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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Underwater photographs with an Epoque strobe

Well here it is, the first pic with an external strobe.

Okay, it's more than a little overexposed in places and the pipe fish probably had stars in its eyes for a few minutes. I had guessed what the power output needed to be and then tweaked a little more. Perhaps should have wound it in a bit - but everyone has to start somewhere.



I have moved on, or across from the Canon G9. It's a truly fantastic camera but it cost a fortune for the bulky Ikelite housing and without it there was no way of attaching external lenses to it.

The IXUS 980i offered variable shutter speed, a little control over aperture (ie choice of two settings) and manual focus, so it was like a hybrid camera in a compact body. But best of all, the housing had a round port so an INON wide angle lens fits perfectly. And with that I thought I might as well go for a slave strobe.

Having never used one before, I stuck to the KISS (keep it simply stupid) principle and opted for the Epoque ES-230DS. It has a couple of settings for different cameras but it is essentially an on-off button with a knob to increase or decrease the power of the flash.

Hence the 'little' bit of over-exposure of the first pic.

But with a little bit of trial and error, it was possible to get closer to the right level. There are some values on the knob which relate to exposures but I just thought I would twist and turn until it looked about right.



What it did allow was faster shutter speeds than the camera suggests making it possible to capture more of the colour and detail without any of the motion blur.

The image of the Batwing Coral Crab above has captured a lot of detail at 1/125 but without the handshake blur I normally get with slow shutter speeds the camera would go opt for when trying to shoot natural light.
I actually don't think my pics have ever had as much red as before.



I know the water looks green but, honestly, these were taken on the recent Grenada trip on the Veronica L wreck, a perfect photography spot because of the depth and variety of life.

With a little work the above sponge pic could be tidied up (backscatter caused by really poor viz) but it demonstrates how simply turning the strobe so the light is coming from the side of the subject helps cut out a lot of the mess. An earlier effort was a complete blur. Colour-wise, I like the contrast between the red of the sponge and green of the water behind.

The below image shows how dramatic shadows can be created. Again there is a lot of backscatter but at this point I was just experimenting. The diffuser also gives the same coverage as the lens so most of the frame should be illuminated.



The rest of the images, like the ones above, are nothing special by any stretch but have been included to show the depth of colour (particularly the reds) that the strobe allows to be captured.





I know there is still a long way to go until I starts producing great quality images but the strobe has taken things on a giant step forward. It has already reduced my reliance on trying to shoot natural light (the inbuilt flash was always rubbish).




Now all I need to do is practice!

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