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Backlit Shark Embryo
 July 3, 2010 @ 11:09 AM (EST)

By David Barrio

The Idea
Before I even started to dive, I remember watching a documentary that showed a backlit shark embryo and how the heart and blood flow could be seen. It was one of those things that stay hidden in our mind until one day we run into a situation that brings back that image.

There are no cat sharks in the Canary Islands where my girlfriend Luisa and I live, so we had never run into one until we qualified for the spanish CMAS underwater photograph championship in Roses, a beautiful village in the mediterranean coast. Most of the dives in Roses boast big and colorful gorgonians, which the female catsharks use to fix their eggs onto before abandoning them.
 
On the previous days of the competition we dove the area and found three or four living embryos and as soon as I put a light behind one of them to show Luisa how the baby sharks could be seen moving, the old documentary came back to min.  That's when I came up with the idea to backlight the embryo with strobe.

backlit shark egg by david barrio
Location: Roses, Gerona, Spain. Equipment: Hugyfot D300, Tokina 10-17, 2 x Subtronic Nova, Ultralight arms. Settings: 1/250, f22, ISO 200, left strobe full, right strobe 1/16 + Homemade snoot.
 
The Shot
The shot was taken at the end of a dive during the actual competition.  We were rushing because I was running out of air and my decompression stop time was increasing since the gorgonian was around 100ft deep.
 
It was a difficult photograph from both diving and photograph standpoint. Diving wise, it was hard to approach this gorgonian without touching the surroundings, which was important because silt was covering everything and I did not want to stir it up, but still needed to get close. A 45º viewfinder was very helpful to compose from a short distance.


I practiced my lighting and composition before I even approached the gorgonian as I would not be able to move much once I got in position.   I placed a snoot on my right strobe, put it on a low power setting and fixed it to one side of the frame so it was close to the dome and pointing towards me. The arms and cords were bent in a way so they would not appear in the image, which is why I composed the image with the egg to one side. The left strobe was pointing straight out to the model and on full power. I metered on the blue water and chose the settings 1/250 and f22 ISO 200 as I was shooting into the sun and in need of a lot of depth of field because of the very close focus distance.
 
With everything set up I went to the gorgonian, positioned myself as best as I could and carefully composed without touching the egg until it was between the snooted strobe and the housing. I then waited for Luisa to pose and for the bubbles to go to the surface before shooting three or four frames. I had to leave as my computer was beeping too much. On the way up I looked at the pictures and really liked what I saw!
 
 

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stew smith
Jul 9, 2010 5:30 PM
stew smith wrote:
I have looked at this shot many times now and find it so interesting. I thought the embryo was backlit when I first see the shot. I think you done extremely well to nail this in 3 or 4 shots.
Jeffrey De Guzman
Jul 10, 2010 1:56 AM
Jeffrey De Guzman wrote:
Thank you for sharing your story and technique. It is a really awesome photo.
Mark L Fuller
Jul 10, 2010 7:32 AM
Mark L Fuller wrote:
Thanks for sharing David.What a beuty! I cant stop looking at this image.
David Baxter
Jul 11, 2010 2:57 AM
David Baxter wrote:
wicked
David  Barrio
Jul 11, 2010 4:20 AM
David Barrio wrote:
Thank you very much everyone!!! Stew: the embryo is indeed backlit with snooted strobe pointing to me and with the embryo in between the dome and the strobe.
Chris Newley
Sep 3, 2010 9:09 AM
Chris Newley wrote:
Beautiful shot David! My wife and I are stunned. Were you using a mini-dome for this shot?
David  Barrio
Sep 5, 2010 4:48 PM
David Barrio wrote:
Thank you very much, Chris!
Yes, I was using a minidome.
Joseph Tepper
May 8, 2011 9:55 PM
Joseph Tepper wrote:
long overdue, but easily one of my favorite shots
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