Getting better results with wide angle lenses

For the past 6 weeks, I have been working on getting better results with wide angle lenses. Before I dive into the details there – a quick techie update – new akaso cams were released in December (good alternatives to rather highly priced gopro hero 5) so that’s worth checking out if you are on the action cam side of your underwater photography journey. When looking at my previous work, I wasn’t happy with the amount of backscatter, hotspots, and editing I had to do as a result. After re-reading Martin Howley’s recommendations on this, I came to three conclusions.

Here is the story of past 6 weeks and the lesson learnt trio…

First, my strobes are positioned too close to the camera and this creates hotspots in the image. You always get backscatter close to hotspots and end up having to crop these areas. The solution is to keep your strobes at least 50-70cm away from the dome port at all times.

Second, I was placing them level with, and slightly below the dome port where they needed to be placed noticeably above and behind to properly illuminate the scene. When placing the strobes in the old position they simply did not cover enough of the frame to light evenly.

Third, at the same time they needed to point slightly outwards to avoid backscatter. Pointing outwards flashes particles in the water from the side, where these reflections can’t be picked up by the lens.

On Saturday, I set out to test this on a boat dive at North Head. Conditions were good, but not great, with about 10-15m visibility and visible particles in the water. The first thing I noticed is that the camera operates much “heavier” when both flash heads are extended this way and also creates more drag – but see for yourself what a difference this setup makes!

Backscatter is pretty much gone from all the images and with it the need to use the dreaded clone stamp. I have to admit I had nagging doubts whether the kind of tropical water clarity i was after would be possible in Sydney at all – it is so good to be wrong sometimes 🙂

My best photo was shot with 10.5mm fisheye at f/11 for 1/60s in 16m of depth. I was lucky to have a model (thanks Josh!) and composed it after several similar images I have seen in magazines with a foreground subject in the lower third and a diver against a sunball in the upper part of the image. Backscatter is reduced to a bare minimum and the only editing done on this photo is level adjustments and contrast. Finally achieved natural color with flash, covering the entire frame – it feels good when you learn something. Here is a great video from the Aquatic Eye about wide angle photography.

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