“Give us a look” Words designed to strike terror into the heart of most “serious” underwater photographers.
We can be quite a shy bunch when it comes to sharing with the world our latest attempts to portray our particular view of the dive in pixels. In my case I am well aware that the usual response will be “how many shots of that lion fish ,croc fish or Moray do you need they all look exactly the same!”
Then the next response will often be ” oh, you’re bound to get one right if you take so many” the so called scattergun approach.
I don’t agree, although there is a grain of truth to the statement, it isn’t a random process, more a considered way to increase the chances of getting all the factors within the shot working to your intended goal. It’s called “Working the Shot”
Take this shot of a crocodile fish resting on a metal plate at the Northern Red Sea wonderland that is the Barge.
This shot was taken at around 5am, yes you heard me right, at dawn. One of the perks of a tailored photo workshop, with the decayed ribs of the Barge spars silhouetted against the dark blue of the early morning light offsetting the warm tones of the foreground. Crocodile fish if approached slowly will usually let you get really close, and will telegraph their intentions quite well if about to scarper.So you can get your framing just so and get the settings for your strobe and camera sorted with the first few pics.
Then you can begin tweaking things.Try one a bit lower,a few inches higher, or to the left or right.Altering the angles slightly. With a single subject like this, that’s willing to sit still and pose,you can fill your boots. The only downside of this approach is choosing which pic afterwards, it took me about ten minutes close scrutiny in Lightroom before I settled on the one above. We may as well take all the advantages that the digital age gives us, rather than eschewing them, it’s not like memory cards are expensive.And rather than encouraging a blasé approach to your shooting let it focus on fewer subjects with a more considered approach. Here is the screengrab of the files from within Lightroom.
The next shot below is one with not one subject but three creatures all with a mind of their own clearly oblivious to my needs as the photographer!
Most things more sentient than soft coral will tend to do their own thing, so learning a bit about how the marine life behaves is quite useful, and the more piccies you take then the more experience you will garner about fish behaviour, its a win win.
Another reason in this particular scenario is that the fish in shot were tucked well under a rather delicate and large table coral. And not wanting to be guilty of breaking off many years of coral growth, I opted for shooting from the hip. Shooting from the hip is a technique used in all photography for taking pictures at angles and positions not possible whilst looking directly through the viewfinder. Its made marginally easier with live view LCD screens on lot’s of new cameras, but there is still a random factor to it all.
I was shooting at arms length at a funny position, not wanting to scare the fish or break anything so the first shot was pure guesswork. After reviewing it and altering the position and checking again, to get it better framed, I had to peak over the top of the camera and snap shots as the three fish jockeyed for position, hoping that things would fall into place.
There is a point when you have to accept that perfection may not be achieved and move on. This can be a safety issue as much as anything, it’s very easy to go into deco or worse run out of air when the shooting takes precedence over the diving, I speak from experience. No shot is worth putting you or your buddy in any danger!
Here are the shots from that sequence.
The more random uncontrollable elements in your shots then the more chances of it not all working out so you will inevitably take more shots until you or the subject gives up.
It’s also very important to say that some creatures, seahorses and a variety of squid and octopi definitely don’t fare well being bombarded with multiple flashes, so please temper your enthusiasm with some consideration for the marine life.