Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Strange looking characters…

See You Underwater!!

–Mike

Video: TG-5 Manual Focus Assist

Today we’ll be going over 2 manual focus assists built into the TG5: focus peeking and manual focus magnification.

Focus peeking is when the camera shows a color on the LCD for parts of the photo that are in focus.  You can set it in Big Menu => Gear Icon => A => MF Assist => Focus Peaking and then set the color of the peaking in Big Menu => Gear Icon => B1 => Peaking Color.

Focus magnification is when the camera magnifies the center of the screen while you adjust focus so that you can see the focus better.  You can set it in Big Menu => Gear Icon => A => MF Assist => Magnification.

TG-5: Adding a Light Ring

As I wrote about already, I got a TG-5 and the Nauticam housing for it specifically for the light ring so that I could have a more compact (pun partially intended) camera setup. This article is a compilation of everything that I know about using the light ring.

Screws Onto the Housing and Over The Lens

The light ring screws into the 52mm threads on the housing itself. This requires that you take off the adapter that fits over the camera flash and holds fibre optic cables for strobes. There are 2 hex screws that hold the adapter in place. Then you place the light ring over the lens glass and over the glass where the adapter previously was. The center of the light ring screws into the housing with a special wrench.

Remove this with a hex wrench:

And screw this onto the center of the lens port:

One of the downsides to the light ring is that you lose the ability to add any diopter or other “fun stuff” like a magic tube, magic ball, etc. That’s OK, using the toy adapters is fairly infrequent, and with the macro mode on the TG-5 and manual focus set very close to the lens, in my opinion you don’t really need to use magnification diopters unless you’re looking for subjects that are <5mm in size.

Uses The On-Camera Flash

The light ring is a fairly simple thing. It’s just a channel for the flash from the camera. The one bad thing about this design is that the camera has to put out more light than normal–water “eats” normal flash–so that the subject is well-lit. I’ve had to mess around with camera settings to get this to work at longer distances, but the general rule is to get closer to your subject. But this also applies to normal macro anyway, since if you get closer to the subject, you can also fill the shot with it. That is, use manual focus, push the focal point as close to the lens as you can, and gently slide the camera in close to the subject.

However, some camera settings….

Full-Strength. From the quick menu, use “Full” flash mode. Then change the flash exposure compensation (EC) to +2. This is because water “eats” flash, and the further away the subject is, the more flash gets eaten. I use this setting maybe 95% of the time when I use the light ring.

Slow Flash. For shots at a longer distance, you can use the “Slow” flash setting. This fires the flash early on in the exposure so that the flash has time to reflect off the background. this setting is made for use inside a room where you want to use a fill-in on some of the darker areas of the room. What this does for me underwater is that it gives more time for the flash to reflect off the subject. (sidenote: I should try using this full-time for the light ring.)

Can Still Use a Strobe

One of the nice things about the light ring is that it still has a hole for a fibre optic cable. So one of the setups that I’ve used pretty well is to add a single Sea and Sea YS-03 mounted on the top of the housing. That gives me the reach out further for larger subjects like fish. But most of the time if I’m shooting true supermacro subjects like nudies, little shrimp, little crabs, etc, then all that I need to light up the subject is the light ring and I leave the strobe turned off.

Hole for fibre optic cable:

However, when I use a strobe, I change the flash mode to “RC” which turns on the optical TTL setting of the camera. At that point, the strobe does most of the work and the light ring acts as a “fill-in”.

One problem with using a strobe is that the light ring still works. That does create up-close backscatter when you do wide-angle photography. IE, the light ring does its job and lights up any objects near to it which means sand and dirt in the water.

I Sometimes Use My Focus Torch

Using a light ring with the housing means that I can use my torch in a couple of different ways.

In one mode, I can use it for UV light for the black light effect combined with the light ring that does the job of making the right exposure. I don’t think it’s a secret anymore… I love using the UV feature of my focus torch to make white subjects pop out.

Or I can use the torch as supplemental lighting when the light ring needs a little bit of help. Or as the prime light and then

One thing that I haven’t tried is using the torch in red light mode with the light ring as flash for shrimp and crabs–they hate white lights but strobe is OK.

Or I don’t have to use my focus torch at all if I have enough ambient light to frame and focus. Just let the light ring do its job.

Uses Battery Faster

One thing that I’ve noticed is that running the on-camera strobe “very hot” means that I use the camera battery a lot more than I normally would. So I can get 2 long (60-minute) dives out of it and I’m done… have to change the camera battery for the third dive. So I take every effort that I can do to not use battery power. Shut off the camera when I’m hunting for subjects, don’t look at photos on the boat, etc.

Less Shadows

Since the light ring creates a flash all around the lens, it does have a tendency to “flatten” subjects by reducing the amount of shadows that are created. The answer is to add a strobe or torch from the top and/or increase contrast in post-production.

Strange Effects

I do get some strange effects where the light ring doesn’t travel far. And by that, I mean that while the subject is well-lit, the background keeps an unlighted white balance. And where I add in other lights like UV or red from my torch, far subjects keep that coloring instead of reflecting the light ring light which normally happens for strobes.

The bad thing is that it’s hard to see if this is happening unless you do some serious pixel-peeping during your dive.

Alternatives

Weefine makes 2 light rings that screw into a 67mm mount. You’ll need a 52-to-67mm step-up ring to use them. They work well–one is a strobe triggered by fibre optic, the other has a simple on-off button like a torch–and have more light than the housing light ring. They hold their own battery, which solves some of the problems about light ring power. They also are bigger, which creates new problems in getting close to the subject. Alas, everything in photography is a tradeoff….

See You Underwater!!

–Mike

Working with a Macro Guide

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the weekend at Anilao Photo Academy in the Philippines.  It’s a great experience and I very much recommend it to anybody who wants to dive and shoot.  It was my second trip there and it reminded me my love of their guides and why a dive guide is a good thing to have.  I’ve dived with both Jason and Doodz there.

I’ve also used a couple of macro guides in Tulamben (Darmada and Yansu and at times some of their friends) and have a ton of respect and love for them also.

I’ve also guided my friends in Pulau Tioman, Singapore, Japan, and even a little bit in Massachusetts.  Since I can find some creatures, I’m reasonably decent at taking the “swim fast, scare fish” crowd and turning them into “go slow and see things” macro photography divers.  And some of them are getting really good.

Guides are officially Dive Masters and as such they are there to keep you safe and get you back to the boat alive.  However, a good macro photography guide does a whole lot more:

  • Finds you subjects quickly
  • Finds a subject while you are busy taking photographs so that you have less time hunting
  • Knows where to find the rare and unique subjects

Working with a Guide

There are several things that you can do to work with a guide better.

Tell Them What You Want.  Before you dive with your guide, have a quick conversation with them about your skill level in diving and what kind of macro experience you want to have.  If you want to find a specific creature, tell them that and they will usually find it for you.

Show Them Your Pictures.  They usually like photos, or are at least too polite to tell you that you suck.  =)  But really, show them some photos off your phone so that they understand what kinds of photos you are capable of taking.  It will help them understand a little bit more about how you think and what kind of shots they can set up for you.  If you have decent skill, they will show you some of the harder subjects.

Learn How To Hunt.  At the beginning of the dive and when you finish with a subject and the guide is busy, you still have to hunt and find your own subjects.  While it’s great when you’re working with guides, you still have to have your own capabilities.

Know When to Leave a Subject.  If you’re working a very common subject or one that you have lots of photos already, the guide will probably find something better while you’re busy.  If you’re still taking pictures of that common subject, you’re losing time that you could be working something awesome, and dive time is always limited.  So get a couple of good shots then move on.  This could be clown fish, hermit crabs, skeleton shrimp, or even Pikachu when you’ve shot a lot of them on that trip.

Be Responsible for Yourself.  Get better at diving.  Monitor your gas consumption.  Retreat to shallower areas when you are running low on NDL or gas.  Learn the frog kick and don’t kick up sand and nudies when you move.  What this does is let the guide worry less about your survival and worry more about finding good macro subjects.

Take Good Photos.  This one is fairly obvious, but not in the way that you would think.  Guides want you to take good pictures, that’s how you tell your friends what an awesome time you had.  It also leads to referrals and tips.  However, the important thing is that you learn how to take good underwater macro photos before you book the guide.  Attend a workshop.  Do some dry macro photography.  Do macro dives at home.

Show Them Your Camera Setup and Techniques.  By this, I mean This has 2 main benefits.  The first is that if they know what the capabilities of your photography setup are, they can help you find the right subjects and angles.  For instance, they will know what size of subject can you shoot: how small can you go.  Or how close you have to get to the subject to be able to focus on it.  The second is that it helps the guide to know how to help other photographers with similar gear and techniques.

Be a Good Customer.  Give them tips at the end of your trip and don’t be cheap.  These guys usually grew up in the area and pay money back into the local economy.  Common tip for 2-4 days is $50USD and a week’s worth of diving is $100USD.  Credit and tag them in your photos so they can build a sort of online portfolio.  And most importantly, when you talk to your dive photographer friends and they like your photos, give them contact info for the guide so that they can get the business.

See You Underwater!!!

–Mike