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White balance for rich green water


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#1 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 11:12 AM

I had an enjoyable day today shooting in nice temperate green water. During the dives I was mainly concentrating on honing my settings and exposures to get the background water colour I want. A rich emerald green.

I am keen to hear about what WB settings people use to get the best green water look in camera.

On AUTO WB, my D2X tends to add too much magenta (tint) to the image - forcing green water towards bluey-green. This is not what I am after. In blue water I often use a Kelvin value of 4200 or 4300 to get nice blues. This again made things too blue in green water and I slowly worked my way up to 4800K, which seemed better. This warmer colour temp made things less blue.

I also tried cloudy - but this produced too warm foregrounds with my strobes and the short camera to subject distances. Daylight was OK, but not as good as 4800K.

Of course you can argue, why bother. You can tweak it in the RAW converter - or fiddle it in Photoshop. True. But I prefer my images to look spot on in camera. If things don't look great on the LCD I tend not to push a photo-oppurtunity and get all the potential from them. And without doing this I tend not to get those really special shots.

So any advice of WB settings used for great greens would be gratefully recieved. I am talking about small differences - so I would particulary like to hear from Nikon shooters.

Otherwise a great day. Very pleased with the images. Shot Tok 10-17mm and 10.5mm + tele combo.

Alex

p.s. I don't have a RAW converter on my laptop

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#2 jlyle

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 11:58 AM

Funny you should ask. We encountered green water this w/e off of Southern California. There was a layer of red tide from 10 to 35 feet - underneath, it was clear but very dark. I have my WB set at 4800K - to match my Ikelite DS-125 strobes.

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#3 herbko

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:08 PM

I also tried cloudy - but this produced too warm foregrounds with my strobes and the short camera to subject distances. Daylight was OK, but not as good as 4800K.


Have you tried Inon strobes? ;)

I typically use cloudy or WB at around 5500K when I shoot at Monterey. I don't know about the temperate water where you are, but in Monterey the range of water color is much greater than what is typical in the tropics. The same site can be nice turquoise blue one day and ugly brown the next. I'm not sure there's one WB setting that'll alway give what you want it to look like.
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#4 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 12:33 PM

Thanks for the advice guys.

Alex

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#5 cdoyal

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:00 PM

If you are shooting in RAW, what difference does it make?
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#6 james

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Posted 12 June 2007 - 01:17 PM

CDoyal,

According to Alex it makes a difference for his shooting style - he wrote it right into his original post.

"I prefer my images to look spot on in camera. If things don't look great on the LCD I tend not to push a photo-oppurtunity and get all the potential from them. And without doing this I tend not to get those really special shots."

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#7 vannar

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 03:55 AM

Well alex!

My experience (much less than yours ofcourse) with white balance and temperate waters (Norway) is that it is so much more variable in color and light perception than tropical waters.

This makes it much more difficult to guess which setting that gives the best results, It can vary much depending on depth and if your shooting towards and away from the sun... Visibility in Norwegiasn waters can vary from one dive to another on the same day depending on the tide.

I have given up the quest for the perfect pictur already in the camera and concentrate on componsition and lighting when underwater, leaving the fiddling with colors untill later... I can understand your point though...

The images that I display on my webpage: http://www.vannar.net/?p=cat_vrak

Have the following whitebalance settings(from left --> right): 8600 - 6900 - 6650 - ? - 5350. Tint seems to be around +60-80

#8 Iggy

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 06:21 AM

According to Alex it makes a difference for his shooting style - he wrote it right into his original post.

That's a bit unfair James. Yes, Alex said something about being spot on "in camera". But given everything I've read from Alex both here and in publication it was my understanding that he regularly gained desired water color in post. Most people here know the routine: shoot warm strobe, gain blue in post, warm subject comes to proper temp, background water gains deeper blue. If Alex is getting some of the blue backgrounds I see in his imaging, "in camera", then my already abundant appreciation for his craftsmanship has grown exponentially. Not only because they are beautiful, but also because I believe that is the most legitimate way to image (personal opinion, not a poke in the ribs to those who think differently).

I'm not questioning Alex's comment. But I do see why CDoyal might be a bit confused. I myself thought that Alex was an very aggressive manipulator when it came to water color. In fact I believed he premised his equipment choices, and shooting practices, on what they allowed him to do to water color, in post.

#9 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 10:58 AM

If Alex is getting some of the blue backgrounds I see in his imaging, "in camera", then my already abundant appreciation for his craftsmanship has grown exponentially. Not only because they are beautiful, but also because I believe that is the most legitimate way to image (personal opinion, not a poke in the ribs to those who think differently).


[rant]
Normally, I'd ignore a comment like this. But anyone who has dived with me regularly and seen my pictures in camera, will realise that most of my pictures look exactly as you see them in camera.

Many people believe that all good underwater photographs must be post processed to bits - they have the same kit as the best photographers - but their pictures don't look as good - therefore it must be post processing.

Anyone who thinks this will never produce the really top level underwater images. All the top photographers know that their best shots looked exactly like the final versions on the back of the camera. More and more on Wetpixel you see people posting images saying - untouched, straight from camera - as more and more people get on top of techniques ar realise this.

What excites me about RAW and post processing is the possibility to bend and break some of the established rules of underwater photography to create new images. Images that were technically impossible on film. This is exciting. This is pushing underwater forward. There are certain shots I take that I know will not come out without post processing adjustment. The classic example of this is telephoto shooting underwater - which come out too blue and require warmer WB and more contrast to ping.

It is important to understand the full potential of post processing to get the most out of digital underwater photography. It is not there to rescue your images. Instead it is there to allow you to take images that were impossible before digital. But post is not something that people use extensively on every shot. Far from it.

For me major adjustments are a minority situation. And the reason I have responded is that you are only kidding yourself (and holding back your underwater photography) if you think that everything is post processed. 90% of my best known images looked exactly the same on the back of my camera as they do when on the web or printed. There are obvious (composite pygmy) exceptions of course. To make this point - I do not have a RAW converter on my laptop. If things don't look good straight from my camera in the field they are usually deleted before I come home.

The reason I ask this question about green water is that I have spent a lot of time perfecting my technique in blue water to produce the look of images I want in camera. Most important are conditions and then exposure. In blue water, I do not adjust white balance on most of my wide angle in the RAW converter. Nearly everything is 'as shot' in terms of WB. The relationship between camera angle, lens and exposure is crucial. I would love my green water shooting to be at the same level.

The issue about warm strobes was a new thought I had last year - and therefore it recieved a lot of discussion here on Wetpixel because it was a new way of thinking (as it didn't apply on film). But it is a relatively minor point compared with conditions, camera angle and exposure. Worth of discussion because it is new.
I also think the Herb has a point that cooler strobes might be better in green water - especially given that the most pleasing greens seem to come at warmer camera colour temps (say 4800-5900K). Temperatures at which my warm strobes make the foreground look way to warm. Yuk.

Anyway, today's shots are very pleasing - so thanks for the advice.

Alex
[/rant]

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#10 craig

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 11:47 AM

A skilled photographer understands his tools and seeks to use them to maximum benefit. Using one tool to compensate for lack of technique in another is not good photography.

Alex has demonstrated over time his dedication to getting images right at the point of capture. From concerning himself with strobe temps, carefully considering filter formulations, manually setting white balance underwater, and now raising the discussion about green water camera settings, no one shows more attention to those details.

Regarding "gaining blue water in post", that's not what is happening at all. If the strobe is warmer, then the background is relatively cooler. That is a natural consequence of white balancing to the strobe. White balancing must always occur, so it is not a function of post processing even if it occurs there due to RAW.

The interesting thing is that digital cameras are really nothing more than very powerful, fixed function computers (with an interesting input device attached). Some aspects of photography that were done in camera with film (tone curves, white balance, saturation, ISO) are now just software with digital. Those functions were not considered "post" in the film days and they shouldn't be now. Understanding what makes digital different from film, and what doesn't, is important to maximizing digital's unique benefits.
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#11 loftus

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 12:02 PM

Alex,
I seem to recall you have written up your approach to setting white balance for blues etc. Would you give me the reference please. I'm not ready for greens yet.

Edited by loftus, 13 June 2007 - 12:03 PM.

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#12 Iggy

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 12:49 PM

[rant]Normally, I'd ignore a comment like this.[/rant]

Perhaps that would have been better, since you responded to it's narrowly focused intent as if it was an accusation your images or more post than photography. I was only pointing out the apparent contradiction between today's comment about background water color and previous comments and articles on the same subject, and how that may have influenced the post James responded to.

It has been my impression for some time, after reading your comments on WP as well as various articles from other sources, that you are very aggressive in post. It's not an opinion I hoped for, it is simply a notion built on the remains of your stated techniques and suggestions I have had the opportunity to read.

This "rant" is refreshing in that regard.

#13 Iggy

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 03:35 PM

Alex has demonstrated over time his dedication to getting images right at the point of capture.

Ahhh, come on Craig, I made no accusation to the contrary. I simply noticed the disparity between today's comment about getting water color right "in camera" and comments and articles Alex has offered regarding "Getting the Blues"in post, as it possibly pertained to the comment James' replied to. Let's be honest here, if you read an article from someone about getting blue water color right in post, it seems perfectly reasonable to ask them why not do it in post when they are talking about getting another water color to a level they desire.

Regarding "gaining blue water in post", that's not what is happening at all.

If you intentionally shoot a warmer strobe than you would otherwise desire to see in the image, solely for the purpose of using the temp slider to cool the whole image to enable a deeper blue in the background water without adding blue cast to the strobe lit portions......that is shooting for post. And that would be the polar opposite of getting it "spot on" "in camera". I have no comment on whether it's right or wrong, nor do I have an opinion about how **anyone** chooses to render an image. That wasn't the point of my comment at all. It was only about the eye-catching disparity between "Getting the Blues" technique and "spot on" "in camera" technique, as it pertained to James' reply to CDoyle.

#14 james

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 03:43 PM

Iggy,

If you intentionally shoot a warmer strobe than you would otherwise desire to see in the image, solely for the purpose of using the temp slider to cool the whole image to enable a deeper blue in the background water without adding blue cast to the strobe lit portions......that is shooting for post.


No, it is not - and that is what Craig, Alex, and I are saying. What you do is you purposefully select a warm strobe, then set the color temp on your camera to say oh 4300, then you just GO SHOOT PICTURES. They give you the "provia blue" you are looking for in the background and the "velvia orange and red" that you are looking for in the foreground.

A lot of folks don't understand this until they have been shooting a "linear" system for a while (digital). You really have to understand how the information from the camera is displayed before you can try to alter it in this way - and that's why we're having this discussion.

I know you think that Craig, Alex and I are buddies and that we're ganging up on you in this thread - and I apologize. I don't think that's what we're trying to do. We all have had similar experiences and are chiming in from different perspectives on the same topic.

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#15 craig

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 04:56 PM

If you intentionally shoot a warmer strobe than you would otherwise desire to see in the image, solely for the purpose of using the temp slider to cool the whole image to enable a deeper blue in the background water without adding blue cast to the strobe lit portions......that is shooting for post. And that would be the polar opposite of getting it "spot on" "in camera".


It is not post. White balancing is done "in camera" as a fundamental part of each and every shot. When we shoot RAW we are simply postponing these "in camera" decisions. For example, Alex frequently performs custom white balance while underwater and chooses that setting in the raw converter. He's not using any "temp slider" at all nor is he overriding any decision he made during the shoot. He is getting it "spot on" "in camera" and yet digital affords him the option to fix any errors afterward without penalty.

We have to remember that warm strobes came about for wide angle shooting with film. Back then, white balance was selected by choice of film (i.e. "in camera") and most certainly not in post. With each shot, film or digital, we have to choose what our white balance is. Just because digital allows us to change our mind afterward doesn't mean it is postprocessing.

If I choose a 5000K strobe, set my camera to 6500K, then adjust each shot after the fact, I'm making a deliberate choice to make a wrong decision up front and fix it later. There's generally no penalty for that unless I shoot JPEG.

Using warm strobes to improve wide angle color is actually an existing technique that we forgot about with the advent of digital. The entire technique involves controlling the light source differences in a mixed light situation. By your logic, using filters would also be "manipulation in post" since they would likely lead to color setting changes in the raw converter. Such an argument would be silly. Filters, like warm strobes, effect the light entering the lens, not the bits coming out the back.
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#16 Iggy

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Posted 13 June 2007 - 06:39 PM

No, it is not

Yes James it is, if you stay in context. I have referred to the article "Getting the Blues", and while it talks about working angles, wb settings, strobe temp etc, it also has a section in which it specifically describes one or two ways to effect that water color change in Photoshop. Indeed it even shows before and after images. Again, there is no crime in that but why wouldn't it seem natural for someone who had read that article to ask Alex why not make changes to green water in post as well? It's not insulting, it's not accusatory, it's just a natural extension of what might pop into one's head having read that particular article.

A lot of folks don't understand this .....

I don't know one underwater photographer who doesn't understand it. And I also don't know one who doesn't understand that these perfect microsoft blue backgrounds perfectly balanced with warm foreground subjects are almost all manufactured to one extent or the other....in post. I accept that on occasion we can get it in-camera exactly the way it will print, but I don't accept this as anything other than the exception. I've been around it too long to overlook the litany of reasons why nailing a color in camera is more hope than science. You can get close, but we aren't talking close, we are talking "spot on "in camera".

I am jumping the gun here a bit, so forgive me, but please don't try to tell me that what one sees on the computer screen or printed to paper is what one saw on the LCD on the boat. That is a physical impossibility. I love the claim, it's almost folklore, but I know as it relates to color that it isn't true. Both your Canon and my Nikon render the colors inaccurate to what the converter will reveal, no matter what settings you input to the camera body for LCD review. It's a jpeg on LCD and RAW on the converter. You cannot tell the camera to process that jpeg to match the raw image. So you don't have a "spot on" visual from which to work underwater.

I know you think that Craig, Alex and I are buddies and that we're ganging up on you in this thread - and I apologize.

Nah, I don't think that at all, so there is no need for an apology ;) And again, this isn't about Alex's shooting, or Alex's images. This is about someone possibly asking a question predicated upon the groundwork Alex's articles have previously laid. It is nothing more than that. I don't understand why asking about processing the colors in post demanded such a reply from you when Alex has written about doing that very thing with blue water. If there was any ganging-up going on, I thought that was it ;)

#17 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 12:30 AM

To get back to green water. Here is one of my photos - direct from camera, just resized. This is a self portrait (taken with 10.5mm + 1.5 Tele) - I am not ready to share my serious photos yet! This was shot on Auto WB - which my camera determined as 4400K colour temp and -2 tint (depth about 10m and viz about 4m):

Posted Image

I feel that this is just a bit too blue. A warmer white balance would get me better greens, but it would also upset the foreground neutrality - adjusting WB in RAW can do a lot, but it can't change the relationship between foreground and background colour temps.

Later in the same dive, I found that setting the WB at a Kelvin value of 4800 seemed best with my setup in those conditions, but warmer still would get richer greens (although at the expense of the foreground with my current strobes). The solution, it seems, is to cool the strobe light down a bit.

The sort of green I am after is like the image below.

Posted Image

This is the same shot, but with a quick adjustment of the greens and cyans in Selective Colour in Photoshop (which does allow you to adjust the foreground and background colour temps independently). And this is easily done in PS - just a couple of seconds because it does not require any masking. So I could just do this to all my shots, but I would rather be getting this look straight from the camera - as I do with blues in blue water. As I said this encourages me to make the most of really good oppurtunities.

So I think I am going to go back to Herb's initial advice and add some weak cooling gels to my strobes? A bit clumsy, I know, but adding filters to strobes always impresses other photographers on the boat and makes you look like you know what you are doing. ;)

Alex

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#18 Christian K

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 01:03 AM

Alex Mustard in very green, very murky water (baltic sea)

;)

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#19 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 01:16 AM

That's so funny, Christian.

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#20 Trevor Rees

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Posted 14 June 2007 - 07:54 AM

Alex,

The strobes I'm now using are Sea & Sea 110's which supposedly give out 5400 K. I have to admit I've never given serious thought to strobe colour tempearature.
The WB 'flash' setting on my Nikon also corresponds to 5400 K. This is the setting I dial in for strobe lit images. For available light images I've tended to use AWB. No doubt I could do better!

Can I take it that these Sea & Sea 110's are on cool side as strobes go?