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mochikat

How to snoot by yourself?

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I recently bought a backscatter mini snoot and find it a very frustrating exercise trying to position it properly, looking back at my viewfinder and rocking back and forth to find the right focus, trying to adjust the strobe position again, etc. On a good day it takes me a very long time and on a bad day I give up. Having a private guide hold the snoot detached from the arms I can get the shot pretty easily, but by myself I don’t know how to fix the position of the camera (I need to hold with both hands) then move the snoot without looking up to see where the light it’s shining (and then losing my old position), or vice versa. Any tips? I was thinking maybe I should get a tripod for the snoot, so I can set it up detached from the camera and then shoot as usual? 

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Welcome to snooting! Yep, without doubt it's a very frustrating "sport" to start with. But once you get the hang of it, you can get some amazing shots.

I've been snooting since around 2017 and must have done several hundred snoot dives. I find it works best for me if the snoot is on a double arm (I use 1x 8" and 1x 5") on my left side. I keep the arms reasonably tight but I can certainly adjust them using my left hand holding the snoot/strobe. My right hand holds the housing with my index finger on the shutter release. So housing and camera stability come from holding the snoot and the housing between two hands.

I use AF-C for the auto focus and try to gauge the snoot-to-image distance - and set the snoot angle accordingly - before getting too close to the subject. That just takes practice. For me, tons of it. But once I have the image composed, then it's (hopefully) small adjustments to the snoot angle whilst holding position.

Honestly, it drove me bonkers trying to get the aiming right. But eventually you will get there and, after a good while, I found that I can now manoeuvre the snoot whilst composing the image. Really good buoyancy control is essential as is utter memory-muscle diving skills.

Like you I thought - and ventured - into the tripod route and got the Inon Tripod Head and legs. I can't say that worked very well either. I found it much more difficult then I expected to be able to set the tripod up in a way that it was not toppling over or the strobe/snoot needed endless tinkering. If you want to go that route, I'd happily sell you mine!

Yep, the private guide (or good buddy) works of course. But, for what it's worth, I don't think there is any substitute for just persevering. No-one can hear you when you scream underwater. Well, not many anyway. Just keep plugging away. You will get there in the end. And the results of all that hard work can be an utter delight.

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Go that right Tim!! Perseverance. It drove me crazy at first, then I decided to only dive with the backscatter snoot on so I had no choice for a few months. That certainly helped iron out the aiming issues! It can be frustrating but so worth it when you get it right! Good luck.

Reminds me of the first few dives with a 45 degree viewfinder ! Now I would not be without it.

 

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I too recently bought a Backscatter miniflash and snoot!  A couple of weeks ago at the Digital Shootout.  I got a loaner for two days, and after a bit it didn't seem too bad.   Need to set it up at a spot you have a 'feel' for, and don't move it.   Biggest problem I had was getting the snoot so close to fish - most swam off.  I ended up shooting mostly Christmas Tree Worms, though I did also chase a Sharptail Eel around and got lots of 'hits', none of them worth anything other than showing I could aim the thing.

I put mine on the end of two 8 inch arms, and I have to say that it was an inconvenient reach to it when all the way out front.  But once at the proper height (nice circle on target) it was just a matter of lining it up with the lens.  Once lined up, left it alone and peeked over the top of my housing until I got close, then switched to viewfinder.

I shoot a D850 with a 105vr, and it would have been far easier to line up the snoot (aiming light) on a target via Live View.  But the autofocus in Live View was not able to handle the movement.  Mirrorless would have a big advantage I would think.  

I liked the strobe enough to buy one of the demos to bring home.  I'll be trying it again in Roatan in a couple of months.

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4 hours ago, phxazcraig said:

I ended up shooting mostly Christmas Tree Worms

:rofl: Me too! Then moved on to Arrowcrabs……

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I have been using the same setup. The first time I tried using it underwater was pretty frustrating and way harder than I expected. I also did some practice out of the water on a table with some fish toys to get used to moving the snoot around. While doing this I spent some time figuring out how to set up the system on my rig for ease of adjustment so that I was able to spot-light the target with minor movements.

Underwater I worked on presetting the spotting light for the subject before getting too close to the actual critter I wanted to photograph. I found it a lot easier to start with the widest beam possible and the brightest setting to get the light into the approximate area I needed it. Then fine-tuning it as I was shooting with one hand. It wasn't always simple (and yes there were moments of total frustration), but after a few dives I had it pretty well dialed in for shots with both my 105 separately with a diopter for super macro attempts.

For actual image taking I nearly always used the #5 or #6 brightness setting. F-stop was between 18-29. Most of the time I shot at 1/160 or 1/200.

 

Jon

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9 hours ago, TimG said:

:rofl: Me too! Then moved on to Arrowcrabs……

220617-074514-80-D850.jpg

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1 hour ago, phxazcraig said:

220617-074514-80-D850.jpg

Yay! They are such great subjects!

You use the snoot set quite high by the look of it? And almost in line with the subject?

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Thanks for the tips everyone, glad to see I'm not the only one who struggled with this in the beginning. I guess there are no shortcuts (private snoot holder aside) and nothing beats practice. I do wish I have more than 2 hands - my left is usually holding the muck stick in addition to the camera handle hence why I find it really challenging to use it to adjust the snoot without losing the position. I'm definitely not perfectly still without the muck stick and am taking GUE fundies when I get back to try to improve that. Today I decided to try inward lighting after reading Alex's book again last night and couldn't get it to work easily either, so I guess I just need to practice more and force myself not to give up too soon by not taking my other strobes...

Below is my one and only successful snoot attempt - after 2 dives!414387164_Dive13ElPinoy_May032022_DSC05145_v2.thumb.jpg.d85c444023dbbdfc27f4f96098ca53d5.jpg

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40 minutes ago, mochikat said:

my left is usually holding the muck stick in addition to the camera handle hence why I find it really challenging to use

Ahhhhh, you have hit an important issue there: muck sticks. Some years ago I managed the dive operation at a resort in the Lembeh Straits of Indonesia. Superb muck diving territory. We made a healthy profit out of resort-made muck sticks. But, honestly, they were the bane of the operation's life. In a very fragile eco-system and where the silt from a stray fin-kick spoiled many a photo, muck sticks were a poor substitute for really good buoyancy control. 

The pic you posted shows you are definitely getting there. I'd suggest that in early snoot days, one decent pic out of two dives isn't that bad! Keep going..... don't give up.....

... and get rid of the damned muck stick and REALLY fine-tune your buoyancy. You then have two hands and, I promise you, your ability to shoot snoot shots will change significantly :clapping:

 

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On 7/8/2022 at 1:28 PM, TimG said:

Yay! They are such great subjects!

You use the snoot set quite high by the look of it? And almost in line with the subject?

Yes, had to bump the shadows to have detail there.

I had the snoot set directly in front and about 6 inches about subject position.   Only Arrow Crab shot I took with the snoot.  I wanted blennies, but they all swam away.   Except for those Sea Fan Blennies sticking with the CTW's.  I found another shot with a blenny under a CTW last night reviewing images.

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I think spending time with someone who has figured out how to do it will pay huge dividends!

I use 2 techniques. If i camera mount the snoot, I find a convenient rock (or other feature) and shoot it until I have got the snoot firing at my target. I then lock the snoot off by tightening down the clamps. 

Maintaining the same position, I then focus on to my rock and lock the focus off (typically by switching it to MF). To ensure that the snoot then is correctly positioned with an actual subject, all I need to do is to move the camera until it is in focus, and the snoot will be then be correctly aligned.

Technique 2 (and my preferred) is to mount the snooted store onto a Gorillapod or similar and equip it with a remote trigger. I aim the snoot and can then move around, shooting the subject from any angle I wish, triggering it from an on-camera strobe that is pointing away from the subject.

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Posted (edited)

@mochikat

I use the above techniques and it works, even with a big DSLR rig and a massive retra snoot. Theoretically, the backscatter should be easier to use so I hope with the above you should be OK!

 

The easiest way to snoot is really to set it at the beginning of the dive as @adamhanlon suggested. I'd strongly suggest doing this on a dive without a lot of direct sunlight, as it's just pot luck at that point. The darker, the easier it is. The only issue you MAY come into here is if you're shooting smaller subjects in crevices and the snoot just doesn't light up the subject as it may be blocked or partially blocked. My trick then is to tilt the camera (rather than the snoot)  to get a better snoot angle, and then rotate in post. Remember, any small movement is "big" so try to make tiny micro adjustments and test a lot as you go along, rather than making huge adjustments and getting more black images.

Also, final tip, start on the widest beam and then gradually narrow it down until you have your desired. It's better to "overshoot" and correct I find, otherwise you end up trying to find a tiny tiny beam and it just becomes a series of black images and extreme frustration.

Edited by sinetwo

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