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
12 Megapixel 5X Optical Zoom and 3-Inch LCD screen
GREAT Underwater Beginner Camera!
Product Description: SeaLife's DC1200 makes
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Other SeaLife DC1200 Camera Systems:
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- Sealife DC1000 Elite 10MP Underwater / Land
Digital Camera & Strobe System (2 Digital Pro
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Travel Storage & Viewer Systems
Epson P-5000 & P-3000 (Storage & Viewer Systems)
This is an essential tool for the digital photographer who
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- P-7000 (160GB Capacity) - Where to Buy
- P-6000 (80GB Capacity) - Where to Buy
- P-5000 (80GB Capacity) - Where to Buy
- P-3000 (40GB Capacity) - Where to Buy
- Epson P-5000 TrueVue Crystal Clear Screen Protector
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- dpreview Review
Other Travel Storage Systems
storing and transporting documents and digital
Other storage systems
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 16 GB USB 2.0 (Flash
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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