Flash

Adding just a hint of flash can give your pictures some punch. A wide-beamed flash is preferable, attached to a flash arm. Position a single flash so it comes in from the top in both a landscape and a portrait composition. Feel that you are aiming over the top of the school. This will enable the lower edge of the flash beam to cut just in front of the school, lighting the fish and not the column of water in between.

Although you have the added burden of weight and drag in the water, the addition of a second flashgun can help A to spread a soft, even light at such an angle that it appears to wrap around the fish. Position twin flashguns so they are behind the shades of a wide angle dome port; this helps to avoid the presence of flare in the top left- and right-hand corners of your picture.

Tips

• Dive key sites repeatedly to acquaint yourself with the habits of the fish.

• If you can repeat these photo sites, so much the better — you will know which lens to choose before you enter the water.

• Using natural light with wide angle can be very effective with big schools of fish, but adding just a hint of flash can lend your image impact.

• Don't try to include all of the school in your composition. More fish mean less chance of a pleasing arrangement.

• Instead, look to pick off a few stragglers who've become separated from the main school. Like the T-shirt designs, they will be much easier to arrange within your composition.

• Try your hand at natural light with manual white balance settings. They worked well for me.

• Consider using C continuous focusing mode and Continuous shutter release in an effort to capture the peak of the action.

• I often switch to A aperture priority to avoid being distracted by having to set light levels. I want to concentrate entirely on the fish and nothing else.

• Take plenty of pictures to limit bad luck!

• Order, impact and harmony are the key, but have patience. Schooling fish photography can be very frustrating!

FIG. 9.32 The resident school of Jacks close to the Liberty wreck at Tulamben, Bali, are great potential. They can usually be located with ease by an experienced boatman. Early one morning, before the crowds, we dived the Liberty with the sole intention of shooting the school. The boatman located them just below the surface and I took this image holding my housing just beneath the glass calm surface with my legs and torso hanging out of the boat. My Nikon 10.5 mm fisheye was first choice of lens in view of the predictability of getting close. Diving with Jacks, you can often anticipate when they are about to ball up into a sphere. I like the downward angle, which is useful to keep the sun out of the frame to prevent overexposure. F5.6 at 1/180th sec, ISO 200, natural light using the white balance colour picker tool in Adobe Camera Raw, two flashguns attached but turned off for this shot.

FIG. 9.33 The Loloata sweetlips must have exceeded two hundred. I was constantly looking for a smaller group which were more easily manageable. I try to keep the sun at my back to enhance both the contrast and the tone of blue water. Nikon D300,17 mm end of my 17—35 mm zoom, f9.5 at 1/90th sec, ISO 200, two Inon flashguns placed each side of my dome port pointing outwards.

FIG. 9.33 The Loloata sweetlips must have exceeded two hundred. I was constantly looking for a smaller group which were more easily manageable. I try to keep the sun at my back to enhance both the contrast and the tone of blue water. Nikon D300,17 mm end of my 17—35 mm zoom, f9.5 at 1/90th sec, ISO 200, two Inon flashguns placed each side of my dome port pointing outwards.

FIG. 9.34 When the Jacks are schooling it's possible to swim inside the circle and pick them off as they come towards you. I tend to use Aperture priority in situations like this to avoid preoccupation with measuring the light. I try to concentrate on composition and peak of the action in whichever direction they may turn. This shot depicts a split second when they all looked in harmony, facing my general direction. For every shot looks orderly I have another 50 which are just the opposite. Tokina 10—17 mm on the 10 mm end, f9.5 at 1/125th sec, ISO 100, two Inon flashguns, 50 cm each side of but behind my dome port. 405

FIG. 9.34 When the Jacks are schooling it's possible to swim inside the circle and pick them off as they come towards you. I tend to use Aperture priority in situations like this to avoid preoccupation with measuring the light. I try to concentrate on composition and peak of the action in whichever direction they may turn. This shot depicts a split second when they all looked in harmony, facing my general direction. For every shot looks orderly I have another 50 which are just the opposite. Tokina 10—17 mm on the 10 mm end, f9.5 at 1/125th sec, ISO 100, two Inon flashguns, 50 cm each side of but behind my dome port. 405

FIG. 9.35 Larger schools like Barracuda and Jacks photograph well from a slightly up ward angle but during the day the sun-ball is usually too bright for the camera sensor. With conventional wide angle we can hide the sun behind the reef or leave it out of the frame altogether, but it's not as easy when shooting schools. An idea of mine is to hide the sun behind a diver. Jo Horricks agreed to swim a couple of metres above me and, by observing her own reflection in my fisheye dome, she swam in front of the sun, which reduced its intensity. Jo swam around the school and I pressed the shutter when the composition looked OK. The diver in the distant blue adds to the depth perspective but was unplanned. Nikon D200,10.5 mm fisheye lens, f5.6 at 1/180th sec, ISO 100. Whilst my flashguns are attached to the camera, I tend to leave them turned off when shooting a silhouette such as this.

FIG. 9.35 Larger schools like Barracuda and Jacks photograph well from a slightly up ward angle but during the day the sun-ball is usually too bright for the camera sensor. With conventional wide angle we can hide the sun behind the reef or leave it out of the frame altogether, but it's not as easy when shooting schools. An idea of mine is to hide the sun behind a diver. Jo Horricks agreed to swim a couple of metres above me and, by observing her own reflection in my fisheye dome, she swam in front of the sun, which reduced its intensity. Jo swam around the school and I pressed the shutter when the composition looked OK. The diver in the distant blue adds to the depth perspective but was unplanned. Nikon D200,10.5 mm fisheye lens, f5.6 at 1/180th sec, ISO 100. Whilst my flashguns are attached to the camera, I tend to leave them turned off when shooting a silhouette such as this.

FIG. 9.36 There's a story to this figure relevant to this section. Whilst sitting at home putting the schooling fish pictures together, Alex Mustard snapped a grab shot of me on my computer. I was searching for an illustration of T-shirt designs to depict the concept of an orderly fish pattern, completely oblivious to the fact that I was wearing one at the time!

FIG. 9.36 There's a story to this figure relevant to this section. Whilst sitting at home putting the schooling fish pictures together, Alex Mustard snapped a grab shot of me on my computer. I was searching for an illustration of T-shirt designs to depict the concept of an orderly fish pattern, completely oblivious to the fact that I was wearing one at the time!

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