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danclem

Photographing Small, Translucent Invertebrates

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Hi All:

 

Anyone have any words of wisdom photographing small, translucent invertebrates (like 1" jellies), in our Seattle area temperate waters where there is a great deal of detritus and current. Most recently I used my Nikon d300 (cropped sensor), 105 mm lens, auto focus, 60th @ f14. Often times I will focus right through the critter.

 

I have thought about bringing a black slate to place behind the subject for more contrast. Any thoughts? I suppose another option would be to switch to manual focus, rack the focus out, and move my rig to focus.

 

Any help greatly appreciated. The rest of the set-up is a Subal housing, twin Ikelite 125 strobes, one set on full, the other on half power, and a Hartenberger focus light set on 2-3 power.

 

Thanks!

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Hi All:

 

Anyone have any words of wisdom photographing small, translucent invertebrates (like 1" jellies), in our Seattle area temperate waters where there is a great deal of detritus and current. Most recently I used my Nikon d300 (cropped sensor), 105 mm lens, auto focus, 60th @ f14. Often times I will focus right through the critter.

 

I have thought about bringing a black slate to place behind the subject for more contrast. Any thoughts? I suppose another option would be to switch to manual focus, rack the focus out, and move my rig to focus.

 

Any help greatly appreciated. The rest of the set-up is a Subal housing, twin Ikelite 125 strobes, one set on full, the other on half power, and a Hartenberger focus light set on 2-3 power.

 

Thanks!

 

Since both of my regular buddies and I wear black gloves for the nice Puget Sound cold water, one of us will often put a hand behind the critter while the other takes pictures. Not a perfect system, but we get some decent pictures.

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Rim lighting or even back lighting works well with translucent critters.

Pre focus on your glove or use manual focus. I made up some manual focus framing prongs for my old Coolpix 5000 which worked brilliantly for difficult subjects like this.

 

Macro framing prongs

 

framerabove.jpg

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60th @ f14

 

Try 1/250 @ f16 to get a darker background. Both of the attached photos of small jellies were shot at Port Hardy at 1/250 f16. The faster shutter speed will yield a darker background. Also set your ISO for 100 or 200.

 

I agree that focus is difficult. Set your focus light to the highest setting. In Kona on the black water dive I ended up buying a very bright LED flashlight to help me get focus. I posted my experience here on Wetpixel.

 

PH0002.jpg

 

 

PortHardy2008033.jpg

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We're in luck, Scott posted some info on the subject in the Underwater Photography Guide website earlier this week. Some good info. I'd still like to hear more about what you all have learned though. What the best strobe position to start off with?

 

Cheers,

Steve

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Thanks for the thoughts. John: you got some great shots on Pelagic Magic. I think my Hartenburger works OK for the focus light. The problem here is shooting during the day. Sounds similar to your issues in Kona. The focus framing prongs also look interesting. Think I will try and construct something along these lines with a black slate that emulates the black glove approach, but is attached to my housing.

 

Thanks,

 

Dan

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Hi Steve:

 

Good information, but it is for larger subjects. He is using either a 60 mm for small critters (1-3 inches), and a Tokina 10-17 for larger. My subjects start at about an inch and get smaller, hence the 105 mm. I guess I will just keep working at it.

 

Thanks,

 

Dan

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Hi All:

 

Anyone have any words of wisdom photographing small, translucent invertebrates (like 1" jellies), in our Seattle area temperate waters where there is a great deal of detritus and current. Most recently I used my Nikon d300 (cropped sensor), 105 mm lens, auto focus, 60th @ f14. Often times I will focus right through the critter.

 

I have thought about bringing a black slate to place behind the subject for more contrast. Any thoughts? I suppose another option would be to switch to manual focus, rack the focus out, and move my rig to focus.

 

Any help greatly appreciated. The rest of the set-up is a Subal housing, twin Ikelite 125 strobes, one set on full, the other on half power, and a Hartenberger focus light set on 2-3 power.

 

Thanks!

I would go with the 60 lens and a 1.4 tele. That way you get a bit more magnification and a bit more working distance. The 1.4 on the 105 would work but you might not be lighting it well. Shoot at the highest shutter you can sync at and try to shoot down (yes I know). We did a dive Saturday here in LA and the deeper we got and the more we could shoot down the better it was. I don't think you will have a strobe issue, I like matched power strobes for jellies.

Bill

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I shoot at 1/250 and up to F/32 (probably never below F/22) with my D-300/105 setup. I use a focus light set to minimum focus distance. I set the d-300 to focus priority for shutter release. Essentially the only thing the camera can see is the subject because it is the only thing lit up.

 

Generally I set my strobes closer as the F/stop goes up, generally wide as possible.

 

Regards,

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I made up some manual focus framing prongs for my old Coolpix 5000 which worked brilliantly for difficult subjects like this.

 

I don't follow. What do the prongs have to do with focusing?

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I don't follow. What do the prongs have to do with focusing?

 

I am guessing it is the same as in the film Nikonos days. This works with manual focus, like with the lens set to focus at the minimum working distance. The tip of the prongs is placed to indicate where the focus is. Position the tip of the prongs to either side of the subject, with all three lying in the same plane, and the subject will be in focus.

 

Cheers

Peng

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