Justin Hartrey Diving Portrait

Justin & Wide Angle Compact Photography


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My love for underwater photography begins and ends with macro, I love little critters and the challenges they bring, but recently I’ve been working hard on improving the other areas that constitute a well rounded underwater photographer. This includes Wide Angle underwater photography which presents a myriad of challenges to overcome, especially when you are using a compact camera like an rx100!

Wide angle U.W.P for me has proven to be very difficult, at least in Phuket where water clarity isn’t always perfect. If there is one thing that ruins any attempts at good wide angle shots, it’s dirty green or particle filled water. Add a light source to it and the whole photo is going to be back scatter, you really need to spend time playing with the light direction in your shots to avoid it.

In the above image I am using my light sources to illuminate the face of the subject, this definitely brings up many reflective bubbles on his mask and bits of crap that have attached to it on the course of the dive, but the water is clear because the light on the subject is in a front facing position with very little space in between myself and the subject for particles get caught in the shot and create back scatter.

Another tip is to use the sun, if you can avoid using your own light sources and use natural light from the sun, then do so. You can create nice little halo effects if the subject is in the right spot as in this photo. It also again decreases the risks of back-scatter created by your lights.

Another tip for compact wide angle UWP is to get close to the subject. It seems with my setup of the Sony Rx100 coupled with a UWL-100 from Inon, that you have to be really close to the subject to fill the frame. In the portrait shot, I’m close, like real close to Justin, at a guess I’d say I’m 50cm from the subject using DMF to maintain correct focus. Here is another example of being close when using wide angle, it’s a Kuhl Stingray, I’m pretty much on top of it in this shot to get it to fill the frame, potentially I could have been even closer.

Kuhl Stingray Wide Angle

Kuhl Stingray Wide Angle

You’ll notice in shots where you are not close enough, that your subject seems tiny in your grand wide angle shot, which makes the whole photo look a little un-interesting, you want to get what your photographing in the shot and fill the frame to a point that makes them interesting and visible.

Another problem you will run into, although this is not a compact issue, is the curvature of your horizon. Here is a shot that illustrates what happens with 140 degrees of angle in a shot. Notice the massive curvature of the horizon, it looks like a little mini underwater earth.

Reef Octopus Wide Angle

Reef Octopus Wide Angle

You can avoid this curvature by always pointing your camera up, in the octopus shot, I’m pointing down at the subject because I’m above it. This means my horizon/background will be horribly curved. Notice the background of the Stingray shot, it’s not as pronounced, it’s almost straight. This is because I’m as low to the ground as you can be, and I have angled the camera slightly up.

Same goes for the portrait shot of Justin, I’m underneath the subject pointing the camera up and using the lack of any horizon to my advantage to prevent unnatural and distracting curvature of the photo. So get low when doing wide angle if you want to remove curves.

Beyond those little tips, you will need to play with your own setup, get it right by practicing when-ever you can, and don’t get dis-heartened if your shots are crap to begin with, switching from standard or macro to wide angle can be a frustrating experience, but stick with it, because it opens up whole new underwater worlds to photograph.


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