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Shooting large pelagics with DSLR?


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#1 J Kyle

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 05:40 PM

Hey guys,

There are several other threads that address similar questions to mine but none that were quite on point. So rather than hijack someone else's, I'm starting de novo.

Short story: I'm a relatively experienced DSLR user, both for stills and video. I have a project coming up in August which requires me to get some underwater footage. I will be on a fishing boat in Mexico. When the anglers pull the fish near to the boat, my plan is to hop in and start rolling. For fish like tuna, I will be filming them as they are gaffed and brought aboard. For billfish, I will film the release. I will be shooting at depths of no more than 5-6 meters for as long as I can hold my breath.

My research up to this point had me set on using my 5DMII with a 15mm fisheye in an Ikelite housing with the 8" domeport. No lights, no filter.

But every time I do more research I encounter more conflicting accounts about the wisdom of using a DSLR underwater. And just a few threads down, there is a topic on just that. But, I think that my shooting environment is sort of a "best-case scenario" for using a DSLR. I will be at depths of less than 5m, there will most likely be full, bright Mexican sun, and I will be shooting large pelagics in open water.

Am I wrong to think that this type of shooting environment ameliorates some of the DSLR shortcomings? Or does shooting fast-moving, unpredictable pelagics require a traditional video camera? If not, is a 15mm fisheye the wrong choice for this? I have no problem getting up close to a hooked tuna, roosterfish or dorado, but I'm keeping my distance from angry billfish.

I would love to get some feedback on this. FYI, I do not own an Ikelite housing yet, so I am not commited to using it or the 5D.

Thanks,
Joe

#2 Drew

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 08:23 PM

Well personally, I think a fisheye can ruin a shot because of the distortion when a subject enters or exits a frame and also the surface plane gets barreled which isn't always nice.

In your case, since you will be staying away from the billfish, I think a 24-35 mm(35mm equi) is a nice lens to give that up close feel. Marc (Pinnochio) Montocchio also does billfish shooting. You may wish to check this video:

http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=39195

I think he was using the 1Dmk4, if I remember correctly. We'd talked about this very subject before.

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#3 J Kyle

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 03:45 AM

In your case, since you will be staying away from the billfish, I think a 24-35 mm(35mm equi) is a nice lens to give that up close feel.


Hm. I don't know much about that lens. Would using the 35L be comparable? Or is it possible I would be well-served by using a 50mm prime? I have read that people use the 50mm macro as their "work horse" lens; using it for both normal and macro shooting.

Am I right to infer that your lens suggestion means you think the DSLR will work for this application? My only other option, really, is to get a decent "handycam" style camcorder. But using it will rob me of any chance to do photography.

Marc (Pinnochio) Montocchio also does billfish shooting.


Yes, I've seen that video many times. It's just all sorts of awesome.

#4 J Kyle

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 04:50 AM

Actually, after watching that video again, I realize that it he definitely used a fisheye to get that footage. The above water horizon gives it away. edit: Ok, now I really don't know. some of them seem to be, some of them don't. The post-shark encounter getting out of the water shot is not fisheye.

*scratches head*

I'm at a loss here. I will have time to test various lenses in the pool but I'd rather get it right on the first try, especially considering how much ports cost.

And that assumes that I am right to use DSLR for this application, although, again, watching that video gives me hope because that is just the type of thing I am trying to accomplish (the video, not the still).

Edited by J Kyle, 09 May 2011 - 04:57 AM.


#5 SimonSpear

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 12:14 PM

I think you could get some great results from a HDSLR in those conditions and I wouldn't even second guess that any more than you would second guess any camera in any situation. What is the end use of the footage?

I'd never use a fisheye for video unless you specifically want a fisheye look of course. IMO you'd be a lot better going with a rectangular wide angle. The 35mm equiv range is my favorite lens underwater and although super wide can look amazing at times for the right shot in the right situation I don't think this environment would necessarily be that. Hope this helps.

Cheers, Simon

#6 hydraulicphoto

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 03:36 PM

Hey Simon
Drew sent me an email today saying that you were asking about shooting billfish. My advice, for what it's worth is stay away from the fisheye whenever possible. Drew was spot on with his advice on that lens, although great for over and unders, it really forces the perspective giving billfish this mega long bill and tiny tail and it kills "presence". It makes a 400 lb blue marlin 5 feet from the dome look like a bug on your windshield. I've used 3 lenses successfully in the past, the canon 14mm 2.8, the Canon 24mm 1.4 and my all time favorite and cheapest is the Sigma 12-24mm EX, the one you thought was a fisheye, it's actually rectilinear. I've used all 3 on both full and 1.3 sensors. There is a big difference here in that I'm shooting unhooked fish. Shooting hooked fish is pretty basic, you can even take a wrap on the leader of a blue marlin underwater to get him in the perfect head forward position (don't do this if you are not sure on the wire). The problem is you can always tell a hooked fish, his color is gone his movement and gesture are exhausted etc.,etc.. In hookless teasing marlin and sails we can get the fish all lit up in a "fired up" state in just the best of condition. More and more we are moving to the 24mm range to bring that "in your face feeling" to the shot. It has it's drawbacks with shorter DOF but the biggest issue is getting a fish traveling at that speed in focus and in frame going from 20' away to past you in less than one second from the time you see him. Be prepared to throw away a lot of images. That lens range also provides detail lost on the wide guns. At 24mm on the 1D MarkIV from 3 feet away you can even see the parasites and tiniest of details especially in the bubble con trails. With the motor drive at 10 frames per second I'm shooting these stitched images and printing them 8 feet across on aluminum. This is the one we shot during the St Thomas video you saw, it was shot with the Sigma at 24mm, @5.6, 1/800th, 800 ASA. There are 5 frames so it was taken in a total elapsed time of 0.5 of a second for the entire sequence. Good luck! BTW we will have a new Pacific sailfish shot and video ready for release in the next 3 weeks. There is a lot of video and info on how we get THE shot.
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#7 J Kyle

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 04:41 PM

Hey Simon
Drew sent me an email today saying that you were asking about shooting billfish. My advice, for what it's worth is stay away from the fisheye whenever possible. Drew was spot on with his advice on that lens, although great for over and unders, it really forces the perspective giving billfish this mega long bill and tiny tail and it kills "presence". It makes a 400 lb blue marlin 5 feet from the dome look like a bug on your windshield. I've used 3 lenses successfully in the past, the canon 14mm 2.8, the Canon 24mm 1.4 and my all time favorite and cheapest is the Sigma 12-24mm EX, the one you thought was a fisheye, it's actually rectilinear. I've used all 3 on both full and 1.3 sensors. There is a big difference here in that I'm shooting unhooked fish. Shooting hooked fish is pretty basic, you can even take a wrap on the leader of a blue marlin underwater to get him in the perfect head forward position (don't do this if you are not sure on the wire). The problem is you can always tell a hooked fish, his color is gone his movement and gesture are exhausted etc.,etc.. In hookless teasing marlin and sails we can get the fish all lit up in a "fired up" state in just the best of condition. More and more we are moving to the 24mm range to bring that "in your face feeling" to the shot. It has it's drawbacks with shorter DOF but the biggest issue is getting a fish traveling at that speed in focus and in frame going from 20' away to past you in less than one second from the time you see him. Be prepared to throw away a lot of images. That lens range also provides detail lost on the wide guns. At 24mm on the 1D MarkIV from 3 feet away you can even see the parasites and tiniest of details especially in the bubble con trails. With the motor drive at 10 frames per second I'm shooting these stitched images and printing them 8 feet across on aluminum. This is the one we shot during the St Thomas video you saw, it was shot with the Sigma at 24mm, @5.6, 1/800th, 800 ASA. There are 5 frames so it was taken in a total elapsed time of 0.5 of a second for the entire sequence. Good luck! BTW we will have a new Pacific sailfish shot and video ready for release in the next 3 weeks. There is a lot of video and info on how we get THE shot.



Well this is just about the best advice one could ever hope for! So I guess on my 5DII I should try a 35mm prime to emulate the 24mm on your APS-H sensor.

And yes, unfortunately I will not be able even hope to capture a billfish when it is lit up. We have 8 days on the water planned but I'm pretty sure the anglers are going to want to fish with actual hooks every day haha. I guess I would too.

That shot must just be awe inspiring on an 8ft sheet of aluminum. That's such a perfect medium to bring out those colors.

And, suffice to say, I am desperately looking forward to seeing the sailfish shot/video.

Thanks for the responses,

Joe

#8 Drew

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 05:53 PM

Thanks for chiming in Marc. That's a whole lotta blue marlin in formation! :lol: I'm surprised because the 1D4 can't track well in AF! :(

John, what I was saying in a haphazard way was that I think focal lengths of 20-35mm, not a particular lens, would work.

Of course, remember in video, multiples of -1/3 stop from full ISO settings (eg 160,320 etc) give the least noise but cut of highlights by 1/3 stop. So exposure to the left by 1/3.

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#9 hydraulicphoto

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 07:13 PM

Joe, think about it in baseball terms. Shoot the 35 when you are ready to face a big league pitcher. Why not start with an under arm 14mm? You can hit a home from both. Nobody will know the difference when you knock it out the park. A nice wide, close up that's non fisheye is where you start. You have big DOF and lots of room for the fish to move. Boy do I wish for the old Nikonos 15, that lens on a 1.3 water contact final element would make me drool!!!!!!

#10 DougA

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 09:39 PM

hi Joe, Just a little word o the wise. Be careful with green hooked fish - particularly bill-fish. Of course if you are interested in a picture of a pretty much dead tuna being gaffed no problem but i would be extremely cautious about getting in with a hooked bill - even if the mate has the leader. I worked with Rick Rosenthal - an american photographer - for a while. He did quite a bit of this sort of thing back in the day - and then stopped doing it. To many scares. I would do as Hydrolicphoto suggests and seeing if they will tease fish for you - exciting enough. Or try and get a little time in the water on a bait ball if they are happening. Possibly also think also about a pole and remote for you housing - for both hooked and teased setups. Personally I would go 20-24mm if your shooting vid for a master then go 35mm for cutaway. Set the hyperfocal and keep both your eyes open! Good luck - hope you have a great time! D

#11 Drew

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 03:39 AM

Joe, think about it in baseball terms. Shoot the 35 when you are ready to face a big league pitcher. Why not start with an under arm 14mm? You can hit a home from both. Nobody will know the difference when you knock it out the park. A nice wide, close up that's non fisheye is where you start. You have big DOF and lots of room for the fish to move. Boy do I wish for the old Nikonos 15, that lens on a 1.3 water contact final element would make me drool!!!!!!

Marc, the 14 would make that billfish look like a guppy.
I'd suggest using a 7D @ 13mm (either EFS 10-22, Tokina 11-16 or Sigma 8-16). You get about 20mm, 1+stop more DOF than FF and can switch to 8fps when needed. Plus the AF is faster.

hi Joe, Just a little word o the wise. Be careful with green hooked fish - particularly bill-fish. Of course if you are interested in a picture of a pretty much dead tuna being gaffed no problem but i would be extremely cautious about getting in with a hooked bill - even if the mate has the leader. I worked with Rick Rosenthal - an american photographer - for a while. He did quite a bit of this sort of thing back in the day - and then stopped doing it. To many scares. I would do as Hydrolicphoto suggests and seeing if they will tease fish for you - exciting enough. Or try and get a little time in the water on a bait ball if they are happening. Possibly also think also about a pole and remote for you housing - for both hooked and teased setups. Personally I would go 20-24mm if your shooting vid for a master then go 35mm for cutaway. Set the hyperfocal and keep both your eyes open! Good luck - hope you have a great time! D

LOL you mean Rick's camouflage suit worked too well? :(
Definitely try to set focus at an appropriate distance if using the 5D2. It's just not going to cut it in high speed tracking.

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#12 J Kyle

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 04:48 AM

hi Joe, Just a little word o the wise. Be careful with green hooked fish - particularly bill-fish.


I will be; I was actually relieved to hear the suggestion of a longer focal length than what I had been considering - it allows me to put more distance between myself and the fish. Not much, but enough that I should feel comfortable. I'm not risk-averse, by any means. But I do try to do my homework.

Marc, the 14 would make that billfish look like a guppy.
I'd suggest using a 7D @ 13mm (either EFS 10-22, Tokina 11-16 or Sigma 8-16). You get about 20mm, 1+stop more DOF than FF and can switch to 8fps when needed. Plus the AF is faster.


I, too, would have thought the 14mm would create the same kind of "smallness" that the 15 fisheye does. And if it does, I'd rather gain the fisheye's ability to do the classic over/unders. Basically, if I go the DSLR route for my underwater footage (which it appears I am OK to do) I need to limit myself to two lenses. My topside kit is already large (a backup 5D2 and a full Sony FS100 rig, assuming B&H fills my preorder before late July) so I just won't have the room.

I had considered the 7D because I would have been able to use the Tokina 10-17, which is supposedly the most popular lens for underwater stuff. But I was really afraid of overheating. It's going to be 95+ degrees and 80-90% humitity during the day. I can't have my camera crap out on me at a critical moment, and as far as I know (my own experience included) the 5d2 just handles adverse conditions better.

#13 Drew

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 08:21 AM

John
I've not shot a lot with the 7D, but in an aluminum housing underwater, I can't believe it would overheat all that much.. If you want video only, get the 60D. Up 1250 ISO, it's as good as the 7D in video mode. Or even the T3i.
As for lenses, I only say the 14 will make the billfish look like a guppy if you are far back. Even with a longer focal length, you still need to get close to get the colors. So don't be such a baby and get closer! :(

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#14 SimonSpear

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 09:53 AM

I had considered the 7D because I would have been able to use the Tokina 10-17, which is supposedly the most popular lens for underwater stuff. But I was really afraid of overheating.


I've only ever managed to get the 7D heat warning light to come on once and that was while using a poly housing after 40 mins of continuous shooting inside a shoal of barracuda. I've never managed it in an aluminum housing.

Also the Tokina 10-17mm is fisheye. Honestly keep away from fisheye for video unless you want to use it to do a few scenic reef type shots or other underwater landscapes. For wildlife it is really a poor choice.

Cheers, Simon

#15 J Kyle

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 12:33 PM

Even with a longer focal length, you still need to get close to get the colors. So don't be such a baby and get closer! :lol:


Ha, ok. I can do that. :(

Also the Tokina 10-17mm is fisheye. Honestly keep away from fisheye for video unless you want to use it to do a few scenic reef type shots or other underwater landscapes. For wildlife it is really a poor choice.


Yeah, for some reason I'm just realizing that now. When I started to do research I came across reputable sources of info that would say that big, wide, fisheye is popular. The tokina 10-17 is almost always mentioned. But I guess that's because the majority of people do wide reef shots, or wide wreck shots, or the like. Or its possible that most people who shoot large fish go wide and get close. That was my original understanding, which is why I was considering the 15mm fisheye. But now it seems like I'd be better off to go with a little longer focal length, but still get as close as I can to maximize color, drama, etc.

Lots to think about.

#16 Drew

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 12:10 PM

Well you're not shooting whales so you don't need an super wide lens as much. Even with whales, fisheyes give them that guppy look.
I think the Sigma 12-24 is very useful for video... not great for stills because of the lower resolution but 12mm is awesome.
The only caveat of shooting with Canon DSLR is that darn 4GB file limit. It forces you to be vigilant about recording time and also forces you to watch for activity more intensely.

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#17 J Kyle

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 06:50 AM

Well you're not shooting whales so you don't need an super wide lens as much. Even with whales, fisheyes give them that guppy look.
I think the Sigma 12-24 is very useful for video... not great for stills because of the lower resolution but 12mm is awesome.
The only caveat of shooting with Canon DSLR is that darn 4GB file limit. It forces you to be vigilant about recording time and also forces you to watch for activity more intensely.


12min limits is no problem...I can hold my breath and swim for 60 seconds at the most!

#18 RWBrooks

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 07:48 PM

Lenses and rectilinears aside I just think that composite of the Marlin is fookin' awesome!

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#19 SimonSpear

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 05:20 PM

I've only ever managed to get the 7D heat warning light to come on once and that was while using a poly housing after 40 mins of continuous shooting inside a shoal of barracuda. I've never managed it in an aluminum housing.


Ok well I've managed to get the overheating warning light to come on twice now while underwater. This time the light started to come on after about 50-60mins of constant shooting and by 90mins I couldn't keep my camera on for more than 30 seconds without it shutting down. Admittedly you have to work it pretty hard to overheat it, although in this instant it was annoying as hell as the action was intense and I missed lots of shots as a result. Still if I'd have been shooting on tape then I'm pretty certain that that would have run out at about the same time.....

Cheers, Simon

#20 Drew

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 09:16 PM

If you guys want a video only DSLR, the 60D is probably the best choice. It doesn't overheat like the 7D and is as good up to 3200ISO (ok maybe a little noisier).

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