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#21 Gaynor

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 04:37 AM

Well guys, this has turned into a heated debate, which I see has been raging for quite some time! 

 

As I said in my post that sparked this off, I think it is best to adopt the precautionary principle, until we have definitive scientific evidence one way or the other.

 

Hence my original question, which you have all ignored  :rolleyes: : What is the best way to take photographs of seahorses without using a strobe or even the camera's internal flash? Any advice on techniques/camera settings to take non-flash photos for ID purposes would be much appreciated.

(My camera is the Olympus E-PL3 for which I have the standard kit lens plus external wet macro and fish-eye lenses. I'll be shooting in raw.)


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#22 Neil Garrick-Maidment

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 04:38 AM

Indeed again I agree with you and there are guidelines on our website for divers as well as how to behave around seahorses.

We do know official figures as quoted by Project Seahorse with regard to the trade on seahorses, although our sister organisation in Ireland has done undercover work and exposed the numbers as much higher than officially recognised. I don't dismiss the taking of seahorses, it is a serious problem, if you check out our website you will see it is a major focus of our work. (under TCM)

With respect you are probably not aware of the amount of lobbying that goes on behind the scenes to industry, government and the like, you would be surprised how much goes on, not just by ourselves but also all the other organisations that deal with seahorses and the environment, this is in-depth and time consuming but goes on continuously, regardless of whether they have solicitors or not.

The one thing I totally disagree with you about and indeed take exception to, is the suggestion that we are targeting the easy of option of divers. That is just not true in any sense and we do go to long lengths to educate and work with divers as the 500 plus volunteers to our projects worldwide can attest. We have constantly and consistently talked with, tried to educate and worked with divers to show that this is a problem. There is no problem with taking a slightly poorer picture of a seahorse without lighting if it means more divers will get to see that animal and it survives to breed and lives to a full life span.

Can you tell me why the option has to be to take top quality pictures if it harms the animal?? (in my opinion), if the aim is to take a memento of seeing the seahorse then why not a lower grade one that can be tweaked in photoshop?



#23 Neil Garrick-Maidment

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 04:52 AM

Hi Gaynor for our research we use a very basic Pentax WG 3 (without flash), there are examples on our website (and in our reports) of the quality of the pictures and video it can take and like most modern cameras it is able to take decent pictures in very low light levels. Please note all our research is strictly governed by MMO and we have to submit reports and answer regularly to them, so that they and their advisors (it is peer reviewed) make sure we are doing our research correctly and in accordance with the law.

When approaching seahorses we do it very slowly and spend time observing them before we go close to take pictures or videos. It is crucial to understand the behaviour you see before you start to take the picture as invariably the initial reaction from a seahorse is to turn its back on you and tuck its head down. If you sit very quietly breath slowly and evenly and do not move fast then the seahorse will settle, raise its head and even turn towards you (they can be very curious). If the seahorse is unsettled it will start to swim off, Under no circumstances should you chase it, it is trying to get away from you, so let it.

But using the 'slowly slowly catchy seahorse' approach you will get decent shots of a relaxed seahorse doing what it usually does, which is not much, if it is relaxed.

If the seahorse darkens in colour, starts to breath rapidly, has jerky movements, keeps it head tucked down or as a last resort swims off then it is stressed and should be left alone, so turn in the direction you came from and slowly swim away.



#24 Neil Garrick-Maidment

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 04:57 AM

Sorry forgot to say the WG 3 has an underwater setting for both picture and video and there is also settings for night time, to be honest it is best to let it be on auto and let the camera sort of it. For seahorse research the pictures are of a decent quality



#25 decosnapper

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 05:04 AM

 

Can you tell me why the option has to be to take top quality pictures if it harms the animal?? (in my opinion), if the aim is to take a memento of seeing the seahorse then why not a lower grade one that can be tweaked in photoshop?

 

Therein lies the crux of the issue I think.

 

I would suspect that divers, and in particular those carrying a camera, are unlikely to accept an opinion alone. By their nature/nurture underwater photographers tend to be a questioning, curios and inquisitive bunch who may not subscribe to mainstream accepted ideas readily or willingly. Certainly not just because someone says it must be so.

 

What everyone seeks is firm evidence, based on sound and open research. Until then, either case simply remains unproven and no amount of asserting who is right just won't cut it.

 

And ethically, there are limits of what level of post-shoot manipulation is permitted.

 

Anyway, why am I bothering? I need to save a bumble bee that has hatched in our loft...no its not flippant nor am I kidding...it is the 5th one today...


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#26 Interceptor121

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 06:27 AM

How do you take pictures of a pygmy seahorse without a focus light and a strobe?

You don't  the subject is too small to be able to focus at wide aperture that ambient light requires and you can't use slow shutter speed either because of motion blur

 

You can take ambient light pictures of a common seahorse with a size of 4"+ generally for those guys hanging on grass or similar there is plenty of ambient light and the strobe itself is only a way to put more color in it (fill not main light)


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#27 Interceptor121

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 06:39 AM

Forgot to add using a compact camera with the internal flash is generally worse as people tent to literally get on top if fish and the strobe fires directly in front. Normally with an arm you would be firing at an angle so never actually going 'in the face' some DSLR configurations aim the strobes at the port and the seahorse is only illuminated by edge lighting so really I think your focus is somewhat wrong as the way a prompt a semipro would shoot actually are very friendly the danger is more from people with inadequate equipment that tend to get too close. A DSLR can shoot a Pygmy from half to one foot I really don't see a major issue there. A compact camera user without a close up lens and a strobe will get as close as 1-2" which is bad

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#28 Gaynor

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 07:12 AM

Thanks, Interceptor.

 

The European seahorses, Hippocampus hippocampus and Hippocampus guttulatus, that I will be photographing are a decent size, and those that I found last year were only in 4 meters, so a good amount of ambient light. Unfortunately I only had my old Canon Ixus with me at the time, as I wasn't expecting to find them, especially on sand instead of in the seagrass!

 

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#29 Interceptor121

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 01:31 AM

In 4 meters water with ambient light it won't make any difference to the sea horse if you use a strobe or not as that will be small compared to ambient light especially if you aim at anglr

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#30 Neil Garrick-Maidment

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 01:00 AM

Hi Decosnapper or should I say Hi Simon, I haven't heard from you for a few months, well not since you last asked to come diving with us at Studland to take pictures of seahorses to sell (I seem to remember you wanted to help promote the work of the trust), even though you knew we do not allow flash or light under licensing conditions. Funny how you were happy to accept my 'opinion' when you wanted to come and get a dive, interesting that.

 

To be honest Interceptor121 (I really wish people would use their real names, it is so much more grown up) I could argue until I am blue in the face and you would not accept it, you want to take pictures of seahorses regardless of their health and welfare, so that's OK then, as long as you get your picture, it does not matter what happens to the seahorses. I asked you to back up what you said with evidence (mine is based on 33 years and working with an international seahorse community) and yet you have failed to do so, which makes me realise you cannot back it up because you have none. Well good luck to you and god help any seahorse you photograph, especially those Pygmies that were so stressed by what you were doing.

I am bowing out of this discussion as there is no point trying to discuss with people that cannot discuss and would not accept another persons opinion, thank god most of the diving community are not like this and are true conservationists



#31 decosnapper

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 01:35 AM

Hi Decosnapper or should I say Hi Simon, I haven't heard from you for a few months, well not since you last asked to come diving with us at Studland to take pictures of seahorses to sell (I seem to remember you wanted to help promote the work of the trust), even though you knew we do not allow flash or light under licensing conditions. Funny how you were happy to accept my 'opinion' when you wanted to come and get a dive, interesting that.

 

 

Are you sure you have the right 'Simon'? Apart from helping me ID some Hippocampus I photographed in Bulgaria's Black Sea last year, I can't recall being in touch with yourself for a very, very long time indeed?

 

As already stated, I have precisely no interest in photographing seahorses in the UK and have have nothing to lose or gain by a lifting or imposition of a ban on the use of flash. Equally, I cannot see there is nothing wrong with questioning the opinion of others who hold a particular view. Reason and debate is just part of a functioning democracy. 


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#32 Neil Garrick-Maidment

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 03:00 AM

Of course there is nothing wrong with questioning about flash and I do welcome it but equally if someone is going to debate a subject that debate needs to go two ways and supported, my 'opinion' as you point out is based on a lot of experience and support from fellow seahorse conservationists and researchers worldwide, it is not just plucked out of the sky, it is supported by Objective Evaluation based on first hand experience. I was discussing this with CEO's of some of the major aquariums in the world and they cannot understand anyone wanting the ban lifted, it is totally beyond their comprehension as it accepted by observations that this is what happens.

As I have and always will state my only interest is the welfare and health of the species which is under major threat worldwide and if we all carry on in the way we are doing the estimate from Save Our Seahorses is that they will be functionally extinct in the next 20 to 30 years. It would be an absolute tragedy if that happens when between us all we can put into place measures that will hopefully ensure the future of the species and because we also know that this is causing seahorses harm.

When I worked for the NHU for 2 years the overwhelming rule is you should not do anything to get a picture if it is to the detriment of the species, this is the first and most important unwritten rule in natural history photography and filming.

By putting into place flash and lighting bans (when there is alternatives) it takes away one more pressure on the species, there is already enough threatening them already, they do not need more.

I might have got the dates wrong (time goes by so fast) but yes you are the right Simon.



#33 Stuart Keasley

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 05:13 AM

Hi Decosnapper or should I say Hi Simon, I haven't heard from you for a few months, well not since you last asked to come diving with us at Studland to take pictures of seahorses to sell (I seem to remember you wanted to help promote the work of the trust), even though you knew we do not allow flash or light under licensing conditions. Funny how you were happy to accept my 'opinion' when you wanted to come and get a dive, interesting that.

 

You may find your job a lot easier if you try and gain the support of the masses. Comments like this misdirected accusation and your previous insinuation that anyone who opposes your opinion is doing so for alternate reasons (e.g commercial interest, or in bed with the author of the scientific paper) do quite the opposite.

 

The reason that your opinions are met sceptically is because they are based on nothing more than your own experiences, and as you quite freely say, you are far from objective when it comes to seahorses, your sole concern is to protect them, at whatever cost. 

 

For sure, you have a huge amount of experience... however so have other people. Dive guides will regularly take divers to known seahorse spots, day after day, week after week, and allow photographers to take photos, with strobes.... if the effect of strobes was as you say, then those seahorses wouldn't last a season. So whilst I fully support the sentiment (of protecting seahorses), the message you give re strobes doesn't seem to stack up.. especially given that the only scientific test performed seems to say that strobes are OK (fore sure, a limited sample, but that's the only real data we have to go on)

 

 

What was very interesting to me is to understand the basis for your opinion, i.e. that strobes cause stress, and that stress is known to cause issues, also to understand the signs of stress to look for in a sea horse, i.e. rapid breathing, swimming away etc. As it is, people (as seen on this thread) don't know that. And given that your main message has become that strobes cause stress they may presume that taking photos without strobes is therefore OK.

 

Surely a far more valuable approach would be to focus on the broader aspect, that stress can be fatal to a seahorse, and that any interaction can cause stress, here are the signs to look out for, conduct yourself appropriately.

 

I know that would mean trusting us to care about seahorses as much as you do, which is perhaps to big a pill to swallow. But then the ones that don't care will carry on regardless, the ones that do will have far better ammunition at their disposal to help the cause.


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#34 tdpriest

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 05:22 AM

I was discussing this with CEO's of some of the major aquariums in the world and they cannot understand anyone wanting the ban lifted, it is totally beyond their comprehension as it accepted by observations that this is what happens.

 

Is Objective Evaluation of greater importance than objective evaluation? Is a CEO better informed than a scientist, or, even, a photographer?

 

Pragmatic rules and expert opinion have their place in informing a precautionary principle, but evidence is better. The evidence is poor, and it's indirect. The MMO refer to a single, Australian, study in their document.

 

My own experience is that pygmy seahorses avoid flash, but thorny and estuarine seahorses avoid  vibration, and aren't particularly concerned with one or two flashes. Related genera, including many pipefishes, seem similarly unconcerned.


Edited by tdpriest, 24 March 2014 - 05:27 AM.


#35 Neil Garrick-Maidment

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 06:39 AM

Dear Bottlefish and Tim, thank you some very good points, I do agree that pipefish are different and this is because of their very different ecology and biology to seahorses, because they vary so much you cannot really compare the two.



#36 bvanant

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 10:33 AM

As an eye doctor I've taken graduate level courses in physiologic optics.

Nocturnal species are very sensitive to light, diurnal mostly not.

What are Sea horses primarily?

All species regenerate their retinas, that's how you see.

 

I thought that I was  quite sure that humans can not regenerate damaged retinal tissue since I have been following several stem cell companies trying to do that. Maybe we are talking about different things here.

 

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