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To Flash or not to flash?

The trend in underwater photography now, is to take thousands of photographs, coerce the plethora of photos into some kind of display order, delete the really bad, out of focus, missed animal shots, then attempt major surgery with photographic computing software, to bring a somewhat dull photograph into a somewhat reasonable resemblance of an aquatic life form.

Whenever I take a camera underwater, I always found the challenge to my photography, to be the actual shot!
I took time to frame, manage the model (legs straight, hoses not dangling, no body part, fin etc on corals) look for the sun, check lighting, adjust white balance and then considered, what I wanted too photo to say. 
Yes, that's right, I wanted the photograph to speak to the viewer. 
I wanted the person looking at the photo, to see the story I was telling, in one or sometimes a series of photographs.

One of my fascinations with the ocean is marine life- simple enough.
I collect so many books, magazines, join umpteen online sites, click up every picture I see on marine life to the point that I am quite saturated with photographs of marine life- and fish!

With the advent of digital cameras in the nineties, I was so impressed that underwater photography was now within the financial reach of all divers. I took to the idea of manipulating photographs to look good. I loved the fact all divers would get the same enjoyment that I did, taking underwater photographs. I went head over heels and jumped in both feet and arms.

Imagine how much money would be saved! No more buying out of date film or slides, no X-ray shields when travelling, no processing, no mounting, no labs to pester, no waiting!
This was my nirvana.

When the ultimate did happen I got my wish, I took to digital photography like the proverbial fish to water. I extolled the virtues to each and anyone really who listened.
After a while the gloss started to wear off, the ease of photography was to easy, divers were losing the art of underwater photography and I haven't been happy, ever since!
Why you might ask, I was saving thousands of dollars every year, no more film hassles, I could take hundreds of photos each dive not limited to just thirty six, I could delete photos underwater if I wasn't happy with them and I could now manipulate my photographs to greater heights. No more annoying spots of backscatter, "bokeh" a thing of the past. Cropping was my new friend, Control, Alt, L, was my new moniker.

Well the reality was, everyone got cameras, the models (I had a few hand picked ones that i enjoyed working with) also got cameras, they were now taking photos underwater!

This left a hole that was filled with fish photos, I got very good at taking just fish photos. Everyone took fish photos, I became bored very quickly with just taking fish photos. I resolved to haunt divers and take photos of divers taking photographs, of fish!

Deco stops after dives, used to be a great release for me, I would relive the dive, thinking about the composition of the shots, could I have changed the exposure, how did the depth of field change when I moved in closer. Getting home and having my slides processed was always a nervous time for me- Now I sit around the bar, laptop in hand, looking at fish photos- Believe me, if I never see another photograph of a fish again, I don't think I will suffer in purgatory.
This brings me to another point, divers have now lost the art of flashing or strobing, as old divers called it!

I see divers with bright lights, constantly turned on, illuminating half the southern hemisphere and somewhat broiling marine life in their one terabyte SD card quest, of taking dozens of photographs of a subject, that will either be deleted or set aside for later manipulation into something near pleadable, as a photograph. Why oh why, don't divers use a strobe?

For the newcomers who don't use or understand a strobe- A burst of light from a Strobe will provide better results for photographs than a constant light will ever do- A one off, powerful burst of light will 'freeze' that particular moment in time,  your camera will capture the finest details and patterns of your subject. In fact, your subject will be frozen in time! 
This is where learning how to white balance comes in handy, because strobe light is white, but you will find your colours are more vibrant and the subject matter is sharper and full of contrast.

For anyone who wants an explanation?
There are two types of strobes, they are known commonly as, master or slave.
Master strobes are usually hard-wired into a camera housing (usually larger dSLR cameras) with a Sync Cord- synch cords carry an electrical current that needs to remain waterproof to set the strobe off. 

Slave Strobes are set off by a "master" light source, such as a camera's built-in flash, sometimes connected to another strobe. Slave strobes are connected to this "master" flash via a fibre optic cable and are able to be controlled independently.

Some better quality slave strobes offer a useful feature where it will figure out how much light is coming from the light source and replicate it, this is referred to as "s-TTL" also known as Auto Mode. These strobes also offer manual operation, although with technology catching up, there are some exceptions with TTL adapters offering TTL Exposure in their Slave Setting.

You can improve your photographs greatly by taking photographs, I travel to some pretty remote locations, cut lunch and water bottle type trips. My travelling friends used to ask me "how I found these way out destinations", they now just accept that when I go somewhere, the underwater scenery will be amazing and the level of photography is going to be excellent. 

What I want divers to do is learn how to take good underwater photographs, learn how to compose your photographs, use a model to tell a story, make your photos interesting for your viewer to enjoy. Who wants to sit down and watch Uncle Bobs day at the fair? Not me! I want photographs to excite me, take me on a journey, your journey not some fish book I could get free, from the library.

underwater casmera
My early exploits with cameras started with this model.  I still have it, the flash bulbs were a nightmare, my mother would give me a clip around the earhole for pinching her nail varnish, I needed to to keep the contacts dry and stop them from corroding. 

My photography is my release, my enjoyment, I progressed onto bigger and better cameras, they are like family to me-

In fact, I still have every camera I ever bought, I am not hoarding them, I just can't seem to get rid of family.