By Steve Miller –
These types of images can be taken with virtually any camera system. If you use a compact point and shoot camera, try using macro mode, and if you don’t use an external flash, a modeling light like the Gamma will help your camera work faster, and take sharper images.
If you are using a DSLR camera system, we recommend a 60mm or 100mm lens, lots of flash for color, and manual exposure ranges with small apertures. Try starting with ISO 160, F-16, 160th second shutter. This is where TTL will really shine, as the exposure will be 100% artificial light, with bold, rich colors. We mainly are looking to get close, and nail both the exposure and focus. You can use short strobe arms in close for easy handling, we preset the ISO and Shutter speed, and bracket the Aperture. The ability to take these macro photos depends largely on your diving skills, your ability to hover while you wait, and the subjects that you select. Try to hold out for something that lets you get very close with an upward camera angle. If you are just starting out, try shooting inanimate objects like coral polyps or slow animals like starfish to gain confidence in the focus range of your system, and the proper exposure settings you use.
At this stage we are simply stopping down the lens for depth of field, and blasting the whole scene with light to expose detail and color, often waiting for the subject to present a pleasing pose, or peek out of it’s home. Spotfocus on the subject’s eye. The diver with a Compact camera is in great shape for these types of images.
Jean captured this (refer to bottom right page 63) with a Nikon L-22 Coolpix point and shoot with a single AF35 flash.
Advanced Macro Lighting
Once you have spent some time on basic Macro Photography, you will quickly have a growing collection of bright and sharp images great for fish ID pictures and posting. Depending on how often you get to dive, this can keep you busy for years. But once in awhile something will happen that makes an image stand out. Often this can be when one of your strobes are blocked by an object, creating deep shadows with rich blacks in your image. Advanced macro lighting is when the photographer uses light and shadow to help give an image depth. Here we need to consider slightly longer strobe arms than with basic macro to control our light. By moving our strobe arms around to light from the side we reduce backscatter and produce shadows. Compositional techniques begin to come into play as you are shooting the same subjects as before, but now you can be more selective.
Shoot subjects that will allow an upward camera angle and use the open water background to produce stark blacks. Begin to break the rules now, and shoot large Apertures that will have a shallow depth of field, and a brighter background.
Experiment with light, both the natural and your artificial light. Advanced macro images are best shot with a DSLR system, but if you have an external flash that can be repositioned, then a compact camera can accomplish these images as well. The Canon G-series cameras can compete with a DSLR here, since the camera can use the Ikelite TTL circuitry to control the light.
In an Advanced Macro image, the photographer uses light and shadow as compositional elements, as opposed to only the animals vibrant colors.