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How do you shoot a black hole?


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#1 troporobo

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 12:14 AM

I found a very small black hairy frogfish recently but, despite working on it for a while, struggled to get a decent image.  How the heck do you shoot something that absorbs all light while it is sitting on a bright reflective sandy bottom?!

 

As shown, I eventually settled on using one strobe high and to the left to try to get a little relief from the lighting, but it was only partly successful.  Standard macro front lighting produced an unrecognizable blob as it just washed out all the texture. I wanted to also try backlighting, but was in less than 2 m of water, fighting the surge with nothing to brace against, and just couldn't get a good stable position. 

 

I'd love some tips for the next time I get this opportunity.

 

 

39435219295_9655b66961_z.jpg


Edited by troporobo, 18 February 2018 - 12:16 AM.


#2 Chris Kippax

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 01:19 AM

Try using a snoot, something like the Retra lsd

#3 TimG

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 05:00 AM

Find one a different colour, Robert  :lol2:

 

I met a good few black frogfish on our recent Anilao/PG trip and just gave up. I could not figure out a way to photography Black Holes. 

 

We're off to Bonaire in a few weeks and have just bought a Retra snoot. So I'll give Chris' idea a try - although I can't help but feel I'll just get a closely light black hole.

 

If anyone has some good ideas - other than a backlight shot, I'd LOVE to hear it. 


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#4 tursiops

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 07:49 AM

Shoot from a lower angle...eliminate as much of the light-colored background as possible. Zoom in, eliminate as much of the light-colored background as possible. Use just enough light to keep the light-colored background from blowing out; the fish will be underexposed, but it is easier to bring up the underexposure in post-processing than to tone down a blown-out background.Light low and from the side, not the top, so you see both texture and can "skim" the light over the sand. Pray.



#5 TimG

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 08:51 AM

Shoot from a lower angle...eliminate as much of the light-colored background as possible. Zoom in, eliminate as much of the light-colored background as possible. Use just enough light to keep the light-colored background from blowing out; the fish will be underexposed, but it is easier to bring up the underexposure in post-processing than to tone down a blown-out background.Light low and from the side, not the top, so you see both texture and can "skim" the light over the sand. Pray.

 

LOL, I reckon that gives you a black blob on a nicely exposed background  :crazy:

I think "pray' Is the key thing.......

 


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#6 tursiops

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 11:38 AM

 

 I reckon that gives you a black blob on a nicely exposed background  

 

 

 

No, that's not quite what I said. I suggested to overexpose the background, right to the point before it is blown out, because then you still have a chance to tone it down in post and bring up the blacks. If the blacks are pure black (i.e., properly exposed background) or the whites are pure white (i.e., properly exposed fish), no chance to adjust the bad part in post. Split the difference, don't choose one or the other. You need to turn off ALL automatic exposure modes!



#7 troporobo

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 01:29 PM

I like the idea of the strobe low and to the side, thanks for that tip.  If it was also aimed upward, it might even be possible to edge light the fish and minimize spill onto the bottom. 



#8 TimG

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Posted 18 February 2018 - 10:45 PM

Thanks! I'll give it a go for sure.


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#9 ChrisRoss

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 11:39 AM

If you shoot in raw, process the image twice once for the fish and once for the sand.  Then combine them with layer masks, depending on how contrasty it is you may need to process some intermediate exposures to make the recombination process work better. 

 

If I was shooting it I'd be tempted to try HDR.  I'm using the EM-1 MkII and with its high frame rate it blasts off the frames needed for a HDR image extremely quickly making the possibility of doing HDR UW feasible.



#10 troporobo

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 01:18 PM

HDR is an interesting idea, I hadn't thought of that.  I don't know if my strobes (z-240) could keep up though



#11 ChrisRoss

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 02:35 PM

If you have a raw file try combining two or more versions from the same file with different processing.  Combining with layer masks is fairly simple if you have PS.



#12 Fruitographer

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Posted Yesterday, 08:17 PM

It's black so let it be black. stop trying to light it brighter than it is. Think of photographing people, White people you shoot for the shadows and black people you shoot for the highlights. you don't try to over expose dark skin or it looks weird. 

 

A backlight was my first thought but you tried that. Try to sidelight and use a clamshell set up for your strobes, although the tail side strobe should be just to fill in some of the shadows and at a much lower setting to give a slightly more even light. I agree with Tursiops and how he says to light low and skim across the bottom and expose properly. Check your histogram and make sure your blacks aren't clipped. Since your shooting something black it's okay to have a much brighter background which will separate it. As long as you can get those hairy looking things to stand out like it's been backlit you'll be good to go. Don't worry as much about making the black show up as much as making the texture pop and those little hairy things stand out and remember it's black so shoot for the highlights which needs to be done some how with more of a backlight.



#13 ChrisRoss

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Posted Yesterday, 09:41 PM

It's black so let it be black. stop trying to light it brighter than it is. Think of photographing people, White people you shoot for the shadows and black people you shoot for the highlights. you don't try to over expose dark skin or it looks weird. 

 

A backlight was my first thought but you tried that. Try to sidelight and use a clamshell set up for your strobes, although the tail side strobe should be just to fill in some of the shadows and at a much lower setting to give a slightly more even light. I agree with Tursiops and how he says to light low and skim across the bottom and expose properly. Check your histogram and make sure your blacks aren't clipped. Since your shooting something black it's okay to have a much brighter background which will separate it. As long as you can get those hairy looking things to stand out like it's been backlit you'll be good to go. Don't worry as much about making the black show up as much as making the texture pop and those little hairy things stand out and remember it's black so shoot for the highlights which needs to be done some how with more of a backlight.

Yes, looking at this again, the  blacks are not black from attempting to pull the brightness so you can see some detail.  I just tried a luminosity mask on this applying an S curve through a darks mask, pin the shadows down low at something like 8 in and 7 out then pull up the curve to taste.  You need contrast to differentiate between subtle black tones.



#14 Fruitographer

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Posted Today, 05:40 AM

Here is a basic concept of what I'm talking about. First thing would be to get rid of the particulate on it by using a dust and scratches filter adjustment and then using the history brush with darken blend mode and paint away the back scatter. There's plenty of info on this elsewhere. Bring down the black on it's body and bring up the highlights on hairs. 

 

Here is the best way to practice, go buy a black wig which is easily found at a black hair supply store. Then lay it over a milk jug or what ever else and put it next to a brighter background or even sand for best scenario. Then practice your shots until it's right. Then you can take your time and figure out exactly what to do. With this setup you can put your camera on live view and use a continuous light while moving it around and watching the screen to see what works best. I just tried it and this should help you find the right angle of camera and light to get your shot.

 

I did a basic edit and obviously it's rough, but I just wanted to show the idea and it didn't need to be perfect. I brought the blacks down and the highlights of hairs up then reduced the saturation of background to remove blue/green shadows and then reduced the contrast of background slightly. Also removed a bunch of particulate.

 

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#15 Fruitographer

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Posted Today, 06:37 AM

Here is a link on how to remove back scatter

 

https://www.scubadiv...derwater-photos