck” policy implemented and conditions allowing I hope to do the same next week.
Having the freedom to dive when you would like rather than when the whiteboard says is lovely, and absolutely necessary to get this type of shot that I’m going to talk about today.
Which is the very popular and on-trend “sunset split” a variation on the normal type of split shot.
Ok, how do you achieve a good Sunset Split then?
First and foremost get your timing right, and when you arrive on the first day of your liveaboard, make a note of the time that the sunsets.
This will mean that when you want to do your dusk dive which is the time to get your split shots you’ll be able to time things accurately, and if you plan on doing the split shot at the beginning of your dive then you will allow yourself plenty of time to get ready.
This is very important because you will only have a window of opportunity measured in minutes so you’ll need to be in position all set up rather than rush yourself which is never a good idea.
Of course, as you are only going to be at the surface, you can do this shot without scuba kit and just snorkel it and get in later for a night dive, the beauty of having the freedom to do this on the photo or Relaxed trips. This is by far the easiest, most comfortable way of doing these type of shots, as you need to be quite high in the water, so not being weighed down by scuba kit aids in this.
Personally, though I usually time it to coincide with either the end or beginning of a dusk or night dive.
Timing is one thing, but your position is equally important. The shot I have illustrated this post with is at Gordon Reef in Tiran, other good spots are when moored up at Laguna ( also in Tiran), the Alternatives, and the Barge.
Although if you are moored somewhere where you can get close to the shallow reef and point westwards then lots of places could work.
What about the technicalities?
Well, what I do is get my exposure correct for the sunset first. This is going to also change quite rapidly as the sun disappears, so you’ll need to keep on top of this. I would also suggest that you use the fastest flash synchronisation that your camera allows. This is to prevent any risk of camera shake, as you will be moving about quite a bit on the surface.
I find that at 200ISO I am getting a good sunset exposure, at f13 at 1/320 second, which is my fastest synchronisation speed.
I am also using a micro four-thirds camera with a fisheye lens attached, and I also use a mini-dome.
Keeping everything in focus.
These factors are having an impact, if you were using a full-frame camera with a large dome and fisheye you might want to use an even smaller aperture to guarantee front to back sharpness i.e. f16 or even smaller, this, of course, will impact on your shutter speed if the exposure is to remain the same. My suggestion if you’re shooting full frame and big dome would be to keep the shutter speed high to reduce camera shake and increase the ISO to 320 or 400 to make up the exposure difference.
A prior test to ascertain the optimal aperture in this regard would be advisable.
As the sun dips below the horizon your exposure will need to change, and you’ll need to either up the ISO or reduce the shutter speed.
Your strobes and I’d suggest two, although I’ve done it with one, should be pointing down towards the top of the reef which I would get as close to as possible.
And adjust exposure and positioning to light up the foreground adequately.
Get this established in the minutes running up to the “money shot” so you’re all set up when the sun is in the best position.
Sunset Split. Practical considerations
It may not seem obvious but I find the best way to operate the camera with the strobes pointing downwards is to turn the whole camera rig upside down. Trust me it’s way more comfortable like this. I use a micro four-thirds rig and whilst it’s smaller than a DSLR set up, by the time strobes are attached it’s still quite a handful.
Another thing I do, and easy if on an “open deck” site is to scout locations prior to the sunset. If, as I did you’d like to include a feature in the shot as well as the sunset, then at the tail end of one of the day dives, check out potential spots.
I like a position that allows me to be vertical in the water, so at the edge of a fringing reef, and there will usually be loads of great positions that offer up potential, so make a mental note of exactly where they are, and transit your position which is what I normally do, this is I use the boat and another landmark lined up to fix my position mentally. You don’t need a chart or anything!
This is more necessary the further from the boat you are, worth thinking about at The Barge as an example.
Take loads of shots and don’t be afraid to shoot from the hip, in my case using a small dome there are always random elements of splashing and wavelets unless its mirror flat, so you’ll have to take this on the chin, personally though I like the more organic look of these kinds of shots, and I guess I have to 😉
I will be away for a week, but I will be posting links to useful blogs on our Facebook page so keep checking there and give us a like to keep updated.
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