30Days30Goals Creative Challenge

One of my fellow students Amy Crow has started a creative challenge called 30 Days, 30 Goals and every day of the period of 30 days you have to create something. I think it is awesome that Amy has started this side project to get the creative juices flowing between the students of DCA and their broader network.

After looking at the things that I would like to improve in creatively with photography, I tossed up between time-lapse photography and macro photography. I may do a combination of both over the 30 days:Seaway_Macro 151001_I504727

Day 1, I have the first Macro image that I took today of gashed human flesh with a bit of bokeh and DOF. This is my left knee that I cut this morning ona barnacle infested rock on the ocean floor. I was on an underwater photo shoot at the Gold Coast, and after the drive back, I got out of the car and was fascinated by the contrasting colours of the red stream of blood and its texture, so I thought, hey, I can capture this for the challenge. So for day 1, I give you human flesh.


Macro_Day2 151002_I504750 Day 2, looking for something more traditional with the Macro Lens and so I submitted this image of spiky aloe vera plant that is growing in the garden in the front of my home under the post box.




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Day 3, Was an image of a sheoak tree in focus with the harbour in the background blurred out with depth fo field.




Edit---Scooter_Bommie_Hoskyns-151003_I406141Day 4, saw me take the 105mm macro lens underwater whilst working on the great barrier reef at Hoskyns Island. This image is of a clownfish or anemome fish.






Day 5, saw me capture this macro image of a sea cuccumber layong on the ocean floor. Known to be a chinese deliacy, they are covered in redish coloured armour to keep them from being eaten by predators.






Day 6, These grass spears looks so interesting today and silhouetted against the sun, gave an interesting element to something that can be considered so common.








Day 7, These little pink flowers that are weeds under my washing line proved to the quiet popular on Instagram, they  were taken with a very shallow depth of field (f3.5) to blur the grassy background out behind.







Day 8, Was the golden sprayed goose feathers that were part of a pair of theatrical wings, I think the photo failed to life to its potential.








Day 9, Back to something of beauty, my favourite rose just continues to flower, as such another opening bud on Double Delight in my front year, this time at f29 to capture the water droplets fully in focus.




Macro_Challenge 151010_I505319 - RDay 10, Working with a marble and waiting for the sun to come out proved to be challenging, however when it did, I was able to capture it in full focus but using a focal doubler, so at f7.1 and Macro 210mm, I got a result that I am happy with.




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Day 11, Motivated by the ‘M Challenge’ on Oz Shutter Bugs group on Facebook, I took a photo of the green mint in our houses herb garden. At f4.8 the background blurred out nicely to keep only the mint sprig in focus as per my plan.


Planning for an underwater photography shoot

Mermaid at Fairfax Islands
Underwater photography is very similar in many ways to traditional above water photography, which has its own steps in planning a successful shoot. The difference with underwater photography especially when performing it on scuba is that you have additional factors to consider that can affect the execution of your shoot.


Nauticam D800 Housing

Taking your camera underwater requires a lot of preparation and the need of speciality gear designed exactly for your camera. The main thing that you need is a housing and these are not generic in design, they are designed specifically for your camera make/model. Of course if you search on online auction sites, you will find some $20-$50 options that put a bag around your camera and you can hope for the best – but this is a risk that I would not personally take.

The other option to consider is starting out with a smaller, crop censored compact camera that is waterproof to 10 or 20m, that you can start to use to get use to shooting underwater and then build up to a larger DSLR and housing when you have more trading and experience. When I started shooting underwater it was with a compact camera and over the years and 100’s of dives, I have slowly upgraded my gear to now have my ultimate setup.

My setup consists of the following: Nikon D800 FX Body, Nauticam NA-D800II housing, Inon Float Arms, Inon extension arms, Inon Z240 strobes Nauticam extension rings (70mm and 30mm), 8.5″ Dome Port, Macro Port and Diopter (Super Macro Magnification), Go Pro Hero 3, BigBlue magnetic flash off focusing torch, Intova 2500lumen video light and the most important, a tether lead to have it attached to me at all times.


Inon Z240 Strobe (front and rear view)


When planning the shoot, especially when using models, depth of the site is a key factor. You need to have the support personnel on hand to be able to administer air (21%) to the model between takes – with the maximum time being the length that the model can comfortable hold their breath and halve this. Support persons need to be qualified dive masters and the model also needs to be a qualified diver – Open Water to 18m and Advanced Open Water to 30m. The deeper you go, the less time you will have as the more air you will use over the same period of time, and you have to follow you dive computer as you must stay within safe limits for no-decompression diving. The maximum time for the entire dive should be 1 hour with a lengthy surface interval in between takes.


The weather is a considerable factor to also consider when planning for the shoot, as if the forecast is to windy, you will end up with the dive and shoot being unable to go ahead due to the conditions. If it has rained in the preceding days prior to the shoot and it is in an estuary or near the shoreline, it could have low visibility in the water and have a green tinge which is unappealing to underwater photography. Also, consider the location of the shoot, if the site is susceptible to large current runs on incoming and outgoing tides, you are going to have limited time to shoot on a slack tide (the one hour at high or low tide). It is very important to be familiar with the dive site and have done a reccy prior to the shoot with the model and the support crew to work out all these factors.

Overcast days also make for a challenge underwater, as the light penetrating from the surface is lack lustre and the imagery will have no pop. Strobes (underwater flash) can only do so much with shaping the light on the subject, for the background to be dancing with light or streaming, there needs to be good sunlight penetrating from above.

The deeper that you go to do the shoot the more light changes. The warmer colours of the light spectrum are filtered out the deeper you go starting with red first, and there is only so much you can do in post. Refer to the rainbow chart below:


How ambient light loses it’s colour the deeper you go underwater


Cheat sheet from Nikopedia and Camera world on focus shake

Cheat sheet from Nikopedia and Camera world on focus shake


White Balance: I have found with white balance that I set the camera’s white balance manually in Kelvin (K). On the surface, daylight is rough 5500K, so
underwater I get the best results from setting the white balance to 7500K from 6m to 12m and then over 12m at 10000K. Some photographers argue that you can do this in post, however I believe you should get your settings as close to possible in camera and not rely on post processing for your adjustments that you can make yourself by being a better photographer.

Shutter Speed: When shooting underwater, just like on land your shutter speed should be at least the same as your focal length – 105mm lens on Full Frame, is 1/125sec if you were on a smaller crop censored camera, double this and shoot at 1/250sec for the same lens – however if using flash, you may be limited to 1/200sec due to the sync with the strobes.

The basic rule is if you are using a full frame body, your shutter speed should be at least equal to your focal length, preferably a little faster, as you the photographer are not anchored and when neutrally buoyant floating like a feather being pushed around by the current.  My preference is to shoot in shutter priority mode instead of manual underwater, as you have enough on your mind to keep busy.

Film Speed/ISO: A general rule of thumb that I work by is that ISO100 is great to about 6m. To 12m it is
around ISO320 and then to 18m is around ISO400 and so forth. Anything over ISO1200 is too grainy and unusable, and you should invest in better lighting – constant and flash.


Using a full frame body, your shutter speed should be at least equal to your focal length, preferably a little faster, as you the photographer are not anchored and when neutrally buoyant floating like a feather being pushed around by the current.  My preference is to shoot in shutter priority mode instead of manual underwater, as you have enough on your mind to keep busy.

Sometimes it is best to look up and capture the light streaming through your photos and turn the strobes off

Sometimes it is best to look up and capture the light streaming through your photos with strobes.

Aperture: Aperture priority is great for macro shooting but not overly practical when shooting a model, as the distance between yourself and the subject is not fixed – as you are both floating. If you are shooting on shutter priority (using example above – 105mm lens at 1/125sec and your aperture has been set to wide open (your lowest f-stop of the lens), your ISO is too low.

When diving, it is important that you are comfortable, and this is done by selecting an appropriate protection underwater in the form of a wetsuit or drysuit, and being weighted correctly so that you are not too heavy (hard to be agile) or too light (can’t get down). Wearing gloves is an optional choice, as you can lose dexterity in the finger tips and not be able to control your camera if the gloves are too thick.

Make sure that your boat skipper and surface support person know what you are doing (your shoot plan) so they can be able to assist you at all times.



Benchmarks lined up poolside for a recent shoot

Benchmarks lined up poolside for a recent shoot

When shooting underwater make sure you have a benchmark of what you are trying to achieve so both the model and you know what look is expected, anything else is going in blind and unprepared. Laminating the benchmarks allows you too take them underwater when you can’t easily return to the surface to check them out.

You don’t always need to use strobe and constant light, a silhouette direct into the sun can be a more powerful image than one with light thrown at it. Also when shooting underwater don’t forget to look up, as some of the most beautiful lighting is directly above you and working this in with your model will create some beautiful compositions.11755126_379579945565435_6533356899540288050_n

Celebrating Anna & Greg’s relationship

I had the pleasure of being asked to spend the afternoon with Anna and Greg to celebrate their love for each other. The couple was fun loving and easy going which made the shoot go along quite easily.

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Anna is a local divemaster and this was the second time she had in the focal point of my lens. Anna previously helped me on a college subject to play Dr. Black in Cluedo at Design College Australia.

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I drew great inspiration as they showed great affection for each other and the cheekiness that they have in their relationship. Utilising a local Brisbane location, in the late afternoon, Anna and Greg were able to celebrate their relationship in the dappled afternoon sun.

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Using skills that I learnt whilst at Design College Australia, I provided the lovely couple with 2 pages of benchmarks of my ideas for their late winter shoot and they were so excited with what unrolled for them.

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If you would like to have an on location or studio portrait session to celebrate the love with your partner or family, please don’t hesitate to contact Ian on 0427 764 364 or visit www.iandleishman.com.au