Stepby Step

• Using an SLR or compact camera, set a low ISO such as 100 or 200.

• Using your M manual exposure mode set an aperture with sufficient depth of field for the subject. Let's say f16 with an SLR and f8 or f7 on a compact.

• Place your flashgun about 8 cm above the housing pointing straight out. You don't have to tilt it downwards towards the subject! The spread of beam will provide sufficient light.

Remember, the key to this close-up technique is to select a subject which is situated against a blue (or green) seawater background, hence the term blue water macro.

• Select a shutter speed of 1/60th second and press the shutter. Your flashgun will illuminate your subject with the blue water in the background appearing quite dark. We are now going to change the appearance of the background by changing the shutter speed as opposed to the aperture!

• Open the shutter to record a slower speed. Try 1/30th then 1/15th, 1/8th and 1/4 (quarter second).

• Check the LCD monitor on the back of your camera and you will notice that the water background has changed from black to blue as the shutter has been slowed down to allow more light to reach the sensor.

• Go ahead and experiment to achieve what background colour looks best against your foreground subject but don't forget to shoot whatever you have chosen against the water column.

• You can even experiment and practise this without a subject in the frame at all.

If your compact is only Auto exposure then you will still be able to try this technique but be aware that the camera may provide you with a wide aperture as opposed to a long shutter speed. If this is the case then take care with focusing because of the limited depth of field.

Question: How do we prevent shutter shake at these slow shutter speeds?

Answer: You can't. Shutter shake will occur to some degree;however, the duration of light from a flashgun is in the region of 1/1000th of a second (one one thousandth) and this split second burst freezes any movements of the camera so the subject is recorded sharp and in full colour against the blue (or green) background of the sea. The 'fuzzy' areas are recorded much darker owing to the interval between the flash cut-off and the shutter closure. It may take several attempts to achieve one that works, but with immediate digital feedback experimentation is simple. It's important to remember that you have to point your camera towards the water column for this to work, not towards the sand or the reef but into the plain blue (or green) water column. Different shutter speeds produce different colours of blue water. There's no right or wrong colour of blue—you select which one you prefer.

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