On a recent trip to the Maldives, a bunch of us were bimbling along the reef, the viz was bad, and it wasn’t one of those dives when you have jumped in to see something specific like sharks or manta etc.
On these dives I like to spy surreptitiously on our workshoppers. Not for any bad reason, it’s just a great opportunity to look over their shoulders and see what they are shooting, settings and strobe positioning etc. I try as best as I can to do this on the sly as don’t want to unduly stress them!!
What I realised though on this particular dive was that people often overlook shots that to me would be the obvious choice, not because I am some sort of underwater photo genius, more because they are the logical and often easier shot. And also because sometimes seeing something through others eyes is a great way to learn myself.
I was watching people try and take pictures of a couple of different reef fish, a Clown Trigger and a very shy Moray. These subjects were very frustrating so much so that whilst I admired my fellow toggers enthusiasm in trying to get a nice shot of these fish, and fair play to them for trying, but these particular subjects probably needed at least 20mins of extreme patience to get anything head on or suitably posed within the environment.
All that was happening was that the fish were stubbornly presenting their “worst” sides, or in the case of the Moray retreating so far into its hole as to be un-shootable.
Then the divers would try a few shots, and at best get a poorer side view, or the tip of a tiny Morays snout.
Now don’t get me wrong it’s great to try and get these shots and far be it for me to dictate what you should and should not shoot, however in their frustration folk were missing the more obvious shots all around them.
Most reefs have less animated, or mobile subjects, that can be used as a foreground in a reefscape picture.
These shots you can usually count on as working well, and serve a couple of purposes. You will probably get a lovely shot that you can make sure of your strobe, and camera settings at the same time. Also when things work out like this it will often give you a welcome boost of photo confidence on what may be an unproductive dive for you.
So it’s a win win.
On this occasion I didn’t bother even trying to get a shot of the Clown Trigger, but chose instead a comical looking, and much easier to shoot starfish, reminiscent of Patrick Starfish from Spongebob Squarepants, don’t judge me I love the show!
I experimented with a couple of compositions, and even tried a “twirl shot” that I talked about in a recent blogpost.
The shot made me happy, which gave me a boost of confidence on a dive where I was struggling a bit photographically, and also served the purpose of making me look for similar shots in the immediate environment.
All of sudden I was having a much more productive photo dive.
Try this when the more mobile fish are not playing ball, and you can turn any dive into a personal winner.
I have put the shots below and picked another reefshot of the sort that is always available, from previous trips where I have employed the same dive-livening up trick, sometimes its just a matter of lining up a reefscape and waiting for a helpful diver to come along and fill up the negative space for you.