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Ok guys. I just posted the first little film from my Raja trip. All this footage was shot at the same dive site -- the "Magic Mountain" that Ammar and I visited. I was following the advice of several people on this topic. I shot this exclusively with UAWB, and video lights when I could.

 

I started off using manual exposure control, and could get great results, but I was constantly having to adjust exposure. When you are an ambient light photographer "running and gunning" on a dive like this, it really helps to use auto exposure, as every time you change the view, the exposure can change. For example, capturing a scene shot into the light, or with the sun in the frame like many of these shots, is quite different from what you might do if you merely turned around and shot the other way. Thus, I got passable results using auto ISO underexposed .7 stops, usually.

 

This was shot with the a7s II. I think the low light capability of the camera really makes it helpful in shooting ambient light. Next, the waters varied from murky, to a little less murky, and were never anywhere as clear as either Grand Cayman, or Cozumel. (This is one reason why there are 100 times more fish). I think it also very much helped the white balance issues, which pop up when the water is too blue and clear. Thus, AUWB works better in murky water, when you use video lights in particular.

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Very lovely video and edit George. It looks like you set the iso on a fixed value? Or was it set on Auto iso?

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Very lovely video and edit George. It looks like you set the iso on a fixed value? Or was it set on Auto iso?

 

Thanks Ammar. I appreciate that.

 

I did a little write up about the technique, which is found above. I was doing auto iso mainly. It did a pretty good job. -.7 and sometimes -.3.

 

George

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Ok guys. I just posted the first little film from my Raja trip. All this footage was shot at the same dive site -- the "Magic Mountain" that Ammar and I visited. I was following the advice of several people on this topic. I shot this exclusively with UAWB, and video lights when I could.

 

I started off using manual exposure control, and could get great results, but I was constantly having to adjust exposure. When you are an ambient light photographer "running and gunning" on a dive like this, it really helps to use auto exposure, as every time you change the view, the exposure can change. For example, capturing a scene shot into the light, or with the sun in the frame like many of these shots, is quite different from what you might do if you merely turned around and shot the other way. Thus, I got passable results using auto ISO underexposed .7 stops, usually.

 

This was shot with the a7s II. I think the low light capability of the camera really makes it helpful in shooting ambient light. Next, the waters varied from murky, to a little less murky, and were never anywhere as clear as either Grand Cayman, or Cozumel. (This is one reason why there are 100 times more fish). I think it also very much helped the white balance issues, which pop up when the water is too blue and clear. Thus, AUWB works better in murky water, when you use video lights in particular.

 

Nice footage and interesting observations, George. I'm not sure I agree that the low light capability of the camera is all that useful for underwater filming because the situation you're often dealing with with ambient light shots is too much light, not too little. I can't think of a situation where I've had to use an ISO higher than 1600 underwater, and, for all practical terms, I never go above ISO 800.

 

I agree that fixed aperture, fixed shutter speed auto ISO gives the best flexibility for "run and gun" work with the least need to adapt to changing lighting conditions. But sometimes locking the ISO as well can have some advantages, as I'll discuss below.

 

As others have commented, some of your footage is over exposed, even at -0.7 ev. But if I'm correct about the cause, I don't think the solution is to go to -1.0EV. Rather, you need to be aware of your shooting conditions and start to get a feel for the ambient light. What do I mean by this?

 

First, a number of the shots are into the sun. When shooting ambient light video, it's usually best practice to try to keep the sun behind you to reduce the dynamic range of the scene, reduce lens flaring effects, and get the best mid-tone contrast. This is true even when shooting with lights, because video lights aren't as powerful as strobes, so they can't light the foreground properly if you're underexposing to keep the sun from clipping half of your scene. Keeping the sun behind you can be tricky with a really wide lens, but start to develop the habit of looking around for where the sun is and anticipating the action so you can position yourself in the best place to film it while keeping the sun behind your shoulder. In the long run, this will help you get much more vibrant footage.

 

Second, what aperture setting were you using? One of the dangers of going with auto ISO is that you lose awareness of what ISO the camera is actually using. So, for example, if you're shooting in very shallow water in bright conditions, the camera will be using its lowest ISO (ISO 100). It will do so whether you have your EV set at 0, -0.7, -1, or -2 for that matter, because it can't go any lower. And the results will always be overexposed because your combination of shutter speed and aperture are simply letting too much light in. I've noticed this is a common problem in shallow water during mid-day dives if shooting at 1/50 or 1/60 with the aperture at F8 or sometimes even at F11. This is why I keep the zebras (100+IRE) on to stay vigilant for overexposure. So remember, when shooting in the shallows, check to see what kind of aperture and shutter speed combination you need to get proper exposure at ISO 100 rather then just relying entirely on auto-ISO to do the trick. Odds are you might have to bump your aperture up to F16 and/or even double your shutter speed to 1/100 or 1/120 to limit the ambient light. This is not optimal as it may soften your image a bit because of diffraction (narrower apertures) or create less inter-frame blurring than would be ideal (higher shutter speed), but, in practice, I haven't noticed perceptible degradation in quality in the resulting video. If it's really a concern for you, use a 2-stop neutral density filter or orange/magneta filter which will also block 1-2 stops of incoming light and allow you to keep the aperture at F11 and shutter speed at 1/50 or 1/60.

 

It's interesting to hear that you think the murkier Indonesian waters are helping with the white balance problems of the Sony cameras. I need to get myself in the water somewhere with 50+ meters of visibility to see if that kind of blue water breaks the white balancing algorithms :)

Edited by dreifish
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Nice footage and interesting observations, George. I'm not sure I agree that the low light capability of the camera is all that useful for underwater filming because the situation you're often dealing with with ambient light shots is too much light, not too little. I can't think of a situation where I've had to use an ISO higher than 1600 underwater, and, for all practical terms, I never go above ISO 800.

 

I agree that fixed aperture, fixed shutter speed auto ISO gives the best flexibility for "run and gun" work with the least need to adapt to changing lighting conditions. But sometimes locking the ISO as well can have some advantages, as I'll discuss below.

 

As others have commented, some of your footage is over exposed, even at -0.7 ev. But if I'm correct about the cause, I don't think the solution is to go to -1.0EV. Rather, you need to be aware of your shooting conditions and start to get a feel for the ambient light. What do I mean by this?

 

First, a number of the shots are into the sun. When shooting ambient light video, it's usually best practice to try to keep the sun behind you to reduce the dynamic range of the scene, reduce lens flaring effects, and get the best mid-tone contrast. This is true even when shooting with lights, because video lights aren't as powerful as strobes, so they can't light the foreground properly if you're underexposing to keep the sun from clipping half of your scene. Keeping the sun behind you can be tricky with a really wide lens, but start to develop the habit of looking around for where the sun is and anticipating the action so you can position yourself in the best place to film it while keeping the sun behind your shoulder. In the long run, this will help you get much more vibrant footage.

 

Second, what aperture setting were you using? One of the dangers of going with auto ISO is that you lose awareness of what ISO the camera is actually using. So, for example, if you're shooting in very shallow water in bright conditions, the camera will be using its lowest ISO (ISO 100). It will do so whether you have your EV set at 0, -0.7, -1, or -2 for that matter, because it can't go any lower. And the results will always be overexposed because your combination of shutter speed and aperture are simply letting too much light in. I've noticed this is a common problem in shallow water during mid-day dives if shooting at 1/50 or 1/60 with the aperture at F8 or sometimes even at F11. This is why I keep the zebras (100+IRE) on to stay vigilant for overexposure. So remember, when shooting in the shallows, check to see what kind of aperture and shutter speed combination you need to get proper exposure at ISO 100 rather then just relying entirely on auto-ISO to do the trick. Odds are you might have to bump your aperture up to F16 and/or even double your shutter speed to 1/100 or 1/120 to limit the ambient light. This is not optimal as it may soften your image a bit because of diffraction (narrower apertures) or create less inter-frame blurring than would be ideal (higher shutter speed), but, in practice, I haven't noticed perceptible degradation in quality in the resulting video. If it's really a concern for you, use a 2-stop neutral density filter or orange/magneta filter which will also block 1-2 stops of incoming light and allow you to keep the aperture at F11 and shutter speed at 1/50 or 1/60.

 

It's interesting to hear that you think the murkier Indonesian waters are helping with the white balance problems of the Sony cameras. I need to get myself in the water somewhere with 50+ meters of visibility to see if that kind of blue water breaks the white balancing algorithms :)

 

Thanks very much Andrei. These are very helpful, for next time. I was shooting at f8, and sometimes at f11. I pretty much agree with everything you say here. I am sure I can get better results and I wish I had used the zebras. You suggested that last time and I did not implement it.

 

And I agree about not shooting into the sun. Sometimes, however, the subject presents itself and if you want to film it, you just have to film it where you see it. Here, I was not able to set up ideal conditions, but was pretty much scuba diving and looking after my girlfriend -- considering myself a documentarian while filming everything I could that looked photogenic. I was eager to record things, in part to document the coral and fish species, and I am going back and attempting to identify as many of them that I can, so that I can become more knowledgeable about the ecology in the area.

 

Much room to improve. Only wish I had more time to dive!

 

I was having a lot of trouble getting close enough to fish to get good portraits, with this wide angle set up. Any suggestions on that? I wonder what things would look like with just my 28mm on.

 

In any event, the next challenge is setting up a new dive trip to try to continue to improve. This last trip was expensive! Am still looking at Indonesia. We loved it.

 

For anyone reading this, any suggestions?

 

Best,

 

GLP

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Thanks very much Andrei. These are very helpful, for next time. I was shooting at f8, and sometimes at f11. I pretty much agree with everything you say here. I am sure I can get better results and I wish I had used the zebras. You suggested that last time and I did not implement it.

 

And I agree about not shooting into the sun. Sometimes, however, the subject presents itself and if you want to film it, you just have to film it where you see it. Here, I was not able to set up ideal conditions, but was pretty much scuba diving and looking after my girlfriend -- considering myself a documentarian while filming everything I could that looked photogenic. I was eager to record things, in part to document the coral and fish species, and I am going back and attempting to identify as many of them that I can, so that I can become more knowledgeable about the ecology in the area.

 

Much room to improve. Only wish I had more time to dive!

 

I was having a lot of trouble getting close enough to fish to get good portraits, with this wide angle set up. Any suggestions on that? I wonder what things would look like with just my 28mm on.

 

In any event, the next challenge is setting up a new dive trip to try to continue to improve. This last trip was expensive! Am still looking at Indonesia. We loved it.

 

For anyone reading this, any suggestions?

 

Best,

 

GLP

 

Depends how small of a fish you're talking about, but I find the 16-35F4 lens to be very versatile on the A7RII because you can film in either full frame or APS-C mode. Turn on APS-C mode, and you suddenly have a 24-50mm lens on. At the 50mm lens, it should be quite adequate for portraits of medium fish. For things that are smaller/more shy, you can use the 90mm macro (inside the same dome as the 16-35 or in its own macro port).

 

The 28mm by itself isn't a particularly versatile lens. The 16-35 does everything it can do and more.

 

It's going to be tough to find any place where the reefs are as vibrant as in Raja Ampat. Perhaps try Komodo between April-November. The reefs aren't quite Raja Ampat level and the biomass of fish is lower, but it's as good as it gets in Indonesia outside Raja Ampat.

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Depends how small of a fish you're talking about, but I find the 16-35F4 lens to be very versatile on the A7RII because you can film in either full frame or APS-C mode. Turn on APS-C mode, and you suddenly have a 24-50mm lens on. At the 50mm lens, it should be quite adequate for portraits of medium fish. For things that are smaller/more shy, you can use the 90mm macro (inside the same dome as the 16-35 or in its own macro port).

 

The 28mm by itself isn't a particularly versatile lens. The 16-35 does everything it can do and more.

 

It's going to be tough to find any place where the reefs are as vibrant as in Raja Ampat. Perhaps try Komodo between April-November. The reefs aren't quite Raja Ampat level and the biomass of fish is lower, but it's as good as it gets in Indonesia outside Raja Ampat.

 

Thanks Andrei:

 

Very helpful as usual. I will probably want to get some new lenses, and some strobes, and actually start taking photographs, as well as making videos!

 

GLP

Hi Friends:

 

I conducted a 45 minute interview of Mr. Andrew Miners, the founder and creative force behind Misool EcoResort. Thought I would post it here first. The second half of the interview, where he discusses the "no take zone," is particularly interesting.

 

 

Best,

 

GLP

Edited by GeoPaul7

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Thanks for posting. Its probably worth preparing a 8-10 min summary cut to get across his key messages. I don't think you will find many people listening thru a 45min interview.

 

In the cut maybe you blend in your questions as you are hard to understand even with volume fully up. Blending in your question on a black background and then moving back to Andrew while he is responding adds a bit of 'activity' as well. I'd also think about inserting some of your dive footage while he talks (for example while he talks bout Magic mountain, show some of your Manta clips form that spot. Inserting a photo or clip of the resort itself here and there might also add depth. It all makes it easier and more attractive to keep the attention of your viewers. Just some ideas....

 

And BTW: I think Andrew's last name is Miners (with an "s" at the end). At least that's what their webpage suggests...

Edited by bubffm
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Thanks for posting. Its probably worth preparing a 8-10 min summary cut to get across his key messages. I don't think you will find many people listening thru a 45min interview.

 

In the cut maybe you blend in your questions as you are hard to understand even with volume fully up. Blending in your question on a black background and then moving back to Andrew while he is responding adds a bit of 'activity' as well. I'd also think about inserting some of your dive footage while he talks (for example while he talks bout Magic mountain, show some of your Manta clips form that spot. Inserting a photo or clip of the resort itself here and there might also add depth. It all makes it easier and more attractive to keep the attention of your viewers. Just some ideas....

 

And BTW: I think Andrew's last name is Miners (with an "s" at the end). At least that's what their webpage suggests...

 

Bubffm:

 

Thanks for these suggestions. I am planning on doing many of these things, for precisely the reasons you suggest. I see this footage being used in at least 2 other films. The key is to make things as digestible and understandable as possible, and people certainly can't pay attention that long -- unless they are doing research.

 

I did, however, want to post a completely unedited version of this interview, which I consider an important interview. I see this film as having historical interest, so wanted people to be able to refer to the interview in an unedited, unabridged way -- as a "primary source." In addition, I think Mr. Miners and Misool will want to have an unedited version for their own purposes. Hopefully they can download from Vimeo. Can they do that?

 

I will be doing the sort of edits that you recommend -- making this digestible and much more colorful.

 

And yes I have a typo in the film about Andrew's last name. I am uploading a corrected version and it should be ready in an hour or so.

 

Thanks for your very helpful feedback. I will keep posting things to our site here, to get more helpful ideas.

 

GLP

 

 

Where did you do this interview ???

This was in his office, at the Misool EcoResort.

Edited by GeoPaul7
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Hopefully they can download from Vimeo. Can they do that?

 

 

Given the experiences I made wit Wifi on remote Indonesian locations - unlikely. I guess in this place may have internet via satellite - and thats slow and quite expensive. Good enough for Email and some simple web browsing. But a 45min video might be a stretch.

 

On your earlier question regarding locations: Komodo has already been mentioned. Its a great place. We actually saw much more sharks there than in Raja. However, its getting a bit too popular for its own good and can get very crowded, so its worth going in the off-season. Wakatobi is pretty good - and popular with Americans. you wont find big fish there but beautiful corals and lots of small/rare stuff. They also do photo / film workshops now and then, so maybe worth checking out. Bali itself has some nice spots, particularly in the east and north. Then there is Manado / Bunaken National Park in the north of Sulawesi, Lembeh street if you like / want to try muck diving - or Ambon which I liked very much. --- its just such a HUGE country...

Edited by bubffm

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Bubffm:

 

Thanks for these suggestions. I am planning on doing many of these things, for precisely the reasons you suggest. I see this footage being used in at least 2 other films. The key is to make things as digestible and understandable as possible, and people certainly can't pay attention that long -- unless they are doing research.

 

I did, however, want to post a completely unedited version of this interview, which I consider an important interview. I see this film as having historical interest, so wanted people to be able to refer to the interview in an unedited, unabridged way -- as a "primary source." In addition, I think Mr. Miners and Misool will want to have an unedited version for their own purposes. Hopefully they can download from Vimeo. Can they do that?

 

I will be doing the sort of edits that you recommend -- making this digestible and much more colorful.

 

And yes I have a typo in the film about Andrew's last name. I am uploading a corrected version and it should be ready in an hour or so.

 

Thanks for your very helpful feedback. I will keep posting things to our site here, to get more helpful ideas.

 

GLP

 

 

This was in his office, at the Misool EcoResort.

 

 

Hi Guys:

 

I did revise the audio on that Miners interview, so that it is easier to hear. Hope it worked. I will be re-edited it in the way that BUbffm suggests, but a little later.

 

GLP

 

Given the experiences I made wit Wifi on remote Indonesian locations - unlikely. I guess in this place may have internet via satellite - and thats slow and quite expensive. Good enough for Email and some simple web browsing. But a 45min video might be a stretch.

 

On your earlier question regarding locations: Komodo has already been mentioned. Its a great place. We actually saw much more sharks there than in Raja. However, its getting a bit too popular for its own good and can get very crowded, so its worth going in the off-season. Wakatobi is pretty good - and popular with Americans. you wont find big fish there but beautiful corals and lots of small/rare stuff. They also do photo / film workshops now and then, so maybe worth checking out. Bali itself has some nice spots, particularly in the east and north. Then there is Manado / Bunaken National Park in the north of Sulawesi, Lembeh street if you like / want to try muck diving - or Ambon which I liked very much. --- its just such a HUGE country...

 

Thanks for these suggestions. Can hardly wait to get back to that part of the world again. Might want to try north Suluwesi, or the Phillipines!

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If these fish are big enough... come to Red Sea....

 

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Big enough to me :)

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