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phxazcraig

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phxazcraig last won the day on April 2 2020

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About phxazcraig

  • Rank
    Sting Ray
  • Birthday 10/19/1953

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  • Website URL
    www.cjcphoto.net

Profile Information

  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Phoenix, AZ, USA
  • Interests
    Photography, especially underwater. Diving. Motorcycling (numerous long distance trips on one BMW or another, including Europe). Chess - used to be a tournament player years ago. Travel (63 countries, 50 states). Computers (self-employed IT consultant for 19 years).

Additional Info

  • Show Country Flag:
    United States
  • Camera Model & Brand
    various Nikons
  • Camera Housing
    Nauticam
  • Strobe/Lighting Model & Brand
    Sea & Sea YS-D1
  • Accessories
    various

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  1. I knew a Canadian dive photographer (James Mathias) who spent 6 months a year in Fiji. One time he charted the entire N'AIA liveaboard. I met him on another N'AIA trip. One day he looked up from his log book and announced the next dive would be his 400th, in Fiji. He was pretty selective in his diving and photography. He skipped a number of dive sites on the Liveaboard as not good enough. At that time he was still shooting a Nikon F5 loaded with Fuji Velvia film. He did not finish a 36 exposure roll that week as he would only take a shot that he thought would better one he already had.
  2. My dive gear all goes into the same closet in one of the bedrooms. Dive bag on the floor, BCDs and regulators on hangars. The camera gear is separate. I have an entire walk-in closet mostly dedicated to holding photo gear. One cabinet with three shelves holds two big Nauticam housings (D850 and D810). The third holds strobes, and misc dive-related camera gear. The latest housing (D850) sits in a backpack that also holds the bulk of the arms, extensions and ports needed. At the moment I only have three lenses and matching ports, and I only use two of them . (105vr and 16-35. 60mm macro was too short - a failed experiment). Even my closet doesn't hold all the camera gear. My strobes, stands and umbrellas have a dedicated shelf area in the garage, mostly because at Thanksgiving I make the garage into a studio and do family portraits there. Almost never use the strobes elsewhere, so convenient to keep them there.
  3. Well, it's loosely a bit of photographic equipment... Not sure where to ask, but does anyone have a recommendation for a source of a custom-fitted wetsuit in the US? Someone you've actually used, or a friend has. I have a longer torso/shorter legs body, and I can't get off-the-rack suits to fit without either gapping in the lower back, or legs that are 2+ inches too long and have to be folded under. I also want some features like zippered arms and legs (if more than 3 mil), and possibly a front zip opening. I don't know how many dives I have left in my life, but I'm tired of fighting a lousy-fitting suit for any of them.
  4. Others have talked about controlling the light at its source. I have a slightly different path to end at the same point (proper exposure). It actually reverses your sequence. Look at it as an effective way to learn what works. In short, START with your post-processing, and learn from it. The more you learn in post, the more you can apply that knowledge in the water. If you don't know how to compose for image in water, it's because you don't know what you're trying to get across in the image. You haven't pre-visualized the image. There is a way to learn composition, and that's simply by cropping the result until it 'looks good'. Or looks like the way you wished you had shot it. I'll come back to that point later. If you don't know how to compose for lighting in water, that's probably because you don't have a feel for how far away to put them and how to angle them. Again, you can learn this in post, essentially by finding out what's salvageable and what's not. Let me use the example of a simple Sea Rod lit by strobe. It's just an example of a subject that is easily over-exposed by flash. So - what can be done with the flash, and what can be done in post? The problem in a nutshell is that you have an extremely wide dynamic range to capture. The bright parts of the coral are extremely reflective and look like they are somewhere between glowing and nuclear apocalypse. The first thing you figure out is that you put the strobes too close or had too much power. But if you drop the strobe power 2 stops to get the highlights under control, you have a well of darkness for the rest. Must you sacrifice the highlights to save the shadows? Or vice-versa? Maybe, maybe not. Let's see what you can get away with in post. Here's an example: This Sea Rod has been heavily post-processed to try to tame the dynamic range. All those white areas were glowing like the sun and obscuring the details. Essentially I exposed mostly for the highlights, avoiding the blinkies if possible. Still, the original had far too much brightness in the highlights. Reducing the overall exposure helped, but lost the shadows and midrange. But (in Lightroom), the basic idea is reduce highlight brightness while simultaneously boosting shadows and midrange. It's a bit of an art trying to balance various issues. But I'm not afraid to pull the highlights down 80-100%, boosting shadows as needed and playing with exposure to shift everything away from a histogram edge as needed. Maybe this works, maybe it doesn't, but you will learn from the process. And then you start knowing what to do in the field to get the results you want on the computer in post. First: get that ISO low! The name of this game is having maximum capability to capture dynamic range (so you can do all that manipulation later), and maximum dynamic range lives right at base ISO. For my camera, that is ISO 64. Works with macro, not with wide so much. Second: put the strobes where they need to be. Lots of info out there about all that. Learn from your experience. If you shoot at ISO 400 and keep blowing highlights, either lower your ISO or back off your strobes or strobe power. Third: compose better. By that I mean that once you've learned the limits of how much you can play with your files in post, you'll be realizing that you can't just stick a strobe too close to a reflective subject. Which means you need to recognize a hotspot before you shoot it, and avoid them. If you now realize putting a strobe where you thought it should go will cause a problem, you'll be more likely to re-visualize the scene with the strobe placed elsewhere. In other words, post-processing taught you something about composition. A bit on composition. Until you are more sure of your composition, you'll probably shoot a subject from various positions and distances. Here's my simple key to figuring out composition. Rate your images. Make a quick pass through your shots without cropping and without extensive post processing. I like a rating system that only shows you unrated images at first, dropping them from the display as you add ratings. Do a quick pass, then wait a day. Go back after you've left things for a bit and observe your ratings. Which ones do you like more, in general? For me, that's often - "I like the closer ones best'. That will teach you to start shooting closer, or just skip the shots you now know are too far away. Rating your images, then trying to understand what makes a shot a 3-star versus a 2-star can teach you things. If you find a close image has a defect, go back to a more distant one and crop it. Don't worry about pixels, worry if the result looks good in a thumbnail. You can later get closer or perhaps get a camera with more pixels. Cropping is not a sin. Here are a few examples of before-and-after post-processing I threw together one year after some exclaimed how my camera took so much better shots than their camera. Mostly just crops and white balancing. I had other examples up on my Facebook page before I burned it down. https://www.cjcphoto.net/beforeafter/index.html OK, in summary, don't put strobes too close to reflective subjects, and use the highlights slider to tame highlights. Shoot at as low an ISO as you can for your lighting.
  5. Boy am I sad to say I have 0 images from 2020 as I missed diving the whole year. 2019 gave me hundreds of keepers.
  6. Are you looking more for post-processing techniques, or composition, or more camera-specific things? You can post a jpg and a link to the raw files too.
  7. I usually don't like watching videos, but that one is compelling. The only think I didn't like about was the use several times of the quick-take-zoom-in sequences. A bit too quick for my taste. (I wonder what they'd look like about 1/3rd longer takes.)
  8. Sorry for slow response... I would try - within the limits of your file type - to do the following: I use Lightroom, so use the labels for those controls. 0. If RAW, make any changes to white balance first. Same if dialing in something like 'Camera Standard' instead of any default that may be there. 1. Raise exposure at least 0.5 stop 2. Raise the shadows a bit more. (Keep an eye on the histogram. Leaving a lot of unused area on either end is a sin.) 3. If you are working with a RAW file, you may well want/need to pull down the highlights if they get out of control with any of these adjustments. 4. Increase contrast a bit, not too much. This will stretch the histogram, so if highlights were on the edge, this just pushed them over it. You may need to pull the highlights down more. 5. A trick to increase apparent clarity is to pull the black slider down to the left to darken the exposure shadows. Be very careful here - a little goes a long way and can result in the need to boost shadows a bit to avoid blocking up the dark areas. But it can make a light haze from low contrast almost vanish. 6. Increase saturation to taste.
  9. Perhaps this shot of a Star Horseshoe Worm pulling back into it's hole? Or maybe this Peppermint Shrimp - the only one I've ever seen? I had photographed an Azure Vase sponge as I went past it. A bit later I swam over it on the way back and just took a shot straight down into it. Thanks to having 36mp of detail available, I was able to crop in to get an image out of the shot. It was only in post-processing that I noticed the shrimp.
  10. Generally speaking, I would try to get equipment with some contrasting colors, and that does not have overly bright and/or reflective areas. In ambient, you will some contrast to see details. In flash, you want to avoid huge dynamic range issues that come from a highly-reflective area being stitched up next to the typical neoprene black hole. It's also useful to have some sort of color balance target attached to the BCD, though I generally find the black or metal bits of dive equipment is pretty good for setting color temp. Depending on what you are doing and how many are involved, it might be useful to have an identifying number on the BCD as well.
  11. Yes, but... I get my first shot Tuesday, and no idea when the 2nd yet. And then it takes maybe 3 weeks to achieve full strength results, be that immunity or something less. Realistically, I shouldn't be traveling until April, assuming I finish my shots in February. And then, yes, I'd like to go diving again. But then there are the travel-related issues, including the need (and expense) for rapid PCR tests leaving and coming back. Plus the question of what to do if I'm out of the country and test positive. My goal is to get back to Roatan as I missed my annual trip there last year for the first time since 2014. It used to be easy to fly there, but I'm dreading the experience now. Actually I'm dreading about any experience that forces me through the Miami airport.
  12. How much coverage will you need with your typical video? I've not got a video light, but I've used my focus lights as emergency video lights on rare occasions. (I almost never shoot video). My focus lights are a 2400 lumen Fishlite V24 and a 3500 lumen Kraken. Both are very bright for focusing and have multiple power settings, red light, etc. However, when used for video, even the Kraken only throws decent coverage for about 1-2 feet diameter at close range. Video lights underwater must be insanely powerful to do the job. Now if you want to shoot videos of macro subjects, a focus light will do. If you want to shoot wide angle scenes, no video light will do - if you are thinking of covering the whole scene. Unless you are in a very restricted environment like a cave or shipwreck, a video light just can't light up everything in a scene. More like balancing a dark area against a light one. (Maybe over/under shots for instance). If you want to shoot mid-range, like a diver or two (full-body) relatively close, a pair of powerful video lights will work. The ones I've seen on my dives (like videographers capturing your Kona Manta Ray dive experience) are just incredibly powerful with price tags to match. I'd just specialize in two strobes for still photography for now. For video work with ambient lighting - in most wide scenes I do I have to deal with ambient lighting outside the range of my strobes (still or video), and that means mixed color temperatures across the scene. Sometimes it's just better to crank up the ISO.
  13. I've only got experience with one strobe - the YS-D1. Bought two of them in 2015 and used them until my last dives last year. 300+ dives, and a lot of macro shots with a 105vr at F16-F40. On my last dive trip one strobe started shooting intermittently, then failed completely to fire. Shot the bulk of the trip with a single strobe. When I got home I bought two used Y1-D1's to replace the bad one. Figured if one failed, a second one may soon follow so now I have a spare to pack. (Oh joy, my suitcase was so underloaded to start with...) And then of course Covid-19, and I haven't been diving since, and I've not even tested the replacements yet. Sigh. These strobes are well known, as are the problems with the YS-D2 replacements. (Better choice is to get YS-D2j, which were made in Japan.) As for power, they have a lot. I don't think many strobes have more. As for wide angle, I assume they are like other strobes in that you need to attached a diffuser to cover wide angle. The strobes came with a 100 and a 120mm diffuser. They definitely work. Without them, there is no narrow/wide adjustment to the beam itself. I've been looking at the Retras for a long time now, certainly much longer than they have actually been on sale. I'm somewhat put off by the high price, but then all the powerful strobes are high-priced. Incidentally, other than the strobe failing, the only complaint I've had about the YS-D1's is the battery compartment. If you look at a D1 and then a D2 there, you'll see that S&S addressed my issue by putting in battery separators. When loading batteries into a strobe, especially on a rocking boat, it's easy for one to slide out of space a bit and block the other batteries from fitting. Not a big deal, but an annoyance that comes up a lot for me. I've used the YS-D1's with an RX100 II, a D810 and a D850. Worked fine with all. CJ
  14. I've tried this (only) a couple of times with my 230mm dome port. If you can stand on the bottom in the shallows, it will be a lot easier. Otherwise you need some way of floating the rig as it could be massively heavy to try to hold out of the water. I never was able to do it enough to get decent at it, but aside from the obvious lift-it-out-of-the-water problem, getting the lighting balanced between over and under was going to be an issue.
  15. I used that filter (B&W +2 diopter) with my 16-35 behind a 230mm dome port for 4 years. D810, then D850. To be honest, I never noticed a difference with the diopter or without, and I was always disappointed with the corners. I was resigned to cropping off the edges, until I got the Sea and Sea Internal Correction Lens. HUGE difference. Won't shoot without it now. I think I'm using a 90mm extension, by the way. I've heard the same rig used to be recommended with a 70mm extension. I'm pretty happy now with the rig. Had shot a lot with macro, but I'm learning to use wide angle to tell a story. Or would, once travel is easier again.
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