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Alex_Mustard

A preference for natural light

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After a bit of investigation (on the web and in the last two issues of BBC Wildlife Magazine and the preview for next month's) I think I have now seen 8 (possibly all?) of the winning UW images from the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year - arguably the most important competition for UW photos. And I should mention that the winners very excitingly include some Wetpixel Members.

 

Anyway many of the wide angle shots are taken in available light only, in other words without strobes. And if you look back at previous winners you will see an abundance of available light shots.

 

This competition is usually judged by land photographers and I wonder whether their selection suggests that non-underwater photographers prefer the look of underwater images taken in available light only?

Or whether it is merely a reflection that the sorts of subjects that tend to do well in wildlife photo competitions (marine mammals, turtles and sharks) are often photographed in ambient light?

 

I think that this has wider implications for our images beyond this comp. For a terrestrial interest audience should we do more to suggest an underwater feeling in our images? People seem to like the different light we get UW? When you see an UW scene (e.g. actor fighting etc) in a movie it always has a strong colour cast suggesting very strongly that it is UW - rather than having perfectly corrected colours?

 

Anyway, food for thought, or more accurately discussion!

 

Alex

 

(p.s. Those of you who know my love of filters might feel I am making a case for their use. But I am not. I am not aware that filters have been used for any of these shots.)

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Me to Alex have discover that land photographers and customers love my availabel light photos more that the Strobe ones.

 

Is not about correct colors but more the feeling, like you say, that they get. For editorial & adverting work

Strobes are a big help. The same for human skin and fill light effect but i try as good as i can to dont use strobes.

 

With Magic filter, new cameras with low noice in high isos and much experimental work we could take photos that give the UW feeling better that before..

 

One think that everybody hates strobes or not, Fashion or Landscape photografers is the color MAGENTA!!!

 

I have discover that they dont care if my skin color is lite Greay or yellow but if a corner off the photo have lite magenta NOW THAT IS A BIG PROBLEM

 

Natural Light, to come back to to thema, is the way we see thinks under water and maybe those photos have a more TRUE LOOK

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Just in my own circle of freinds ,family etc I would tend to agree - interestingly it is often available light black and white.

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As a filmaker I am very much in favour of natural light... Living in the U.K this can be quite a bit of a disadvantage, but in the right settings I think its a more realistic picture of what we are trying to portray. I've shot some lovely scene's in macro and wide, using just natural light and it can be a difficult but rewarding learning curve...

 

That, or I'm to tight to by some lights <_<

 

Dive safe

 

DeanB

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Is it because underwater photographers are more interested in vibrant colours than making it look natural?

Is this picture takern by natural light or by flash? Does it matter?

post-4197-1160495217_thumb.jpg

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my experience is in general wide angle is favored over macro. We LOVE our macro. I find most non photographers, give me a "lovely colors, but what the hell is that thing". I think that is part of the factor.

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New Scientist once did a piece about how to become classed as an endangered species - apart from being appropriately endangered that is! Amongst the suggestions they had were 'not to be vertebrally challenged (ie to have a backbone)', to have two eyes (pereferably large and brown I would imagine), and so on. The gist of which is, I suspect, the same as the criterea which will help to win nature photo competitions - it helps for the subject to be recognisable! A little cynical perhaps.

 

Not that this is entirely true of the BBC Wildlife/Shell competition, but my point is that the larger, higher profile underwater subjects tend to fit into an 'easily recognisable' category and generally are the subjects which need to be shot by available light or at least, predominantly by available light. I'm not sure that this is entirely the reason available light shots tending to do well but it must be a substantial part of it. How many sea squirts, bryazoans or sponges do well in non-underwater competitions I wonder - very few probably. I'm not sure that the fact that they are shot mostly by flash has much to do with it. Other subjects have featured in this competition (I had a jewell anemones shot attain highly commended some years ago - entirely flash lit of course) in the past, and I seem to remember some fish shots partially and fully flash lit doing ok!!!

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I think there are several factors at play here. Here are some I would include:

 

Wide angle is in general more directly engaging to an audience than restricted angles, because it allows us to immerse ourselves in the scene.

 

Natural light has familiar properties that humans use for visual reference. Firstly the light source is at infinity so there is no fall off due to distance from the light source. Secondly, the sky provides either a diffuse light source when it is overcast or hazy, or at least adds a soft fill.

 

These visual cues from daylight make artificial light easy to spot most of the time. A viewer may not even realise that they are noticing a difference, but it can still affect their perception of an image.

 

 

 

I think its interesting that so many underwater photographers favour macro, when coming to underwater photography from land photography myself, I find wide angle more interesting. I never owned a macro lens before I got a housing.

 

Martyn

Edited by Rattus

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Let's face it, on a technical level Natural light photography is easier. Shooting macro has also been technically easier also. Your going to get more quality shots and a better chance at a perfect composition with wide angle natural light in shallow conditions of course. This comming year will be interesting as ttl will soon be a more commonly used tool where most of us have been shooting manual. When I used a nikonos V, shooting macro was f22, ttl Velvia 50 asa. Pefect exposure everytme, just had to line the subject up and get the composition. Wide angle is so much more rewarding to me. Look at the ton of macro stuff people are so proud of, hardly anyone (non diver) knows what they are looking at. This site is one of the only places to show off some rare creature and have people appreciate it, but it is a grain of sand on the beach of the world. I agree that WA is so universal and carries more impact (generally of course, not in all situations). If you have a nice shallow reef or a great subject in shallow water you don't have to wory about composition and timming avoiding lighting power, position, checking the screen, making adjustments. UW you don't always get that many chances and can't communicate to recreate a missed pic because of a technical mistake.

My 2cents

Edited by Photobeat

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I have been a serious photographer since 1963. I have taken pictures in a war zone, for a well-known glamour magazine, for advertising agencies and for editorial content of magazines. I have also been a writer since say 1992. The first question to be asked of any commission is: Who is the intended audience? If you are taking pictures for yourself that is easy to answer.

 

It is my experience that the one item of content that everyone relates to and consequently wants to see is the human form. That is why I originally bought two Nikonos and two 15mm lenses. I only ever bought dome ports and wide angle lenses for housed cameras. Since then I never felt the need to buy a macro lens (until I went to Lembeh - but that is a special case!) The world is awash with good macro pictures - so I don't normally bother.

I have just supplied more than 400 pictures for a book that is about diving but aimed at the general public. There are very few that do not have people in them. Much as I am pleased with the shot of the turtle (posted previously in this thread) I know only a few people will appreciate it. The pictures that will get used by publishers will be the one with the diver swimming alongside it.

Even if I write an article about underwater photography, I am bound to be asked for pictures of divers with cameras rather than the results that they might expect to get. Taking pictures for other people can be disappointing in what they want too.

 

So maybe the preference for pictures that look like they were shot in natural light is simply because the audience feels more comfortable with it. Meeting people's expectations is often preferred to them being surprised with new information. I'm sure frogfish would have something to say on that subject.

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I have been a serious photographer since 1963. I have taken pictures in a war zone, for a well-known glamour magazine, for advertising agencies and for editorial content of magazines. I have also been a writer since say 1992.

 

Dang John, you must be ancient! ;-) Which war was that, the Trojan war?

 

No, but seriously, I agree that natural light photos are winners - but it's not because of the subjects I believe. Scientists and policy makers know that "Charismatic Megafauna" gets all the attention.

 

Cheers

James

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Dang John, you must be ancient! ;-) Which war was that, the Trojan war?

It was a war we Brits quietly got on and won while you guys were spectacularly losing another nearby! In ten ten years I will be allowed to talk about it! Then my contract with the Official Secrets Act will have run its course.

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You've definitely piqued my curiosity John. Let's see - what's nearby - Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, China, P.I... How bout just a clue which one it is?!? :-) I can't wait 10 years.

 

James

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I have a Nik 111 in mint condition that saw active service in SE Asia for a number of years ( actually in few differnet spots ) - It sits in pride of place in my office - I look at it every day and think how lucky I am to be here in the underwater imaging business.

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War? I thought that this was about natural light...

 

Leave now if you don't like pychophysiology, because I'm going to bang in about it again. I'm not at home, so I can't post an example, but I have posted some relevant images in another thread on image manipulation.

 

Non-divers, it seems, like an image that satisfies their expectations of the underwater environment: low luminance, scary big marine creatures and a blue-green cast. This is fostered by TV documentaries that are shot with these properties and a number of (variously dire) movies where the desert island is contrasted to the risky reef (see the brief underwater sequences in "Three", for instance).

 

BUT: it doesn't look like that to divers, because we extract and impose colour onto our visual perception, so we see more colour than the camera. If we strive to reproduce the experience we have had, then we need to put colour back, formerly with strobes but increasingly with filters and (heretically?) digital manipulation. I was struck in the "Blue Planet" series by the bland coral reef images, so much less vibrant than my mental picture of tropical reefs.

 

In deep water we lose colour vision, and rely on contrast to produce an image. In this situation a monochrome image reflects our experience better than a colour image. I've experimented with half-tone digital effects on wreck images, and sometimes that's even better, to me at least.

 

The expectations of divers and landlubbers are different. My favourite images are of the way that light changes underwater, referenced to my memories of diving. The public's favourite images are the ones that satisfy their own expectations. That there is a difference between their expectations and the diver's reality is obvious every time you see a wide-eyed novice diver return from the reef!

 

The best shark images that I have seen have a subtle colour, and I suspect a strobe is behind that. You need a hint of red, because sharks are bloody, right?

 

My point is that we need to be aware of what our audience wants, and that is characterised by a fine line between satsfying their preconceptions and giving them something new. I rather hope that the pros are better at this than the amateurs. I hope that it's the reason why I'm a competition failure, because no-one likes to feel technically incompetent... I make images for me, though a bit of praise now and then doesn't go amiss.

 

Tim

 

B)

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Tim "The public's favourite images are the ones that satisfy their own expectations" may be all too true! I really don't think that there is much more to it than the familiar, (what would now be irritatingly called) 'sexy' creatures attract most interest. This is probably true to a certain extent of none-diving competition judges too. Trying to make sense of a weird, unfamiliar subject is not as easy as looking at a large easily understood ('magnificent') creature complete with a reference (its surroundings - available light).

 

In my experience the local shark family (dogfishes) are far more boring behaviourally than many less well known smaller fish, and I dare say theat the same is true of many sharks. It is their size, apparent power and our preconceptions which give them so much focus (no pun intended). To me there are far more interesting subjects but ......... probably on the whole these are far less likely to do well in competitions than shark images?

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War? I thought that this was about natural light...

 

Sorry if I took you to a terrible place !

John's musings on his very accomplished past made me revisit my first experiences shooting underwater.

Like many of us I have collection of older film camera's , in particular a few mint condition Nik 111's that were only ever used for available light topside images.

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The sub-editor from the Publishing company that commissioned me to write a book on how to scuba has made two observations: 1) Surely no-one would want to dive in shark-infested waters? 2) Who in their right mind would want to dive on a wreck that had been sunk by a nuclear bomb? Frogfish has already given me some councilling on that. She also wanted to translate (for you Americans) ppO2 1.4 bar into psi. I was also asked in view of the fact that we use litres in Europe and the Ameriacns use tanks measured in cu.ft, what do Australians use? How many kangas to a roo?

Managing expectations - an important skill we all need to use!

 

I once did an advertising picture for Plessey. It was of a submarine. We had a wonderful model of the submarine made and I went down to 50m to photograph the view looking up at 45 degrees. The combined final shot, with the model submarine hovering in front of a six foot trannie of the underwater scene, looked terrific but the client said it didn't look like that underwater so we had to make a set out of papier mache and paint and reshoot it!

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Now that I'm back home, here are the examples that I would have added to my post, above.

 

A CHALLENGE: only ONE image was taken using a strobe (well, two strobes, in fact). Which one?

 

post-4522-1160828911_thumb.jpgpost-4522-1160829636_thumb.jpgpost-4522-1160829727_thumb.jpgpost-4522-1160829762_thumb.jpg

 

Tim

 

B)

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I give up...

 

The far right pic: That (in my opinion) would be fantastic if the diver on the right of the wreck was not there.!!! I know its good for sense of scale but...?

 

Still..Loved them.

 

Dive safe

 

DeanB

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A Spanish newspaper publishes a small gallery with someone of the best photographies of the last Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year organized for the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife magazine.

http://www.elmundo.es/fotografia/temas/cie...afia/index.html

 

We can see the photo of the winner, a Swedish photographer: Goran Ehlmé and one more couple of submarine Spanish photographers who have obtained second prizes. So much in the winning photo, like in that of Manu San Félix, we can see the exclusive use of natural light. Also it is this light the predominant in Jordi Chias's photo.

 

PD: Michael Aw has been rewarded also (congratulations) and the best photo of portrait has been elected a great barracuda, but these photos are not in the gallery.

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A CHALLENGE: only ONE image was taken using a strobe (well, two strobes, in fact). Which one?

 

post-4522-1160828911_thumb.jpgpost-4522-1160829636_thumb.jpgpost-4522-1160829727_thumb.jpgpost-4522-1160829762_thumb.jpg

 

 

Snappers.

 

Paul C

 

Is there a prize Tim ?

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Someone spoke of - Depending on the audience - well if the shoot is for a client, to sell something or for some comercial aspect then the person who ponies up the bucks should get what they pay for. Which is something totally different than the artistic quality of an image.

 

The artistic question about ambient light I think is a moot point. Artistically a photo is about form, about texture, about what ever presents itself, whether that is with artifical light or not is ot the question. Anyone who concerns themselves with light source is not looking to the artistic intent of a photo.

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Now the results are out - it seems the vital ingredient is a 12-24mm lens on a Nikon camera. All 4 category winning underwater shots used this combination! :D

 

Alex

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