Posts posted by frogfish
Fair question, with no simple answer. Obviously any close interaction with an animal this big could be potentially dangerous. I think it's something that has to be considered case by case, or perhaps whale by whale.
There were actually two humpbacks that people from our boat swam with that day. The second humpback was lob-tailing - raising the lower part of its body and slamming its flukes onto the surface - when we first encountered it, and it continued to do so after three of our people entered the water, though it never did this in the direction of the swimmers. (There's a pic of this happening on my website, if you're interested).
I chose not to go in the water with this whale, because I didn't think it was safe. Even if the whale was trying to avoid endangering us - which some of us believed - I still felt there was a risk that someone might be hurt. The difficulty in keeping track of the whale and other swimmers in the waves (on the surface) and bad viz below were also factors.
The first whale, on the other hand, moved very slowly whenever snorkellers were close, repeatedly moving away then slowly reapproaching, positioning herself close to individual swimmers so that she could see them with one of her eyes, rolling on her back, thrusting a pectoral fin up into the air, etc. She (we think it was a she) was clearly aware of the swimmers and intentionally continuing and resuming the interaction.
I'd never been this close to an animal this big before, and I was very nervous at first. But as soon as I was in close to this whale, my worries quickly disappeared. At one point, I had to duck and weave a bit to avoid her pectoral fin, but the motion was very slow. (I'd decided to avoid touching the whale.) There was no doubt in my mind that this whale was aware of us and taking care not to unintentionally injure us. Of course that could simply by me/our fantasy and anthropomorphising, but I don't think so. You probably had to be there.
I should stress that this is very unusual behavior for humpbacks, at least in this area. People do attempt to get shots of whales underwater, but you don't expect any interaction. These whales are migrating, and tend to be moving fast. The procedure is that the boat drops the snorkellers a few hundred meters in front of a single whale. If the drop is done right and the whale doesn't change course, you might get a quick glimpse as it swims by, but that's the most you expect.
These two encounters were very different from the norm. I have no idea why. In both cases, when we first encountered the whales, they seemed to be taking a break from the migration, staying more or less in one place. The first whale was broaching when we first saw her, the second - as I mentioned above - was lob-tailing, all by itself. (This may be unusual as well.) Most of the whales we saw were moving, and in groups of two or three, and the lob-tailing behavior seemed to be part of real or mock fighting between two males over a female.
I hope this is helpful.
I'm don't want to get into a discussion online aboutwho observes 300 m limits and who doesn't, but sometimes it's the whale that approaches (or broaches) close to the boat. In the fluke shot above, it's obvious the whale is swimming toward the boat. This happened more than once, but only when we were the only boat around. Whenever two or more boats were on the same pod, the whales mostly kept at least 200 m away. I firmly believe the important thing is to let the animal determine whether to interact, how close and on what terms. What it wants to do trumps the "rules", as far as I'm concerned.
The 80-400 was set at 80 for the three shots posted above, which are minimally cropped. I found it difficult to use longer focal lengths of the 80-400 on a moving boat except a few days when the water was flat, and when the boat dead slow or stopped.
Here's the "closest" above-water shot, taken with film camera, and only minimally cropped to correct aspect ratio. Again, it's very clear who is approaching who. I don't know if the 300 m. rules apply to swimmers, but snorkelling, it was sometimes difficult to avoid physical contact. This whale came back to us again and again. The second shot was taken by a friend, using a D70; hopefully he won't mind my posting it here. I'm the snorkeller on the left, having just realized part of the whale was missing underwater and looking up.
I just got back from my first trip really using the 80-400 VR, and loved it. It certainly works great for whales, and is a great wildlife lens in general. The fact that it's not super fast is not a big problem in bright daylight, and in less well lit situations digital shooters can easily kick up their ISO.
The first two images below were shot with the 80-400 on a Fuji S2. The third image was taken using the lens on a F100 - Provia 400 film, as the S2 was in the housing that day. (The "Provia blue" probably gives it away anyway.) All were handheld, from a RIB that moved a lot. The breach was shot at 1/500, the other two at 1/1000, which I think did a better job of freezing water droplets.
Scubamarli is right that Bali would be a wonderful place for you both to celebrate your birthday, and I also like Tulamben and Amed. Menjangan is nice as well. There is better diving (in my view) "beyond" - elsewhere in Indonesia - such as Komodo, Irian Jaya, Alor, Banda Sea, etc. But you pretty much have to do these places on a liveaboard. In Bali you can stay in a wonderful villa if you like, and there is a lot of cultural stuff to see and do on land.
There can be big stuff to see underwater too. Nusa Penida often has mola mola in the northern hemisphere summer months (June to September, sometimes earlier and/or later) as well as mantas, which are pretty much year round. The best sites for molas and mantas are not always accessible, however, and as Scubamarli says, currents at Nusa Penida can be tricky. The best macro is in the north, where the diving is easier, the water warmer, and currents rarely a problem.
We all have our preferences in dive operators. There are a number of well-run operations here, but also many that are definitely sub-par. I'd look carefully at what's available on the internet. Don't try to shop for a diver operation by price. All the good operators are reasonably priced anyway. It's good to check if the operator is properly insured. The PADI "star" rating system can be useful as a quick way to separate out the better ops too.
I've just come back from the Sardine Run in South Africa, which was an amazing experience. Let me say at the outset that we only got one divable baitball (at that time, we were the only boat that had been able to dive on a baitball this year, though that changed the day we left), and the shutter control on my housing didn't work, so I have no images of that. But I hardly care - it was enough to be there.
The highpoint - and what stands as one of the peak experiences of my entire life - was snorkelling with a friendly humpback. The viz was terrible; I was so goddamned excited that most of the time I forgot I had a camera; bouncing in the chop I couldn't read the viewfinder information to see whether I had exposure right or not (I didn't), plus the housing was already malfunctioning - I only had 12 exposures from a 20 minute encounter. Still....
Easier shooting conditions and much better viz when we snorkelled with a super-pod of common dolphins....
(These were all were taken with Fuji S2 in Subal housing, no strobes (obviously), Nikon 12-24 DX lens at 12 mm - as wide as I could go.
More images (mostly surface, but including some u/w stuff) are up on my website: http://www.tabula-international.com/
Frogfish (Robert Delfs)
Ditto what James said. Even with the very wide SS200s (which I use too), it can be difficult to avoid uneven illumination coverage if strobe placement isn't spot on.
I've used the 10.5 fish-eye semi-successfully with a pair of YS-90 DXs (both equipped with diffusers), but I think DS-50s would be difficult wiht a fish-eye.
Frogfish (Robert Delfs)
This feature has been available in Photoshop for a long time.
Create the macro (action) by recording the sequence of steps on one image file and then stop recording.All the files you want to apply the action to should be in a single folder. Now go to:
File > Automate > Batch
Confirm that the action and action set you want are selected at the top of the dialogue box. Press the "Choose" button to select the folder containing the files you want to modify. Now press "OKAY".
Photoshop will automatically run the action on every file in the folder (and optionally sub-folders). You can choose whether files should be saved under their original name and location or in a new file location. You may need to manually hit the enter key once for each file to complete some file operations, though I believe there are ways to avoid this using options available in the Batch dialogue. See the Photosho Help index for Batch for further details.
This is very powerful. I've used it many times when I needed to resize a large number of JPEG images.
Frogfish (Robert Delfs)
I received half of the 80-400 VR lens for Christmas this year. The IS function is truly amazing.
I also think there is a real logic for discussing this lens here. I wanted this lens so that I could have a serious telephoto for topside use that might not require a tripod. Sea birds, cetaceans, komodo dragons, etc. With all the dive and underwater photo gear I already take on trips, adding even my fairly light tripod (Gitzo G1228) was no longer feasible.
I haven't had the chance to do a liveaboard trip with this lens yet, but based on initial trials, the VR 80-400 is going to exceed all my expectations.
Frogfish (Robert Delfs)
Try the Hartenberger compact light. It comes with - or maybe it's an extra, I'm not sure - a kit containing an alternate reflector dome to convert it to wide-angle diffused. (It won't blow up, so you don't need to defuse it!).
It's easy to drill holes in the handle to attach an Ultralite (or other brand) ball connector. The power control (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%, 125%) is on the rear of the light, which makes it very easy to use mounted on the housing.
I used to use a D4 for this. The Hartenberger is more compact than the D4, very bright, and the variable power options are very useful. I now use it on all macro dives, not just night dives.
Personally, I prefer a wide-angle aiming light mounted on the housing. I used to use a D4, which I mounted in an 11.5 cm (external diameter) section of PVC piping - which turns out to be perfect to accomodate the lgiht - with a cut-out for the handle and controls, to which I attached a Ultralight ball fitting. A double-hooked length of shock cord ensured that the light stayed in the PVC section, The D4 is quite bright, but the beam was wide enough to serve as a general dive light and does not generate a hot spot.
When this light eventually died, I purchased a Hartenberger Mini-Compact HID light. The standard light is narrow beam, but Hartenberger also supplies a wide-angle kit, with an alternative reflector (and possibly lens) that is perfect for underwater macro shooting at night. I just drilled two holes in the handle to accomodate an ultralight ball fitting. The Hartenberger is less bulky and less heavy than the D4, and the multiple power controls - all accessible by dialling the back of the light - are easy to use when the light is mounted on the housing.
Cruising around, I keep the light at low power, but if I'm working in close, I'll kick up the power to 100% or 125%. The auto-focus works perfectly with the higher light levels, and is pretty much instantaneous.
If I'm using the Ikelite 200s, then I also have the modelling lights on those strobes for difficult subjects and/or to help aiming the strobes, but since I've had the Hartenberger, I rarely switch the modelling lights on the SS200s on, which of course also helps save battery life, which is more important with the enhanced shot volume possible with digital.
I've had enough trouble using autofocus for macro in shaded areas or on dark days that I now mount the Hartenberger every time I shoot macro, daytime or night.
Of course, I also carry a back-up light on my harness - a Halcyon scout - and an emergency strobe beacon, but I do that on every dive, day or night.
Frogfish (Robert Delfs)
No problem whatsoever using a zoom ring on Nikon 12-24 with the Subal FS2 housing for S2. Which port isn't an issue as far as zoom ring is concerned, but you definitely want the FE2 port for the 12-24 Nikon lens. I'm very happy with this lens with the FE2 port.
I thought about selling mine, but the low prices for film rigs make it hardly worthwhile, so it's now a back-up. (I "preplaced" the housing and some other gear on the boat we'll be on in east indonesia next month before it left Bali in January.
The problem with using very small f-stops in macro photography is diffraction, and the problem is balancing that with depth of field. I've seen advice from top photographers to never go beyond an effective aperture of f/16 when shooting at magnification levels of 1:1. (Note that the effective aperture can be different from the marked f-stop when shooting macro.)
That said, I personally tend to ignore this advice and use the f-stop that delivers the DOF I need. I suspect that the tolerance level is very dependent on what you're doing with the image later. Blowing up and printing large would presumably reveal diffraction problems that would be invisible in an image printed smaller, or used on the web.
As to shutter settings, underwater you will usually be completely dependent on strobe illumination for macro, so the shutter speed is pretty much irrelevant, provided of course that it isn't higher than the max flash synch speed. The real shutter speed, in effect, is the duration of the strobe flash, which will be something on the order of a few thousandths of a second.
There are times when it's possible (and desirable) to get ambient lit background water recorded on the image when shooting macro, and for this you'll need to experiment with much lower shutter speeds (and wider apertures).
There is a general opinion (and I share it) that shooting downwards is almost always a mistake, particularly in w/a. The other issue is that I think you're just too far away from the subject - there's too much water column between your lens and the ray, hence the strong cast on both ray and the reef or sand.
I don't think this image is up to the standard of some of your other work, nor do I think de-blue-ing (or other steps in PS) would be likely to make this image into what you are trying to achieve.
I agree with the comments above - it sounds like you're covered. To supplement what you've already got, a CU diopter and/or teleconverter would probably be more useful there than a medium-wide.
A 17-35 (or a prime lens in that range, such as the 28 mm) is good for fish portraits or to pull in pelagics and other w/a subjects that can't be approached closely enough with the 12-24, but that's not likely to be your priority in the Lembeh Strait. If you're like most people, you won't be shooting anything there but macro. There aren't many subjects you're likely to want to shoot at Lembeh that will be too big for the 60 mm.
You will want to shoot w/a if you plan to do dives at Bunaken/Manado before or after Lembeh, but the 12-24 will be great for that.
Let me know if you'll be coming through Bali on your trip.
It's been a long time since that pair of Harlequin shrimps were at the sunken Dry Dock. Nice while they were there, though. I've never seen them anywhere else.
There's an amusing story about those shrimps: One of the DMs from Asian Divers in Little La Laguna was taking some divers to the Dry Dock to see the Harlequins. Unsurprisingly, there was a local shortage of blue (Linckia) starfish near the dry dock, so the DN picked one up a couple of hundred meters away to use to lure the Harlequins out of their hole, and was holding it in front of him by its arms as he led the customers, finning against a slight current to the site.
When they surfaced, one of the divers exclaimed excitedly, "That was fantastic! I've never seen anything like that! Absolutely incredible!"
"So you liked those Harlequin shrimp?", the DM asked.
"No, no, forget the shrimp or whatever that was," the diver interjected. "I meant, how you were able to navigate all that way using a starfish. How do you do that? You've GOT to show me!"
"Oh, well, just follow the middle arm," the DM replied.
Oh, and I did finally get the strobe back. Both the SS200's (and a back-up film housing) are already in Rajah Empat on the boat we'll be on next month, which should save some weight on the flight to Sorong.
P.S. The white frogfish I image I use for an avatar was shot in PG, just out near the motorboat wreck in Little La Laguna Bay.
I usually carry a film body with me for land-shooting and trips and keep a strap on that. If I want to shoot topside with the digital, I just do without a strap, as it takes too long to attach and detach. I have a small Lowepro holster case that fits around the S2 or F100, and it has a strap.
Underwater, if you're using one of the larger housed DSLRs with big strobes and long arms, the retractor systems with plastic clips designed for smaller cameras may not be the most appropriate.
I have a pair of brass "suicide clips" attached to the strobe arms near the clamps between the two arm sections. When the arms are folded and clipped in, both clips are at the top. I clip one (and sometimes both) to the chest D-rings.
This, by the way, is the only place I'll accept suicide clips on my gear. I used to use bolt snaps, but sometimes found it difficult to clip on or unclip at the surface in heavy waves, either when I'd just been handed the camera from the boat or wanted to hand it up. The suicide clips are attached to the arms with large stainless steel rings, which can be removed if the clip somehow got jammed or fouled, which seems unlikely.
Using two clips makes it easy to quickly find one and clip it on. It also makes it possible to carry the rig on my chest easily and symmetrically for long swims against a current, or if I need both hands to set a delayed SMB or to render assistance to another diver.
If I've got a long walk with the housing, I sometimes clip both of the suicide clips onto a spare arm section or something similar and use that as a handle for balanced carrying.
I'm going to go against the grain and take a contrary position. In this case (and many others), I often prefer to see the substrate and immediate environment, rather than isolating the subject against a deep black background.
I think the isolation works well in randaplex's shot, which is a tighter view showing detail of the spiral structure of the serpulid's branchiae. But I think DeepDiscovery's shot works very well, showing the entire animal (as it is normally seen) - both the feeding structures and the operculum, as well as the interesting and complex environment in which it lives.
The contrast between the yellow branchiae and the background seems more than sufficient to isolate the animal visually.
A tougher related question for me is what to do about highly camouflaged subjects, such as frogfish, etc. The rule seems to be that it's wrong to show subjects like this in situ unless one uses special techniques to isolate them from their very similar background. (And of course we would never move them, would we?) But I also feel that these creatures' amazing ability to match their background is an essential feature of the experience of encountering them in the wild - and the difficulty of finding them. This is something that I'd like to see made evident in any image depicting them and their way of life.
As for focus, I really can't tell in a jpeg image this small. Anyway, nice pic.
Or set up your own website. It's not that expensive, nor difficult.
(I'm also someone who is not likely to take the trouble to register or set up an id in order to view somebody's pictures.
Who were you diving with at Puerto Galera? PG was one of my favorite places to dive when I lived in Hong Kong. There didn't used to be that many u/w photographers going there, but the numbers had started to increase. It's an under-rated location.
It's not necessary, but I tend to leave mine on to keep the lens protected during topside handling, lens changes, etc. For many if not most SLR setups, this question really onlyapplies to macro, since the filter is replaced by a diopter for wide-angle work.
I've written a Feature piece about channel mixing techniques, but it's still in the queue. In many cases, you can use the channel mixer for this, which is easier to use. But Apply Image is more powerful, in that you can select different blending modes. Lighten is often the best for situations like this shark.
One way to dump the red channel (the one I used) is to click on that channel on the channel palette, Select All, then Clear. The channel should go completely blank.
To bring in a copy of the green channel, keep the red channel selected on the palette menu, but click on the left column next to RGB. This way, you can see the compiled image, but Apply Image (and any other operations) will only affect the red channel.
When you start Apply Image, the red channel should already be identified as the target of the operation. Just switch the source to the green channel. Now you can play with different opacity levels and blending modes, while viewing the results on the screen. When you get what you like, click OK. That's it.
L*a*b is an alternative color space, with a much larger gamut than RGB. It's also used as the base color space for a lot of Photoshop operations. If you convert your color space from RGB to CMYK, it actually goes through L*a*b on the way.
L*a*b may seem difficult, but it's well worth learning about. I talk a bit about it in the feature piece. If you take an image, and go to Image, Mode, you'll see Lab as one of the options. Click on it, and now the color channels of your image will be the Lab channels: L (luminosity), "a" and "b". The L channel contains all the luminosity data - is essentially a black and white image. The "a" and "b" channels have all the color information - "a" values represent a contimuum from red to green, while "b" values represent blue to yellow.
You probably already know about curves, which is an alternative to Levels, but more powerful. It does everything Levels does, but much more. Curves can be used in RGB space, but are particularly powerful in L*a*b space.
If you modify the L curve, you can change the contrast, brightness and/or darkness levels of the image without affecting color at all, which can be difficult using RGB channels. Steepening the L curve increases contrast, and moving the ends in the opposite direction does the opposite.
Modifying the "a" and "b" channels is often the best way to correct a color cast, and can also be used to modify saturation levels selectively at different parts of the curve. Steepening the "a" curve will increase saturation of both reds and greens, moving both ends in the opposite direction will desaturate reds and greens. Shifting all or part of the "a" curve up will increase red values (and remove a green cast), shifting it down does the opposite. Similar for the B curve with yellows and blues.
Make the Curves window as big as possible, since a small change in these curves can make a big difference in the image. I usually find it easier to make color and contrast corrections in L*a*b color space.
Hope this helped.
These are some very nice shark images. I think you could do more in PS to optimize the appearance - the second and third, in particular, are excellent candidates for playing around with channels. The best tool for this is the A)pply I)mage feature in PS, which works like the Channel Mixer, but is more powerful.
If you look at the individual channels on the second image, for example, you'll see that the red plate is very weak. That's the cause of the cyan cast pervading the entire image. You can also easily see that the weak red channel contains most of the noise that slightly degrades the overall image. Dumping it can actually reduce noise and yield a sharper, cleaner image.
Here's a quick example of the kind of thing that can be done. I just took your image, dumped the worthless red channel, and replaced it with a copy of the green channel at about 80% opacity and hard light blend mode. That, and readjusting the contrast in L*a*b curves, took about one minute..
I have been using the Adobe Camera RAW plugin (PS 7.0.1) for a while now but only recently have I realised how powerful it is. I seem to have worked out the best approach for correcting the colour and exposure but would like someone to verify my technique as sound.
I have four steps to adjusting an image prior to importing into PS, three of which rely on the histogram. The steps are
1) Set sharpness to 0
2) Adjust the temperature slider so that the red, green and blue histograms overlap as much as possible without saturating on either end of the spectrum....
There are two things I would like to know.
1) Is the technique above sound or is there a better way
2) How many of the sliders on the RAW user interface are actually recovering information from the data and how many are generating that information.
I don't think it's very useful to think of any of the sliders as "generating" data. The RAW image contains numerical data from the sensor array - the sliders just modify the way that data is interpreted by the conversion program to generate an RGB file. When you move the temperature slider up or down, you're just changing the parameters the program uses to determine how much "blueness" or "yellowness" to assign to specific ranges of sensor data numbers..
Personally, I don't think trying to align the different colored histograms to make the overlap (white) area as large as possible is necessarily the optimal way to use the sliders. Some images will still have large non-overlapped areas when the converter settings are correct. However, if you have any subject matter in the image that you know is supposed to be white or grey, then the eye dropper is an excellent way to generate a first approximation setting for the color temperature and tint sliders.
The Adobe raw converter interface is truly wonderful, a big step forward from what we had before.
I wouldn't dismiss the 105 mm as an excellent general lens for digital macro. The range of optimum subject sizes is different than it is on a full-frame SLR, of course, but the extra working distance on the 105 is very useful, and you can still cover quite a variety of subjects under most conditions..
Re: your original posting, the 24-85 mm lens is an excellent general workhorse topside, but I was never been able to make it work successfully underwater with my film SLR housing. With a digital SLR the problems are worse - the wide end isn't really wide enough, while the long macro end (up to 1:2) never seemed to generate decent images. I was using the lens in a dome port.
The 12-24 DX, on the other hand, is truly a magic lens for w/a, if you can find a way to spring for the bucks.
Nikon VR 80-400
in Shooting Technique, Workflow and Editing
I found that it was important to keep the shutter speed as high as possible. The first of the images I posted above (the breach) was shot at 1/500. It was ok, but I felt that and other images shot at that speed weren't freezing the action (esp. the water droplets and spray) enough. The next shot (lob-tailing) was shot at about 1/750).
After reviewing those images, I kicked the ISO up to 400 to get faster shutter speed. Once I switched to the F100 (the raised flukes), I mostly used Provia 400 film, aperture priority at max aperture to get fastest shutter speed I could, usually 1/1000 or better, which I think worked best.
My experience was that the ability to handhold this lens at relatively slow shutter speeds was only useful for shooting fairly static subjects - animals in repose - on land, ideally using a monopod (or a tripod in "monopod mode"). As you say, it's not camera shake - dolphins, whales and similar subjects are just moving too fast.
Even if the subject isn't moving, I found that it was very still very difficult to keep the camera aimed at the exact same place when shooting from/on a boat, especially at longer focal lengths. Essentially, the camera/lens is panning, and the VR system can't cope with this.
Shutter speed was particularly a problem with gannets, which are moving very fast when they're dive-bombing the sardines. You needed at least 1/1000 or even 1/2000 to avoid blurred birds. Interestingly, it was iimpossible to see with the naked eye how the gannets folded their wings in close to their bodies at the last milliseconds before striking the surface of the water. It happens so fast that they seemed to go into the water with their wings still extended out. E.g.,