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imacro

First WA and Macro attempt with Sony A7C Nauticam gear

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Thanks to a lot of members here, I finally did my first dive with a proper Nauticam Sony A7C kit lens with 2 Inon Z330s, WWL and CMC1. The result is pretty sad haha. I did not know the right strobe distance and power to get a decent photo.

 

The WA shots (no edit) are similar to my previous gopro shots. Nothing spectacular. Is it because my strobe power is too low or the distance is too far? I had my strobes at STTL, A position on EV dial.

 

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I could not focus at all in macro with CMC1. It was a reef dive with mild current. I could not see very clear what I was trying to focus. I can only get the yellow focus box to come on. It’s almost impossible for me to take slightly moving subject. My strobes over exposed the eel in the phoyo having them facing each other next to subject. How do you focus without really standing or holding on to something? The dive instructor would not let me touch any dead coral so I had to rely on natural buoyancy but focusing was so difficult with current keeps rocking my body.

 

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Having strobe on the lens level facing slightly away like in WA setup seems to be better

 

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How can I improve from here guys? Any advice on strobe positions, setting and way to focus to take better photos esp macro? Thanks

 

 

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My advice is for you to buy Alex Mustard book “Underwater Photography Masterclass”. It is a great help for improvement and development.

Alex has a great capacity to explain the different concepts and technics in a quite easy manner, with lot of examples and explanations behind the shots.

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3 hours ago, imacro said:

How can I improve from here guys? Any advice on strobe positions, setting and way to focus to take better photos esp macro? Thanks

 

Trying with both macro and WA you are talking a lot on in one go so the learning curve is going to be very steep.

My suggestion would be to stick with one thing until you feel you have a better understanding and starting to get the results you want.

Looking at the first two pics: yeah, you are too far away. You can't light the whole of a reef scene with two strobes. They are just not powerful enough. Try identifying an area which is colourful and then using the strobes to light just that bit whilst using ambient light to illuminate the majority of the scene. 

There is nothing obviously colourful in the image but it could be that if you light up the bits of the superstructure, there are areas which have colourful coral growth. Use them as the foreground light by the strobes with the rest light by the ambient light.

Photo 2 you can see that the strobes have had no impact at all. They are too far away to light anything up. The effective range of a pair of Z330 (good strobes for sure) is really about 3'-5'. It's nothing like it looks as though are expecting. So you have to get your strobes much nearer to the thing you want to light. (Hence many photographers use a fisheye lens to get bang up to the subject).

I'm not going to suggest anything on the macro shots: try and get the wide-angle squared away first! Otherwise you are going to have so many frustrating dives.

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Here's an example. OK, not a great shot for sure - but the idea is to move the strobes to light the tube sponges - and not the whole image. So maybe moving them both over to the right right of the housing.

The exposure is set using the ambient light - and the strobes maybe turned down slightly so they don't overwhelm the sponges.

 

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Thanks Tim, I’m in Honolulu the coral here is pretty plain and grey. I’ll try to get closer within 3-5’ next Dive and stick with WA first.

 Curious how can you focus in macro with natural buoyancy?

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6 minutes ago, imacro said:

Curious how can you focus in macro with natural buoyancy?

Practice :secret:

You might see some folks using a stick in one hand to try and give them a anchor point they can hang over. But, much better, practice: get good buoyancy skills. Honestly, for mid-water macro, it's the lonely way. Or find a sand patch near a small bit of reef and use that to learn the focussing. 

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For strobe positioning this is a good starting point and as Tim says get closer:

https://www.opticaloceansales.com/underwater-strobe-use-and-positioning.html

For macro, trying to learn that in a big guided dive group is asking for trouble, you need to be able to take your time, particularly if you are also fighting current.  Do you have an option for a custom guided shore dive - maybe the shop has an intern who'll come out with you one on one to look for macro subjects in a sheltered spot.  You don't need an expert guide just a buddy to come with you really.

For your WA, take it off TTL and shoot manual, at about half power as a starting point.    For schools of fish you want to time it so that most of them are at a similar distance,  here you've only got 5 or 6 getting close to being in range and the rest are further back so are in the blue.

Your first shot is not that far off really and would certainly be salvageable starting from a RAW file, the closest fish only needs a little more strobe power, the fish that are further back will still be in the blue and of course so will the divers, but a little boost to shadows and exposure and adjusting the WB could have it looking OK.

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Chris, you hit the nail in the head. I was in a group dive tour mixed of AOW and newbies. They tried to run the group quick back to the line so make sure to get everyone back safe. That pdf looks great. I’ll study more for my next dive this Friday, hopefully I’ll take some better photos this time.

Does anyone know shore dive UW photography tour in Waikiki Honolulu? All the dive shops I called don’t have any shore dives or UW photo tour.

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imacro

It doesn't have to be a shore dive - you just need to be able to spend time in one location.

Often when doing macro, I hardly leave the bottom of the mooring line. The last thing you need, as Chris explains, is a "tour".  

Is it feasible you can arrange to go out with just a DM? Someone especially who can help you spot macro critters? Find a patch of reef and just spend time studying what's there and getting some shots.

Perhaps not start with the CMC but just get used to the buoyancy and framing the shot. In many ways I think macro is easier than WA - easier usually to light well and composition can be easier - no pesky divers in the way with legs all over the place. It's just you and a tiny critter......

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3 hours ago, imacro said:

Chris, you hit the nail in the head. I was in a group dive tour mixed of AOW and newbies. They tried to run the group quick back to the line so make sure to get everyone back safe. That pdf looks great. I’ll study more for my next dive this Friday, hopefully I’ll take some better photos this time.

Does anyone know shore dive UW photography tour in Waikiki Honolulu? All the dive shops I called don’t have any shore dives or UW photo tour.

Doesn't necessarily have to be an organised tour, you could ask if they have people looking for a buddy.  This shop says they do shore dives:  https://waikikiscuba.com/

 

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First of all, congratulations on diving with your gear, after all the thoughts and spending!

I agree on the recommendation on A Mustard's book. It's a great read. If you need a few tips quickly, there are a few websites which have strbe positioning advice and some youtubes (Wetpixel live i think has one, Brent Durand too)

https://www.uwphotographyguide.com/underwater-photography-strobe-positioning

 

I realized that my photos looked much better when i was not diving with an organised group but rather with another UW photo buddy. They're not easy to find though! If you could look into it, it would be huge for your pictures I am sure

 

 

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On 6/1/2021 at 1:53 AM, waterpixel said:

First of all, congratulations on diving with your gear, after all the thoughts and spending!

I agree on the recommendation on A Mustard's book. It's a great read. If you need a few tips quickly, there are a few websites which have strbe positioning advice and some youtubes (Wetpixel live i think has one, Brent Durand too)

https://www.uwphotographyguide.com/underwater-photography-strobe-positioning

 

I realized that my photos looked much better when i was not diving with an organised group but rather with another UW photo buddy. They're not easy to find though! If you could look into it, it would be huge for your pictures I am sure

 

 

Come to Roatan last week of September/first week of October and join me at the Reef House Resort.   Especially in September, it's the off season for the Reef House, and I very often am the only guest and have the dive boat to myself.    I'm shooting a D850 in a Nauticam housing, and they're used to dealing with it.

 

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So my second try is better just focusing on WA. I still need a lot of trial and error to understand the strobe power. I had the 2 strobe about a feet away from the WWL pointing slightly away on the same level as the lens. I had the black plastic flare cover of the inon z330s to the lens side so it seemed to make the middle of the shot darker. Like these 2 photos, the light are not fully on my subject but on the 2 side left and right more.

What you guys’ strobe settings?


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Looking better, the first shot I think would be improved raising the strobes above the lens or perhaps rotating the light shield to the bottom.  The bottom there looks to be very reflective.  The guideline is to have the strobes a similar distance apart to your camera to subject distance.

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Yeah, these are looking better. Well done!

It does look as though the centre of the shot is light less than the sides. But you'll get there with a bit of fine-tuning.

And, yes, if the bottom of the shot is reflective sand, probably a good idea to use the Inon "eyelids" to try and reduce as best you can the amount of light hitting the sand. Or maybe aim the strobes slightly upwards as well as outwards.

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My third dive, the WA shots are getting a bit better. I’m still struggling with the macro shots. I figured out the right exposure with Inon manual mode for macro. However, with ISO 100, SP 1/200, F22 Sony A7C, my camera screen is pretty much black at 50ft, when I half focused, the screen shows for like 0.5s so no way I could frame the shot. What am I missing in my setting? If I set ISO to Auto, it will almost always over expose my shots. Somehow, I still managed to get some shots of the small coral in focus with black screen below lol. I could not get any fishes at all, they all ran away when I get close to them. I went with a dive tour again so I barely have any time at 1 spot. Could someone help with the black screen issue? Thanks

 

 

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1 hour ago, imacro said:

My third dive, the WA shots are getting a bit better. I’m still struggling with the macro shots. I figured out the right exposure with Inon manual mode for macro. However, with ISO 100, SP 1/200, F22 Sony A7C, my camera screen is pretty much black at 50ft, when I half focused, the screen shows for like 0.5s so no way I could frame the shot. What am I missing in my setting? If I set ISO to Auto, it will almost always over expose my shots. Somehow, I still managed to get some shots of the small coral in focus with black screen below lol. I could not get any fishes at all, they all ran away when I get close to them. I went with a dive tour again so I barely have any time at 1 spot. Could someone help with the black screen issue? Thanks

 

 

There's normally a setting in the menus called live view boost or similar that gives you a brighter viewfinder image - but doesn't represent the ambient light exposure.  You need the camera to be in manual not shutter or aperture priority, you are trying to make 100% flash exposed images without ambient contribution.

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Posted (edited)

Like Chris said, if the LCD/EVF is too dark, you should try changing the "Live View Display" "Setting Effect" from "On" to "Off". That way the camera will just try to display a viewable image on the LCD/EVF instead of a preview of your exposure settings (which produce a very dark image without the flash). But keep in mind that for ambient light shooting you would want that setting turned back on (so the LCD/EVF displays an accurate exposure preview), so you should probably get comfortable with turning it on or off depending on your shooting situation.

Edited by Isaac Szabo

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Turning live preview off is much better. I took some photos at Corsair dive site in Honolulu today. There are quite a lot of Backscatter in the photo tho. How can I avoid them?

 

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Looks like you may need to pull the strobes back further behind the port, it seems to be mostly on the RH strobe.  Review the strobe positioning in the link I posted in this thread a few days back.  Backscatter in general can be reduced , but maybe not entirely eliminated. 

You have some odd water colour there, the last image looks best for the water.  Try moving your colour temperature towards what you have on the last image.

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I took another 3 dives. Tried all sort of different strobe positions. 2 & 10 o clocks slightly out. All the way up top slightly out or just light directly at the subject. The raw photos did not look good so I was really disappointed. Then I tried to edit the raw files to see what I got. To my surprise, they look much better after edit. An over exposed raw (the turtle and coral) can be edited to have much better white balance and exposure. The seal photos were all underexposed but i was able to brighten with different WB.

 

How do I get the strobe light to evenly distributed for The coral photo? The lighting looks brighter on the 2 sides and darker in the middle. I’ll find the raw photos to share later. They are night and day different. How do I take the raw photo to have WB and lightning correctly without the editing?

 

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1 hour ago, imacro said:

 

How do I get the strobe light to evenly distributed for The coral photo? The lighting looks brighter on the 2 sides and darker in the middle

I’m afraid there’s no magic answer to this - at least not one I know. It’s just a question of really getting to know how your strobes operate, how they spread the light and how you position them best for each and every shot. You know the standard positions: 10-2, 9-3, maybe pointing outwards slightly. It’s then using those or variants plus how close you are to the subject. 

On the reef shot it looks as though your strobes are angled outwards slightly to the extent that there is a lack of strobe light in the middle. 

But my experience is that “just” lighting the reef tends to make for an uninteresting image. Why not try lighting just one element and creating something more dramatic? Look for an interesting coral outcrop and light it against an ambient light background?

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Hi imacro,

concerning the "reef shot" (2nd last photo): As Tim said the strobes were pointing too far outside, so that the center is not lightened as good as the periphery. In addition a long distance is covered in the middle of the photo and, according to the law of inverese relationship with squared distance, the lightnening drops off very fast with distance. Here the "rabbit ear" configuration of strobe arms may help to achieve more homogeneous lightening over longer distances (prerequisite is that the strobes do not point too much outwards)...

Wolfgang

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