Photography literally means “drawing with light.” So especially underwater, where light is all but scarce, how we creatively paint with light can make all the difference.
The great masters of underwater photography taught us that light should be used to emphasize the perception of the scene we are shooting, manipulating the light to give our personal pathos to our picture.
Using light creatively drives my photography. Classic setup with two strobes limits my creativity effort to dimension and texture within the scene. I have long experimented with multiple strobes in macro photography, achieving good results as with my award-winning image of the backlit batfishes.
I wanted to extend my lighting creativity to wide-angle photography, dealing this time with bigger technical issues than with macro: The distance from the camera when triggering remote strobes, influence of ambient light, need to hide remote strobes to avoid light flaring into the lens.
After many unsuccessful attempts, I finally came to the best setup for this by connecting a Heinrichs RSU Weikamp photo sensor with two meters of cable to my slave strobe; along with a Gorillapod tripod to easily and flexibly point the strobe.
The cable allows me to have the photo sensor closer to my camera and trigger the remote strobes more easily and with less power, not influencing the lighting of the scene. This also gives me the possibility to position the slave units futher away or in hidden spots, greatly increasing the possibility to play with the direction of the light.
Unfortunately, these photo sensors suffer a lot from ambient light, so in order to reduce the influence of other sources of light I shielded them with a little plastic can.
My second place photo from the wide-angle unrestricted category at Our World Underwater 2013 exemplified my fascination with creative light. I used two slave strobes with color filters and completed the composition with a spotlight for the foreground subject, a sea star.
I took this picture in a small cave in Scilla, an enchanted location near Reggio Calabria, in less than 20 feet of water. For slave strobes positioning, I made several attempts, checking each time the effect of lighting with test shots. Additionally, I took my fins off the cave to keep water clear, moving slowly with just my feet. I had been experimenting with off-strobe techniques in caves, which made the shot easier to approach.
Once I found the right positioning for the two slave strobes, I looked for the right composition for the foreground, handholding the snooted left strobe to spotlight the star. The right strobe was set manually to minimum power to trigger the remote strobes but not illuminate the cave.
Finally, a signal to the model to have her pass right in front of the cave completed the shot—some fish intrigued by the colored flashing lights complimented the composition perfectly!
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