Photography Techniques | Composition Corner - Patterns and Texture
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Keep checking our technique pages, as I post the simple skills that
will get you taking great shots in no time at all.
I have condensed these tips and tricks down from years of coaching beginners
to shoot underwater with the minimum of fuss or flannel.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity

"Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head" William Shakespeare.
That's a bit high falutin' isn't it Duxy?
Well I was having a bit of an inspired moment on a dive recently, and I wanted to somehow finagle it into a blogpost, about the concept of when the chips are down then that is when you really have to work, and by doing so you usually learn something along the way.
You see I was strobe less, shock horror throwing my hands up in deep despair, about to throw a drama queen hissy fit because I had realised that because my planning was a little awry between dives on our recent Indonesian workshop, that I had foolishly lent out both of my strobes.
Yes, I agree in the great scheme of things it wasn't up there with stubbing your toe , kneeling on a piece of LEGO or solving the global financial problems but in the ongoing soap opera that is the wet deck of a dive boat, it had succeeded in ticking me off a bit.
What was I to do? How could this kink in the smooth running of life be ironed out, and I find a successful outcome? There was only one thing for it, I would have to shoot available light. The trouble was there wasn't that much of the precious stuff, it was a very overcast day, the visibility was pretty poor, and the upcoming dive was going to have little or no wide-angle opportunities. So photographically speaking I had a very narrow working range.

shutter speed of 1/250 at f2.8 at an ISO of 1600.
To see where I was with shutter speeds and aperture I found a static subject to test things out. I ended up getting a shutter speed of 1/250 at f2.8 at an ISO of 1600. Quite grainy but usable, but it made me very aware of how narrow the depth of field was!

Shooting macro with my Olympus EM5 and 60mm macro lens, which has the equivalent angle of view on full frame of a short 120mm telephoto, I was going to be limited to shooting handheld at a minimum of 1/250 sec or preferably faster to minimise subject movement but more importantly camera shake was going to be my photo nemesis on this dive.

moving subject
Ping up the difficulty level, I chose a moving subject, at the settings used previously I had whisper thin depth of field, and welcomed the quick focussing response of the EM5 and after quite a few attempts got one with eye focus. It is worth persevering you will get it in the end!

Because of this and the low light I was going to have to increase my ISO and also to shoot at the maximum aperture of the lens which in this case is f2.8. This wide aperture would add the extra problem of reducing the already narrow depth of field to a whisker.
So photographically speaking it was a little challenging to say the least!
Not to be daunted I thought I would have a bash anyway. In the past I have had a similar problem on a dusk dive, when my strobes packed in and only had a focussing light for illumination, so although tricky I knew it was possible.

small focussing light for illumination
Here on another occasion I only had a small focussing light for illumination, positioned atop my camera, casting a weak pool of light over this small Scorpion fish. This was shot at 1/125 and f2.8 at 800ISO, again eye focus is vital, but easier to achieve with a more static subject like this.

In fact because of the limitations then you are forced to think a bit harder, and that is no bad thing. Ok, you haven't got the luxury of shooting at smaller apertures with dual strobe lighting, but when else would you shoot outside the box like this? if you didn't have to. Important things to think about are being patient with yourself and your camera it's a big ask on you and the technology to expect the same performance from you or the camera in great lighting. The camera will focus slower, and your eyesight won't be at it's best. So don't be afraid to take lots of pictures. Try different ISO's and don't be too shy about going higher than you have in the past. Yes high ISO will make your shots grainy, but it's better to get grainy but sharp pics with no subject or camera movement, than blurry finer grained pictures. Practice on land in your house or garden at dusk to give you some ideas of what can and can't be achieved. And I reiterate don't give up at the first hurdle. Practice will be rewarded, and you will deserve that pat on the back.

dim focussing torc
Same scenario as the previous shot, only illumination was a dim focussing torch, but I actually liked the result, and probably wouldn't have attempted this if hadn't been forced to.Again 1/125 at f2.8 and 800ISO with the out of focus area or BOKEH looking really smooth.

So yes you won't get as many keepers, and because you are shooting at higher ISO's the shots will be more grainy, but that can sometimes add to the mood as available low light shots have an aesthetic all of their own. With very out of focus backgrounds that are often as evenly lit as the subject itself, so you will get results much different to the norm. So I guess the message is here don't be put off by things going belly up, and approach the situation with a can do attitude, you will gain by the experience, and as a final thought by Bill Shakespeare "Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the best course"

Flamboyant Cuttlefish
Buoyed by previous low light efforts, I deliberately shot this Flamboyant Cuttlefish only using available light to give a different sort of look to things. In difficult situations you often learn new things that you can bring in to play to spice things up a bit, at a time of your choosing. Again 1/125 at f2.8 at 800ISO


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