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Learn to shoot with the Nikonos V
Close Focus Wide-AngleNikonos V

Photo Internet Articles | Photo Galleries

Many divers who become involved with underwater photography often find it difficult to verbally describe the beauty and mystery of the underwater world. So Photography is often considered a step towards conveying these experiences to friends, relatives, and the general public.

One of the most common goals of underwater photographers is to capture the spectacular vistas of the underwater world. Sweeping scenes of colorful reefs, the large and foreboding hulk of a shipwreck, or the majesty of a mother whale and her calf are some of the possibilities available to the intrepid photographer. A necessary piece of equipment for this type of photography is the wide-angle lens. The Nikonos 15mm or the Sea & See 15mm are two of the most commonly used models. 

While these lenses do a fantastic job of capturing the scenes described above, there is another equally satisfying use of these lenses: Close Focus Wide-Angle photography.

Close Focus Wide Angle (CFWA) photography involves the use of these wide-angle lenses for photographing smaller subjects from a very short distance away. Because theses lenses allow for sharp focus from a distance as close as 12 inches, they can be used for fish portraits, reef close ups, personal diver portraits and other imaginative applications. In addition, since the adjustment necessary to switch from long distance to CFWA is made by a simple twist of the focus distance knob, a diver can be shooting wide angle photographs of a school of Hammerhead sharks one moment and quickly adjust to photographing a sedentary frogfish the next. No framers, close up attachments or extension tubes are necessary, and the results are equally beautiful. 

For wide-angle photography, the UW-Nikkor 15mm lens is the sharpest and most distortion free lens on the market. It has an aperture range of f2.8 to f22 and can focus as close as 12 inches with an angle of coverage of 94 degrees. By comparison, the Sea & Sea 15mm lens has a slightly smaller aperture range (f3.5 to f22), but can also focus as close as 12 inches and is less expensive. Both lenses can be used to achieve outstanding results. 

 To use either of these two lenses, the photographer must employ an enhanced viewfinder since the Nikonos built in viewfinder does not offer the proper angle of coverage. While Nikon sells a 15mm compatible viewfinder, there are other alternatives on the market. Sea & Sea as well as Ikelite both make viewfinders that work well with either the UW-Nikkor 15mm or UW-Nikkor 20mm lenses. We prefer and use the Ikelite viewfinder because it has the largest optical viewing area of the three. Regardless of your choice, the use of a wide-angle viewfinder is necessary to properly compose photographs with these lenses. 

Another consideration when using wide-angle lenses is the use of proper lighting. This means that your strobe selection is important. Make sure that whatever strobe you are using has an angle of coverage commensurate with that of your lens. For Nikon strobes (SB102, 103, and 105) for instance, wide-angle diffusers are used to expand the angle of coverage. 

Finally, all photographers must pay close attention to the film they use.  Because of the variability of subject’s possible with wide-angle photography, a wider range of film is acceptable. For CFWA, however, we generally select film with ISO 50 or ISO 64 to reduce the grain and bring the colors out in prominence. 

Here are some tips for gaining success using CFWA:

  • For close up subjects, sharp focus is absolutely critical. Nothing ruins a photograph faster than a foreground subject that dominates the scene and is out of focus. Since the focusing distance of these lenses is 12 inches, be sure you carefully estimate your distance to the subject before shooting.
  • When shooting CFWA, it is possible to greatly expand the depth of field by closing down the aperture. It is not uncommon to shoot CFWA at f22 in clear, bright conditions. Remember that the strobe will be providing the necessary light for proper illumination at this distance. By shooting with a large depth of  field, a number of possibilities exist for dramatic results. Photographers can place a smaller subject, such as a colorful reef sponge, in the foreground and include a larger subject in the background (a diver for instance).
  • Another popular technique is to shoot the reef close up and straight up, using the reef as the foreground subject and the sun as the background. By adjusting the lens settings properly, divers can produce the ever-popular “star burst” effect of the sun while properly illuminating the foreground subject. Stay tuned, the secret to producing this effect will be explored in an upcoming article.
  • Parallax is an important consideration when shooting this close. Regardless of the viewfinder you choose, some amount of parallax will occur. Parallax occurs because the camera and the viewfinder are viewing the same subject from slightly different angles. (Remember that the Nikons V is not a Single-Lens-Reflex (SLR) camera!). This difference is barely noticeable and not a factor in long distance shots.

    For CFWA, however, it can be so critical as to completely ruin your shot. A fish, which you thought was in the center of the frame is actually “cut off” in the final shot. In order to adjust for this, be sure the viewfinder is set for the proper distance and then make some manual adjustments. Often, it is necessary to position the subject slightly lower in the viewfinder to ensure that it is centered in the camera. Practice will enable you to perfect this technique.
  • Wide-angle lenses do distort their subjects slightly. If you look at some wide-angle photographs, you will notice that along the edges of the picture, the subject tends to “curve” slightly. This is due to the curvature of the lens, which is required to achieve the angle of coverage necessary to gain the wide angle shot in the first place. In order to minimize the effects of this phenomenon, make sure you center your subject and avoid placing items of prominence or importance along the edges of the shot.
  • Hand hold your strobe off to the side of the camera to reduce backscatter. Of course, the closer you get to your subject, the less particulate matter will be present in the water between the lens and the subject. By moving the strobe off to the side, you can further reduce or eliminate this annoying and undesirable effect. Also, it is important not to place the strobe within the angle of coverage of the lens. Because these lenses can cover such a wide angle, it is easy to inadvertently place the strobe “in the line of fire”, so to speak. The result is an unwanted explosion of light in a corner of your shot!

CFWA can be used with often stunning results. By not having to use extension tubes and wire framers, the photographer can often get closer to the desired subject without frightening it away. Because the lens can quickly switch between very short and very long focus, a wide range of shooting options exists on a single dive. And because the angle of coverage and depth of field is so great, some very imaginative photographic opportunities exist. 

Give it a try!


Available Books, Videos & Cameras

SeaLife Digital Underwater CameraSealife 12 Megapixel 5X Optical Zoom and 3-Inch LCD screen Underwater/Land Camera

GREAT Underwater Beginner Camera!

Product Description: SeaLife's DC1200 makes underwater photography it easier than ever before. Mystical sea creatures, vibrant colorful reefs, or haunting wrecks from a bygone era, the DC1200 is the camera to catch them all. SeaLife's new 12-megapixel camera combines diver-friendly design and four underwater color modes, for sharp, colorful pictures underwater or on land.

SeaLife eliminated the typical button cluster on the back of the camera, in favor of five thumb operated "piano key" controls. The large shutter button extends forward with a fingertip-control lever that allows scrolling through menus or zooming in and out without releasing your grip from the camera. This "Central Command Lever" and the "Piano Keys" are making great underwater pictures and videos easier than ever before.

Expand the DC1200 with SeaLife's popular line of underwater accessories, including the Digital Pro Flashes and wide angle . Automatic focus from 4" to infinity. Record 2+ hours of sharp, colorful video with sound when using a 4GB SD memory card. Depth tested to 200ft. Fully rubber armored for shock protection. Full 1-year warranty covers the underwater housing and camera.

SeaLifes Sea Modes which have built in color correction and External Flash Modes for vibrant color and manual control of the cameras shutter and aperture, round out the DC1200.

Other SeaLife DC1200 Camera Systems:

  • SeaLife DC1200 Elite 12MP Underwater / Land Digital Camera & Strobe System
    Where to Buy
  • Sealife DC1000 Elite 10MP Underwater / Land Digital Camera & Strobe System (2 Digital Pro Flashs)
    Where to Buy


Other Available Cameras and Accessories

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Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS  Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS2


Travel Storage & Viewer Systems

Epson P-5000 and P-3000

Epson P-5000 & P-3000 (Storage & Viewer Systems)

Product Description: This is an essential tool for the digital photographer who shoots a lot of images. The Epson P-3000/5000 provides an excellent way to download, store and display thousands of photos, videos and more on the spot - without a computer. With the ultra fast processor, it’s easy to backup images right from your memory card (CF/SD) or camera. Transfer thousands of photos in no time at all. Then, continue shooting.

With the large, four-inch LCD, you’ll be able to instantly review images immediately after the shoot. In fact, you can easily view slide shows and videos, or listen to audio files. Best of all, you’ll be able to present professional quality images anywhere you go.

Because this system uses Epson's Photo Fine Ultra LCD technology, you’ll see every color and detail. This unit also has Adobe RGB color space support which means, each viewer displays over 16.7 million colors.

You can even zoom in and verify RAW files.  And, with a long battery life, these systems are ideal for extended, on-location shoots. Save and view all your best shots at the scene.

Or, transfer files from your camera or any USB device. You can even connect and download your files directly to your Windows or Mac computer. The Epson Epson P-3000/5000 makes it easy to save and share images virtually anywhere, with amazing clarity and color.

Features & Benefits

  • 40GB (P-3000) or 80BG (P-5000), high-capacity hard drive to backup thousands of photos
  • Large, 4-inch LCD for easy viewing
  • On-the-spot download device to save, view and share photos, videos and music anywhere
  • Epson® Photo Fine Ultra LCD technology for more accurate colors
  • Adobe® RGB color space support
  • Ultra fast processor for fast downloads
  • DivX® video file support, plus audio/video out to instantly view slide shows and videos
  • Rechargeable battery so it’s always ready to travel
  • Long battery life that’s ideal for extended, on-location shoots
  • Built-in card slots that support Compact Flash® I/II (CF) and Secure Digital™ (SD) memory cards
  • Hi-Speed USB 2.0 for fast file transfers
  • RAW file support — zoom capabilities to check the focus and fine detail

Additional Information


Other Travel Storage Systems

Perfect for storing and transporting documents and digital images!!
Other storage systems

Sandisk Cruzer SanDisk Cruzer Micro 16 GB USB 2.0 (Flash Drive)
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 8 GB USB 2.0  (Flash Drive)
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 4 GB USB 2.0 (Flash Drive)
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 2 GB USB 2.0 with U3 (Flash Drive)

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Last Modified: December 05, 2010

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