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Underwater Videography - Enabling Your Creativity

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H-Stop #05 - Fisheye

These little guys never seem to stay still for very long, so when I clocked this Scarus Globiceps - Violet lined Parrotfish; having a grooming session, I wasn’t about to pass up the golden opportunity for a close up upon the parrot fish's eye.

Notice that in this shot the camera movement through both the X & Y axis’s are miniscule so not to attract to much attention to the camera. The shot is composed ensuring that there is enough negative space for the subject to be able to move or to swim further into the shot.

An important point to bear in mind as an underwater imager for numerous reason – not least being your safety and well being; is your depth. If you maintain consistent depth instead of see-saw or saw tooth diving you can actually make your life as an underwater imager much simpler. For example if I take a shot I have adjusted my exposure and white balance for that shot at that depth, if I maintain a consistent depth and then the preparation and adjustments for the next shot should be minimal, meaning I can be ready to capture unexpected moments so much more quickly with minimum adjustments to my previous camera settings.


H-Stop #04 - Skunk Light

Chiaroscuro is an Italian word it is used to describe the use of light and dark in photographs or film; specifically the use of strong bold contrast between light and dark affecting the nature of a composition.

Chiaroscuro originates from the Renaissance period, and refers to a technique of drawing on coloured paper; the artist would work from the paper's base tone towards light shades using white gouache, and towards dark shades using ink or water-colour creating depth using tone and contrast in layers. These techniques them selves drew from primarily religious traditions in illuminated or illustrated manuscripts, which date back as far as the late Roman Imperial era.

The effect of contrast and light and dark is essential to the essence of this shot. See how the light crinkles through these Anemones tentacles as the Skunk Anemones Fish hide in their tentacles. The direction of your light source and your position is critical when considering this play of light and shadow.

This particular shot caught my eye as I was taking another shot which I will be posting later this week, it’s titled #05 Traveling South for the Summer and it’s a long swimming, crane style shot. Halfway through this shot when you view it you will see the Anemones on the left hand side, carry on looking left and there you see my position for this shot.

Chiaroscuro is one of my favorite areas of study and I can spend whole dives shooting just based on just this subject, so expect that I will be coming back to this subject in future posts.

H-Stop #02 C.E.S.A - Part 2

In our day to day work when filming students; who are experiencing diving for the first time; we will often only ever use one of these shots to illustrate the skill, which means that there is time available to practice and compose the shot whilst other students perform the skill. Then once you’re happy with the shot and position, choose the moment to capture. As I mentioned in my last post you will notice just how different two similar shot with the same subject matter can feel, and this was just from just from changing my position and the framing of the shot.

It s not often in underwater videography that you can do this re-run of a shot as underwater nature videography is about capturing a special and unique moment. You only have a split second in which to make the decision about how to to capture it. It is not possible to rehearse, block and stage the action of course you can prepare by studying your subject matter and it’s typical behaviors; you can have a plan; BUT because it is glorious, wonderful, nature something unexpected is going to happen it could be a whale shark, a mating behavior or a tiny critter never seen before. At these times you need to be sure of what your position, the lights position, your subjects expected movements as well as all of the appropriate configurations your camera.

This is why it important to use any available opportunity to practice your skills. Whilst a safety stop in the blue may be a slightly boring but necessary wait for others; for an underwater videographer it can be an invaluable time when you are not hunting or concentrating on the next shot and the wonderful colours, textures and creatures of the dive - it can be a time of experimenting; with the play of light in water maybe use your buddy as a subject. It can be used explore and push the limits of your skills, the equipment and get to really understand how to control and improve on these factors - remember safety is always the priority so watch your dive skills and control. The more instinctual this understanding becomes the more improved your shooting will be as you naturally know the best placement or settings to deliver the best shots because you took the time to practice.

I hold then tilt then hold ensuring to white balance and expose correctly.
The more relaxed you are in the water, the better your understanding of how light plays, the better your shots will become. I have also got in to a habit of visulsing all my shots in my minds eye before I take them.

H-Stop 02 CESA Twin-Peaks Dive Site - Part 1

With this type of shot, where I am focusing on a subject above me and close to the surface, on a clear flat day where the world ablove the surface is in view as well. When doing these kinds of tilts I normally expose for shooting at the surface. Taking time to ensure that the sky is not blooming or overexposed and that the details remain in the clouds. This is difficult to achieve when tilting upwards from the blue. What I love about this shot is how the divers come out of the depths of the dark blue. The slow-motion enables us to watch as the light trickles over the divers as they rise to the surface. Of course this technique could be used for any subject.

This type of shot is a good example of the choices you make about position in relation to your subject as due to the effect that it has on the composition of a shot and how it is read by the audience. If you compare this shot to the next in the series, my position in relation to the subjects and the shots composition even though the subject matter is the same; gives a completely different feeling one is more intimate and focuses on the subject. The other renders more of a sense of the subject in relation to the vastness of their environment.

More Articles ...

  1. H-Stop #01 Perfect Blue