Accessibility

Accessibility is a concept which is closely related to 'Subject Selection' and 'Potential' which I discuss in Chapter 5 'The Mindset of the Successful Underwater Photographer'.

Underwater photography can often result in two things:

• Those subjects we choose to stop and photograph, and

• Those subjects we choose to reject!

I'm of the opinion that the ability to choose subjects which will photograph well, is a key factor between the skill levels of one underwater photographer and another. Accessibility, simply put, is how we, as scuba divers, have a necessity to 'get into' and access a particular spot on the reef to photograph a subject. If accessibility is difficult, take the shot by all means but there will be a limit to how good it 'turns out'. Likewise, if accessibility is easier and you can get into a position without harm to the reef, appreciate that this subject could make an excellent picture. Accessibility can often determine how good a subject will photograph or not!

Several years ago whilst running a photo-workshop, I was approached by a couple, frustrated with their results. I critiqued their laptop and as a result of my findings I proposed a practical solution. I asked them to choose and shoot a small number of subjects to the very best of their ability; I would accompany them and shoot the same subject in the same place in an effort to 'better' their result. However, on the second dive I would choose the subjects, I would shoot first and they would replicate what I had done. The upshot of this was that whilst their chosen subjects were all worthwhile subjects, they were to be found in locations which were totally inaccessible. It was impossible to get near to them, not because they were shy but because their location on the reef was difficult to get to. Without exception, I was unable to access one single subject which they had selected and my own shots were no different to theirs.

On the second dive I selected our subjects. I did this by choosing spacious sandy patches, close to the reef where we could lie on the sand and pick off various creatures at eye level or at an upward camera angle. I shot just below an overhang and used the 'two finger technique' to get within close proximity. They followed on and achieved some pleasing results. After a short debrief my couple could see that they had become totally subject fixated. If they found a good subject their mindset was that they could take a good photograph of it, simply because it was colourful or exotic or perhaps quite rare. The reason behind my choice of subjects first and foremost was because they were very accessible to us. Close and comfortable access could be achieved and interesting compositional angles could be explored without harm to the reef. These subjects were worth shooting and worth spending time on—not because of theirspecies but because of where they were located. They were easily accessible.

I'd like you to cast your mind back to an occasion when the dive guide is pointing out to you a particular creature.

At first you may not be able to see what they are pointing to, you study the space, your eyes intent on finding the critter—and there it is, thumbs up, the OK signal,'I see it now'.

You want to photograph it but it's awkward to get at. Your eye can clearly see it but you cannot get your body into a position on the reef so that your camera lens can see it. You are a careful and responsible diver and have no intention of harming the reef in any way. The creature is nestled between the branches, you point your camera in the general direction, take three or four shots and then move on. On reviewing your results you're disappointed, you believe that with such good subject matter you should have taken much better pictures.

Dive guides throughout the world are skilled at locating rare and exotic creatures. A good number are well aware of what we are looking for. I have met some who've been trained by other underwater photographers to spot subjects which are located in ideal positions in which to get great pictures. But, in general, a guide will find a creature for you to watch and observe regardless of whether or not it will photograph well.

Think about blending this concept of awareness of the accessibility of underwater subjects into your photo repertoire. Ask yourself: 'Is it possible to obtain a decent photo in its particular location or shall I just shoot it as a record shot?'

fig. 4.10 This blue spot stingray is easily accessible. Notice the sandy channel, wide enough for the photographer to move in close to get a tight composition on the ray. A subject such as this, whilst easy to approach, is often obstructed by the contours of the reef. Notice the low, eye level camera angle being adopted.

fig. 4.10 This blue spot stingray is easily accessible. Notice the sandy channel, wide enough for the photographer to move in close to get a tight composition on the ray. A subject such as this, whilst easy to approach, is often obstructed by the contours of the reef. Notice the low, eye level camera angle being adopted.

fig. 4.11 Whilst it's accessible, it doesn't mean that it will always allow you this close. Far from it! They usually spook and flee but if you're slow, methodical and patient you may be rewarded. This opportunity allowed the photographer to move in and capture a tight composition of the eye and blue spots.

Canon D20 in Ikelite housing with Ikelite flashguns, f16 at 1/90th sec, ISO 100.

fig. 4.11 Whilst it's accessible, it doesn't mean that it will always allow you this close. Far from it! They usually spook and flee but if you're slow, methodical and patient you may be rewarded. This opportunity allowed the photographer to move in and capture a tight composition of the eye and blue spots.

Canon D20 in Ikelite housing with Ikelite flashguns, f16 at 1/90th sec, ISO 100.

fig. 4.12 My son Jamie noticed this anemone and Clown fish near the cave entrance at St John's reef, southern Red Sea. This particular anemone as been photographed many times and the reason for this is because of the way in which it can be approached from below with either a macro or a wide angle lenses. It's easily accessible, which makes it simple to shoot. See Fig. 4.13.

fig. 4.12 My son Jamie noticed this anemone and Clown fish near the cave entrance at St John's reef, southern Red Sea. This particular anemone as been photographed many times and the reason for this is because of the way in which it can be approached from below with either a macro or a wide angle lenses. It's easily accessible, which makes it simple to shoot. See Fig. 4.13.

fig. 4.13 The result is quite predictable given its ease of access and colour. Excellent potential for the underwater photographer. Picture by Jamie Edge, Subal housing, Nikon D70, Nikon 16 mm lens, f8 at 1/90th sec, ISO 200, subtronic flashgun.
fig. 4.14 Easy accessibility! Muck diving. Muck locations where the sand is dark in colour are very productive because subjects stand out against the black background.
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