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randapex

A bit of Magic

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We had quite a successful trip to the Sea of Cortez, Whale sharks, Hammerheads (ok, I saw one way off :) ) and Sealions.

 

My first dive with the Sealions was not the best as I'd not clicked my 10.5 all the way in and the AF wasn't working. The action was so hot and heavy, it didn't become apparent until after review on the laptop later.

 

But my overall impression, fuzzy images aside, was the subjects lacked color, the baitfish were being blown out by the strobe and just a general feeling of taking "Point and shoot" pictures.

 

So, a few days later, armed with Alex's Magic filter, we returned to Los Islotes (AKA: Sealion Colony) and gave the filter a try. Again with the 10.5.

 

Although there are some methods to take the best of advantage of the filter, ie: White balance U/W, shoot level, with the sun to your back, this just wasn't always possible. The Sealions go where they will go and sometimes the best action was in the wrong direction.

 

In any case, I felt the first try was, if not a total success, at a minimum, a vast improvement over my non-filtered shots.

 

First, although not a controlled test, without the filter:

 

DSC_8155_sealion_nofilter-01.jpg

 

And with:

 

DSC_8998_seal_fish1-01.jpg

 

And for something a bit different, A Cormorant feeding on the baitfish.

 

DSC_8988_bird1fish-01.jpg

 

As you can see, these were all shot in very shallow water and the sun was very bright. Even so, in order to get good exposure, I was shooting arounf f8 @ 1/100 which is too slow for the darting Sealions. Not sure how many stops the filter costs you but next time, I'd up the ISO in order to go for a faster shutter.

 

And as a matter of technique, would try harder to keep the sky out of the frame as it tends to give it a weird color cast at times.

 

None of these images has been through PS other than to re-size. This is hard for me to post images that haven't been tweaked and sharpend. But you need to see the Raw images I think to really judge the results.

 

Rand

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Cool and thanks for posting our thoughts on its' use to. That should be helpful when I give it a go in January.

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Thanks Todd, guess I put everyone to sleep with this post... :)

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Hi Rand,

 

Not sleeping, just busy. I want to have another go at white balancing these photos - I think they have too much red and yellow for my taste, but otherwise are fantastic.

 

Cheers

James

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I like the second shot of the sea lion, definetly more natural that the strobe lit shots.

 

I just i hope i remeber everyones points and tips when i am under the philipine sea in 10days :)

 

Cheers

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I like the way that the filters allow you to get movement into the fish. Makes for a more dynamic image for my mind. The sealion shot really shows this where the fish are almost just a texture rather than distinct animals.

 

I am with James, that I think that the images could do with a slightly cooler WB setting.

 

But great stuff.

 

Alex

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Yea, you could definitely improve that with WB in PS. However, if you are in a situation where you are moving around a lot like you are, there are ways to trick the camera. If you think you are going to be shooting up and into the sun, WB the camera in a shallow depth. If you are going to be shooting down and into a reef where the colours might not be so strong, WB a bit deeper and move up to improve your reds...

 

Love that second shot.

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Thanks for the comments, especially the critique.

 

I'm not sure how Rawshooter determines the white balance when opening a new raw file. But, as I wanted to get these to you "pure" so to speak, I didn't tweak them as then it would change the look. And I must admit to not white balancing underwater since I understand that it's done normally to shoot a specific angle with exact lighting. (I think).

 

This filter reminds me of stacking macro lenses on the 5050, initial results weren't perfect, but I can see possiblities, once mastered, are really exciting.

 

Rand

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I really like the sea lion shot, and I'm sure you could "fix" the funky sky color with a little PS tweaking.

 

My first experience with the magic filter was a few weeks ago in Indonesia. I carefully followed the directions, resetting WB at 40', then 30', and finally at 20'. Unfortunately, vis was not optimal, and there was limited sunlight, so I was overall unhappy with the results relative to strobe-lit reef shots. The shots at 40 and 30 ft were simply "blah" - not worth even keeping, as there was simply not enough light to get decent sharpness (if there's one thing digital cameras need, it's LIGHT!).

 

However, here was one of the shots taken at 20 ft:

Reef%20taken%20w%20Magic%20Filter.jpg

 

While not a great photo, I think it show's the magic filter's potential (color throughout the shot, with fairly true colors through far more depth of the scene than strobes would have provided).

 

My conclusion is that the Magic Filter is something I'll only use when:

1. I have BRIGHT ambient sunlight

2. I'm planning to stay relatively shallow, and/or

3. I'm shooting subjects (e.g., wrecks) that are simply too large to practically light with strobes.

 

In other words, I think the Magic Filter is going to be an excellent "ambient light" tool in certain circumstances, but if you're diving in murky water, at significant depths, and/or have poor sunlight, don't bother taking it on that dive.

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I agree with Bruce about filters not being for every dive. And to quote from the Magic Filters website:

"All filters work by the subraction of light. Seawater subtracts the red/orange/yellow wavelengths from light as it passes through, and then the filter acts to subtract the blue light to rebalance the spectrum. With all this subtraction going on filters work best in bright conditions. Shoot filters on sunny days, in calm, clear and shallow waters for the best results."

 

Alex

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