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Review of the Snoot for the Kraken Sports KS160 Strobe
By Sam Glenn-Smith, April 29, 2024 @ 07:00 AM (EST)

The author would like to thank Kraken Sports for supplying a pair of KS160 strobes and matching snoots used in this review.
 

My absolute favorite marine animal, the stunning—and stunningly venomous—southern blue-ringed octopus. The snoot allowed me to spotlight the octopus and eliminate the unappealing gray background
 

I am fortunate to be able to dive off the incredible Mornington Peninsula of Victoria, Australia, home to many wonderful marine animals, including various kinds of octopuses, countless nudibranch species, anglerfish, and the spectacular weedy seadragon. These critters make interesting and challenging subjects for photographers to hone their craft and experiment with various techniques in pursuit of impactful images. To that end, snooting is an essential skill that shooters here are required to master—something that has become an important part of my repertoire of techniques.

I have utilized a variety of different strobes and snoots to challenge myself to shoot critters in unique ways and achieve as much diversity in my portfolio as possible. In recent years, I have used the Backscatter Mini Flash and Optical Snoot (reviewed on DPG), but I have also tried the Sea&Sea YS-D2 strobe with the Retra LSD—and even homemade snoots! I have also experimented with snooted video lights such as the Backscatter MW-4300 with Optical Snoot and the Kraken Hydra 2500 with optical snoot. For me, nothing has quite compared to the ease of use and features of Backscatter’s Mini Flash and Optical Snoot.
 

Left: The test rig, comprising Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Olympus 12–40mm f/2.8 Pro lens, Isotta housing, dual Kraken Sports KS160 strobes with snoots. Right: The KS160 snoot with aperture card
 

Over the last several weeks, I have been spending some time shooting the new Kraken KS160 strobe, recently tested by DPG, concurring with the reviewer that it provides impressive power and excellent light quality as a wide-angle strobe. While the prospect of snooting with the Kraken KS160 was an exciting proposition, I had my concerns due to the strobes being such a powerhouse wide-angle unit and perhaps proving less suited to macro shooting. Ultimately, those worries were unfounded: I was immediately surprised and incredibly excited by what I had attached to my rig.
 

A southern bobtail squid tip-toes along the sand at night

 

Snooting with Kraken

After a few dives getting used to the strobes themselves and familiarizing myself with the knobs, dials, and buttons—as well as the dramatically increased power over any other strobe I’ve previously used—I finally took the plunge and attached the snoot. This is achieved with remarkable ease: It just snaps reassuringly onto the front of the flash head.

As with any new piece of gear you try for the first time, it did take a bit of fiddling to really start nailing some shots. The shorter length of the snoot combined with the slightly larger field of light was a bit of a change compared to the Backscatter Mini Flash and Optical Snoot combo I was so used to using. That said, after a little adjustment of both power levels and positioning, I was feeling comfortable in no time.

One of my concerns about the strobe and snoot combo was how to manage the enormous amount of power that can be produced for a more delicate shot. I often shoot low f-stops during night dives (typically between f/2.8 and f/5.6), so having a soft and delicate light quality out of a snoot is a big selling point for me. With the Kraken snoot, I was instantly in love with the light produced.
 

A gurnard perch has an intense staredown with the camera
 

The beam was accurately directed to where the modeling light was placed, making aiming a breeze before firing my shots. The modeling light from the KS160 is perfectly centered and makes aiming the snoot second nature. The soft light produced at the lower power levels—with a carefully placed strobe and snoot slightly further away than most would typically go—allowed me to capture images of critters that really stood out, whilst retaining the soft feather of light that I love. Unsurprisingly, the stronger, bolder “stage light” style images at high f-stops and higher power were handled with ease by the KS160 strobe and snoot combo.

During a night dive, I had the perfect opportunity to put the low power and soft light to the test. A southern keeled octopus I had been diving with for a few weeks had taken up residence in a glass jar and laid eggs. I knew the shot I wanted, but I was also mindful of reducing the amount of light I was photographing her with. My biggest hurdle was the glass: It was so clean that it was all too easy for light reflected off the glass to ruin the chance of capturing nice images. Dialing down the strobe to the lowest power and opening the aperture to f/2.8, I lined up the shot and fired. My excitement as the photo preview came up on the LCD almost made my spit my regulator out! There was no glare or reflection on the glass whatsoever; instead, a smooth, perfectly lit mother octopus caring for her fresh clutch of eggs. If this strobe and snoot combo can pull off an image like this so easily, then what else could it do? It was time to push myself.
 

Octo-mom: This southern keeled octopus had chosen a clear glass bottle in which to guard her precious brood. The ability to delicately control light with the optical snoot and the soft touch of the KS-160 allowed me to photograph the octopus despite her reflective glass home

 

Confidence to Try New Things

After three or four dives with the KS160 and snoot, and my success with the glass jar octopus image, I was starting to feel really confident with the gear. With a solid framework of how to position them for the best results and how different power levels worked alongside my go-to f-stops, it was time to try something I had never tried before—dual snooting. I will freely admit that I have only dabbled in the world of dual snooting, but the success I have had so far has certainly inspired me to continue my journey and push the capabilities of the strobes and snoots.

I started by doing the only thing I knew how: backlighting. This time, however, it was backlighting in a different way. I had a unique idea in mind, which gave me the perfect chance to try out dual strobes and dual snoots. I found an always-reliable local subject in the form of a southern keeled octopus in a shell (seriously, these little guys are everywhere at our local dive site and are such a perfect subject to practice with, it’s almost unfair!), set up the primary snoot, took some test shots, dialing in my power levels and camera settings along the way.

With the first strobe and snoot now set, it was time to bring in the second. Extending my camera arms and the snooted strobe as far as I could, I set it up behind the octopus and shell, facing it back towards the octopus. The image came out exactly how I had envisaged with the snooted strobe behind the octopus mimicking the moon while also putting a small amount of light on the rim of the shell. The primary strobe and snoot above the octopus continued to do the hard work, illuminating the subject in its shell home.
 

Using dual strobes and snoots, I was able to create a moon effect in this image of a small southern keeled octopus hiding in a discarded snail shell
 

There are very few negatives about the KS-160 strobe and snoot combo that haven't already been raised in reviews of the strobes themselves. If the strobes have one downside worth mentioning, it is their weight. I had to be mindful of tightening my clamps a little more than I usually would to compensate for the weight of the strobe, which made quick manipulations of strobe positioning a bit more challenging. It is good to know that there is a dedicated float for the strobes coming to market imminently.

One issue with regards to the snoot itself is the size of the aperture holes on the aperture card. Without the aperture card, the snoot beam is the perfect width for photographing octopuses or slightly larger creatures that we typically get on night dives in Port Phillip Bay. However, when sliding in the aperture card to the first slot, the beam narrows significantly before continuing on to reduce to a pinhead-sized beam. These apertures are ideal for macro and super-macro subjects, but I felt the initial step down was a touch drastic; I would have much preferred one larger aperture hole. In fact, there is a new aperture card forthcoming, but as at the time of writing, it is not yet available.
 

While this image of a beautiful juvenile cowfish would be achievable without snoots, the snoots made it significantly easier to illuminate just the fish and no backscatter or surroundings

 

Final Thoughts

The Kraken KS-160 strobe is certainly an absolute powerhouse of a strobe. Its wide-angle capabilities, ample power output and very impressive battery life make it one of the best—and most competitively priced—higher-end strobes on the market. Despite being designed as a wide-angle tool, it is also an incredibly capable, and surprisingly easy-to-use, macro strobe when combined with the matching snoot. I really have been blown away by this combo’s capabilities for shooting critters both big and small.

While it may not necessarily be the easiest strobe and snoot combo to get used to, it is forgiving and versatile enough that it makes me excited to get back into the water to see what else I can do with it. I have already pushed myself further and challenged myself to try new things with this strobe and snoot combo than I ever have before, and I am very happy with the quality of images I am producing. So far, it has performed exceptionally well, handling every challenge I have presented with precision and appropriate power. I have only scratched the surface with regards to what this Kraken strobe and snoot can do, and I am inspired to continue perfecting my snooting with this formidable combo.
 

Southern keeled octopus like to live in rubbly, sandy environments. The narrow beam of the Kraken snoot allowed me to cut out a lot of the unattractive clutter
 


 

About the Reviewer: Sam Glenn-Smith is an underwater photographer and scuba diving instructor based on the Mornington Peninsula, Australia. He specializes in macro and close-focus wide-angle photography, with a particular passion for octopuses. Sam is most well known for his stunning images of the southern blue-ringed octopus, one of the most beautiful and misunderstood species in the ocean. Sam has a broad range of photographic styles and interests, with a particular love for showcasing the weird and wonderful creatures that live mere meters below the surface at the piers of the Mornington Peninsula.
 


 

       
When purchasing underwater photography equipment like the products mentioned in this article, please support DPG by supporting our retail partner—Backscatter.com
Kraken Sports KS160 Strobe
Kraken Sports KS160 Snoot

 

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