One Flash with CloseUp and Macro

When shooting close-up and macro, two flashguns often illuminate too much of the background, which emphasises the 'cluttered and busy' look you're working so hard to avoid!

Remember 'negative space' from an earlier chapter: 'Everything in the picture which is not the subject' Good underwater pictures require a background which complements the main subject. Too much flash can be a real killer! You glance at the result in your LCD, it looks awful so you dismiss your idea and move on. The reason is often because you have illuminated too much clutter in the background.

• Two flashguns fill in all shadow detail, which can leave subjects looking flat and 2D instead of 3D.

• Whilst you will see pictures in books and magazines of well-known underwater photographers with two flashguns, I cannot emphasise enough how often one of the guns you see depicted may be turned OFF.

fig. 6.37 Baseline quick-start position for one flashgun.

Using one external flashgun on a flash arm I recommend the following:

• Position your flash from above in either a landscape or a portrait composition. This simulates the light from the sun and produces shadows where the human eye is used to seeing them.

• Aim the flashgun above the subject so that the bottom edge of the light beam cuts just in front of the subject and is illuminated with the outer edge of the beam as opposed to the centre. The idea is to avoid lighting the water column in between the lens and the subject. This reduces the effects of particles and creates images that are cleaner, sharper and more colourful.

• When shooting close-up or macro, if your flash protrudes in front of your housing you run the risk of alarming a timid subject. Locate a position for one flash (from above) about 8 cm above the housing pointing out at a slight upward angle of about 20%.

• If your flash is placed very close to the picture area that you are composing you run the risk of the hotspot appearing as backscatter.

fig. 6.38 This is the reality of this Christmas tree worm in Cebu, Philippines. I was drawn to the vivid colour at the end of my torch beam. My initial attempt with two flashguns — dismal!

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