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fig 8.29 For this Moray Bokeh shot I was lucky to get away with an aperture of f4.8; the zone of sharpness just covers enough of the eyes, which have to be on the same plain of focus. Also, I was shooting at a smaller magnification — about 1:7 — which helped considering my chosen aperture. This is nothing more than a portrait with mouth closed but the colour and clarity of the white eyes in contrast to the blur of everything else adds a touch of menace. Nikon D300, 105 mm macro VR lens, ISO 200, two Inon flashguns placed each side of my macro port on a low power setting. I took over 20 shots: three were sharp in both eyes but only this one was looking into the lens.

fig 8.30 I was able to get side on to this same subject and use an aperture of f4, same settings as Fig 8.28. I have cropped this shot so the face fills the frame.

fig 8.31 I have taken this type of photograph many times before, so how can I make it look different? See Fig 8.32.

Nikon D200, 105 mm macro lens, f22 at 1/250th sec two Inon flashguns.

fig 8.32 Both Fig 8.31 and this figure were shot on the house reef of the Coral Hilton Hotel in Nuweiba, Red Sea. When you spend six days photo-diving the same reef over and over again some may get bored. I get bored quite often but I know from past experience that if I can work through the boredom I will start to see opportunities in a different way. All my better ideas come from 'play' or just after 'boredom', you know the 'there is nothing at all of interest to shoot down here' kind of feeling! Peppered Morays were in profusion and very at ease with close proximity. I picked one where I could lie on the sand and shoot at eye level (see Fig 8.31). 'What can I do different?' It came to me in a flash: 'Wide aperture and shoot a portrait with eyes sharp and all else blurred'. It took 10 attempts to get a pinsharp eye looking into the lens. Same equipment as Fig 8.31 but with an aperture of f8.

fig 8.33 I want you to get a sense of how a blur opportunity develops in my head, how I execute the idea, and my mindset at the time. Photo-diving in Cebu on the house reef drop-off at Kasai village resort. Nikon D300 with a 105 mm macro lens. Nothing in mind other than looking for photo opportunities, I noticed this Longnosed Hawkfish nestled in an orange fan. This was my first test shot or Polaroid view taken at f16.

fig 8.35 I realised the opportunity for a great shot if I could shoot it against a pastel blur negative space, i.e. the fan formation in the distance. I changed my aperture to f5.6 (to get the Bokeh) and went to work. The shape of the fish and its orientation on the branch was an obvious vertical format composition. I backed off at least 3 m to change the positions of my flashguns to set up for a vertical shot with guns close to and each side of my 105 mm macro port. I made the 3 m retreat so as not to spook the Hawk. I moved in and TC! (Think Composition)

fig 8.34 I observed for a few minutes and noticed it perched upon a small branch which protruded from the side of the fan. It was curious and nosey as if eyeing me up. It would flit back and forth, all in one motion along the branch. Aperture of f16.

fig 8.36 Shot at f5.6. I was lucky to have the 105 mm macro lens on. I could fill the frame without spooking it. Think and Consider — peak of the action! The eyes: I wanted both eyes directed towards me. A sense of recognition into the lens would lift the impact of this opportunity. The Hawk was well aware of my presence and I saw both eyes spin round towards me on several occasions. Shoot! Had I got the shot? I had no intention of looking at my LCD so close to the Hawk. Any sudden movement could spook him. I knew my exposures were OK; I knew I had the Bokeh background, all I needed was a perfect peak of the action. I continued.

fig 8.37 Still on f5.6 at 1/320th sec. For my own photo style and preference, such was the potential of this opportunity that I shot over 40 frames in a period of 10 minutes just to get the peak action gaze of both eyes (not just one) looking directly into the eyes of the viewer. I backed away into the blue and reviewed my efforts with the 'zoom preview' facility on my camera. Yippee! I had what I envisioned in my mind's eye. I momentarily considered any lighting, compositional, or focusing techniques which I could improve upon. Nothing came to mind and I caught up with my buddy along the reef.

fig 8.38 Think of using Bokeh on corals and abstracts as well as creatures. Taken close to life-size magnification the plain of focus is tiny so ensure you take plenty of frames to get a few that work.

Nikon D200, 105 mm macro lens, f8 at 1/125th sec, ISO 100.

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