Lens Selection Macro

When it's cloudy and visibility is reduced then it's macro time for me. I predominantly use the Nikon 60 mm (90 mm equivalent on my Nikon D300) which is a versatile lens giving 1:1 life-size and cutting down the camera to subject distance due to the clarity of temperate water. As is said repeatedly, if you are close then get closer and this certainly applies when in low vis.

Many photographers use the Nikon 105 mm (cropped sensor = 152 mm) macro lens giving a greater working distance, thinking they have a better chance of getting shots of fish faces and other difficult subjects to approach. In poor visibility you may end up with more backscatter in view of the additional working distance of lens to subject so keep this in mind.

I wanted a facial image of a Blue Angelfish for an exhibition based on Sea Faces of Western Australia. Whilst in North Western Australia I was unlucky to be caught by unseasonable heavy swells resulting in bad visibility. So temperate water techniques were put into use. I approached maybe 20 to 30 Blue Angel fish over an 11-day period and was unable to get close enough with the 60 mm macro lens. Eventually one was cooperative giving me the opportunity I had persevered with. You may get fewer images but ultimately you will end up with more keepers.

Wide Angle

Nikon 12—24 mm, Tokina 10—17 mm or Sigma 10—20 mm are all excellent for wide angle. My choice is the Tokina 10 mm—17 mm zoom fisheye.

My advice is to:

• Get close to your subject to reduce the water column.

• Make the ambient light your predominant light source and try shooting at an angle across the light. The water should appear clearer because the light source is not reflecting the lighter edge of the water particles into your lens.

• To my eye it often produces an acceptable water colour rather than a muddy grey colour.

Shooting on a sunny day, close to the surface, can often produce a rich blue background. The use of Snell's window can make for some interesting negative space. Use the sunburst if necessary to enhance your image. It will take adjustments of shutter and aperture but with practise some very striking images can be produced.

If ambient light levels are lower than you would like then consider increasing your ISO. With the technical progression of digital sensors and low noise we are now able to use much higher speeds than ever before. Since moving to a Nikon D300, I don't hesitate to 'up' my ISO from 200 to 400 in circumstances where less ambient light is available. This provides me with a valuable additional 'stop' of light at ISO 400. Be careful not to push this too far or you loose a certain amount of Dynamic range the further you push it, sequentially loosing detail in shadows. Some of the latest high-end SLRs can shoot comfortably at ISO 800 and beyond.

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