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snowscuba

Photos from Turks & Caicos. Need help improving

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Hi all,


Just returned from my first Liveaboard spending a week diving around the turks and caicos area aboard the Explorer II. Before the trip I had considered buying a new dive housing for my DSLR but the cost discouraged me. So I brought my old P&S (with manual controls) Olympus SP350 with my Ikelite housing and DS-50 strobe. Most dives were pretty deep in the 25-30ft range what made it pretty dark, specially on the wide shots from a distance.



In the past I have used photoshop for post work but don’t have it on my current machine so this time I used Aperture. Although I achieved some improvements, it’s been hard to work on the wide shots. Difficult to bring some of the red back while keeping the blues, well, blue, specially on the background water. On photoshop used to be easier to select and separate elements in layers.


I usually do most of the adjustments in white balance, exposure, enhance, highlights & shadow and sharpen. What should I be paying attention to?



Here are some of the pictures. I have put a couple in the original form (sharks)so you see what I am working with. Would be great to get some advice on how to improve my photos.




Thanks for the feedback.



divebrasil

Edited by snowscuba

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Hey snowcuba

 

Sadly I don't think we can see your pics. See the post.....

 

Do you want to have a go at attaching them again?

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Hey!

 

OK, can see them now.

 

Some thoughts: I like the way you composed the pic with the reef shark (bottom row) by isolating it from the sand and against the blue. This makes it stand out and increases the drama of the image. Compare this with the two shots of the reef shark on the top row where it is starting to blend in to the reef.

 

The shot of the trumpetfish is also nicely highlighted and isolated against the rod coral because of its colour and the angle you chose.

 

If you compare those shots against, for example, the burrfish and the crabs you can see how effective isolating an image can be: the secret is finding the best way of getting that isolation. Quite often it can be through shooting upwards to the subject rather than shooting down. One other way is by choosing a monocolour neutral background so that the subject stands out against it - "neutral space" as it's often called. You can see how the pic of the moray eel would benefit from neutral space.

 

One suggestion I would make in relation to neutral space is to go and look for it - maybe a monocular coral (like an orange elephant ear for example) - and then see what critters are around and what might move in to the neutral space. So you reverse the usual process: instead of looking for the fish, you find a background and shoot what looks good against it. I found this made a big difference to the images I was able to take - and really like.

 

The other suggestion I would offer, is get closer. Much closer. The seahorse and crabs would all benefit from getting much closer.

 

I think these steps would make quite a difference to your images and you wouldn't need to worry quite so much about post-production. It looks like you used something along the lines of Clarity (as called in Lightroom) to sharpen and make the shark clear and punchier. And there's some good white balancing of the shots with sand. The blues are a nice shade.

 

Hope this helps a bit.

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Hi Tim, thanks so much for the advice. I will definitely keep the composition more in mind. It's just easier said than done considering the moving subjects, and other divers making bubbles/scaring the subjects. I almost missed that hammerhead. I was not expecting to see a hammerhead on that trip, but I wanted a better shot of a shark. So we went down for that dive, I started kicking towards the wall before all the other divers. My buddies were thinking "why the rush?". As soon as I got over the edge, I saw a shark coming and then I thought "that's not a regular reef shark!" I had time to take 2 pictures from far before it got scored and quickly turned around and was gone intro the blue.

 

In regards to the 2 challenging pictures of the shark, do you have any tips to better post process it to improve the end result? Sometimes it's hard to improve the colors without turning the water blue into a purple or lilac. Similar challenge with the sting ray photo.

 

Thank you again

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Hi snowscuba

 

Yeah, totally understand on the "easier said than done" thing! I guess that is what makes this all so fun - and so frustrating at the same time.

 

On the 2 shark pics (top row ones, I'm assuming), it's going to be difficult to get more out of that image as the shark is so close to the reef and therefore isolating it to increase its impact is tricky. If you had Lightroom you could use the radial filter to decrease the sharpness and contrast of the reef - and increase the same for the shark. I'm sure you can do this in Photoshop too - although I'm not sure how (I've given up using PS now and stick with LR). I'm sure there are Wetpixelers who can help with advice on Aperture.

 

You might also want to try white balancing the sand at the bottom of the image to see what the impact of that might be to try and get some colour back into the image. It's very blue at the moment.

 

It may also be worth cropping the image too just above the line of the two rocks that stick up in the foreground - once, I'd suggest, you have the white balance set. This might highlight the shark a bit more.

 

Bottom line though, and if I may go back to what I said with my earlier suggestions, it can be very hard to transform an image in post-production if the essentials aren't great to start with. So Composition is King. And then you are right too, of course: easier said than done..... Sometimes that shot-in-a-lifetime is not going to be perfect and you just have to live with what you can get.

 

Hey, watcha gonna do, eh? That's why we all spend a fortune, lug tons of gear around the world, flood our most expensive possessions with sea water, spend hours glued to a computer screen, seek answers to eternal questions on Wetpixel, give up in frustration. Then start all over again.

 

:crazy:

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It looks like the SP350 can shoot in RAW format. If you're not shooting RAW, definitely do that. Aperture should be able to process the RAW ORF files and the RAW format will give you much more latitude for color and exposure adjustments. Every gallery I put together from trips, though, there are some shots in there for reasons of posterity and not because they're great pics. I want to remember and prove to myself that I actually saw a Guilded Pipefish, even though I'm not pleased with my picture of it. I think you just have to make peace with that.

 

Even with RAW, it's not possible to create red where none was recorded by the sensor. Or, if you do create red, it ends up looking really fake. So, don't be afraid to experiment with other treatments for shots from afar (attached).

 

But, as Tim pointed out, there really is no substitute for getting close. Getting close solves all kinds of problems. Easier said than done, of course.

post-24977-0-00959000-1437755438_thumb.jpg

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