July’s highlights include some very unusual footage, even for Lembeh where the rare and strange are commonplace. A fingered dragonet being eaten by a lizardfish was spotted by one of our sharp-eyed guides and luckily I was there to film the fascinating process. Other cool critters you’ll see in July’s video include a glimpse into the egg pouch of an ornate ghost pipefish where you can even see the eyes of the embryos, a fabulous decorator crab, a pair of mis-matched frogfish and much more. Enjoy the extravaganza!
The coconut octopus or veined octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) is one of our favorite critters in Lembeh. It uses “tools” like shells and coconuts to build a hiding place and is often seen ‘walking’ on two arms with these tools in the other arms. This behavior is called bipedal locomotion. Some species are very greedy and try to take as many tools as they can carry, which sometimes is just too much to handle. The coconut octopus is a solitary cephalopod.
After testing the SONY FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS extensively (I did over 200 dives with this lens already), I have to say - it's a pretty good setup for Lembeh! It gives me the flexibility of shooting a wide range of subjects and I'm not stuck with a macro or a wide-angle setup. I can shoot critters that are very small - I cannot fill the frame with a hairy shrimp, but when using an extra macro wet-lens (like the SubSee +5 or Nauticam SMC), I can fill the frame with subjects the size of around 1-2cm (around 1/2 inch) in Super35 mode. When shooting in full frame mode @24mm I get vignetting from the flat port, but I can shoot at the 32mm range of the lens without vignetting and shoot subjects the size of around 30 cm (1 foot) right in front of the port (I'm using a Subal Type4 flat port on a Nauticam NA-A7II housing with a Nauticam to Subal adapter).
I used the Nauticam SMC only for subjects smaller than 3cm (1 inch), for subjects between 3-8cm (1-3 inches) I used the SubSee +5 and everything larger than 8cm (3 inches) I was able to shoot without having to add an extra wet-lens.
Here are some example shots:
The 24-70 is very sharp - even at smaller apertures.
Here are some Lightroom screenshots:
Coconut Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) @42mm, f14, 1/60sec, ISO250
Same image like above at 100%
Here's a shot @31mm - on the top left the port is still visible, that's why in full frame mode the lens has to be at @32mm (at least with my setup)
Here's a short video shot with the A7R2 and the SONY FE 24-70mm f/4, for best viewing experience watch in 4K:
When shooting video I also use the Clear Image Zoom function of the A7R II - then I can shoot very small stuff like the Costasiella kuroshimae, also known as the "Shaun the sheep nudi" with the 24-70mm lens (with an additional Nauticam SMC) and I can fill the frame @70mm in Super35 mode with subjects smaller than 1cm in size - pretty amazing! :-)
Don't get me wrong, I still use other lenses and the 90mm macro is a "must have" lens in Lembeh, but the 24-70 is also a very nice lens for shooting macro and even super macro in the Lembeh Strait (when combined with a flat port).
This test was done while diving with Critters@Lembeh Resort.
Are you still using Aperture or iPhoto? Sign up here and get Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop in the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan for only $8USD/month for the first 12 month ($10/month after that).
Offer only valid until June 2, 2017
This offer is also for people who don’t use Aperture or iPhoto. Even for users of the standalone versions of Lightroom and Photoshop it might be good time to switch and get all the extra features of the creative cloud versions. As of January 9th, 2017 the Creative Suite 6 (or CS6) is no longer available for purchase.
Here’s a short video of a strong Lightroom edit to show you what Lightroom is capable of…(not to suggest that you have to do edit your images like this, this is only an example!)
SONY A7RII with a 90mm macro lens – Image size comparison with the SubSee +5 and the Nauticam SMC
I was checking out different options of so called “wet-lenses” on the SONY A7RII in a Nauticam NA-A7II housing. I used the SONY FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS lens without a wet-lens, with SubSee +5 and with the Nauticam SMC and compared the subject sizes at maximum magnification.
When using no “wet-lens” in Super 35mode, the image size is very similar to when using a SubSee+5 in Full Frame mode & when using a SubSee+5 in Super 35 mode the image size is very similar to when using a SMC in Full Frame mode.
The difference is that you have 42MP in Full Frame mode vs 18MP in Super 35 mode. Of course when shooting stills we want to have the full 42 MP (why else would we pay for them), but the Super 35 mode becomes really handy when shooting video. In both modes the A7RII is recording 4K in camera. It’s like having an extra teleconverter with you while diving. When I’m shooting video I try to use the Super 35 mode whenever possible, but when the subjects are a bit larger, it’s very nice to be able to shoot in full frame mode and get a tick closer.
Here are some images with my results:
All images taken at F18, 1/125sec, ISO ranged from 1250 – 2000 (I had the camera on AUTO ISO)
Final conclusion: For shooting video with the A7R2 there’s no need for the SubSee +5, but it can be useful when shooting stills. I will do some more testing and keep you posted.
UV or fluorescence dives are becoming more and more popular and many dive resorts offer them as part of the experience.
Doing fluorescence dives can be very different than normal dives, and the fluorescence is best appreciated on night-dives.
How to shoot fluorescence underwater?
There are different ways to do fluorescent photography; one way is to use a UV or fluorescent focus/video light to look for subjects, fluorescence filters on our strobes, a yellow filter on our camera and a yellow filter on our mask and the other way is to just use UV lights and a yellow filter on the camera (and mask) and no additional strobes. Because of all these filters the light is not that strong in the first place and we need to use different settings on our cameras. High ISO numbers, large apertures (low f-numbers) and slow shutter speeds are typically needed to be able to see something in our images.
Shooting with strobes
Strobes with fluorescence filters strapped on are stronger than UV lights, allowing us to choose lower ISO numbers, faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures, but we still cannot shoot with our typical macro settings…I usually start off with something like ISO 800-1600 , f8, 1/60sec, take a test-shot and then adjust accordingly…sometimes we need to boost the ISO up more to get the desired depth of field, but that can introduce noise (newer cameras can handle very high ISO numbers without having too much noise)
Hermit crab – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO800, f7.1, 1/60sec, 1x i-Torch Pro6 as focus light, 1x INON Z240 with fluorescence filter strapped over the strobe
Shooting with video lights:
Many video and focus lights nowadays have the UV function built in. If you don’t want to invest in the fluorescence filters for the strobes it is possible to use only the UV lights to get some good shots as long as the subjects are small. A good starting setting there is around ISO800-1600, f5, 1/30sec and then adjust according to the subject…for moving subjects use a faster shutter speed.
Mushroom coral – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO800, f4.5, 1/30sec, 1x i-Torch Pro6+, 1xi-Torch Pro 7 with fluorescence filter strapped over the light
Galaxea coral – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO800, 1/30sec, f4, 1xi-Torch Pro6
It is easiest to photograph corals and anemones as they don’t move much, but a lot of the critters here in Lembeh are fluorescent as well…
Stargazer (Uranoscopus sp) – Canon 7D Mark II, Tokina 10-17, Kenko 1.4 TC, @17mm, ISO640, f7,1, 1/60sec, 2xi-Torch Venom 50
Wrasse – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, ISO640, f5.6, 1/125sec, 2x i-Torch Venom 50
Needle cuttlefish (Sepia aculeata) – Canon 7D Mark II, Tokina 10–17mm, Kenko 1.4x TC, ISO 16000, f/6.3, 1/30s, 2x i-Torch Venom 38
Lizardfish – Canon 7D, 60mm, ISO640, 1/30sec, f5, 1x i-Torch Pro6
This is a little scorpionfish with some algae growth on him…the scorpionfish itself is not fluorescent, it’s the algae! – Canon 7D, 60mm, ISO640, 1/30sec, f3.5, 1x i-Torch Pro6+, 1xi-Torch Pro 7 with fluorescence filter strapped over the light
With multiple UV lights and a wider lens (i.e. fisheye lens) it is possible to illuminate larger subjects:
Favia coral – Canon 7D Mark II, Tokina 10-17, Kenko 1.4 TC, @17mm, ISO640, f7,1, 1/60sec, 2xi-Torch Venom 50, 2xi-Torch Venom 38, 1x i-Torch Pro6+
Reef-scene in UV view – Canon 7D Mark II, Tokina 10–17mm, Kenko 1.4x TC, @14mm, ISO 5000, f/5, 1/60s, 2xi-Torch Venom 50, 2xi-Torch Venom 38, 1x i-Torch Pro6+
Hard coral (Montipora tuberculosa) – SONY A7 RII, SONY FE 16-35mm f4 ZA OSS @16mm, ISO2000, f4, 1/60sec, 1xi-Torch Venom 50, 2x i-Torch Venom 38, 1x i-Torch Pro6+
Close-up of above image
Hard coral (Montipora tuberculosa) – helicopter-shot – SONY A7 RII, SONY FE 16-35mm f4 ZA OSS @16mm, ISO20.000, f4, 1/60sec, 1xi-Torch Venom 50, 2x i-Torch Venom 38, 1x i-Torch Pro6+
Scientists still don’t fully understand what purpose(s) fluorescence serves in marine life but theories propose that it may be for communication, as protection and to fool predators. Whatever the reason, it’s fascinating to discover and photograph a whole new side to fish, creatures, corals and anemones whose appearance changes radically under fluorescent light. See if you can discover fluorescence in an organism you never knew had it in them! Remember as always to be respectful of marine life and be cautious if you are using fluorescent lights on an animal, as some may have eyes which are particularly sensitive to that spectrum of light. Also keep in mind that if you are diving with UV lights, non-fluorescent coral is harder to see, so go slow and take care not to damage unseen organisms or habitat.
This Week’s Tip: How to Photograph ‘Frogfish’
Frogfish or Anglerfish are a favorite subject of many photographers, because like nudibranchs they usually don’t move much, although hairy frogfishes tend to be more active than other species. They’re also not shy, so they can be shot from very close distance.
The best lenses to use are macro lenses such as 60mm, 100mm, or 105mm for DSLR’s, (nowadays with different cameras like mirrorless & micro 4/3 etc. the lenses vary a lot, I use a 90mm at the moment on a SONY A7R2). For shooting super-macro images of tiny juveniles, eyes or the lures, use close-up diopters or teleconverters.
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) eye – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm, Nauticam SMC, f5.6, 1/160sec, ISO 160, 1x SOLA 4000, 1x SOLA 2100
For shooting CFWA (close-focus-wide-angle) of giant frogfish, fisheye lenses are the preferred choice, for smaller subjects we can combine the fisheye lens with a teleconverter. Try to get as low as possible and shoot slightly upwards to isolate the fish clearly against the blue water background.
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) sitting on a sponge at the mini-wall @ Nudifalls – shot upwards into the water column to get a blue background – Canon 7D, Tokina 10-17 @ 10mm, f3.5, 1/80sec, ISO200, 2xL&M SunRay 2000 LED lights
The same giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) on the same sponge, this time shot downwards in the water column to get a black background – Canon 7D, Tokina 10-17 @ 10mm, f3.5, 1/250sec, ISO200, 2xL&M SunRay 2000 LED lights
To show how well they camouflage, it sometimes can be nice to back off a bit and not fill the frame with the frogfish.
Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) on a sponge – Canon 7D Mark II, Tokina 10-17, Kenko 1.4 TC @14mm, f8, 1/125sec, ISO640, 2xSOLA 4000
Getting really close is key when shooting CFWA, using a mini dome is recommended. Black hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) very close to the port – Canon 7D Mark II, Tokina 10-17, Kenko 1.4 TC @14mm, f10, 1/50sec, ISO320, 2x i-Torch Venom 50, 2x i-Torch Venom C92
When frogfish are ‘luring’, try to shoot them from the side, to get the lure and the frogfish in focus
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) fishing with its lure – Canon 7D, 60mmm macro, f5.6, 1/320sec, ISO160, 1xSOLA 1200 on spot
Frogfish also look cool when shooting portraits, it can be nice to fill the frame with the face only (especially when you run into a larger frogfish with a 100/105 (or 90mm 😉 ).
Use a large aperture (low f-number) to get out of focus backgrounds and foregrounds.
Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) close-up portrait shot with a large aperture – Canon 7D, 100mm macro, f3.5, 1/800sec, ISO160, 2x L&M SunRay2000 LED lights. This frogfish was just too big for my lens (100mm), so I decided to go for a portrait.
Why can using only one light-source be helpful?
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) sitting in sponges, 2 lights lighting up the subject, but also the distracting background – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, f13, 1/60sec, ISO160, 1xSOLA4000, 1xSOLA2100
Using only one light-source will create dramatic shadows and can give us a darker background if we don’t light up all that sand.
The exact same subject (and exact same camera position), but this time I used only one LED light on spot – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, f5.6, 1/1000sec, ISO160, 1xSOLA2100 (on spot) – to get a similar result with a strobe, use a snoot.
Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) shot with one LED light on spot – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, f16, 1/60sec, ISO100, 1x Sea Dragon 2100 on spot
When using a snoot or spot on a LED light, black backgrounds and dramatic shadows are possible – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, f11, 1/125sec, ISO160, 1x SOLA1200 on spot
Always remember that with moving your strobe/light around you’ll get different results as I mentioned here:
For hairy frogfish, backlighting with a LED light or a strobe will make the hairs stand out more. Use one strobe from behind and one from the front to light up the face as well.
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) backlit to make the hair stand out more – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, f11, 1/200sec, ISO160, 2x SOLA 4000 (1xfront, 1xback), 1x SOLA2100(front), 1x F.I.T.2400WSR (back)
To get behavior shots like yawning, you have to be patient (and of course lucky), frogfish often open their mouths a little bit only just seconds before the real yawn, so try to be ready for the shot and have your settings right. Take a couple test shots and when you have your exposure right, then wait. Of course don’t wait too long if there are other divers waiting for their turn to see/photograph the frogfish.
Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) yawning – Canon 7D, 60mm macro
CFWA Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) yawning – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, CFWA wet-lens (that’s why there are blurry edges), f5.6, 1/200sec, ISO160, 2x SOLA 4000
Even if frogfish usually don’t move much and seem to be relaxed, never harass them (the same goes for every creature underwater). We often see frogfishes in the same spots for many months, but if they’re harassed, they move away and future divers cannot get a glimpse of the weird and wonderful world of frogfishes.
Fangblennies make interesting subjects as they often can be found in bottles where we can separate them easily from the distracting or unappealing background. They’re often under-appreciated as they’re relatively common in the mucky sites of the Lembeh Strait. Giving them a little bit of time to get used to the camera in front of them, they will pose for the camera very easily. Sometimes they even yawn! There are different opinions on why the yawning happens – either to display the impressively big mouth and scare away possible enemies, or to stretch the jaws, or just because they’re tired.
So here’s how to shoot them: Just get very close to fill the frame with the subject and then wait….at first they might hide in the bottle or hole they hang out in, but after a little while they will come back out. So take some test shots while they’re still in the bottle to get your exposure and background color right, after that is done you just have to wait until they’re in the right spot and then – bang!
Being patient sometimes pays off – after waiting almost 20 minutes and firing at the exact moment of action, I got the lucky shot…Striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO 160, f16, 1/200sec, 1x INON Z-240 with DIY fiber-optic snoot
The two enlarged, grooved canine teeth for which fangblennies get their name are situated in the lower jaw. The fangs can get very large and while not especially dangerous to most people, fang blenny bites can be quite painful. Fortunately, because of its small mouth, envenomation of humans by this animal is unlikely. That being said, some of the species we see here in Lembeh have fangs up to 1cm long – I’m sure you heard that before: look, but don’t touch! The two most common species we have here are the striped fangblenny (Meiacanthus grammistes) and the striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps), which mimics the former – they look very similar at first sight, but upon closer inspection you can tell the difference. Meiacanthus grammistes has a small blueish-black spot near the head.
Meiacanthus grammistes (left) and Petroscirtes breviceps (right)
The striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) can also change color at will and sometimes you can get different images within seconds:
Petroscirtes breviceps – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO 160, f11, 1/160sec, 2x L&M SunRay 2000
Petroscirtes breviceps – 7 seconds later and the yellow coloration is almost gone – same settings as above
Sometimes fangblennies also make a nice black and white image – The striped poison-fang blenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) yawning for the camera (this is a screen-shot from footage shot with the SONY A7RII, 90mm macro lens)
When diving coral sites in Lembeh, we also often see the “smiling” bluestriped fangblenny (Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos) which mimics cleaner wrasses. This species can also change color at will, and can be orange as in the image below or display black and blue stripes to blend in with the cleaner wrasses. I like to shoot them with narrow depth of fields (low f-numbers) and by moving the strobe around, the coral they sometimes sit in can create dramatic shadows even without snoots.
Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos – Canon 7D, 100mm macro, ISO100, f2.8, 1/250sec, 1x INON Z-240
Almost all of these fangblennies are not skittish and fairly large (around 10cm/3inches) so pretty much all macro lenses are suitable for getting good shots.
To make subjects ‘pop out’ while muck diving, we often have to separate the subjects from the distracting background (often sand), and sometimes this can be done with using only one strobe (or video light) instead of using two. When using two strobes, we light up the whole area (unless we use advanced techniques) whereas when using one strobe only, the subject can produce a black background by creating a shadow.
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) lit up with two lights, one from the left and one from the right side. The light on the right side illuminates the frogfish’s chin and left eye, as well as the sand and surroundings.
Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) lit up with one light from the left only. The frogfish creates a shadow and we separate the subject with a black background from its surroundings.
It is also easier to play around with strobe positions when there is only one. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use two strobes at all, but sometimes it is nice to try something different. Even if you have two strobes connected to your rig, you can always switch one off and give it a try.
Here’s a short video to show the difference between using one light vs. using two.
cameras@Lembeh Resort workshop in July 16th – 23rd, 2016
Interested in learning more about underwater photography, workflow and post processing of images?
If you are a beginner or advanced shooter underwater, if you are using a point & shoot camera or a DSLR (or mirrorless camera),this workshop will help you get better images underwater and enhance them on land (with Lightroom & Photoshop).
There will be daily talks about shooting techniques, special equipment and post processing of images.Come and join us for a fun week of superb muck diving at Lembeh Resort / Sulawesi / Indonesia.
7 nights/17 guided boat dives with Nitrox in a Deluxe Ocean View Room $2400USD or in a Garden View Room $1980USD – pp. dbl occ.
Unlimited self guided house reef dives, full board, airport transfers incl.
If you want to stay longer, or come earlier, no problem.
For more information please email Sascha.