I’m going to try something new this week. Instead of one long post about the glorious weekend I had diving and posting multiple photos for you all to check out I’m going to break it down. I’m going to post one photo at a time and try to analyze it. Why you may ask? Well….
On Friday I spent the evening with Scott Geitler (of Blue Water Photo Store and UW Photo Guide fame) and a couple other folks to really learn the essentials of underwater photography. I’ve been wanting to take a class for AGES, for up to now, everything I’ve shot, and the little bit I know about photography has stemmed from some small knowledge of expsoure, composition rules, etc from a black and white photography class in high school, one in college and just reading articles online. Most of my shots have been luck…mostly snapshots, with not as much thought as should go into the composition, proper exposure settings and so forth. I mostly would shoot on P mode or similar, hoping for the best and typically not getting it. This class was designed to outline the basics for underwater photography, go over certain “rules” as well as help us understand how to set the camera and strobe(s) for different types of shots to get the best exposure, lighting, and composition that you can get.
If I took one thing away from the class it would be that underwater photography is all about the shutter speed. Scott explained one very important rule: Your shutter speed does not affect your strobe power. At first this made little sense to me, but once explained (the strobe fire at about 1/10,000 of a second, much faster than any shutter speed… so they will not be cut off by the camera exposure) it totally makes sense. This “phenomenon” also explains why I was having so much trouble before when trying to get the background properly exposed, as I worried about using a slower shutter speed thinking it would blow out my strobe. So silly.
The next most important lesson I learned was that I need to get closer. No really… closer and closer and closer. Apparently I tend to shy away from getting up closer and personal with my subjects, either from worrying about scaring them away (here’s a tip… my camera has a zoom!) or from just not thinking composition, and trying more to capture just the entire thing. I practiced getting closer, to “Fill the Frame” – one of the composition rules I learned, searching for pattern, filling the frame to create unique views. In addition to that I learned how important it is to not “amputate” a subject, that is when shooting more of a fish ID style shot…trying not to accidentally cut of a fin or part of the tail can make or break a photo. I do that a lot, I realized, as I looked back at many of my favorites from years past and saw how often bits and pieces of the subject extended past the edge of the frame.
Finally the last big lesson I took away was “Shoot Up”. This sounds easy, but if you think about how we fin along while diving, its usually over the reef looking down upon the fish. Many of my shots I now notice are either looking down or straight on a subject. Scott really stressed the importance to shoot up, especially out here in our beautiful kelp forests, the only way to really express the grandeur of those plants is to get really low, and shoot up, allowing as much of the strand of kelp to extend through the picture’s background. Mostly this get low, shoot up rule stands for wide angle photography, but even when close up in Macro, getting low and angling up at a subject will create unique and bold photos, and of course, getting up close and personal will add character to my shots.
After absorbing all this valuable knowledge I went out on the Magician dive boat with Scott on Sunday where we put these principles into action and I learned how far I have to go, and how much I’ve been doing wrong! I had three long (all nearly an hour…which hasn’t happened in ages due to teaching or to deeper dives) dives, where we were given “homework assignments” to work on, trying to put all the principles that had been taught Friday into action. So that’s what I’m going to try and talk about over the next couple of days… all the shots we worked on during Sunday’s in water portion of the class. While my photos aren’t masterpieces by any means, I got a couple I like, and am excited to share with everyone, especially a couple nice wide angle (despite not having a true wide angle set up… which I seriously want now by the way), where the background was clear and properly exposed, a problem that had always plagued me… mostly because I did not understand how to achieve the background exposure.
So, sit back and remember to check here, facebook or twitter. I’ll be trying to add a post every day or so as I go through the pictures, and once I post them here, I’ll add the photo to a FB album as well.