Developing an Eye

One of the best ways to improve your underwater photography is to go somewhere that provides reliable film processing, and the opportunity to repeatedly go back to the same area and subjects to try to improve what you have already taken while the ideas are still fresh in your mind. That is why so many good pictures have been taken in places such as Eilat, Sipadan and Bonaire as well as on liveaboards equipped with E-6 processing, like MV Sea Surveyor and some of the American fleets. But what do you do if an area is new to you?

Colin Bateman, of Flackwell Heath, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, had the answer when he went to Bonaire - he enrolled for a one-day course with a marine biologist who works there for some of the year. 'It was an interesting day and I learned a lot about what to look forâ' he recollects. 'In the morning, we spent about one and a half hours in the classroom. In the afternoon we went for a long dive in about 5m of water.

Among other things, I learned that all cleaners, whether they are wrasse or shrimps, have white or yellow bars to signal their trade and that fish with almond-shaped eyes are predators, whereas those with round eyes are not, with the exception of eels.' Using his newly-acquired knowledge and a 105mm macro lens in a Subal housing, he found he could photograph small creatures like this one centimetre-long Thor shrimp, which he had never previously even seen while underwater.

The 105mm lens is ideal for photographing both small and shy creatures. However, it is difficult to use because it has to be held particularly steadily for accurate focusing and framing. Also, it is far from easy to light such a small area accurately and effectively. A modelling light built into the strobe itself is the ideal solution, but such flashguns are so large and heavy that smaller guns are usually preferred for macro work.

Some photographers fix aiming lights to their strobes but, unless they are in a mount which will pivot, an allowance has to be made for the offset of the beam.

Here, Colin's picture would have been improved if the flash had lit the shrimp more clearly by being further round to the right and slightly more overhead.

Darren Stone, of Ealing, West London, whose early work was featured in a previous issue of Dive International (October 1997), recently spent a fortnight in Bonaire so he could monitor his progress by getting his slides processed the same day.

This has enabled him to improve the technical quality of his results and he is striving to shoot interesting diagonal compositions as well as introduce sunbursts to add drama - see his shot, of the orange sponge and the diver.

However, the diver and the sponge in the foreground compete for attention. One of these elements should be less dominant. Darren has also decided to upgrade from a Motor Marine IIEX to a Nikon F90X in a Subal housing. This is a quantum leap which will test both his diving skills and his enthusiasm but should further improve his results when he can look through the viewfinder and see the picture which the camera will take when he presses the shutter release. This will enable him to place the elements of the picture more accurately in the frame and seek to add more interest to the shots -the electronics of the camera will ensure the exposure and the focusing are correct. Darren is the winner of this month's annual subscription to Dive International.

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