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tantram

Have to make a temporary money trade-off. Glass or strobes. Opinions?

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I am currently mid rig upgrade, and it's running more than originally anticipated (surprise surprise) and have to make a trade-off.

I have a Nikon Z6 with a Sea & Sea housing, and thought I'd be able to use my old Sea & Sea strobes without anything specific since it came with a trigger. Well, it's an electrical trigger and my strobes and cables are optical. Also, my nauticam ball mounts I thought would swap over and won't. 

So I find myself considering whether I should get the 14-30mm wide angle lens I was planning to shoot (have zoom gear) and just shoot ambient light for awhile, or just shoot my 24-70 kit lens (no zoom gear available yet) and buy the optical trigger and ball mounts for my strobes. 

I mostly prefer wide angle photography and I dive in the colder socal waters. My next dive is going to be sea lions south of San Diego this weekend. 

What would you do? Gets the strobes operational and use my kit lens at fixed length or get the wide angle glass and shoot ambient? All feedback, and comments welcome. Even those telling me I'm an idiot for not adding correctly and planning :p.

Edited by tantram
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I don't know the gear layout of your 24-70 lens, but in the past I have bodged a zoom gear by wrapping one side of sticky backed velcro round a lens to approximately the right thickness. It wasn't smooth to operate, but got me through a trip while waiting for the genuine gear to arrive.

The 24-70 at 24 could be OK for sea lion portraits. Maybe not ideal, but sometimes you get interesting shots using the 'wrong' lens.

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Wow, this is tricky.

Buy a wide-angle or buy a strobe? The problem seems to me to be this: without a strobe most photographs are going to look flat, colourless and washed out. It's rare that you can take a pic u/w without a strobe and it looks great. You might get away with it near the surface or photographing fast moving, big fish, eg dolphins in clear water. But generally, and certainly for anything macro - nope.

And then using the presumably Z 24-70 f4. Is there a port/extension port recommendation for that? You may well be able to rig up some kind of zoom ring using an existing ring with bits of tape/rubber tubing etc. 

I think I'd be inclined to get the strobe working and use the 24-70. Not ideal as, by experience, a 24-70 lens isn't wide enough and isn't macro enough. But better, maybe, than a strobeless 14-30.

Oy. Tough call.

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how deep are you shooting? 

My first reaction is strobe then lens, but if you are shooting shallow you might be able to get away with a red filter and the WA until you can afford the strobe.  Also you should check to see if you can rent one or the other so you don't have to sacrifice.

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It's just the optical converter I need .. which is harder to rent since it's camera and housing specific. Good suggestion though. 

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Well shooting ambient light is a challenge, but you may get nice results if you follow a good protocol:

  • take RAW pictures: you need all the latitude of the raw files for post-processing 
  • use a white balance card, and take regularly shots of the card to calibrate your post-processing workflow (at each significant change of depth during a dive at least)
  • use Camera Raw + Photoshop for post-processing your files, Ligthroom comes close second

You will be limited in depth, but you should be able to shoot up to 15 m depending on light conditions.

Here is a sample picture taken at about 10 m, which shows the post-processing steps: raw file, camera raw white balance, and final color correction in Photoshop.

1513113726__DSC3797-postprocessingstages.thumb.jpg.274dd6f3a96a91b64b7e940cfff87a80.jpg

So it's more post-processing work, but it's an opportunity to learn shooting in ambient light.

It's like shooting with one strobe: it's usually not optimal, but it's good to learn to do it ("one strobe challenge").

This way when you are in a situation where shooting in ambient light actually is best, or when your strobes run out of battery, you can still shoot and make the best of the situation.

But in the end, you have to choose based on where you want to dive. The best option will be the one which enables you to maximise the photo opportunities.

 

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@Algwyn Wow, this is great information I should practice regardless.

Question for you. When taking pictures of a white balance slate, does it matter the distance from you, or only that it is at a similar depth? Is adjusting the white balance on the camera enough, or is shooting the photo of the slate that much better?

Thanks! Still getting better with my post-processing, so this could be a really good lesson/challenge for me.

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45 minutes ago, tantram said:

@Algwyn Wow, this is great information I should practice regardless.

Question for you. When taking pictures of a white balance slate, does it matter the distance from you, or only that it is at a similar depth? Is adjusting the white balance on the camera enough, or is shooting the photo of the slate that much better?

Thanks! Still getting better with my post-processing, so this could be a really good lesson/challenge for me.

Adjusting the WB in the camera is only useful if you shoot JPG. The camera WB will not affect the RAW file.

The distance of the card doesn't matter, I usually just hold it at arm length while I shoot it. It needs to be at the same depth as your subject.

To detail more the workflow:

  • Shoot a picture of the WB card holding it at arm length (or put it on the floor next to your subject if it is a static subject)
  • Shoot a set of pictures in the same area
  • Move a bit too much or ambient light condition changes, reshoot the WB card
  • etc.

Typically, I take 5-6 WB shots during a dive.

Post processing goes as follows (in Adobe Bridge as I find it best for my workflow):

  • Open a WB card picture in camera raw, set the WB on the card, close the picture
  • Copy the development settings fo the WB picture, paste the settings to all pictures taken with the same lighting conditions
  • Review the pictures with the WB corrected this way, select the pictures worth advanced processing
  • Open a selected picture in Photoshop, and make 3 copies of the background. 
  • Apply to each copy one of the following adjustments: Auto-tone, Auto-color, Adjustments>Match Color>neutralize option
  • Depending on the image, one of the three adjustment will give a better result, select it for the final picture

You may fine tune the result by mixing the output of the original image, and of one or several of the adjustments: make some layer partially transparent and hide others ...

The picture in my previous post used the result of the Auto Tone adjustment, no further WB improvement needed.

This also works if you have not a WB card shot to initiate the WB correction. Just do the first step manually, the better the initial WB correction in Camera Raw, the better the output of the following adjustments.

This workflow is quite efficient, and you can automate most of the steps or apply them in bulk. You don't need to fiiddle with color tone sliders, ...

Edited by Algwyn
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@Algwyn Thank you kindly. I just got back from the camera shop with a white balance card to take on my next dive.

I also ended up sort of compromising by getting a sync cable so I can shoot manual (instead of TTL) and getting the lens. My wallet hurts sooo much!

Thank you everyone for the replies.

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If you really favor wide-angle shooting, one thing you need to consider is the minimum focus distance of your "kit" 24-70mm lens.  If it doesn't focus close enough to work with the dome port you have available, you may need to add a diopter which can reduce the optical quality of the image and reduce the angle of coverage slightly.  Also, I don't know about the performance of the Z 14-30mm behind a dome port, but many photographers who tried the original DSLR 14mm and 14--24mm lenses found that they did not get satisfactory edge and corner sharpness with those lenses behind dome ports. I'd suggest trying to rent or by the new 14-30mm Z lens to test it before you spend the money on it

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