trays & arms

  • Jussi Goes To Lembeh

    lembeh5 lembeh6 lembeh3Among the people at Ocean Leisure cameras, Jussi Hokkanen is particularly keen on macro life. For example, our Finnish member of staff is crazy about nudibranchs, those colourful little seaslugs that wear their feathery gills on their backs. A keen underwater photographer, when he recently visited Manado in North Suluwesi to go diving, it would have been remiss of him not to make a pilgrimage from there south to Lembeh Strait, the critter capital of the world.

    Lembeh Strait, the stretch of water between Pulau Lembeh and the busy port of Bitung, has had the dubious benefit of three thousand years of busy boat traffic with all the rubbish and detritus that only that could have brought with it. The seabed is a grey lava sand littered with rubbish but Nature being adaptive as it is has overcome all that human beings have thrown at it and creatures underwater have evolved in various ways. It may not sound very attractive but as the dive guides like to brief, “If you see a bit of rubbish, it’s probably an animal that looks like a bit of rubbish, but if it really is a bit of rubbish it will have an unusual animal living inside it!”

    Jussi's camera set-up for Lembeh Strait. Jussi's camera set-up for Lembeh Strait.

    Of course, all these critters are in the main very small so Jussi took with him a suitable underwater camera rig that would allow him to record images of theses tiny animals that were usually bigger than life-size. He successfully photographed mandarin fish, a neon clam and a hairy frogfish among numerous other subjects.

    For this he chose to use Olympus E-PL7 camera with the Olympus PT-EP12 Housing.

    Olympus EPL7 Package Olympus EPL7 Package

    With the often bought 14-42mm zoom lens it represents remarkably good value at close to one-thousand pounds. However, for the macro life found at Lembeh Jussi preferred to use the Olympus 60mm macro lens, which he mounted behind an AOI Macro port. AOI supplies a range of different ports, both in acrylic and glass, that can be used in conjunction with the Olympus PEN housings.  He then added an Inon UCL-165 wet lens

    Inon UCL165 close-up lens Inon UCL165 close-up lens

    to the front. This combination gave him the close-up six-dioptre magnification he required.  If he had needed even more magnification, he could have swapped to a twelve-dioptre AOI macro lens. To get his images recorded in a full spectrum of vibrant  colour, Jussi needed to take some white light under water with him.

    Inon S2000 Inon S2000 flashgun

    For this he chose to use two Inon S-2000 strobe lights (flashguns) triggered by twin fibre-optic cables from the flash attached to the camera. These are neat and compact and have heads small enough not to give light with too little contrast when positioned so close to the small subjects. These were mounted to the camera housing via a Nauticam Easy Tray with optional additional handle and short i-Das arms with standard one-inch mounting balls and clamps. To make it easier to see to focus on such tiny subjects Jussi added a Fisheye FIX Neo 1000 WR spotting light.

    Fisheye Fix Mini1000 Fisheye Fix Mini1000

    This little wizard of a lamp can be switched to a red mode so that the light it gives out does not disturb the animals. (Most marine life does not see red light.) Once Jussi had lined up his camera, the light pulsed from the strobe units gave him a full colour rendition. Not only that, but the focussing lamp automatically senses the flash firing and switches off momentarily so that there is no annoying spot remaining where the focussing light was pointed._DSC5312

  • Lighting Underwater Pictures


    Flashguns mounted on long mounting arms. Underwater photography requires special considerations and it's best to read a book on the subject before you jump in!
    How often do we hear divers, ecstatic after coming back from a dive and describing the visibility as being ‘gin-clear’? The horizontal visibility might have been exceptional and offered clear vision for thirty-metres. Great! How often do we hear of fog warnings on major roads with visibility reduced to thirty-metres? That sums up the difference between being in air and being under water. Water is full of detritus, tiny planktonic life-forms, and other contents for the ‘soup’ in which we normally dive. Not only that but natural daylight from above tends to be flat and dull. Yet when you look at pictures in diving magazines that are crisp and there is usually no hint of this poorer visibility. The photographs look sharp and clear. Why is that?
    The author's lighting rig. (Picture by Ivan Petrov) The author's lighting rig. (Picture by Ivan Petrov)
    Well, your pictures can be equally crisp once you have an understanding of the limitations imposed by making them water. The same rules apply whether you are using flash to shoot still photographs or a continuous light source to shoot moving images. The first rule is to get as close to your subject as possible, eliminating as much of that water as you can. This is where a wide-angle lens, a fish-eye lens or a macro lens can help. The second rule is to light your subject with a full spectrum of colour and that normally needs to be supplied by a light or strobe (electronic flash) that you take with you. You will need to be sure that the light coverage of that light source is adequate for the lens you are using. Plastic diffusers fitted over the front of the light ensures an even wide-angle of light output. Although many underwater photographers opt for two flashguns to give them even lighting, a thoughtfully positioned single flashgun with such a diffuser will usually give just as pleasing results. Some subjects such as sharks actually benefit from the added contrast of a solitary light source.
    A hawksbill turtle feeding on soft coral and photographed by a solitary flash. A hawksbill turtle feeding on soft coral and photographed by a solitary flash.
    How you position this ancillary light is crucial and at Ocean Leisure we can supply you with all manner of problem-solving devices in order to mount your lighting to your camera rig. The major difficulty that people encounter is inadvertently lighting up this detritus in the water. We call it ‘back-scatter’. There are two basic philosophies to how you might position your lights. I subscribe to a solution that positions my light or light as far away from the lens axis of the camera as possible. Imagine if you will, your light or lights illuminating a cone of detritus directly in front of them for a distance of, say, thirty centimetres. You need to be sure that these cones of back-scatter do not intrude into your picture area. This means that with a wide-angle or fish-eye lens you need to get them as far from the lens as possible. I use long flash-mounting arms, angled in such a way that the light sources are not ahead of the lens. They are angled slightly backwards but I can point the flash heads back directly at the subject and get the full effect of the light emitted. An alternative philosophy is to angle your flash heads in such a way that the cone of back-scatter is angled out of the picture. Lighting cameramen in the movie industry call this ‘edge-lighting.’ You use the edge of the light and that reflected off the back-scatter in the ‘cone of light’ adds to the amount of light arriving at the subject. This allows you to use shorter flash-mounting arms with the added convenience that brings with it, but reduces the amount of light illuminating your subject. The standard one-inch ball and clamp systems effect many different solutions.
    My flashguns are mounted on the long arms that ensure they are far from the lens axis of the camera. My flashguns are mounted on the long arms that ensure they are far from the lens axis of the camera. (picture by Saeed Rashid)
    Be coincidence, Saeed Rashid and I both photographed a turtle at the same time and each shot reveals the two alternative ways to light a subject. His flashguns are angled outwards for ‘edge lighting’ whilst mine are angled for a direct effect. The choice is yours but Ocean Leisure has a large stock of mounting arms and trays by a range of different manufacturers.
    Saeed Rashid angles his lights outwards a little in a semblance of 'edge lighting'. Saeed Rashid angles his lights outwards in a semblance of 'edge lighting'. (picture by John Bantin)
  • The Physics of Underwater Photography

    _FFF8337 The rules of physics apply to all underwater photographers. Get close!
    When it comes to water everyone realises that to get your camera wet spells disaster. It’s either got to be designed to be waterproof or it must be enclosed in a waterproof housing. Water pressure is such that at only ten-metres deep it’s twice air pressure at the surface and much more as you go deeper so designers of housings take that into account. However, there is much more to underwater photography than simply keeping the camera dry and the same rules apply even if you have the very best kit. Photography is all about light and light acts in a different way in water to the way it does in air. For a start, water is never as clear as air. If you had 30-metres of visibility under water it would seem gin-clear yet the same visibility on a motorway would see you driving very slowly. It’s all about turbidity. Water is full of detritus and tiny life-forms. The secret to getting clear sharp pictures is to reduce the amount of water between your camera and your subject, to get as close as possible.
    Daylight is naturally filtered blue by the water.
    Water also absorbs light but it absorbs light selectively. The longer wavelengths of light, the reds and the greens, get filtered out within only a few metres from the surface so that the brightest daylight looks blue under water. You can make the most of what red and green light gets through by filtering out some of the blue with a reddish filter or by repeatedly white-balancing your camera as you find yourself at different depths. You can take some portable white light with you in the form of an underwater flashgun (or strobe light) for stills or a bright video light for movies. However, remember that the light from these is affected in the same way and the range of such accessories is limited, possibly to less than two metres, so you still need to get close to your subject.
    LibertyWreck An independent flashgun or video light will give good colour to closer subjects.
    At the same time you need to position these lights well away from the camera’s lens axis or they will simply light up all that detritus in the water and give you a very messy result. We call it ‘backscatter’. Mounting a flash or light on the end of an accessory arm does the trick but for convenience sake we normally have this attached to the camera housing via a suitable tray and manipulate the light via a series of one-inch ball joints and clamps. Ocean Leisure Cameras stocks a vast array of these to solve every mounting problem whether it be for a GoPro, for a top-of-the-range DSLR camera rig, or for something in between. Light is refracted when it passes from water into air through a flat glass camera front so that things appear at least one-third closer. It effectively makes your standard camera lens slightly telephoto. So having got close to our subject, we might find that we cannot include all of it in the shot. This is where a wide-angle lens comes into play. Under water, wide-angle lenses are used differently to the way they are used on land. They allow the camera to come close to the subject with the minimum of water between them, while at the same time restoring the image size.
    Bantin62-63-2 A wide-angle lens enables close positioning to larger subjects.
    A dome port combined with a wide-angle lens or a compact camera’s zoom lens at its widest setting will restore the angle of view by reducing the amount of light refraction. These are available to fit some compact camera housings as well as housings for cameras with interchangeable lenses.
    _DSC3408 Macro photography is a good place to start,
    Many underwater photographers start off by concentrating on macro subjects. A macro lens allows you to get very close indeed to the smallest of subjects and by using a flashgun on a mounting-arm, you take in with you your own ready-made mini studio set-up. Good results are assured because as your lens gets very close there is so little water to contend with. Flat housing ports help in this case because the refraction of light helps you stand off from your subject so that you can light it more easily. In summary, you need to prevent water ingress to your camera, you need to make the most of the full spectrum of natural light that penetrates the water, you need to avoid lighting up the turbidity of the water and, by getting as close as possible to your subject, you can reduce the effects of the poor optical quality of the water. The people working at Ocean Leisure Cameras can provide you with everything you need to achieve that. You just need to perfect your diving skills so that they become second nature while you take pictures or record video.

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