May 212012

Lissenung Island split shot

About the site

As you can see from the photo above and the one below, both of these shots were taken within close vicinity of Lissenung Island. Lissenung is located between the Bismark Sea and South Pacific Ocean, in Papua New Guinea. I was there in April for a week of diving after winning the freshwater category of the Underwater Festival 2011.

About the dive

The photo up top was taken towards the end of the week. After two morning boat dives out on the deep walls that drop into the Bismarck Sea, I spent a cruisy afternoon diving on the house reef. With poor visibility out deeper, the shallow reef flats had clearer water. I was also tempted into the sea by the very still afternoon with glassy flat seas.

After spending half an hour photographing fish reflected in the mirror-like surface above, I surfaced and floated in towards the shore. Finding a small bare sandy patch (and after checking carefully for hidden life) I had a spot to kneel to take this shot.

Stars over Lissenung Island

About the photo

Half and half photos can be more accessible to the non-diving section of the population. They give context to the underwater world and show the wider environment. They also require a few tricks. Left to its own devices, the 14mm lens on my camera will generally choose the closest focus point. With half of the dome port out of the water, it can focus on the water line across the dome, leaving everything else in the picture fuzzy.

I’ve previously talked about half and half photos in a cave environment. With the waterline in complete darkness the camera is forced to choose another focus point. There are no breezes or waves to ruffle the water’s surface, solving a second dilemma. In the temperate seas of Victoria glassy still surfaces are rare, and I intended to take advantage of the ones in PNG.

The point I had ended up at was serendipitously at a perfect distance from the beach to frame the whole island. I began by setting my focus on the underwater coral landscape, and increasing the f stop to increase the depth of focus as much as possible. That done, I dipped the dome port underwater and raised it to create a thin film of water on the top half of the dome. Once the film begins to break up you get droplets, so a dip between each shot is essential.

I’ve talked before about taking journalistic shots on working dives. I think surface shots like these two are great for setting the scene and telling the story of the trip. When the above water landscape is as picturesque as the underwater environment, grabbing a few shots that include dry land is not hard at all.

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