Lighting: part one
I’m fortunate enough to have the day-time job of teaching/mentoring hundreds of dive-photographers each year, so as you can imagine I get to answer tens of thousands of questions and my monthly column in Sport Diver often reflects these ‘need to know’ themes.
The most-frequent and universal questions relate to the topic of lighting, so I’d like to kick 2010 off with the first in a series of articles on this very subject. Over the forthcoming months I intend to take an in-depth look at natural light, then move on to using flashguns and how to blend both flash and natural light together. I’ll cover differentials between compact cameras and SLRs and I’ll show that it’s not about your camera kit, but everything to do with how to use it and, where lighting is concerned, in which direction you choose to point your camera.
Blue-water camera angles
Let’s get down to specifics for this month. There is one particular underwater camera angle which I want you all to know and, if you fancy, give it a go. It’s a certain camera angle which is able to record a vivid shade of blue water. It’s an angle so significant that when mastered will be a tremendous tool in your photography. Follow these instructions and see for yourself. On your next blue-water dive trip:
1. Descend to a depth between 10 and 20m.
2. Look upwards and locate the position of the sun in the sky.
3. Now turn your body so the sun is directly behind your back. In other words at 180? to the location of the sun in the sky.
4. Set your compact to Auto exposure. If using an SLR on manual, set f11 or f8 at 125th or 250th sec. If in aperture priority mode just set it to f8.
5. Now point your camera upwards at an angle between 30-40? into the blue and take a series of shots of the water. 6. If it’s too dark then increase the exposure. Too bright then decrease it. You don’t need a subject in the frame at this time, just concentrate on the blue-water column. It’s essential that to achieve this, the sun has to be behind you.
This angle of view and at this depth will display the most-vivid and colourful blue available to you on the day. Because the sun is behind you, it has the effect of lighting the water column, which enhances anything within the water column and also the column itself.
7. Don’t short-cut this process. The trick is to locate the best, most-vivid blue water and learn how to record it with your camera. Don’t get bogged down just yet with a suitable subject, or you’ll miss the point. Learn how to locate and record this shade in the water column.
The next step
The fact is that experienced shooters will find the best blue water and then look for subjects within the column of water. Don’t follow the fish. Wait for them to swim into your chosen blue. Start simple, locate this vivid blue-water background and look for a simple coral formation to add foreground interest.