Five Life Hacks for Better Wide Angle Underwater Photography

Five Life Hacks for Better Wide Angle Underwater Photography

As a scuba diver in Southern California, I frequently get to dive in water that has low visibility.  This can be a challenge when shooting wide angle images.  In almost all conditions, underwater photographers must learn to cope with the phenomenon known as backscatter; that is, the reflection of light off particles in the water back into the camera’s lens.  Backscatter is much more prevalent in water with a lot of particulate, but it is present in nearly all underwater conditions. Fortunately, there are a few tricks to making beautiful images, even in poor conditions.

Slow it Down

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When you are not in bright, clear water, or when the sun is behind the clouds, or when you are too deep for the sun’s rays to penetrate to depth, try this little trick to saturate the image with ambient light:  slow down your shutter speed to 1/30th to 1/8th.  Since you are using strobes, this will do two things:  It will allow the ambient light to saturate the image, leaving you with blue (or green) water behind your subject, and the short burst of light from your strobes will “freeze” the subject so that it is in focus during the extended time the lens is open. Backscatter may be reduced as well, since the movement of the water may in effect, blur it away during that extended time.  The image above was taken with a shutter speed of 1/13th.  The color of the water, kelp and the snail are all more saturated than if the shutter had been open for a shorter time.

Turn Them In

Strobes turned toward the housing
Strobes turned toward the housing

One of the techniques that I use frequently when there is a subject that I want to light without lighting up the particles in the water on the sides, is to turn my strobes toward the subject. This works well for close focus wide angle shots.  In the image above, there is a shadow on the left hand side of the tube sponge.  It is coming from the right hand strobe, which is turned directly toward the sponge.  The reason for doing this is that the light from the strobe is landing directly on the subject, and not on the water to the sides where backscatter might ruin the image.  In addition, the angle of the light is less likely to bounce off particulate directly back into your lens, so again, less backscatter. The caveat is harsher shadows, but drama isn’t necessarily bad.

Down and Out

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Sometimes I have a large subject that needs to be lit all over.  The solution I used to light this coral head without getting backscatter was to place my strobes above my housing pointed slightly out and slightly down so that the entire coral head is lit, but the water above it only receives ambient light.

Pull It Back

Strobes too far forward caused too much backscatter on the sides of the image
Strobes too far forward caused too much backscatter on the sides of the image

The above image has a number of issues, but it illustrates the point that when the strobes are placed too far forward, the beam of light can reflect off the dome causing a great deal of backscatter on the sides of the image.  The solution to this problem is to pull the strobes back so that they are behind the handles of your housing.  In the image below, I did just that, reducing the amount of backscatter while lighting the entire scene.

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Wide Angle Snoot

Backscatter is reduced with a wide angle snoot
Backscatter is reduced with a wide angle snoot

If all else fails, there is still another trick up your sleeve, literally.  If you cut the sleeves off of an old wetsuit (a neoprene beer can cozy will work as well), and put them on the head of your strobes with about an inch of the sleeve overhanging the edge where the light comes out, you can reduce the amount of backscatter in your images.  This works especially well in poor visibility, and is suited to close focus wide angle shots.  In effect, you are reducing the angle of the beam coming from your strobes and directing it toward your subject. Sort of like a spot light. Less light is hitting the water, and a more direct beam of light is hitting your subject. Walla! Less backscatter.  Sometimes this technique works well when combined with a slow shutter speed.

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Although there are plenty of techniques to reduce backscatter in your images right out of the camera, it is always a bit of an issue even to the most seasoned underwater photographer.  A little particulate might look natural in some images, but if you really want to get rid of it all, it will need to be done in post processing.  Have a look at my tutorial, “Clean It Up!  Dealing with Backscatter” if you would like to learn more.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 or YS-D2 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Diving in Southern California can be challenging, especially when conditions aren’t stellar.  But during the months from August to October, the Southern California coast boasts some of its best scuba diving conditions.  During these months the water is a bit warmer, typically clearer, and the bait fish come out in force.  I think the bait fish are probably the factor that makes all the rest of the diving spectacular.

Sea lions hunting sardines under the oil rig platform, Eureka
Sea lions hunting sardines under the oil rig platform, Eureka

When the sardines and anchovies start to school, the ocean becomes much more alive with activity.  These bait fish will congregate under places that have shade, such as under jettys, piers, oil rig platforms, and even kelp. Their shimmering sides reflect the light as they move, and they make the most interesting patterns, even appearing to communicate a message as they move through the water.

Bait fish schooling near Anacapa Island
Bait fish schooling near Anacapa Island look like they are pleading for peace!

But the fun part is the hunt.  It is amazing to see all the different animals that hunt sardines. Sea lions are numerous and playful.  I have observed a sea lion capture a fish, then use it like a ball, playing catch with another sea lion.  I even had one try to give me a fish once!

Sea lion hunting bait fish
Sea lion hunting bait fish

Sometimes, the bait fish will form a tight ball as other larger fish such as barracuda and bonito circle around, occasionally darting in to pick off a straggler.

bait fish cluster close together for protection against predators
bait fish cluster close together for protection against predators
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A bonito darts into the school for a snack

The most unique thing to see under water are the birds that swim down to catch an anchovie.  I have seen the cormorants as deep as 60 feet, hunting their prey.

A cormorant hunts for a meal
A cormorant hunts for a meal

They are a little shy of divers, but when they are in the heat of the hunt, they will often come face to face with us bubble blowers before they realize we are there.

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Scuba diving in the Autumn in Southern California has its perks.  As it is just now the beginning of August, I can hardly wait to see what this season will bring.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.

 

A Whale of a Tale

A Whale of a Tale

Before I learned to scuba dive, I loved to snorkel.  Then I learned to dive and haven’t been snorkeling since, until last week.  Of all the experiences I have had underwater, this one rates right at the top: Snorkeling with Whale Sharks!

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Whale sharks are the largest of the sharks in the ocean, topping out at around 10 meters long, (35 feet).  They have huge mouths which they open wide to catch plankton and krill.  They are by far the largest living fish (non-mammal) on earth.  The whale shark doesn’t have teeth and is slow moving and harmless to humans.

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Whale sharks have been hunted by humans and were fished in this bay (Bahia de los Angeles, Northern Sea of Cortez) until recently, when the fishermen turned to the tourist trade.  It is much more lucrative for the villagers to conduct snorkeling tours of these beautiful animals than to fish them.  This is a good thing for the whale sharks, as they have recently been placed on the endangered list.

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There were many whale sharks out feeding when I was there, so I was able to interact with several of them.  They are not to be touched, nor should you get close to them as they are very large, and have a powerful tail that can injure swimmers.  I noticed that the large soft eye of one of these giants followed me and my camera.  It slowed down and watched me for a while and I was simply mesmerized by the intelligence glowing behind that eye.  I felt like I made a connection with the animal which was directly tied to my heart.  At that moment, I fell in love.

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This is an experience I will never forget, and hope to have again.  The whale shark is an amazing and majestic animal and will surely remain at the top of my underwater experiences for a lifetime.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.
Tutorial: Photographing Reef Fish

Tutorial: Photographing Reef Fish

One of the greatest pleasures that scuba diving yields for me is the opportunity to photograph fish and other aquatic animals.  I have learned a few tricks along the way and hope to share them with you in this tutorial that was published in Dive Photo Guide.  Click HERE to read the article.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 and D2 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me
California Divin’

California Divin’

I love diving in California, so I have recycled this post from last year, with new images.  Please enjoy!

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray

I’ve been for a dive, on a winter’s day.

I’ll be warm and dry, when I get back to L A,

But now I’m California divin’  on such a winter’s day.

I spend a good amount of time on this blog talking about the exotic animals I have seen all over the far reaches of the world.  But truly, I spend the majority of my diving time along the coast of California.  These temperate waters host some of the most interesting creatures in the world, and the topography is unique and beautiful.  One of the first things my non-diving friends ask is if it is green and murky in our California waters.  I am here to tell you, that the coast of California can rival the most pristine diving in the tropics.

Pink and Orange cup corals cover this pinnacle near Catalina Island
Pink and Orange cup corals cover this pinnacle near Catalina Island

The images above and below show some of the corals that can be found along the California coast.  Above are pink and orange cup corals covering a pinnacle at Farnsworth Banks near Catalina Island. The photo below shows part of a wall there called “Yellow Wall” and also shows some purple hydrocoral, which is found in just a few dive sites along the California coast.  These two images were taken just minutes apart, showing the diversity that can be found on just one site.

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Another gem of California diving are the oil rigs.  There are only a few rigs that divers can visit, and since there can be current and depths of up to 700 feet, the oil rigs are for advanced divers only. The structure under the oil rigs provides an artificial reef for hundreds of animals.  The structure is encrusted with life, and great schools of fish and sea lions enjoy life under the rigs as well.

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The site is well known for its wide angle potential, but there are a lot of tiny critters on the oil rigs as well.  Here is a bi-valve (clam) openly feeding.

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Lately, all of the islands and the water along the coast has been inhabited by tuna crabs, a small pelagic crab that swims in open water.  They are fun to see and a bit challenging to photograph.

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The Channel Islands are a favorite dive destination for local divers as well as world travelers.  Santa Barbara Island boasts a sea lion rookery where the young curious pups will come out to play around and with scuba divers.

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Other large animals that can be found there and several other dive sites include the torpedo ray, a ray that can deliver an electric shock, so no touching!

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Anacapa Island is loved by photographers for its macro subjects such as nudibranchs and amphipods.

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Catalina Island has a large population of blue-striped, orange gobies commonly called the blue banded goby.

Catalina Goby
Catalina Goby

Beautiful fish of all different colors can be found in dive sites all around Southern California, not to mention our own state marine fish, the Geribaldi

A Geribaldi and a red sculpin (rockfish or scorpion fish) look curiously at the diver with a camera.
A Geribaldi and a red Cabezon  look curiously at the diver with a camera.

But the one defining feature of diving in California is the beautiful kelp forests.  In many ways the kelp reminds me of a forest in a fairy tale.

The King's Forest

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The great thing about diving in California is it doesn’t matter if it’s Winter or Summer.  The diving is great year ’round.  The water is temperate and requires adequate protection.  I recommend a 7mm wetsuit in the Summer and late Fall, and a drysuit during the winter months.  And oh, how I love diving California in the Winter months.

California divin’ on such a winter’s day.

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Please subscribe below!  I promise that I will protect your privacy and I will never sell or share your e-mail.
Email *

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.
Ship Shape

Ship Shape

Shipwrecks conjure up a sense of adventure and mystery in the hearts of people everywhere.  As a scuba diver, it is one of the main attractions that entices people to learn to dive.  I have done a little bit of wreck diving, but I will admit, my attention span was only good for about 10 minutes before I started looking for the reef.  Well, that all changed recently when I had the opportunity to dive some of the wrecks in the Red Sea.

Shaab Abu Nahas reef is one of the premier dive sites in the Red Sea as it has claimed no less than five cargo ships, which lay on the reef’s northern slope.  One of these ships, the Carnatic sunk in 1869 and was carrying gold, cotton, and wine.  It is one of the oldest wrecks in the Red Sea and a favorite for scuba divers.  The wood has rotted away leaving a skeletal framework that is beautiful, and full of marine life.

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Carnatic

The stern of the Carnatic still has the rudder in place, and on the bow of the ship, you can see through the porthole that once held the figurehead.

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The Giannis D is probably one of the most famous wrecks on this site.  At nearly 100 meters long, and with a cargo full of sawn softwood, she hit the reef and sunk in April of 1983.

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Sunk in 1981, the Chrisoula K is also known as the Tile wreck as it was carrying a cargo of Italian tile.  It was a very interesting wreck to explore.  The tool room has a lathe and standing drill press.

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There is a kiln, and the cargo hold still houses stacks of Italian tile.

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The other two wrecks both sunk between 1979 and 1983.  It is interesting that the Carnatic was alone for more than 100 years before the reef claimed the other four ships in quick succession.

Perhaps the most famous shipwreck in the world, and certainly the most famous in the Red Sea is the Thistlegorm.  This ship was a cargo ship during the second world war and was sunk while at anchor by the Germans.  The cargo holds contain Bedford Trucks, armoured vehicles, motorcycles, guns, and other supplies.  There were even two railway cars carried on the deck.  One of these has fallen off and sits next to the wreck in 100fsw.

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The wheel of the train that sits next to the Thistlegorm wreck.
The wheel of the train that sits next to the Thistlegorm wreck.

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While the cargo of this ship is most interesting, the deck is also beautiful and fascinating to explore.  The image below is a picture of the winch that sits on the bow of the ship.

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The story that these shipwrecks tell are enough to keep divers coming back for more.  I know they made a wreck diver out of me. Please visit my “Red Sea” Gallery at waterdogphotography.com for many more images taken of wrecks and marine life in the Red Sea.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website,waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me
These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

I am preparing for a workshop that focuses on wide angle underwater photography and lighting.  Since I have been thinking a lot about the types of shots I would like to achieve, I decided to go back through my library to some of my favorite wide angle shots and revisit the techniques I have used before.  This post will not focus on the techniques, but will instead be a visual essay of some of my favorite dive sites.

20150618-_BPP0705The Cenotes of Mexico are an iconic place for underwater photography.  This image shows some of the stalactites that formed in a cave before it became flooded with water.

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Just across the bay from Manado, Indonesia, is a wonderful Island called Bunaken.  The wall dives around the base of the island are home to hundreds of green sea turtles.

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The gentler slopes of Manado are full of sponges and soft corals.

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Raja Ampat, Indonesia is famous for its beautiful soft corals, healthy reef systems, and manta rays.  This site is called “Boo Window” and is well known by many divers.

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Soft corals attach themselves to all kinds of structure.  Here, one is growing on one of the supports for the pier above in Misool, Raja Ampat.

This coral head is one of my favorite images because of the diversity of life surrounding it.

Verde Island near Puerto Galera, Philippines, has one of the healthiest reef systems in Philippine waters.  This coral head is covered with life and beautiful pink anthias swimming all around it.

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I spend a good deal of time diving in my home waters of Southern California.  The kelp forests are beautiful and majestic around the island of Santa Barbara.

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The Oil Rigs off the coast of California are also a favorite destination for divers and can be teeming with life.  It is by far one of my favorite dives.

Please subscribe below!  I promise that I will protect your privacy and I will never sell or share your e-mail.

Email *

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website,waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

 

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