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Time For A Major Philosophy Change?


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#41 ATJ

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 05:57 PM

Does it really matter?

Surely people will continue to use what works for them - or at least makes them happy or money (whatever their goals may be).

#42 petern

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 06:50 PM

I come from a time when you had 5 controls and you were judged by what was in the box after processing. Digital has really revolutionized photography and how we approach the final image. With competitions it is really hard to tell if something is real or not (take the wolf jumping over the fence from a few years back) So we have two options: post processing to deliver an image that coveys the story you are trying to tell, whether this is cropping or HDR or what ever manipulation you need to do, as previously mentioned the viewer judges the image that is in front of them regardless of how it got there, or as Alex said try and get it right in camera.
I personally feel that if you are setting yourself up as an "Underwater Photographer" you should be just that and do the best you do with the skills and the equipment you have while on location. Sure with newer models of cameras coming out you can virtually sit on the bottom a post edit the image to a level that you would normally use Photoshop for. This probably a positive case for shoot-out style competitions.
The danger of becoming an "Underwater Creative" is that the viewer could end up with a false impression of a location/ destination which they travel to based on what they are seeing in a given image.

#43 BotSO

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 07:27 PM

I have a friend who runs a very successful Graphic Design firm and he always tells me, "Good art evokes emotion."

For me, the images I consider "best" are the ones that trigger an emotional response, good or bad. Immediate images that come to mind are Alex's Bohar Snapper, Eric Cheng's "Screaming Turtle" and Jeff's recent winning image "Fire in the Water".

Personally, I don't care how you get to where you get as long as you are honest about how you got there. One of the reasons I enjoy taking a class from Alex or attending a class with Jeff is because they are always pushing the boundaries in search of THE image.

I think I have probably taken three or four truly great images and each of these came after an iterative process where there was more error than success. However, when you finally GET the image, whether in camera or after several rounds of post, and you cannot stop but say, "Wow", then you know you are onto something.

These would be my guidelines:

1. Strive to get the best possible image in camera. Sometimes lipstick on a pig is just lipstick on a pig.
2. Work the image in post.
3. Be honest in telling how the result was achieved.

Though I'm not quite the ninja some of the wetpixelers are, the reward for me is in the journey.

As always, Alex, thanks for stretching the boundaries of the craft.

Basim

Edited by BotSO, 01 March 2012 - 07:29 PM.


#44 Viz'art

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 07:59 PM

Also one need to remember an interesting fact to our trade, a landscape photographer is just that a landscape photographer, same for the architectural, portrait, wildlife and photojournalist, where the heck does it say that, as underwater photographer, we must master all these various aspects, there are not many photographic disciplines that demands such broad requirements or expectations and is performed in such foreign (at least to most people) environment. so yeah, give me technology, give me tools, give me the means, but more importantly, give me the talent to use them properly.

We ought to pat ourselves on the back for embracing such a difficult mean of expression, so there you go, group hug, kumbaya, etc, but there is nothing else I'd rather do than this :swimmingfish:

Cheers.

Edited by Viz'art, 01 March 2012 - 08:00 PM.

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#45 diver dave1

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 08:15 PM

technology and life are like a movie. Rules are generally made based on a single frame or limited section in that movie. As the film.. err. sorry.. movie continues, we start to question those rules since they do not quite seem to fit the movie anymore. So we make some new rules based on the current frame and the cycle continues. Primary transport did not go away from horses because the horse could not get you there anymore.
Time for a major philosophy change? Its always time...but we are rarely ready for it. I, no more than the rest.

Wanting a natural shot?
Did you bring artificial light or a filter/device to change the color?
Did you use a lens that only can see the angle the eye can see or did u use some wide angle or macro lens to see something more?
Did you free dive or bring packaged air?
Did you use fins or just your feet?
When did it go from being natural to not quite so natural anymore?
Or is the technology allowing us to bring out the nature that the eye cannot see?
Are we bringing out beauty beyond what the eye can capture? Was the beauty not already there...and now we are finding new ways to share it?

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#46 bchris113

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 10:09 PM

I follow a Japanese photographer who is also famous for his "aquascapes" Takashi Amano is an analog landscape photographer. With the knowledge that his favorite film was to be discontinued he purchased a 20 year supply(whatever that is). He is frantically arranging freezers for the storage of these films. I began my career in photography long before digital technology entered the photographic realm. Nothing was more thrilling, examining a newly processed roll after the ritual performed in complete darkness then seeing an image appear in the amber light of a darkened room. But when every new tool came along I learned about it, questioned it, doubted it, and embraced it's inherent abilities. I applied them in improving the results that my mind's eye envisioned when the shutter slid open. As artists we define the parameters that guide our vision, we do not determine the attributes that bind the hands of everyone else. I cannot say I am not dismayed by the apparent replacement of technique, and skill with sophisticated software fixes. Right clicking for spell check, cordless electric drills, and photoshop are great tools nevertheless. I would much rather be in the fiel=d with an 11X14 Deardorf shooting B&W negs and contact printing them in palladium, but the kids like to eat...

#47 AlexDawson

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 11:19 PM

Great subject Alex. Don't limit yourself, express your creativeness and let go of boundaries!
All we want to see is high quality images...

I remember the difficult times when digital came and I thought that it was bad and evil because
I had developed a good technical level of underwater photograph.
But soon I realized that I had no choice but to change and follow the stream...

Since a few years back, I got the same feeling about digital photography and retouch. But since
since 8 years I work in the commercial photography and retouching business I realized that for
me It is all about the final product. I try to create a feeling and make an enhanced impact with
my images since then. Using the raw file and photoshop to the extreme in some cases. I have
been thinking that maybe I should call my images "art" instead of underwater photos..? All I'm
trying to do is to show as nice underwater images as possible for people to enjoy, and it work's :swimmingfish:


Kind regards // Alex
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_

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D800E & a lot of light...


#48 diggy

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 11:40 PM

I remember in the film days taking a photo class, which ended by a competition for best image. I shot several images and did not win. My tutor selected some of the images shot by me and then selected an area in a picture and had that cropped to show me what i should be looking for in a photo. The result was awesome

I learnt two things that day..One was that you need to have that special eye to take great images ..Two that my master had that eye where he could discern a great image even in a messy photo and that i needed to see things with an open and creative mind.

Does this mean one crops images or alters them drastically ? Well i for one will go by Alex's philosophy of getting most of it right in the camera. I liked the simplicity of film cameras in many ways to the learning curve involved in the new digital age - but i guess this is probably age talking :-)

Finally i feel that great images are taken by the photographer with an open creative mind and that special eye..... post processing and corrections, including cropping beyond a certain limit take away the glory of that moment and what the eye wanted to capture. It is more of an after thought......not the thought of that moment.

Cheers..and great topic Alex..

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#49 gavinparsons

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 01:11 AM

Digital photography has been around for such a short time and yet has come so far. But it has only really taken us back in time. As some have already mentioned Ansel Adams and his piers manipulated the hell out of their original images and I am changing my attitude back to what it was when I started photography. I'm probably one of the few underwater photographers who actually studied photography at college at a time before digital technology and before slide film was the norm. Sure we had slide film, but mostly we used colour neg and black and white neg. Plus we had 35mm, medium format and large format cameras to play with. We had a massive darkroom with black and white and colour processing and I would spend hours in a chemical infested orange glow dodging and burning, cropping and tweaking until what was on the paper in front of me was how I imagined the final image to be.

When magazines wanted colour slides to really justify the cost of the scanners the companies bought, all that creativity died away and while it encouraged many photographers to hone certain in camera skills, it killed some of the creativity in producing a final image. Now that creativity is back and it doesn't turn your silver jewelery black! Photoshop is just a darkroom, without the need to convert the loft or take up the toilet all evening. It's a means to really put into pixels what your mind saw.

Many people who think themselves photographers I'm sad to say, can now produce well exposed, pin sharp pictures, but should that be the ultimate end result? I don't think so. Henri Cartier Bresson didn't produce pin sharp, frozen images, nor did my other hero Don MacCullin. But their images had emotions wrapped around the main subject. I'm fed up with seeing lifeless looking fish portraits or frozen nudibranchs. Where is the drama? where is the animal's sense of place in the world (or sea)? Digital photography has given us the world to create beautiful emotion filled images and the majority treat it as a way to try and recreate the constraints of slide film (with a lot of added saturation in many cases).
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#50 adamhanlon

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 01:29 AM

Hi all,

What a great topic-well done Alex!

I, like many others I suspect, go through "phases" with my photography, and in some of those phases have attached a higher importance to post capture processing. That said, I am really a capture photographer-the major part of the enjoyment I get from underwater photography is to do with being underwater taking pictures and interacting with the creatures and scenes I am attempting to capture. I too come from a film background, where the importance of achieving images in camera was high, but would still describe my attempts to do so more in terms of the enjoyment of the process, rather than a lofty ideal! I do not enjoy post capture processing as much, so hence ascribe a lower priority to it.

I have been fortunate enough to have administered three underwater photography contests recently, OWU, DEEP and our own Picture of the Year. As a part of this process, I have viewed several thousand pictures, many of them excellent images. One thing that I have taken from this, is how much improvement can be done to an image. When some of the RAW files were viewed, and compared with the contest entries, the post processed images were significantly better than the original (and before I create a stir, let me stress that I am talking in very general terms here, and not implying entries were over-corrected, or referring to any specific images!) If absolute image quality is your goal, then it is hard to argue that significant post processing will not improve it. For example, re-processing older images through a more recent conversion processes (Lightroom 4) improves these images substantially.

Within the competition arena, we already make distinctions between processed and non processed images, so I don't think the adoption of new technologies presents an issue. When we are all post processing significantly (if that day comes), then the traditional categories will simply fall away for lack of entries.

So the conundrum for me is that, firstly, my principle pleasure in the underwater photography process is the capture, but secondly, my images would look a lot better if I spent more time in front of my computer with them.

Practically, I think that as new technology becomes easier to implement (the new process in Lightroom 4 for example again) I am likely to adopt it. If technolgy is complicated, difficult, or most importantly, time consuming, I am less likely to embrace and use it.

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#51 loftus

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 02:55 AM

I have a friend who runs a very successful Graphic Design firm and he always tells me, "Good art evokes emotion."

For me, the images I consider "best" are the ones that trigger an emotional response, good or bad. Immediate images that come to mind are Alex's Bohar Snapper, Eric Cheng's "Screaming Turtle" and Jeff's recent winning image "Fire in the Water".

Personally, I don't care how you get to where you get as long as you are honest about how you got there. One of the reasons I enjoy taking a class from Alex or attending a class with Jeff is because they are always pushing the boundaries in search of THE image.

I think I have probably taken three or four truly great images and each of these came after an iterative process where there was more error than success. However, when you finally GET the image, whether in camera or after several rounds of post, and you cannot stop but say, "Wow", then you know you are onto something.

These would be my guidelines:

1. Strive to get the best possible image in camera. Sometimes lipstick on a pig is just lipstick on a pig.
2. Work the image in post.
3. Be honest in telling how the result was achieved.

Though I'm not quite the ninja some of the wetpixelers are, the reward for me is in the journey.

As always, Alex, thanks for stretching the boundaries of the craft.

Basim

Basim,
There is only one Ninja in my mind; it is you!
Thanks for the complements.

I think people forget, that a digital camera is really a sensor (the film) and a computer. RAW is nothing more or less than all the data recorded in 0's and 1's by the sensor. Lytro simply adds one more parameter of recording an image, focal point, that is dictated by the computer and not by the physical limitations of the lens and sensor combination.
Everything else, every completed digital image ever made is the result of computer manipulation whether in the camera's preset onboard computer or on a remote computer. Camera presets are factory provided to manipulate the image to generally accepted norms of 'reality'. Yes all photographers, your JPEG you just shot is dictated by what others think your image should look like. Even Lytro comes with presets, imagine having a Lytro plug-in in Photoshop. The concept of film processing is simpler, but no less manipulated or dictated by societal norms, from exposure to print. How boring it would be if every shot ever made was an 8x10 view camera B&W or any other single approach. There are no rules, creative and photographic integrity live in the photographer's intent. Be true to yourself, try not to hurt anyone.

Edited by loftus, 02 March 2012 - 03:19 AM.

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#52 John Bantin

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 04:13 AM

One of the most satisfying 'underwater' pictures I've ever taken was for an ad for Plessey. We had a model of a deep sea exploration submarine made (about 40cm long) complete with lights. I photographed it in my studio, invisibly suspended against a giant transparency of an underwater scene I especially shot in the Mediterranean and used a little smoke to get the beams from the lamps. It looked fantastic.
The client rejected it because it did not match his expectations of what it might be like underwater so we reshot it with bits of crumpled black background paper in the background instead and got paid - a lot!

Art is a difficult subject. The Pope asked Michelangelo to give the Sistene Chapel ceiling a coat of magnolia emulsion but he insisted on painting a lot of cherubs instead!

I've shown Alex's wreck interior to a lot of non-divers who were completely unmoved by it. Only underwater photographers can understand what he has achieved.

Edited by John Bantin, 02 March 2012 - 04:16 AM.

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#53 SwiftFF5

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 04:35 AM

Digital photography has been around for such a short time and yet has come so far. But it has only really taken us back in time. As some have already mentioned Ansel Adams and his piers manipulated the hell out of their original images and I am changing my attitude back to what it was when I started photography. I'm probably one of the few underwater photographers who actually studied photography at college at a time before digital technology and before slide film was the norm. Sure we had slide film, but mostly we used colour neg and black and white neg. Plus we had 35mm, medium format and large format cameras to play with. We had a massive darkroom with black and white and colour processing and I would spend hours in a chemical infested orange glow dodging and burning, cropping and tweaking until what was on the paper in front of me was how I imagined the final image to be.

When magazines wanted colour slides to really justify the cost of the scanners the companies bought, all that creativity died away and while it encouraged many photographers to hone certain in camera skills, it killed some of the creativity in producing a final image. Now that creativity is back and it doesn't turn your silver jewelery black! Photoshop is just a darkroom, without the need to convert the loft or take up the toilet all evening. It's a means to really put into pixels what your mind saw.

Many people who think themselves photographers I'm sad to say, can now produce well exposed, pin sharp pictures, but should that be the ultimate end result? I don't think so. Henri Cartier Bresson didn't produce pin sharp, frozen images, nor did my other hero Don MacCullin. But their images had emotions wrapped around the main subject. I'm fed up with seeing lifeless looking fish portraits or frozen nudibranchs. Where is the drama? where is the animal's sense of place in the world (or sea)? Digital photography has given us the world to create beautiful emotion filled images and the majority treat it as a way to try and recreate the constraints of slide film (with a lot of added saturation in many cases).


I was about to point out that manipulating images via software is only a different way of achieving, and a different set of tools, to what we used to do with film, but this is a much better explanation of my feelings on this subject. To me, the image in the camera is only part of the process, and the post-processing is an integral part of creating an image.
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#54 Morten Bjørn Larsen

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 07:44 AM

For me the satisfaction of getting it right in camera beats everything!!!

I've discused this issue with other uw-photographers, there are some who don't care if they have to spend more time in front of the computer when they come home from a dive. But if they enjoy it just as much as the dive itself, then it's their way of "making" uw-photos. Personally, I love to play with balancing the natural light with strobe light, and still try to get a nice composition (still learning) in the water. And I belive (hope) that in the end no matter how easy technology makes it to photoshop a uv-photo, the craft/art of getting it right in camera will always be respected by judges in competitions and editors of magazines. I live in Denmark where we have dark waters and mostly poor wiz, so of course I sometimes remove particles or give it some black or contrast if it's going to be just the finishing touch to an otherwise pleasing photo. But I'd rather not.

#55 Puffer Fish

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 08:03 AM

I follow a Japanese photographer who is also famous for his "aquascapes" Takashi Amano is an analog landscape photographer. With the knowledge that his favorite film was to be discontinued he purchased a 20 year supply(whatever that is). He is frantically arranging freezers for the storage of these films. I began my career in photography long before digital technology entered the photographic realm. Nothing was more thrilling, examining a newly processed roll after the ritual performed in complete darkness then seeing an image appear in the amber light of a darkened room. But when every new tool came along I learned about it, questioned it, doubted it, and embraced it's inherent abilities. I applied them in improving the results that my mind's eye envisioned when the shutter slid open. As artists we define the parameters that guide our vision, we do not determine the attributes that bind the hands of everyone else. I cannot say I am not dismayed by the apparent replacement of technique, and skill with sophisticated software fixes. Right clicking for spell check, cordless electric drills, and photoshop are great tools nevertheless. I would much rather be in the fiel=d with an 11X14 Deardorf shooting B&W negs and contact printing them in palladium, but the kids like to eat...

A Deardorf? I have only seen one, and was not allowed to even touch it. Linhof and Sinar myself.

The two fields of photography...view cameras versus fixed back seem to have developed very different points of view.

Fixed back, now represented by the digital slr cameras, and where most underwater photographers have grown up with, have, at least as long as I know, had the "image taken by the camera is sacred". Any changes made to an image have been viewed with great suspect. Minor White was from that viewpoint, and was ruthless regarding every aspect of an image.

View camera users (which is still a very healthy market, just not in the larger sizes), had swings, tilts and shifts to change everything from perspective to variable focus on the image from the camera, and in the darkroom, had as many controls as photoshop does (if not more). HDR was an easily done process, for example. We even did a lot of image stitching.

Underwater photography has obviously developed from the fixed back camera world, and there are lots of photographers that still have that fixed camera view point.

Oddly, I notice that view camera users (which are mostly professional photographers these days, as the cost of a large digital back is so expensive) complain that software like photoshop does not actually do a very good job when compared to in camera adjustments. While fixed back photographers complain that you can do it at all.

To some, giving fixed back camera's all the controls that one had with a view camera is a welcome addition to the tools they have, and to others, it is a violation of their art. While I tend to be on the first side, I kind of admire the clean view of the other side.... until I see images like those insects and marvel at how magical they are.

#56 Puffer Fish

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 08:30 AM

Digital photography has been around for such a short time and yet has come so far. But it has only really taken us back in time. As some have already mentioned Ansel Adams and his piers manipulated the hell out of their original images and I am changing my attitude back to what it was when I started photography. I'm probably one of the few underwater photographers who actually studied photography at college at a time before digital technology and before slide film was the norm. Sure we had slide film, but mostly we used colour neg and black and white neg. Plus we had 35mm, medium format and large format cameras to play with. We had a massive darkroom with black and white and colour processing and I would spend hours in a chemical infested orange glow dodging and burning, cropping and tweaking until what was on the paper in front of me was how I imagined the final image to be.

When magazines wanted colour slides to really justify the cost of the scanners the companies bought, all that creativity died away and while it encouraged many photographers to hone certain in camera skills, it killed some of the creativity in producing a final image. Now that creativity is back and it doesn't turn your silver jewelery black! Photoshop is just a darkroom, without the need to convert the loft or take up the toilet all evening. It's a means to really put into pixels what your mind saw.

Many people who think themselves photographers I'm sad to say, can now produce well exposed, pin sharp pictures, but should that be the ultimate end result? I don't think so. Henri Cartier Bresson didn't produce pin sharp, frozen images, nor did my other hero Don MacCullin. But their images had emotions wrapped around the main subject. I'm fed up with seeing lifeless looking fish portraits or frozen nudibranchs. Where is the drama? where is the animal's sense of place in the world (or sea)? Digital photography has given us the world to create beautiful emotion filled images and the majority treat it as a way to try and recreate the constraints of slide film (with a lot of added saturation in many cases).


Elegantly written, thanks (and you are not alone). Am very glad to see you picked two of the great photographic communicators, as in today's world it is easy to forget what an incredible tool we have in our hands.

#57 focker

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 08:37 AM

Wow, I too love and agree with what Fishboy has written, spot on!
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#58 DavidSD619

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 10:27 AM

In reference to the point about macro and super macro, I have been using full-frame (5D and 5D II) and was always envious of the macro and super macro people were getting with crop sensors. I had a ‘duh’ moment when I realized I just had to crop my images more post processing and could achieve similar results (I know technically they are not ). Now I look at my images differently in post production. Before it was just minor adjustments. Now I crop and ‘play’ more post processing in Photoshop to try and create something pleasing that couldn’t be achieved from the ‘out of the camera’ image. I still strive to get the best image possible the first time, but don't pass by imagines during post review if they are not perfect out of the camera.

I too came from film and thought it a bit of cheating. But having the ability to capture more than 35 frames on a single dive is ‘cheating’ too. I had a mental adjustment to make when I moved from film to digital , as I’m sure many people have. The first adjustment was I didn’t need to try to compose every shot perfectly the first time. I could shoot, look at the results, re-shoot (if the subject was not gone) and even burst shoot without fear of running out of film for the rest of the dive. I think not having the perfect image from camera, but creating that image in the mind’s eye, or something completely different, post processing is just another mental adjustment film photographers need to make.

Now how do we change photo completion judging to take this into account?

#59 davichin

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 10:51 AM

Having read all the posts I have to congratulate everybody in general and specifically Alex for this well mannered and thought out discussion of a sometimes confronted topic.

I thing this is for most of us just a hobby so we should just do and use whatever pleases us most. In my case, I am on the traditional side and I like making the shot on the spot as I don´t like (and I am very bad at) using PS. What I found out is that what I really like is taking the photos and (with the high GB cards) I can dive several days or weeks without even downloading the images because it is not so fun (ok, using a hugy makes it more difficult with its hex bolts... :) ).

I also have more admiration for pictures taken the traditional way than pictures cropped and/or photoshopped. I understand that an image is an image and the message it sends and blah blah blah etc... but when I see an UW photo, part of the "message" the image "sends" to me is provided by imagining myself taking the picture in the photographer´s place and dive, and knowing that a great part of that image was made in front of the computer after a not so good initial shot is somehow less "glamorous" and appealing IMHO :swimmingfish:
D300, D7000. 10.5, 10-17, 16, 10-20, 17-70, 60, 105, 150 Hugyfots, Subtronic Novas, Seacams 350, YS250s, YS-D1s
Aqualung Team
www.davidbarrio.com

#60 John Bantin

John Bantin

    Sperm Whale

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  • Location:Teddington/Twickenham UK
  • Interests:former Technical Editor of
    Diver Magazine (UK) and www.divernet.com
    occasional contributor
    SportDiver (Aus)
    Undercurrent
    Author of Amazing Diving Stories (Wiley Nautical)

Posted 02 March 2012 - 11:25 AM

For my part, and I've said too much already, I like pictures that reflect what it was like to be there. How that is achieved is neither here nor there. I rarely shoot macro because there doesn't seem much demand for it outside fish ID books and photography competitions.
I've just completed a big feature on Truk Lagoon but I'm going back next month with a model - because editors like to see people in the pictures. People relate to people.

Edited by John Bantin, 02 March 2012 - 11:25 AM.

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?