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Author: Brook Peterson

The Unforgettable Red Sea

The Unforgettable Red Sea

For Europeans, the Red Sea is as common a dive destination as the Caribbean is to US Citizens. Although the Red Sea is less frequented by US divers, it is one of the world’s gems when it comes to diving.  The crystal blue waters, abundant sea life, beautiful coral gardens and shipwrecks loaded with precious cargo make this one of the world’s best dive destinations.

Sha’ab Abu Nahas reef is famous for hosting several shipwrecks.  The reef lies just north of Hurgada.  Perhaps the reef’s most famous wreck is the Giannis D, a cargo ship which ran aground in 1983.

However, the Chrisoula K, which sunk in 1981 is full of Italian floor tile and has very interesting structure which is easily penetrated.

The Kimon M which sunk in 1978 is an exciting wreck which lies on its starboard side at the bottom of the reef and the Carnatic is a skeleton of a wreck that sunk in 1869 and offers wonderful photo opportunities.

If these wrecks don’t satisfy your appetite for wreck diving, then the SS Thistlegorm should do the trick.

Looking up the anchor chain off the bow of the SS Thistlegorm

A world class wreck, the Thistlegorm is full of World War II cargo, including trucks, motorcycles, a tank, two locomotives and lots of army boots, ammunition, and more.

The holds are easily penetrated and offer a fascinating glimpse into another time.

Further north is the marine protected area, Ras Mohammed National Park.  Just 30 km south of Sharm El Sheikh, the park has beautiful terraced coral reefs covered in fishes and other marine life.

The best dive sites in the park are Shark and Yolanda reefs.  Shark reef has steep walls with soft corals and at certain times of the year, great schools of fish.

A diver photographs a large school of Bohar Snapper

Its next door neighbor, Yolanda, is strewn with a cargo of bathroom fixtures from the ship wreck for which the reef was named.

The spilled cargo of bathroom fixtures on a wreck in the Red Sea

Within swimming distance of Shark Reef is Anemone City, a reef covered in anemones and anemone fish.

Ras Umm Sid reef offers snorkeling as well as diving, with a large shallow shelf of hard corals and a unique dive site called “Temple”.

Fish and corals under the sea with a sunset above

The Red Sea is diveable year round with the warmest months being June- August, and the coldest January-February.  The average water temperature is 74 degrees (23 c). Direct flights from London to Hurgada are available, where many live aboard operations are docked.  Divers can also fly in to Sharm El Sheikh and dive from live aboard, or the resorts based there.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 or YS-D2 Strobes.
All images and content are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.
copyright Brook Peterson 2017
Acting Snooty! How to Get Results Using a Snoot for Underwater Photography

Acting Snooty! How to Get Results Using a Snoot for Underwater Photography

Snoot photography can be a fun and rewarding way to up your game in underwater photography.  Besides being a quirky word, a snoot is a tool photographers use to manipulate light. Underwater, it is most often used in macro photography, but can be a valuable tool for wide angle shooting, especially in less than stellar conditions.  Take a look at the following images to get an idea of what a snoot can do. The image below was taken using two strobes to light the subject.  Although the image is not a bad one, it is a little bit busy and can be made much better.

Harlequin shrimp lit with two strobes

This image is of the same Harlequin Shrimp just moments later, using a snoot with the light coming from directly overhead.

A Harlequin shrimp under a snoot

You can see how the light illuminates the subject without lighting the surrounding environment.  This has the effect of isolating the subject so that it stands out.  This can be especially valuable when you have a very busy background, or the animal is in a place where it is hard to visually separate it from its environment.  There are several different types of snoots, and each one works differently, although they all give similar results.

The Retra LSD Ultimate Light Shaping Device  focuses the light from your strobe down to a point that can be shaped like a spotlight on a small object.  This will block the light from reaching the surrounding area, isolating the subject.  It has templates that you can use to customize the shape of the light (such as a square, or different sized circles.)  With the focus light on your strobe turned on, it is easy to focus on the subject, as the light coming down through the snoot will illuminate the area that will be lit. The closer the snoot is to your subject, the more pronounced the circle of light will be. This Melibe nudibranch, for example, has the snoot very close to it giving the light a hard edge.

Melibe colemani nudibranch with hard edge lighting

Another type of snoot is made by Reefnet and uses fiber optic technology to direct the light to your subject. This snoot works by sending the light from your strobes through a bundle of fiber optic cables toward your subject.  The advantage of a fiber optic snoot is that you have the ability to articulate the light in any direction you want.  You can move the bendable arm so that the light is coming from any direction.  It is also a bit more compact than the Retra, although the quality of the light is not as rich.

The following image of a Doto greenmayeri nudibranch was taken using two snoots;  the Reefnet Fiber Optic Snoot with the light coming from underneath the nudibranch, as well as the Retra LSD with the light coming from above.

Doto greenmayeri nudibranch lit with two snoots

Lighting the nudibranch this way required an assistant to help hold the snoots, and the effect is that the nudibranch looks as though it is lit from the inside, without lighting up much of its surrounding environment.

There are many other snoots on the market such as the 10 BAR snoot.  This one takes the light from your strobe and directs it through graduated tubes to make it smaller.  It is also possible to make a homemade snoot this way using graduated PVC.  The principle is the same:  the light from your strobe is made a smaller diameter so that just your subject is lit.

Another advantage of using a snoot is that you can backlight your subject.  Sometimes you have an animal that has an interesting shape, but that shape can be lost using strobes.  Take this Rhinopias frondosa, for example.  It has a lot of detail that can easily get lost against its environment.  I was lighting it with one strobe (from the right) so that the animal’s own shadow would help isolate it from its background.  It worked, somewhat, but the image has a lot of distractions.

Rhinopias frondosa lit with one strobe

This Rhinopias was lit using just a snoot from behind and slightly face on.  It is a much more dramatic and interesting image.

Rhinopias frondosa backlit with a snoot

Some animals are more translucent than others, and lend themselves better to front lighting or backlighting.  This Ceryece elegans nudibranch was shot using a snoot both from the front and from behind.  When the light comes from different directions, the animal has a completely different look.

Ceryece elegans lit from BEHIND using the Retra LSD
Ceryece elegans lit from the FRONT with the Retra LSD

Most snoots produce similar results, so choosing a snoot is more about how you are going to use it, than which one is best.  Do you want to be able to articulate the light? (Fiber Optic) Do you want to be able to see exactly where the light will be produced on your subject? (Retra and 10Bar).  How portable do you want your snoot?  Do you want to take it off or put it on easily during your dive? Some people attach the snoot to their strobe and leave it on for the entire dive for easier portability and less task loading.  All snoots have a bit of a learning curve, so be patient as you learn how to use yours, and enjoy the results of your new edgy and snooty photography.

For information on using snoots in wide angle photography, please see my tutorial “Five Life Hacks for Better Wide Angle Underwater Photography.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 or YS-D2 Strobes.
All images and content are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.
copyright Brook Peterson 2017

 

Strobe Positioning for Wide Angle Underwater Photography

Strobe Positioning for Wide Angle Underwater Photography

Mastering the light in an image is perhaps one of the most challenging skills we learn as photographers.  Underwater, that skill must be developed even more because of the limitations we face with available light, and technology. The strobes on your rig are versatile tools that can help make beautiful images when used correctly.  There are several positioning and lighting techniques that can help you become a proficient and talented underwater photographer.

Backscatter.  Everyone worries about backscatter. But truly, there is one rule that you can use to avoid most backscatter issues and that is to be sure your strobes are back behind your dome port. The rule of thumb for me is that the heads of my strobes are no further forward than the handles on my housing.

 

There are many ideas out there on how to further avoid backscatter.  Since backscatter is caused by particles in the water reflecting the light from your strobes back into your lens, many people will turn their strobes slightly out or in, so that the angle of reflection bounces away from your camera lens.  You can try this too as it may be a solution for you, especially if you dive in lower visibility conditions.  However, I have had the exact same results with my strobes facing straight forward, so I prefer not to worry so much about the direction the light is going to bounce.  Instead, I will put more effort into how high the power is on my strobes.  Often, just turning the power down a bit on one or both strobes will reduce backscatter.

Strobe position is another hot topic and there are a lot of ideas out there.  How close should the strobes be to your housing?  How high or how low? What if you want to make a vertical image? What about close focus wide angle?  What about big animals?  Each circumstance merits consideration as the position of your strobes may require a change for each one.  The basic position that I use for a good majority of my work is to have the strobes about 8-12 inches away from the housing, facing straight forward, with the strobes at nine and three o’clock.

Variations of this are fine, but generally speaking this is the position I will use when I am just swimming around looking for my next subject.  Then, if something like a sea lion approaches suddenly, I am ready to shoot.

Tip:  A good rule of thumb for how close the strobes should be to your housing is to place them about as far apart as you are from your subject.  In other words, the strobes in the picture above are about 18-24 inches apart.  Using this rule, I should be about 18-24 inches from my subject to get proper lighting.

The height of the strobes depends on how large a subject you want to light.  If you are trying to light an entire reef, you might consider putting your strobes up above your housing so that the light can be cast evenly over a large area.  You can adjust the distance that the strobes are from each other according to how wide an area you want to light.  Keep in mind, however, that the light comes out from the strobes in a cone shape, and you want that cone of light to cross in the middle so that there is not a dark area in the middle of your image.

Vertical images can be a challenge and there are a couple of different ways you can light them up.  When you turn your housing so that it is vertical, you will have one strobe on the top at twelve o’clock, and one on the bottom at six o’clock.  This is just fine if you are shooting a large scene, or you are a few feet from your subject.  It becomes a problem when you are close to your subject, or you want to shoot something where one of the strobes (usually the one on the bottom) is too close to the subject.  This may result in part of the image being blown out.

Tip:  The solution to this is to turn the bottom strobe down (quite a bit) until the light on the top matches the light on the bottom.

Improperly lit with too much light from the strobe on the bottom
Properly lit image with bottom strobe power set to 1/4 power and top strobe set to 3/4 power.

Another strobe position for vertical images is to move the strobes so that they are positioned at nine and three o’clock when the housing is turned into a vertical position.  This takes a bit of effort, but the reward is a properly lit image without having to adjust the power of your strobes as much.

Close focus wide angle photography is when you have a relatively small subject in the foreground along with something in the background such as a diver or the sun.  In these images it is important to light them so that the subject, surrounding area and the background light blend together.  You want the viewer to see the image as one beautiful picture, instead of noticing that you have used artificial light on part of it.

For example, the gorgonian fan in the image above was only a few inches from my dome port. It and the reef around it looks like there is no artificial light and the ambient light in the surrounding kelp forest blends with the light from my strobe.  It appears that the light comes from above all from the same light source.  That should be your goal in any close focus wide angle image. I achieved this by putting my strobes a little above my housing which was in vertical position, at about ten and two o’clock.  The strobe on the right is set at a slightly higher power than the one on the left because the reef was a bit further away on that side.

Lastly, big animals can be a challenge to light properly for several reasons.  In most cases, I expect to be from two to three feet away from a large subject such as a shark.  In this case, I will pull my strobes apart to about two feet and turn the power up to one stop under full power.  I will also meter for the ambient light at the depth I am shooting at.  A good guess for settings in clear blue water is f/8 and 1/125th with ISO at around 400.  This can vary greatly, but it is a good place to start.

This turtle was very close to my strobes and is entirely lit by them, while camera settings are adjusted for the bright sunlight at f/16, 1/320th and ISO 200.

This shark is also entirely lit by my strobes and I am about two or three feet away from it in this image.  The strobes are two feet apart, facing straight forward and set on the highest power.  My camera settings are exposed for the ambient light at f/9, 1/200s, and ISO 320.  Had there been no strobe light on the shark, it would appear as dim and dark as the reef in the left corner.

Photographers spend their entire careers mastering light in their images.  Utilizing a few tips such as these can help you on your way to conquering light in a way that will make your images stand out from the crowd.  Don’t be afraid to experiment, and change up the rules.  Sometimes we get hung up on how to accomplish a task, rather than experimenting with our equipment. The main goal is to make your images look like they are naturally and evenly lit.  Remember this and you cannot fail.

For tips on using light creatively for macro photography, please visit my tutorial “Let There Be Light!”

For more lighting tips on getting better images in low visibility and avoiding backscatter, visit “Five Life Hacks for Better Wide Angle Photography”

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You will receive an email when new tutorials are posted

No Spam. Ever. That's a promise.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 or YS-D2 Strobes.
All images and content is copyright protected by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact Brook Peterson.
© 2017 Brook Peterson
How to Remove Splotches Using Lightroom CC Local Adjustments

How to Remove Splotches Using Lightroom CC Local Adjustments

Sometimes our underwater photos are plagued with backscatter, but sometimes you have a great image–if only there wasn’t that ugly splotch of backscatter right over the top of your subject.  This tutorial shows how to reduce or remove that large splotch, without ruining your image.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 or YS-D2 Strobes.
All images and content are copyright protected by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact Brook Peterson.
© 2017 Brook Peterson
Models and Modeling Underwater

Models and Modeling Underwater

When I first started photographing the world underwater, I hoped to capture my dive buddy interacting with the environment.  But every time I pointed the camera in his direction, he would wave, give me a “thumbs up,” or take out his regulator and smile.  I soon realized that he had no idea what I wanted from him and I began to communicate to him, before we entered the water,  how I wanted him to behave for the camera.  It didn’t happen overnight, but with some practice, my better half became a fabulous dive model.

Accomplished underwater photographers have a diverse portfolio, often including images that depict a diver either as the main subject or secondary subject.  Getting a good shot with a dive model doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.  It can be accomplished with a good dive buddy just by communicating your intentions ahead of time.  After a dive trip I gently told my dive buddy that I loved taking pictures with him in the picture, and I wanted to start using him in some of my more “serious” shots.  This would prove to be an exercise in patience as both of us had to discover what worked and what didn’t.  The following guidelines are some of the “rules” we use for divers as a secondary subject.

Look at the Subject

In order for your audience to be engaged with the subject in your images, your model needs to be engaged.  It is important for the model to look at the subject.  If the model’s face is very close to the subject, then have him focus a bit past the animal so that his eyes do not appear crossed.

Keep your Feet/Fins Together

Not every picture has to have the fins together, but a diver strikes a much better pose when the legs are in line with each other.  I often ask my buddy to place one foot on top of the other so that only one fin appears.

Face The Camera

There is a certain pose that I prefer where the model is facing the camera at an angle of about 45 degrees, so that it looks like he is swimming into the picture.  I especially like this pose for close focus wide angle shots, and for shots where the diver is entering a small space such as this cave.

Tuck your Elbows In

It is distracting when the diver in your image appears to have problems with trim and/or buoyancy, so I always make sure that the elbows are tucked in tight against the body, and that nothing is hanging down such as an SPG.  If she is carrying a camera, I either have her put it down, or make sure it is as compact as possible, unless it is part of the image.  i.e: a diver taking a picture.

Point the Dive Light

If your dive model has a light you can have him point it at the main subject, or point the light directly into your camera lens.  He should hold the light so that it is centered on his body about midway up the torso.  If the light is attached to a camera housing, hold the camera close to the body.

Breathe Normally

One of the problems with using a dive model is that you have to breathe at the same time so that your exhale and the model’s exhale don’t appear in the image.  I always ask my model to breathe normally and I will coordinate my breath with theirs.  It is easier than trying to anticipate how long they will hold their breath for a shot.

Just a few other tips to keep in mind are to make sure your strobes are lighting the model’s face as well as the subject.  The model is secondary, but her face is just as important to light as the subject.  Attractive models are good for close up work, but most people look good under water when they are dressed in neoprene, so don’t worry too much about attractiveness.  If it is a problem for you, shoot in silhouette.

Silhouettes

When using a model as a silhouette in the background, keep in mind the distance the model is from the camera, and the pose you want.  Although I prefer the horizontal pose most of the time, there are times when a vertical pose works better.  When the diver is in the distance for example, their silhouette may look better in a vertical position.  The image below had a cathedral type arch and the image looked better with the diver in vertical pose.

In this image, the diver was carrying a large camera rig.  He turned it upside down so that the strobe arms were hidden in his silhouette and the light sitting on top of the housing was now in the middle of his body.  It was an effective trick to make him appear to be holding only a torch.

It is important to create hand signals before you get in the water so that your buddy understands how you want him to pose.  I have also found it useful to use the dome port as a mirror.  When I am posing for someone, I can usually see my reflection in their dome port along with the subject and I am able to position myself so that they can get the best shot.

These tips and tricks are suggestions that I have found helpful over the years.  My dive buddy has become an excellent model, and as a result my shots have improved dramatically. Remember to be kind to your buddy when suggesting ways for him or her to improve and be flexible when underwater as communication is limited.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 or YS-D2 Strobes.
All images and content is copyright protected by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact Brook Peterson.
© 2017 Brook Peterson
Gizmos and Gadgets for Creative Underwater Photography

Gizmos and Gadgets for Creative Underwater Photography

Our watery world holds the heart of many a scuba diver whether it be the thrill of breathing under water, the excitement of encountering a wild animal, or the fascination of seeing strange and unusual critters.  For me, the ocean had me at my first nudibranch on my first dive.  What the heck was that weird, colorful wormy thing?  Since then, I have devoted hundreds of dives to searching out and photographing the tiny critters in the world’s oceans.  This has produced thousands of photographs and led me to start exploring more creative ways to showcase these animals in their natural habitat.

One of the first techniques I explored was getting a reflection of an animal against trapped air which creates a mirror like surface.

This turtle is gazing at his own reflection in air that was trapped under a part of the Kittiwake wreck in Grand Cayman.  Of course, you could just use the surface of the water for a reflection shot, but I was more interested in how I could create this effect in deep water.  On another dive, I found a half a clam shell which I used as a tool to hold air from my exhale.  This gave me a portable mirror that I could hold over any small animal to capture its reflection.

Using tools on the fly, such as a clam shell, is great for spontaneous photography, but sometimes we must plan ahead and bring tools with us.  One of the most well-known tools for macro photography is the snoot.  Snoots are devices that attach to the end of your strobe that shape the light by reducing the beam angle of your strobe.  This has the effect of putting a spotlight on your subject without lighting up the surrounding area.  It is an especially effective tool for isolating your subject.  Snoots vary in design and can be purchased or homemade.

At one time, I had a very creative guide who carried lots of different tools with him to help photographers get creative shots.  One of these tools was a matte black plastic slate.  The slate was dual purpose.  He used it to place behind a subject that had a very busy background so that the subject popped out.  On another occasion, he trapped tiny bubbles from his regulator on the slate to give a more interesting background. To add one more dimension to this tool, I could have focused my lens on the bubbles and perhaps caught the reflection of the fish in each tiny bubble.

This same guide carried some other colored slates with him in case his clients wanted to try a creative colored background.  Although I thought this made the image look a little too contrived, it is worth mentioning here.  Perhaps under the right circumstances, this would create a pleasing image.

Another fun tool in my guide’s bag of tricks was a mirror.  Placed behind a subject it can also create an interesting effect.

One last tool is a homemade one that a friend of mine dubbed “ringflection.”  This effect is created by attaching a piece of pipe to the front of the camera’s port so that the lens is looking down the barrel of the pipe.  The subject will be reflected inside the pipe, giving a swirly frame around it.

This particular tool has a lot of room for creativity as the shape of the swirl can change with the angle of the pipe, or the length of the lens, or the length of the pipe.

These are just a few ideas for creating eye-popping images that don’t look like everyone else’s.  Try a few of them and see how you like the results.  I would be interested in feedback, so if you would like to comment, please do so by clicking on “comment” at the top of this post.

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As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 or YS-D2 Strobes.
All images and content is copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.
© 2017 Brook Peterson

 

How to mask and make local adjustments using the Brush Tool in Lightroom

How to mask and make local adjustments using the Brush Tool in Lightroom

Have you ever wished you could make precise adjustments to your images in Lightroom?  This tutorial will show you how to make adjustments to a portion of your image using the adjustment brush and the auto-mask feature in Adobe Lightroom.

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You will receive an email when new tutorials are posted

No Spam. Ever. That's a promise.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on Facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.
My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 or YS-D2 Strobes.
All images and content is copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.
copyright Brook Peterson 2017
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