Bat out of Oz

A striking image of a batfish and a diver wins this month's prize of a year's subscription to Dive International. Eastbourne junior hospital doctor David Higgs took the picture (left) of a batfish, with his fiancŽe in the background, while diving in Australia. 'I have very little experience of underwater photography but have been a land photographer for some years,' he said. He was using a fixed focus Sea & Sea MX10 Explorer camera.

Martin's verdict: 'The picture is sharp, well composed and the exposure is excellent. Because the fish is so prominent in the frame it almost jumps out. I only have one suggestion to make and that concerns the diver: I don't want to cause any strife in your relationship, but your fiancŽe is looking straight into the lens and her expression appears to be one of indifference. There is little apparent interaction between the diver and the fish. The shot would be even better if she had been looking at the fish and not the camera.

Some of these shots happen by chance, others can be planned. If you have a regular diving buddy it is always worth talking about points like this so that, if a similar picture arises on a future dive, he or she will know to look at the fish with rapt attention as soon as you raise your camera.'


Question I keep trying to get a good picture of a clownfish like the one taken by Martin Edge which was on the front cover of a recent issue of Dive International. But I have difficulty in getting the mouth and the front part of the face sharp, even when the rest of the fish is. I always try to focus on the fish's eye. Do I need to use a more powerful flashgun or use two strobes? Normally I use Fuji Velvia (50 ISO), a Nikon 801s with a 60mm macro lens in a Subal housing with a Sea & Sea YS50 flashgun.

Answer The equipment and film you are using is a good and popular combination for pictures of clownfish. There are two possible explanations for what you are finding. Perhaps, because you are focusing on the eye, the mouth and part of the face are just outside the area of sharp focus of the lens. You are right to focus on the eye. That is always the most important part of any portrait. The solution is to use a smaller aperture, such as f22, moving the flashgun closer to the subject if necessary.

The second possible cause is more difficult to explain but, at the moment you take your picture, you could be superimposing the photograph taken by your flashgun on top of another taken by the camera itself. This can happen because the flashgun takes its picture in an extremely brief burst of light. If the light is not sufficiently strong to overwhelm the prevailing natural light a second photograph will be taken simultaneously because the shutter speed of the camera is much slower.

The solution, once again, could be to use a smaller aperture. If the problem persists, try taking the picture with the camera mode set to manual so you can choose a faster shutter speed than 1/60th or 1/90th. When you are using a camera in automatic or aperture priority mode for TTL flash exposures, the shutter is automatically set to one of these speeds .

Gavin Semadeni of Cliffe Woods, Kent, sent in a selection of prints taken in the Caribbean and off Kenya. He does not mention which camera he was using.

Martin's verdict:The shoal of sweetlips, above right, is well exposed and framed. The fish immediately catch your attention. This has been achieved because the background is clear and uncluttered. It is a good shot. By contrast the banner fish, above left, are set against a cluttered background which is distracting to the viewer. The eye is drawn to the pink coral on the left. Below the fish, the three orange shrimps also catch the eye. Only then does the eye begin to take in the banner fish. The area in a picture, which does not relate to the main subject is called negative soace. These two shots in my opinion, show how the negative space in one photograph enhances the main subject and in the other is a distraction.



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