Keep it Simple
What is wrong with this picture (right) of two butterflyfish taken in the Cayman Islands? The answer is, very little. Indeed, the shot and the taking of it contain several useful lessons. The first is that David Tracey, of Horsham in West Sussex, only decided to take up underwater photography after six years of diving. I cringe when I hear of people, especially those with no previous photographic experience, who rush out and spend considerable sums of money on underwater cameras as soon as (or even before!) they have obtained their basic diving qualifications.

One of the benefits of waiting until you have some general diving experience is that you will already have gained some knowledge of the sea and the creatures which live in it. Consequently, when you take up photography it will give new zest and purpose to your diving. You will want to learn even more about what you see and photograph.

David has kept his camera equipment simple, starting with a Sea & Sea MotorMarine II and a YS60 flashgun. He has concentrated on getting the best out of that outfit and has obviously found the settings that work for him. He took this shot ‘using the basic setting of f11 at 1/60th with the strobe on full power’.

His choice of aperture has produced a pleasing blue background and the fish are well lit by the strobe. However, I would urge David to try shooting with the camera and flash on TTL (through the lens metering). The colour of the sea in the background can be made darker or lighter by using a smaller (eg f22) or a larger aperture (eg f8). But, if the flash is set on TTL, the fish will continue to be exposed correctly.

The importance of this technique is that the aperture which produces your ideal blue background will vary with depth. Try taking a series of shots pointing straight out into blue water at different apertures and at different depths such as 5m, 10m, 20m and 30m to find out the settings which produce your favourite blue background.

David has also got close to his subject and composed the picture well, choosing a vertical format. This shot only has one fault, unfortunately one that is difficult to correct – the tube sponge sticking up behind the nearest fish. It is a distraction. The ideal would have been to have found a cleaner background, sometimes easier said than done.

David would eventually like to get a wide-angle lens, probably a 20mm one, which is a good choice. However, for the present he is concentrating on trying to master the camera’s standard 35mm lens. And he is certainly mastering it well.

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