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  1. #1
    Loathes Snorkels String's Avatar
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    Post A typical "photo" dive

    Responding to the other thread about settings/lack of and so on i might as well post when i do on a typical photo dive. Note the things i mention are an average - nothing is constant. Starting points only!

    I'll base it on a house reef dive abroad settings wise but it doesn't really matter. This is for wide angle and will certainly not work for macro!

    Firstly, before entering the water ive got ISO200, 1/160th shutter, f/8, strobes with diffusers out to the sides, diffusers on set to full power. Lens is zoomed in fully (so 22mm on my setup). Camera LCD brightness is low (more later), set for centre point "one shot" focus.
    The reason for that is if something big swims close(ish) and quickly before im ready ive got more than a fighting chance of getting something out of it that i can rescue in post processing. To date though nothing ever has so i can't really back up this information!

    Then as i descend im taking photos of nothing in particular. Buddy's fins, blue water, a rope etc. These shots are allowing me to keep the background colour i want as i descend and light levels change. Again this means if i DO need to take a snapshot the settings are kind of right(ish). I do this a LOT throughout a dive, just snapping pictures in the direction and depth im swimming in between photo stops to keep a decent ambient exposure dialled in. All the time im swimming along im looking where the sun is (assuming its visible) as its important.

    When i get to an actual photo subject (assuming it doesnt move much) i usually just take a shot and see. Background should be roughly OK from above, unless its something fancy like CFWA or directly into the sun f/8 should be OK. After that photo im looking (i) was there scatter (ii) are the strobes properly lighting the subject coverage wise? (ii) is the strobe power correct? then i adjust and go again. Sometimes this takes 1-2 shots, sometimes 10+. To me its all trial and error.

    *ROUGHLY* on my setup on that reef at the middle of the day at that depth i know that usually f/8 (UWA lenses have a big depth of field) and strobes with diffusers on about -1.5 stops will result in a near-enough foreground exposure so i try that first (unless its white or black etc).

    As i move around my target im aware of the sun position as this means im going to need to change my shutter speed depending on where it is. If its extreme and a low sun angle i might need to adjust aperture and iso as well (and therefore strobe) but i try to avoid this - its more work!

    I'll admit on a wide angle dive i very rarely if ever adjust the ISO (200) or the aperture (f/8). Yes if im doing CFWA or its a dim afternoon yes but for a lot of the dive im playing only with shutter speed and strobe power. Even strobe power doesnt change THAT much as long as its an average subject and the lens stays on the same focal length so in reality shutter speed gets changed a LOT, strobe power a bit less, aperture and ISO much rarer.

    Looking through my house reef dives and my shutter speeds on average range between 1/100th and 1/200th (max sync speed). apertures are going from f/7.2 to f/13 and ISO 200 or 400. The majority are f/8 and 1/160th. But thats because its a shallow sandy reef in the red sea 20m off shore and usually 8m deep! It'll be meaningless for elsewhere - every site has different characteristics.

    I think it's easier to limit the amount of adjustments you make at any one time to limit work load and the chances of error so i work on the basis of keeping as much the same as possible and changing only one thing (although clearly there are situations where this isnt possible. Many situations).

    So while im swimming its keep taking shots of nothing to get a background. Do this when you change depth and sun angle so its always kind of right. Be aware of where the sun is (this is actually easier on overcast days as the sun angle isnt an issue). With a strobe shutter speed should ONLY affect your background whereas ISO and aperture will affect both so try if possibly to play with shutter adjustments first and only delve into the others if needed (as it means you'll need to alter strobe as well).

    Why do those settings work for me? Well they're found by trial and error because its a reef ive dived literally several hundred times so its just based on that. Middle of the day vs late afternoon (i dont "do" mornings...) can yield up to 2 stops difference in light level. Into and away from a low sun can be even more and so on. Just rules of thumb based on nothing more than repetition.

    Ive not done THAT much UK wide angle but i usually aim to start around f/5.6 and 1/40th ISO 200 and work from there. I've found UK light levels vary far more than abroad regarding depth and so on so theres a lot more fiddling to get something right - my settings are still based on the result of test shots on descent and during the swim. If anyone wants it - ive got a really good collection of badly exposed sets of fins (various brands), backsides or rocks !




    -------
    Macro
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    I'll admit to not knowing much about this at all - even less than wide angle.

    Generally the principle of trying to limit what you change comes into play again. If you dont care about blue backgrounds or background color too much you can simplify things here by just setting the shutter speed to 1/200th or whatever your sync speed is (within reason on compacts) and it'll be black. Then its just aperture to adjust next. This is depth of field so pick that, set it and (generally) leave it. I start at f/11 but have used anything from f/2.8 to f/22 depending on the effect i want.
    Once you've done that put your strobe(s) where you want the light angle to come from (think of it as an artificial sun) and take a test shot, look at it, look at the histogram, adjust the strobe and repeat until you get the shot. Obviously it helps if the subject doesn't move. Pointless squishy lumps of toothpaste like nudibranchs are easy for this (fwiw i class anything finger size, squishy, uninteresting and slow moving as a nudibranch regardless of gills).
    If you're afraid the subject WILL move do the above on a lump of rock a similar shade to the subject a meter or two away. This tip works for wide angle too.


    OK so thats a lot of waffle. As i said all the stuff there is general in that its my starting point but probably a very small percentage if any of actual keeper photos from those dives will be with those exact settings - they're just rough starting figures to shoot and adjust FROM.

    Oh, why is my camera LCD set to dim? Because in low light underwater it appears really bright making under exposed photos look fine. Yes you should use the histogram as well but its a rough indicator and less confusing if its not totally contradicting what the histogram says.

    All the above is based on a crop sensor DSLR camera with DS160 strobes so wont be directly applicable to settings on compacts. The method should be though. And yes ive missed lots out but its designed to answer a question elsewhere about general guides for a typical dive.

    Feel free to shoot holes in it.

  2. #2
    escaped the dark side TC's Avatar
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    thanks for that string really informative. so how about telling us what you do with WA shots

  3. #3
    Moderator GLOC's Avatar
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    Theresa,

    I'll link a presentation I used to give but don't have the time to type it up here. The gist is in the slides.

    Regards
    Gareth

    www.imagesoflife.co.uk - Underwater Print Sales, Teaching and Stock Library
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    - 2014 Report here

    “Set your expectations high; find men and women whose integrity and values you respect; get their agreement on a course of action; and give them your ultimate trust.”

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  4. #4
    Skipper/Charter boat Bobanderson's Avatar
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    My numbers

    Simon is right, you won't gain too much from copying numbers but where I differ from him is that I think they reveal what the cameraman is thinking and if you consider that thought process you will gain some benefit. For example I usually set the camera up with these numbers before I jump in. I use a fairly consistent starting point just for familiarity..

    Iso 200. If deeper, more 40 m, then 400 . I have a d200 and any more and the noise starts to show. The lower the ISo, the easier I find it to balance the strobes.

    F stop as wide as pos. DOF is not an issue at 10mm focal length so might as well let in as much light as pos. lens performance is low on my list of priorities so don't stop down to hit a sweet spot.

    Speed generally start at 1/60 so as to get something that can be hand held but usually go lower. Take a pic into the water and set speed at that when I arrive on site

    Light the subject, gt focus then switch to manual. Often too little light for the auto focus so set it once then switch. Pain in he arse to get it every time.

    Wind the strobes right down.. I have subtropics which most people like cos they bang a lot of light out. I like them for the reverse in that they can be wound down. Mine are rarely anything than 1/64. I notch one up just to get a bit of light from one side.

    There you go, try that! You'll hit the bottom, diddle the dials and end up somewhere completely different!!!

    Caveat at the end.. I have a very narrow range of subjects that I want a picture of so these numbers are a way to take he picture that I can see in my head before I jump in. If you have the same picture in your head, these settings will be invaluable. If you are taking nudis in raja ampat, your fooked.

  5. #5
    Skipper/Charter boat Bobanderson's Avatar
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    Macro is a piece of piss

    F22for depth of field, iso 100 for quality, shutter at 200 to get strobe sink then move the strobe closer or further away to get exposure.

    Oh, and know your subject.

    Jobs a good un.
    Last edited by Bobanderson; 02-01-2013 at 10:55 PM. Reason: Brain hicup

  6. #6
    Skipper/Charter boat Bobanderson's Avatar
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    ....... But the best bit of advice.

    Ignore idiots like me that sound convincing.

  7. #7
    Hard Astern Nitnab Nhoj's Avatar
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    Years ago I was on a boat about to be one of the first divers to get on to the Thistlegorm. I had a Subal housing that was closed by means of a wrench. Another diver suggested I was tightening the bolts too much and might crack the housing. His friend said I should not leave the main O-ring in overnight.

    We made the dive and I got some good pictures. The first of my expert friends said that he'd have got better pictures if his housing had not come apart under water while his friend said that his O-rings might have done a better job it they had not been hanging on a hook in his cabin.

    What can you learn from this? Be cautious when listening to advice!
    It's nice to be nice and it's nice to use punctuation to add comprehension to a communication.

  8. #8
    escaped the dark side TC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GLOC View Post
    Theresa,

    I'll link a presentation I used to give but don't have the time to type it up here. The gist is in the slides.

    Regards
    thanks id like tht

  9. #9
    Dive tart, and 'tog Pete Bullen's Avatar
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    Blimey, you guys with set numbers impress me. To a certain extend I could say similar to the above posts by String and Bob but so much depends on subject, time of year, time of day and depth, together with effect wanted, lens used, surface conditions and my mood.
    For example if I'm using my 9mm to 18mm wide angle lens to photograph students in shallow water on a sunny afternoon in July or August then I can reasonably confidently say that I'll start with 1/80th, f16 ISO 200, lens at 9mm, strobes at half power with 0.5 stop diffusers on each. If we then move into the mouth of Xlendi tunnel, sun behind the divers but they are unlit from the front then I'll increase the strobe power significantly but push the shutter up to 1/160th and stop down to f8. If I'm photographing a wreck at 40m on a sunny day late morning with my 8mm WA then ISO goes up to 800, shutter comes down to 1/30th or 1/15th depending on how clear the water is and how high the sun, strobes will be at half power and aperture will be adjusted on the fly. CFWA on the same wreck means completely different settings and a nudibranch on the handrail of the same wreck means different again. By October all the above base numbers have changed significantly, the sun is lower in the sky and penetrates less, the water may be clearer or if it's been raining may be murkier... it all depends. I honestly think there are too many variables for me to offer helpful guidelines like those above.

    To quote Stuart Keasley who when asked what settings he used replied "the right ones". It all depends on so many things that attempting to give someone a starting point without them understanding why and where you are coming from seems pointless to me. Especially since technique is also personal. Two people can dive the same wreck and take beautiful photographs on the same dive but the techniques can be so different that they become signature shots. I can often recognise photographers by the images they have taken at a glance because their styles are so distinctive.

    When I'm coaching people I try hard to help them achieve their own style because the main reason we take photographs is to capture images that please ourselves, if others like them that's a bonus..

    edit; seems I'm quoting JB too
    Last edited by Pete Bullen; 05-01-2013 at 07:09 PM.
    Diving, and photography holidays in Gozo
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  10. #10
    Hard Astern Nitnab Nhoj's Avatar
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    Many years ago, after giving a talk at BSoUP, I fielded questions from the audience. Someone asked me what settings I used. I answered that I tried to use the right ones. Evidently he turned to Benny Sutton standing next to him and whispered, "These professionals never reveal their settings!"
    It's nice to be nice and it's nice to use punctuation to add comprehension to a communication.


 

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