Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thoughts - Next underwater photo trip

I have realized that my blog is missing much in the way of what I am thinking about at any given time, other than details of exercises, assignments, or books I have read.  I think this partially reflects the fact that I think about photography and equipment nearly all the time that I am not working.  This has become an all consuming activity, so much so that I am not sure how to put my thinking into words.

Subsequently I am going to try and add a photographic blog entry on a weekly basis that offers an opportunity to document other aspects of my photographic practice.

This week has been a good one from a planning standpoint, I managed to book a return ticket for a long weekend in Singapore in early April and during the same week make the bookings for a two and half week trip to Borneo.  Each trip has photography at its heart.  Singapore will just be a quick jaunt and a chance to do some city photography in a different environment, however, the Borneo trip is far more serious.

The plan is to spend two days at a rain forest hotel adjacent to an Orangutan sanctuary, offering a real chance to get close to these beautiful primates and do some imaging of the jungle around the hotel, plus exposure to the local area.  However, the real objective of the trip is 12 days of scuba diving on the offshore coral island of Lankayan.  I will take my usual setup of a housed Canon 40D, plus a pair of 125J strobes.  This will be my second dive trip since starting the course, but probably my first chance to really think about how I take photographs underwater.  My current approach has been very documentary, imaging the animals and environment they occupy as faithfully as possible.  Lenses are either a 60mm Macro or a 10-22mm zoom. All underwater photography takes place extremely close to the subject, for this a macro is obvious, however, why a wide angle?  This is because only a wide angle can give the sense of scale of the ocean whilst permitting the photographer to get close enough that the water  does not absorb all of the colour.  Even with a wide angle few photographs are taken from more than 2-3 feet from the subject.

However, this time I want to start to explore a more art based technique rather than the very documentary one I have used.  Typical of photographers, such as David Doubilet, this is very hard to achieve, shooting whilst diving really tests my ability to think photographically.  This will be the first trip in which composition rather than critter hunting will become the dominant theme, will be interesting to see how well I do.

My first issue was a dead Canon 40D, sea water and cameras do not mix, no matter how careful you are the salty atmosphere in and around boats degrades cameras.  I toyed with getting another housing to use either my 7D or 5D2, however, at 1300 pounds each this was an expensive option, 300 pounds spent on a second hand camera from eBay to continue using the existing equipment was a better choice.  I always travel with at least two camera bodies, a failure off the coast of Borneo will not be fixed before returning home.  The second equipment issue is around lens choice, the 60mm Macro is a given, however, increasingly photographers are turning to fisheye for wide angle, a lens type that works exceptionally well underwater, where there are no straight lines to worry about.  The 10-17mm Tokina is the lens de-jure offering extremely close focusing.  However, there is always a high degree of distortion and a certain look to photographs taken with these lenses, so I may stick to my rectilinear WA.  The place we are going is predominantly a macro photography site, with excellent small sea life.

Time will tell if I can transition from trying to take technically perfect images to ones that I consider to be artistic. I will blog the results later.

Well my first ramble is rather technical, in future I plan to look at photographers who influence me or images that struck me during the week.

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