Getting the Best from Your Magic Filter MF

Whilst conducting photo courses and presentations, I regularly receive questions about these filters and how to achieve the best possible results. I know there are many of you using the MF who are not entirely satisfied with your results. I too have struggled with my consistency to produce the quality seascape images that some other users do. During a photo workshop to Bali, I was determined to tackle this weakness and vowed to get it right once and for all! I devoted six photo-dives over two consecutive days to using the magic filter. My subjects were the lush, pristine coral reefs around Menjangan Island on the north west coast of Bali. It was no surprise to find that all of my own findings are documented somewhere in the instructions which package the filters. What made it more embarrassing is that I had read these instructions more than once and part of it must have 'passed me by'.

Here are my own key findings for the best results:

• You must shoot in a direction where the sun is directly behind you. Point at any direction remotely near to the sunlight and you will get a red/pink colour cast for sure.

• I strongly recommend that you shoot at a downward angle: 45° is ideal.

• They work in water from only 1 m deep down to about 17 m. I found that the positive effect of the filter began to noticeably diminish past 18m.

• Choose ideas where the subject (coral reef) extends away from the lens. In this way you will see natural colour 10 m or more behind the closest subject. This effect is nothing short of amazing when you remember that light from a flashgun falls off so rapidly.

• The MF is designed to work with the camera's white balance (WB). You will have to learn how to set your camera's 'custom/preset' WB and to remember how to set/calibrate it underwater at the time. So practice and more practice.

• Most important of all: set/calibrate your white balance at the same depth and place you are going to shoot from. If you have table coral in the foreground, preset your WB as close as you can and onto the table coral without casting your own shadow — ensure that the table coral fills most of the frame. Shoot the table coral at this depth. For example, do not ascend from 10m to 8m to take the table coral composition.

• Don't set your white balance in one direction and then shoot in another. It won't work.

• If you change your depth by more than 1.5 metres then re-calibrate the WB.



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fig. 6.33 Nikon 10.5 mm fisheye lens, f5.6 at 125th sec, aperture priority, ISO 280. Natural light — remember for magic filters you do not use flash.

• 95% of the time I calibrated off the subjects (corals) which I was shooting and this worked well.

• Do not calibrate your WB off the blue open water. This doesn't work.

Yes, I know — many of the above are in the instructions — but I cannot emphasise enough that by following these guidelines, you will get the most out of the MF. These techniques also work well for compact cameras which only record JPEG images.

The mistakes I have made in the past were to set my white balance off the palm of my left hand at one depth and then to move into the subject for composition perhaps 2—3 metres deeper to actually take the photo. In Palau in 2007 I set my white balance at 5 m deep whilst the subject (sunken seaplanes from WW11) lay in 12 m. No wonder I was disappointed with my results!

fig. 6.34 Front mount attachment of the MF.

fig. 6.35 Rear mount attachment.


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$ i fig. 6.36 DVD on how to get the best from your magic filter.

'Shooting Magic' is an instructional DVD, presented by Alex Mustard in the Red Sea, where he demonstrates and describes the unique techniques of available underwater photography with the Magic filters.

For more information contact:

PR Productions 020 8399 5709


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