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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.


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08.20.12         photographers case study  

Shooting into Strong Backlight...In Water - Part 1


This morning I had some time to try some new techniques - I felt a few steps out of my comfort zone which is good because it gets me thinking on a very critical level. Im fascinated with all kinds of photography and if I can think of something I have never done or even seen, I am even more excited to try it out. There were several different parts of the shoot, and for the most part, they were all failures. I imagine ill be posting about all the things that went wrong over the next couple days, just for the sake of sharing.

Something I thought that would be really neat, would be a hard backlight, surf portrait shot, on/in the water . I have a pretty good grasp for doing this on land during sunsets as I demonstrate in my Canon Speedlite 600 Ex-RT Crash Course , but on/in water? Never tried it. Never seen it, and yet I have a very distinct idea of what the final image should look like. I also wanted to have land & trees in the back ground, something to identify hawaii, with the sun popping out behind.

Shooting with the sun behind your back is easy, this is what it looks like:
Easy. In fact this can be done from land with a good zoom lens. I don't like that it is just ocean, I have seen 1000s of these kinds of shots. I want landscape and trees! I want to see that sun!

In water, there are a number of concerns that present themselves, the main being that unless your gear is in a housing, there is a good chance you will ruin it. Housings also present a multitude of other issues, such as water beading on the port, etc. I wasn't willing to risk getting my gear wet, so I opted to try the Ikelite Housing for Canon 5Dii with my 2 Ikelite 161 Underwater Strobe / Movie Light . It made sense, the camera and strobes were waterproof and if I got close enough, I figured the strobes should be strong enough to provide enough fill.

We decided to grab a shot as we were getting in. The blur is from the defog I rubbed all over the port to help the water bead off. It comes clean once you have dipped it in a few times, but unless you have, you might as well use a normal camera....
I soon learned some other issues; namely that the Ikelite Housing, with 2 strobes is just way too heavy to be lifting out of the water (30lbs?). It just isn't practical, especially if you are swimming. It was a nightmare.

This is the closest we got, note how the sky is all blown out:
Here is the problem; You cannot dial up your shutter speed past 1/200, otherwise the strobes won't work properly. What this means is you have to dial down your aperture size and ISO to exposure for the background, and if you do that, these strobes aren't powerful enough to give proper fill. Long story short, this is not the way to do it, and you either need a ridiculously powerful strobe, or speedlites with high speed sync turned on in order for your shutter speed to reduce your background light.

The water requires a housing, which in turn limits my firepower. How can you get the right gear into the water, without it getting ruined/wet in order to get the shot? As far as the "Shooting into Back Light on Water" goes, its back to the drawing board. I have 2 more "in camera" ideas I will try out, hopefully soon. I like a good challenge when it comes to photography, more rewarding when I figure it out.

I will say I did do something smart; grabbed some "safe shots" just with a Canon 5Diii and a Canon 70-200 2.8 IS L Lens . Those results were spectacular and I will show them to you soon.


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