Do I Use Flash – Mastering Light Underwater

So last week’s trip back out in the ocean really filled me with hope and lots of renewed passion to help you with your underwater photography.

Last week was a huge dilemna, what equipment do I pack, my new Olympus TG6 and Seafrogs Housing arrived by a seal’s whisker before leaving at 2 am that night to head to Ilfracome to swim with seals before heading to Plymouth to swim with blue sharks.

It’s easy to think that our green waters being darker might mean that we need artificial light to make them look their best, but last week was a great example of how, when the sun is shining we can use natural light in our underwater images to create beautiful effects.

Last week I felt super lucky to join a MARECO Research Trip out of Plymouth where Blue Sharks are being measured to try to get an idea of numbers, sizes and to compare to those caught by recreational and commercial fishing, to gauge their impacts and to try to develop a UK wide code of conduct for the industry as a whole.

Blue Shark Captured with Natural Light

I did pack my strobe and wide angle lens, but this did not fit onto the housing as stated. Lessons learnt, always make sure your new equipment arrives with plenty of time before you head off on a trip! Sam Matthews, who was running the trip, lent me his spare housing, but this fogged up. So natural light it was!

And actually I preferred it. I felt that the blue colours of the shark contrasted much nicer against the clear green of our waters, which I still can’t believe we had some 25 miles off shore, and the dappled light of the sun was reflected off this incredible animal. It reminded me of my experience with white sharks off Guadelupe Island, Mexico, (where that shark image earnt me the incredible title of British Sub-Aqua Club Travel Photographer of the Year) and used the same settings, some 14 years later. I’m pinching myself to believe these same settings worked with it’s British Cousin.

Blue Shark Approaches Me Taken by Sam Matthews with one External Strobe, MARECO

Sam was shooting with a Sony RX100, a wide angle lens and a Sea & Sea Strobe. You can see here how the strobe has made the green more vibrant and rich.

Blue Shark with Sam Captured with Natural Light

By using the natural light that the weather fairy gave us, you can see here how the incredible colours of the shark stand out more, contrasting against the grey. It’s not a perfect image (I was using the wrong lens as the right one wouldn’t fit on my housing), but it definitely gives you a great idea of the difference between flash or no flash.

As always, it’s a personal choice as to which results you prefer, and I’ll be writing a lot more about different lenses, ideas and techniques very soon.

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