Sep 102014

Sunbeams in Komodo

About the dives

As you might have gathered from the last three weeks of posting, I had some great dives through Komodo and Alor on the Arenui. The water was warm and clear, the little fish were plentiful and the corals were healthy. There’s only so many ways to say – the diving was very nice! – so today I thought I’d talk about these photos instead.

Sunballs underwater

About the photos

Clear water and bright sunny days up top creates pluses and minuses for wide angle photography. One of the definite advantages is that up in the shallows when the surface is calm you can capture these incredible sun rays. The key to good rays is a fast shutter speed and much shallower water than you would think. Sun rays look good from 10m, but they look even better from about 2m depth. Waves on the surface break up the rays so there won’t be as many. Flat calm surfaces are best, and diving when the sun is low in the sky can produce amazing golden hour results. Of course this only works if you can use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the rays as they jump around.

Diving with the Arenui, this definitely wasn’t a problem – I had the opposite issue. My strobes are wired electronically through my housing which means they only sync up to a shutter speed of 1/250. That’s the speed that both of these photos were taken at, and both at the same time of day. The main difference was the depth and the f stop. Up in the shallows for the top photo my foreground coral about about a foot from the camera. This meant to get some strobe light on it, even at full power, I needed a mid range f stop of f13. In the shallows in the middle of the day, f13 was not nearly small enough to let me capture the sunball. Had I tilted the camera any further up I would have gone from capturing nice rays to capturing the white ball of death, distracting from the shapes and textures of the reef.

I found the sunball itself hard to capture throughout the trip if I wanted to avoid big over exposed patches mid-photo. The second photo here was the answer to that problem. It was taken at the start of the dive when I was down at a depth of about 25m. To increase the strobe power on the foreground subject I moved in very (very) close and put this coral tree right up against my dome port. By lighting it from behind the strobes are practically in the picture which means I could select an f stop of f22. I also downshifted my ISO from my usual 400 to 100. So in every way this shot is at the limits of my settings…the fastest shutter speed, the smallest aperture and the lowest ISO. With all that sorted, the bright tropical sun is just starting to resemble a sunball with nice rays, as seen from under 25m of clear water.

Sep 022014
Very small things seen in Komodo

About the dives The first half of our trip from Alor to Komodo was more focussed on muck diving, but it was on the last couple of days on the Arenui that I got some macro photos that I really love. There was less tiny life around and it was easier to focus on a subject photographically without getting excitedly distracted by the next tiny thing. I also had a few great photos achieved which helped with the confidence to try new things. In this instance it was photos of things I generally consider a bit too small to sensibly take photos of with my lens setup. About the photos [read more...]

Aug 262014
Backlighting leaf fish on the Arenui

About the trip For the first few days of the trip on the Arenui, we meandered along the lovely mucky shores of Alor. This meant lots of fantastic critters – mantis shrimp and little cuttlefish, ribbon eels and orangutan crabs, rhinopias, frogfish and pipefish. These critters come in fantastic shapes, sizes and colours but all manage to blend in exceptionally well with their environment. I was especially impressed with our dive guide Ronald when he managed to spot a small clown frogfish from over 15m away. I wandered away while others took photos and despite knowing exactly where he was, then came back and spent 5 fruitless minutes searching a [read more...]

Aug 202014
Komodo on the Arenui

I have just returned to the world of internet connectivity from an amazing trip through Alor and Komodo with the Arenui. Organised by the very helpful Greg from Liquid Diving Adventures, the trip took us through amazing reefs and some very productive muck diving.   Along the way I had the opportunity for a daily presentation on photography. From the simple fun of correct exposures to the slightly more complicated fun of creative techniques, each day I was out taking sample pictures to demonstrate the concepts. This gave me the opportunity to think about what I was doing in a new way, and I have a bunch of pictures to [read more...]

Aug 122014
Waterfalls in Elk River

I wrote about our June push dive in Elk River a few weeks back. The photo on the top of that post is one of my current favourites. It may not be artistic but it definitely captures the sentiment of the moment. The feeling of surfacing with an empty reel is not to be missed! Photos are easy to sort through and post relatively quickly after the event. Editing the video into sense and finding enough to tell a story takes a little longer. So above is the video from the same trip. Once I was sitting in a comfortable place and had a chance to look through what I’d [read more...]

Aug 052014
Cave exploration through mud

About the cave This week we are practising a little bit of tropical cave exploration, in some (very) warm water. These photos are hot off the press from yesterday’s dives and taken in the same area as last year’s expedition to these very beautiful formations. The scenery was a little different though – instead of white rocks and blue water, we had squelchy brown mud and blue water. This particular cave was one which I previously dived through a very short sump to discover an internal air chamber but then ran out of time to check the other side. The rockpile had clean white rocks from 2m above the water [read more...]