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Still Photography

Thinking about the Background

Frequently the difference between a great photo and a so-so photo is the background.

A great background can really make the photo stand out. The subject and background should work together with the other elements in the photo to really grab your attention or draw you into the work.

A lot of professional photographers spend as much time looking for a great background as they do looking for a great subject. It’s just that important in the photo. Figure 1 has a nice subject (Rock Beauty), but the background is poor. The background of this photo doesn’t help at all, in fact, it detracts from the photo.

Figure 1: Rocky Beauty
Figure 1: Rocky Beauty

A neutral or plain background can help draw attention to the subject even if the viewer doesn’t even realize that there is a background in the photo. Like figure 2, a Gray Reef Shark out in the Blue.

Figure 2: Gray Reef Shark

Patterns, such as the patterns in coral, sea fans, sponges, or schools of fish can create interesting backgrounds. Patterns can even be the whole photo. See figure 3 Juvenile Damselfish on Brain Coral.

Figure 3: Juvenile Damselfish or Brain Coral

Colorful backgrounds or subjects can help draw the viewer’s attention to the image. In figure 4 (Flamingo Tongue Snails on Sea Fan), the color of the Purple Sea Fan helps make the snails stand out.

Figure 4: Flamingo Tongue Snails on Sea Fan

So, the next time you get in the water with your camera, take a look at the backgrounds. See if that fish that you’d like to take a picture of, swims over or in front of a nice background. Does that Damselfish hang out over the coral or just hang out in the rubble? Look for backgrounds, patterns and color. You’ll be surprised at the difference it will make in the pictures you bring home.

Aiming the Strobe

Pointing the strobe at the correct spot so that it eliminates backscatter, while still putting light on your subject, is the trick to using a strobe/flash successfully.

The backscatter section gave you a background on the cause of backscatter and how to eliminate it. This section addresses the specifics of strobe aiming a little more in depth.

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Getting to Know the Camera: Exposure

Cameras, whether the newest digital wonder or the (becoming old quickly) film cameras, share a lot of basic ideas and functions. If you know one, you can find the same functions in the other. Understanding how your camera works is the first step toward controlling it to get the pictures you want. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll talk about film cameras. The concepts are the same in digital cameras, it’s just the way digital cameras achieve each of the elements of exposure that vary.

Cameras are all just light-tight boxes that control the amount of light that falls onto a piece of film or digital sensor. They’re nothing magical, just a box. This controlled amount of light is called the “exposure.”

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Housing Basics

To get a camera to go underwater, take pictures, and get it back safely to the surface and in one piece without flooding it, you need to protect it from the elements somehow. This is where the underwater housing and the amphibious camera come in. Housings and amphibious cameras approach the same problem from different directions. The housing surrounds and encloses your camera to protect it, while the amphibious camera itself is sealed from the elements.

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Viewfinder Parallax Marks

What are all those lines in the viewfinder?

What do those annoying lines in the viewfinder mean? Generally, there are three types of lines in the viewfinder. One set of lines tells you where the edge of the picture begins. Another set, seen on auto and manual focus SLR cameras, are the focus zone marks. Focus area marks are usually a circle and/or bracket box in the center of the viewing area. We won’t be dealing with those in this article. The others that look like notches or lines across the top of the viewing area are called parallax marks or lines. (See fig. 1,2 and 3 for examples)

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  • focus marks in the viewfinder