Look & Learn

Why does the same expensive camera equipment produce stunning images of marine life for some, yet unrewarding, unimpressive pictures for others? Yes, it's undoubtedly the person behind the lens who makes the difference. But there are obvious rules rather than secrets which can provide the key. Acclaimed British photographer and lecturer, Martin Edge, demonstrates his own successful approach in his new book, The Underwater Photographer. Here, in an exclusive look at the book, Colin Doeg selects key aspects to consider before you press the shutter release. Photographs from The Underwater Photographer, by Martin Edge.

Subject Selection: Selecting the right subject is one of the most important aspects of good underwater photography. Your subject must be one which will photograph well and which can be approached with relative ease - boulders or wreckage might get in your way, and you must be able to get your camera and flashgun in the best position. Lionfish are always photogenic. Edge can't resist photographing them. He took this shot at The Pinnacles, Eilat, showing the relationship between predator (the lionfish) and prey (the glass sweepers), shooting upwards to isolate them against the blue sea. He shot four rolls of film to secure this magic moment when everything came right.
Available Light: Consider the position of the sun in the sky. Time of day, water clarity and depth will have different effects on your results. At dawn or dusk the quality of the sun's light changes because of the angle at which its rays enter the water. Here, towards the end of the day, the depth at which the sunbeams are most dramatic is usually between 1m and 5m. This shoal of batfish were soaking up the last few minutes of light in a pleasing composition. But you must work quickly because the sun sets quickly in the tropics. Other natural light shots are silhouettes - divers, turtles, and boats against the sun.
Approach: When you see something that will make a good picture, you must learn to make a slow, methodical, tidy approach with as little disturbance to the surrounding area as possible. That means getting your buoyancy right, deciding onthe best angle of approach, the direction of any current, the effect of any backscatter you might cause, whether you will be taking your flashgun off the camera and hand-holding it, and whether you wish to take a portrait or landscape picture. It took Edge 10 minutes to gradually approach this stingray without spooking it. He felt the potential of obtaining a good picture was so great he shot a complete roll of film focusing on the ray's eye, deciding on a horizontal format, but introducing a strong diagonal with the positioning of the eyes.
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