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Magic Filter Questions

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I think we have all seen the great results that Alex and a few others have got using the Magic Filter, but I think there needs to be more information on there use and how to get the get best results. A need for knowledge on camera settings is required, are there any tricks to getting images like you show us, what f-stops are you using, ISO, shutter, are you using A priority, S priority, shooting up or down, white balance before or after, etc. The filter works as we can see but I don't see many people getting the same shots you show us. :D

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The most important thing is light. As it usually is in photography.

 

Most underwater photos are taken with flash as the main light source. Underwater photographers like to talk about using flash as fill lighting. But that is not really true. We blast it. Flash is our main lighting! And as such it means we don't have to think much about light. Whatever we aim our camera at - our strobes are pointed at too.

 

When shooting with a filter we have to think constantly about the ambient light. Its quality (how diffuse it is) and most <b>importantly its direction</b>. We have to choose a subject that is being illuminated evenly by the ambient light. Usually this means choosing a camera angle that achieves this. And since light comes from the surface this means a slighty downward camera angle helps here.

 

Filtration works by subtraction of light. So filters will work best when there is lots of light underwater. So calm conditions, clear water and sunny weather all help. This is one of the main reasons why I doubt I will develop a green water filter - as there is usually a lot less light to begin with (and filters also have to be stronger for a given depth because of particle scattering). So anyway, when the conditions are inclement then you will always be struggling with a lack of light - and running out of depth or field or shutter speeds. Shallow dive sites, dived near the middle of the day will yield the best images.

 

I often shoot on Shutter Priority AUTO with filters. I did one dive in Cayman (from Kriptap's boat) with the camera on Program - just for fun. Most of the time if you pay attention to the light the technical side is point and zap simple. But be aware that you can't use as long shutter speeds as you do when using flash. I would say 1/40th is as low as I will go.

 

I white balance all the time (sometimes even twice on one subject). It is very easy on my camera. On some cameras it is more tricky and I would probably only bother 3-4 times during the dive. But either way I would be happy to fine tune WB in RAW conversion.

 

Lens choice also makes a difference. For big subjects like wrecks then the 10.5mm is the way to go. But for most other things I actually prefer less wide lenses (even though I would use the 10.5mm when shooting flash). Less mide lenses make it easier to get a nice even blue background. In Cayman I used the 12-24m a lot with the Magic (having just got a zoom gear for it from Cathy Church's) but in Bali I favoured the 16mm. 35mm full frame fisheyes on a APS-C DSLR are really nice with filters. I also used my 28-70mm with the Magic.

 

Hope that this helps.

 

Alex

 

Finally I would add that there is useful info inside the Magic Filters pack. And on the website:

 

"Ambient light photography requires a different approach to shooting with strobes. To produce even lighting on the subject it is important to shoot WITH the natural light. Position yourself so that the light comes from behind you and fully illuminates the subject. But take care that your own shadow is not cast on the subject! A slightly downward camera angle can be very effective and helps produce a pleasing blue water colour.

 

Ambient light images tend to lack contrast compared to strobe lit shots so try to isolate your subject against open water so that it does not disappear into the background. Automatic metering usually does a very good job with ambient light images. Shutter speed priority Auto (set at 1/125th) can be useful for stopping movement blur of fast moving fish. You may also want to increase the sensitivity a touch."

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Here is an example image from Cayman.

 

magic1.jpg

 

I show it as a screen grab of the NEF, straight from the camera in Nikon View - so you can see it exactly as taken (no post processing WB or anything). From memory this sponge was at about 12m deep (40ft). I tested the filter down to 18m on this dive and was still pretty good (although it gets a bit more pastel at those depth as the colours loose their punch)

 

As you can probably see in the shooting info - this was taken with the 10.5mm. If I had gone down specifically to shoot this sponge and fan then I would have used the 16mm or 12-24mm. I think I cropped it a bit for the web.

 

Shot on aperture priority (point and shoot) with no exposure compenstation. I often use either + or - 0.3 stop compensation when shooting in AUTO. It was cloudy on this dive so I had chosen a wider aperture than normal (f3.2) altough when the sun came out for this photo I ended up with a faster shutter speed than I needed. I think if i had my time again I would have shot at F5.6 and 1/40th or whatever it works out too.

 

I white balanced on some bare rock nearby before taking this shot.

 

It is not a classic by any means, but I think that the colours are pleasing.

 

Alex

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Underwater photographers like to talk about using flash as fill lighting. But that is not really true. We blast it. Flash is our main lighting! And as such it means we don't have to think much about light. Whatever we aim our camera at - our strobes are pointed at too.

 

Mildly off-topic for this thread, but since Alex brough up the idea of fill-flash, which is used a great amount in nature photography (topside), I figured it had some relevance...

 

This is one of my few attempts at fill-flash underwater...my strobe batteries were just about dead, so it didn't put out as much power as I initially wanted, but the effect works nonetheless.

 

_MG_6409_24.jpg

 

From the Solomons...all I needed was a group of canoes on the surface and it would've been perfect :D

 

~Matt Segal

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