Close-up or macro photography is a specialized form of underwater photography where the camera lens is positioned very close to a subject, or is able to zoom into the subject, to record a relatively large image in high magnification of the original subject.
What I learned very quickly, all those years ago, was that by concentrating on close-up and macro photography, you soon picked up the nuances of composition—and the smaller the subject, the more concentrated the field of view and more concentrated the compositional techniques required to frame the subject and expose it properly, whilst not stressing the creature or yourself!
The different perspective that macro photography gives, opens up a whole new world of tiny animals and plants not normally seen during average diving conditions. Your eyes get trained very quickly into finding creatures small enough to fit into the format you are using, and what were once boring dives on gravel beds or sandy bottoms or under jetties, now yield a wealth of life. Muck diving has now become a way of life for many of us and is discussed in the next issue. But remember that muck diving was invented in the Scottish Sea Lochs!
Benefits of macro photography
● Managed with any camera system
● A different perspective
● High magnification
● Maximum colour saturation
● Sharp focus
● Ease of learning and execution
● Can be done anywhere, under almost any conditions
● Easiest to use on night dives
● Greatest return for the least investment
● Least amount or chance of backscatter
Very quickly you can almost become an expert overnight, but the pursuit of underwater images is a life-long experience. You can achieve very good pictures very quickly and steadily improve your techniques as you learn more about composition. The great thing about the Live View screen on all new underwater cameras is that you are able to learn and correct as you go. Remember that you are able to review your images immediately after, so you are still in the same place at the right time to allow you to correct the mistakes as you go. [Do not edit out or delete your mistakes immediately, rather look at them on a large screen and study where you go wrong and what you did to make it more pleasing to your critical eye].
The most striking aspect of macro photography is the high magnification. The subject to digital file ratio may be actual or twice life size, but when viewed on the screen as part of a digital ‘slide show’ presentation, the reproduction may be as much as 50 times life size. The richest and most striking colours to be found in underwater photography are also found in macro photography. This benefit is due to two factors: strong flash illumination and very little colour filtration by the water.
The distance between the lens and the camera subject may be between 3-20cm and the subject to flash distance of 35cm or less. This means that the light reflected back into the camera is virtually unaffected by the colour filtration effect of the water, and therefore, the purity of the colour is much higher and easily on a par with macro photography on land. In fact, I have been accused of taking some of my underwater macro subjects in an aquarium on land! The brightness of the flash will account for an aperture setting of between F16 - F32 allowing for the greatest depth of field. The flash brings out all the highlights and tones not normally seen in other forms of underwater photography.
Macro photography also produces sharp focus. When dealing with a small aperture of F16 - F22 on a large Dslr (Digital Single Lens Reflex) with 12+ megapixels available in waterproof housings and illuminated by strong flash, the maximum depth of field can be obtained. The results are often surprising and breathtaking because of the revelation of exquisite detail and fine colour not normally seen to the naked eye.
Macro photography is also incredibly easy with a compact point-and-shoot camera. I use a Canon Power Shot S95 and combined in its specific waterproof housing also made by the camera manufacturers, the macro setting, combined with the zoom magnification allows me to use the camera’s internal flash, which is strong enough to illuminate the subject without the additional expense of more equipment. Look for the macro setting on your compact camera; this normally uses the ‘flower’ symbol.
Macro photography is the easiest of all to learn because invariably not only can you preset the aperture function, you can also set your camera for the closest magnification, particularly with compact cameras, which are able to utilize additional supplementary close-up lenses.
Compact cameras have great optics, and most actually have macro settings pre-built into their software. They also do not need external flash systems for this type of photography, as the camera’s internal flash is more than adequate, but as already mentioned, only on the zoom setting, as the camera housing’s structure may ( ... )
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