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Show me your filters!!!


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#1 marriard

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 07:34 AM

I have expereimented with filters underwater, and had given up as I disliked the effects I was getting compared to no-filter images.

This inlcuded using polarizers, reds, blues, tints and various others. The only one I still use on any kind of regular basis is a half/half split filter for over/under shots.

I am always willing to experiment though, so I am willing to be convinced to go down this path again and think about suggested ways of trying new things.

Show me what you got and how you achieved it.

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M

#2 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 11:26 AM

I'm a big fan of colour correction filters. I have always thought that uw photography is much harder than it needs to be. Flashes, backscatter, strobe arms, synch speeds, dodgy synch cords, synchronisation speeds etc etc. And these are all problems associated with using artificial light.

So my interest in filters has been driven by a desire to have kit that lets me take colourful images without all this. Plus get a success rate of images the same as on land.

I use Kodak Wratten Red Gels mainly. In 40 and 50CC strengths using 4CC units for each foot of light path from the surface to the subject and on to the camera. So this is mainly in shallow water.

I have done shots on film for a while but the difficult of getting slides spot on was always a drawback. The advantage with digital is that I can tune both the end product (a computer file) to the colours I want, or indeed with my D100 and a grey card define a custom white balance in the water and get the shots spot on straight out of the camera. See example below taken last week.

Available light corrected with filters is ideal for long exposures, people where skin tones look better than with flash, and for subject matter that stretches away from the camera and flash fall off is very noticable. It is also good in water with lots of suspended particles where backscatter will be a problem

Alex

I still, of course, do most of my photography with flash. But filters are another string to the bow.

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#3 craig

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 04:06 PM

This is shot at a depth of 70 feet in ambient light, UR Pro CY @ 2 ft
Posted Image
Color fills the entire frame on this one.

16mm fisheye, dual YS90DX, Singh-Ray FL-B @ 8 ft
Posted Image
Not a great shot but it shows color from ambient light and the red in the strobe-lit areas is controlled.

24mm fisheye, dual YS90DX, Singh-Ray FL-B @ 8 ft
Posted Image
White underside is correct, foreground fish and reef are not too red. Blue water is good.

24mm fisheye, dual YS90DX, Singh-Ray FL-B @ 6 ft
Posted Image
I think just about every color is right in this picture. I darkened the water and made
minor corrections. This is virtually what I saw on the preview screen.

15mm fisheye, dual Z220, 85B + CC50M gel, @ 3 ft.
Posted Image
85B is too strong for CFWA. Not enough dives with this combo, so this was as good as I got.
I would prefer changing the 85B to an 85C or 81EF.

Oly 5050, single Z220, Hoya FL-D @ 18 in
Posted Image
This a closer shot with a weaker filter. I darkened the water a lot because I liked it.
Foreground color received only white balancing. This is a P&S picture.

70-180@70mm, dual Z220, B+W FL-D @ 18 in
Posted Image
This is a close shot with a very weak B+W filter. This filter provides only CC20M and
20 mireds of warming. Good for macro as it extends white balance range.

I'd like to show examples of shots that are unique to filters but I needs some dive trips first.
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#4 Kasey

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 02:46 AM

The deeper water shots above are extremely noisy - I would think this is caused by reducing the amount of light getting to you camera - could even force you to a higher ISO. The shallow water shots are interesting, but I'd be reluctant to trade off foreground accuracy for background color.

Alex's shot has perfect color, and I will consider a similar setup if I ever get to stingray city, or another shallow-water opportunity. I just think that once the strobes are applied the foreground starts looking weird. i wouldn't want to start worrying about controlling the reds in the foreground.

The backgrounds also seem unnaturally dark - but perhaps that is the photographer's choice. I guess using a filter you'd have to commit to a filter and a specific depth and subject range before the dive.

I choose digital for the convenience of the medium, and the use of filters together with strobes seems to have the potential to add post-processing time. I've been really happy with the color accuracy of my D100, and spend very little time processing on the back end. I have one big advantage, though, as if I'm unhappy with the shot I can go work on it again next weekend. I realize for most of you that you have far more time to post process than to take photos - one big benefit of living in paradise.
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#5 craig

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 06:53 AM

The deeper water shots above are extremely noisy - I would think this is caused by reducing the amount of light getting to you camera - could even force you to a higher ISO.  The shallow water shots are interesting, but I'd be reluctant to trade off foreground accuracy for background color. 

Alex's shot has perfect color, and I will consider a similar setup if I ever get to stingray city, or another shallow-water opportunity.  I just think that once the strobes are applied the foreground starts looking weird.  i wouldn't want to start worrying about controlling the reds in the foreground. 

The backgrounds also seem unnaturally dark - but perhaps that is the photographer's choice.  I guess using a filter you'd have to commit to a filter and a specific depth and subject range before the dive. 

I choose digital for the convenience of the medium, and the use of filters together with strobes seems to have the potential to add post-processing time.  I've been really happy with the color accuracy of my D100, and spend very little time processing on the back end.  I have one big advantage, though, as if I'm unhappy with the shot I can go work on it again next weekend.  I realize for most of you that you have far more time to post process than to take photos - one big benefit of living in paradise.

First, there may be confusion on the distance numbers. They are the distance to the subject, not the depth. Only the first of my photos specified the depth and that was because it was an ambient light shot. This shot is a video frame grab and I chose it to show how color throughout the depth of the frame can be more even using filters. It's quality may not be what you are used to, but if you saw the water it was shot in you'd be amazed it is as good as it is.

The second shot shows noise because the camera was set inadvertently to ISO 1600 (actually auto-ISO). It was also deep and had poor vis. This is a crappy photo, I know, but it was my best example of color from ambient light combined with noticable light from the strobes. I agree that increased noise is a concern, but the filter used costs about 1-1.5 stops of light and the D100 is ISO 200. That puts you right in the range of typical film usage, so light sensitivity is not a question. The key here is not what's wrong with the photo but rather what the filter contributes. I don't believe the filter is contributing directly to the photograph being bad. I will probably hesitate to use this filter in this situation in the future. This was my third dive EVER with a still camera.

It's wrong to say that foreground accuracy is sacrificed. I don't think the foreground color balance is wrong in any of these and that's the whole point of the examples. You have to match the filter to the intended distance to the subject, and in the case of ambient, to the total light path distance as in Alex's shot. I agree that Alex's shot has nice color, but technically his use of a red filter (low pass) rather than magenta (notch) makes his application less color "accurate" except that the camera's white balance will most likely compensate. I'm interested in Alex's feedback on the difference between the two and hope he had a chance to shoot a dive with a magenta filter. My dark backgrounds are photographer's preference and not related to the filter discussion.

If you accept that you will shoot RAW and color balance afterward as I believe most D100 owners will do, then filters don't increase post-processing time at all. If you believe that the majority of your shots will be perfect as is and need no computer time, then filters are not for you. For me, the time spent on the computer and the time spent taking the shot are unrelated and time on the computer makes me a better photographer, not a worse one. The camera is in essence a fixed function computer, only the software developers have no idea that it's being used underwater. Why limit your results to software not optimized for the job?
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#6 james

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 08:28 AM

I can't wait to try using filters with the Nikon 12-24. It has a 77mm front filter thread, so this should be easy.

Photographers are used to accepting the fact that the foreground 3-4 feet have color and the rest of the shot is blue, black, or white. It doesn't have to be this way.

This is the benefit/fun of digital - the ability to experiment at virtually no cost.

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#7 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 09:10 AM

Spot on, James. It is really worth reading old UW photo text books from the 60s and 70s and see what techniques they were trying then. With digital we can not only try the techniques cheaply and easily, but we can refine them in one dive - not over several trips. At BSOUP we have much expertise of photographers who were shooting from the early 60s and I have learned a great deal froom them.

Craig, I meant to try the magenta filter on my last day at Stingray City (Sandbar) but while swapping my 16mm from my F100 to D100 and attaching the rear filter ring the cut piece of filter blew off the boat and into the water. Doh! So I did my Sandbar shots filterless! That will have to wait til next trip.

I had always though/been told that red was best in blue/cyan water and that magenta was best in green water. This is why I have favoured red in the past. But was (now am) looking forward to trying magenta.

My next trip in North Red Sea in a couple of months. The shallow reefs of Sinai will be excellent for filter work.

As well as rays in Cayman here are a couple of other filter shots:

the first is an anemone/reef scene. In about 5m water. 40CC Red plus grey card custom white balance. Not a great shot, but the colour is pleasing.

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#8 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 09:16 AM

This is the other shot. A scene of a diver (Steve from Ocean Frontiers, for those who know him) and a wreck (on Grand Cayman's East End). Same filter again on the 16mm. I like this shot (I don't like the anemone as a composition - dull).

What the filter gives over flash is that the colour of the wreck persists away from the camera further than the fall off of light with a flash would.

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#9 craig

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 09:25 AM

Spot on, James.  It is really worth reading old UW photo text books from the 60s and 70s and see what techniques they were trying then. With digital we can not only try the techniques cheaply and easily, but we can refine them in one dive - not over several trips. At BSOUP we have much expertise of photographers who were shooting from the early 60s and I have learned a great deal froom them.

Craig, I meant to try the magenta filter on my last day at Stingray City (Sandbar) but while swapping my 16mm from my F100 to D100 and attaching the rear filter ring the cut piece of filter blew off the boat and into the water. Doh! So I did my Sandbar shots filterless! That will have to wait til next trip.

I had always though/been told that red was best in blue/cyan water and that magenta was best in green water. This is why I have favoured red in the past. But was (now am) looking forward to trying magenta.

My next trip in North Red Sea in a couple of months. The shallow reefs of Sinai will be excellent for filter work.

As well as rays in Cayman here are a couple of other filter shots:

the first is an anemone/reef scene. In about 5m water. 40CC Red plus grey card custom white balance. Not a great shot, but the colour is pleasing.

Shoot! Maybe later on the comparison. I think the magenta and red filters will be more alike than different, the difference being the attenuation in the blue and violet regions. At deeper depths the magenta will allow residual violets that the red will block. This only matters from 30-70 feet I imagine. I think your advise on green and blue water makes sense as the big difference is in the blue/violet region.

Otherwise, I agree. Digital makes this kind of experimentation easy and cheap. That's why I'm excited about it.
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#10 craig

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 09:27 AM

What the filter gives over flash is that the colour of the wreck persists away from the camera further than the fall off of light with a flash would.

yes yes yes! Nice example.
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#11 Kasey

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 09:56 AM

One critical difference between Alex's method and Craig's is that Alex seems to be using filters only with natural light, while craig uses strobes to complement them. So Craig, when shooting with the filter on, do you tend to use less flash power - more to "fill" than to paint in color? I would think that would be the way to go.

I was taught, in shooting video, not to use lights and filters on the same shots. I occasionally broke this rule, but only when my subject was just on the outer edge of my strobe range. I think the same would go for stills.

In any case, this looks like too much hassle, and maybe something that i will experiment when I've got a portfolio like cyberrgoldfish and looking for something new to experiment with.
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#12 craig

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 10:51 AM

I agree with you on video, Kasey. It is very difficult with everything moving. The threshold between too much red and just right/not enough is really sharp and hard to manage. Still is easier because of the single instant in time and the control over strobe output that you don't have with the video lights. Otherwise an excellent analogy.

You definitely use less strobe power. A good starting point is one less stop for each stop of reduction in the filter. A good way to look at it is that the filter sensitizes the camera to "red" (loosely used term) by so many stops, so you need to remove that much "red" from the strobes. You can turn them down or use blue filters. You need to compensate for overall exposure, too, by slowing the shutter or opening the aperture. We're talking wide angle, of course. They're of questionable benefit for macro.

I agree it seems like a big hassle, but I think that the technique is similar to what you already do with manual and wide angle except the numbers are different. You do have to be prepared for adjustments after the dive.

You can also go the other way. Blue in the lens and red on the strobes. This would isolate the subject by reducing background color to a minimum. That's what this guy does. I would view filters as both a means to improve accuracy and as a creative tool. Alex uses them in a safe and straightforward way and achieves excellent results. I would be excited to see more people try his technique.
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#13 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 23 April 2003 - 09:38 AM

[QUOTE]I would be excited to see more people try his technique.[QUOTE]

I wouldn't - I want my shots to remain original!!

Only joking - that's why we are having this discussion. I guess the bottom line with my technique (which is copied from diving with video guys who don't use lights) is that I could give someone, who had never taken a picture underwater before, my camera (with filter on and already white balanced) and they could point and shoot - snapping away as if they were on land and all the pictures would be great. It is a very easy technique.

I very much see this as an additional technique - to be used when conditions allow or conditions prevent the use of flash. Not as a replacement. So Kasey you are correct that is really a technique to experiment with when you are looking for new directions for UW photography, having already satisfied yourself with a comprehensive portfolio of the classic shots.

Alex

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