Digital Photography - Magic Filter & Panoramas- Page 24
New for 2007

I recently returned from a trip to the Bahamas aboard the Nekton Pilot. I have my first opportunity to try Magic Filters. You can read more about Magic Filters on my previous page (page 23). I thought that the Magic Filter would be difficult to use but I found just the opposite. If you are using it with a Digital SLR, you will probably have to do a custom white balance with the filter. You need to check your camera's user manual to find out how to accomplish this. Once my Nikon D200 was set up for custom white balance, all I did was press and hold the white balance button until I saw "PRE" flashing in the top camera window and I would aim the camera at the sand bottom and squeeze the trigger. If the white balance was successful, it would say so. If it was not sucessful, it would say that also. If it wasn't successful, it was usually because there wasn't enough light and I would have to raise the ISO or open up the lens opening. I tried the Magic Filter on three dives. Once was on the Sugar Wreck which is about 20' deep. The second time was on Theo's Wreck, an artificial reef off Grand Bahama Island with a depth of 100'. The third use was on the wreck of the Hesperus which is about 20' of water. The dive on the Hesperus was late in the afternoon when the sun was starting to set. Light levels were low and I had to keep increasing the ISO. I finally stopped at around 500.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the results. The filter does add color to images shot without a strobe. My good friend, Chris Bain, of Somerset, New Jersey, used a Magic Filter on his point and shoot camera. He did not have to do anything to use the filter. The photo below was taken by Chris with an Olympus camera on the Sugar Wreck in about 20' of water without a flash. Look at the color in the diver's fins and in the wet suit. The shot was taken at 1/60 second at f3.1 with an ISO of 80. I think that it came out great.

Sugar Wreck

I tried two different things on my Magic Filter dives. The first was to just use the filter and see how it worked. The second was to take some photos with the thought of making a panorama. I have used the new Adobe Photoshop CS3 photo stitching software for topside shots and was really impressed with it. I couldn't wait to try it with underwater shots. I will get to that in a minute. I was very happy with the Magic Filter on all three dives. I found that I had to keep a sharp eye on my shutter speeds because they tended to get slow as the light diminished. I was shooting in Aperture Priority because I wanted to maximize my depth of field with a small lens opening. The following photo shows how the Magic Filter handles color. This is a photo of Jeanne Kennett, one of the divers from the Nekton Pilot on the Sugar Wreck. Check out the yellows, pink and blues. Looks good to me!

Sugar Wreck
When I made my late afternoon dive on the wreck of the Hesperus, I shot a total of 303 images on the dive. I was thinking that I was either going to have a lot of great images or a lot of junk. I was pleasantly surprised. The Hesperus is the place to be to photograph loggerhead turtles at night. As with any wild animal encounter, there is no guarantee that they will be there. The Hesperus is also prone to bad visibility because it is shallow and the sandy bottom gets stirred up by divers, stingrays, currents and wave action. We made our dive after the divers from two Blackbeard Cruises sailboats did theirs. There was a lot of sand in the water column. The Magic Filter shined here. Despite the sand in the water column, I did not have to worry about backscatter because I was not using a strobe. I took a lot of photos of southern stingrays and I was happy with the majority of them. The one below is an example.
Southern Stingray

I used the Magic Filter on Theo's Wreck to see how it worked in deeper water. One of the problems with Theo's Wreck is that it is a morning dive because of its depth. The wreck lies on its side so that the top deck is perpendicular to the bottom. The sun's position in the morning puts the entire top deck on the shady side of the wreck which makes any wide angle photography difficult. I used the following photo to show you how the Magic Filter handles color. The photo is certainly not my best but it is a good example. It was shot at ISO 800 at f10 and a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second.

Theo's Wreck

The last thing that I would like to show you on this page is my tries at Panoramas. I tried to use Adobe Photoshop CS3 and its photostitcher program to make the panoramas but it would not work on the underwater images. I used a program called PTGui and I had to set control points to line up each image. The first image was taken on the Sugar Wreck and is five horizontal images stitched together. The original image size is 6" high x 21.6" long. The image shown below has been resized to 800 pixels wide. Click on the image to see the full-sized image.
Sugar Wreck Panorama

The second panorama is with two vertical images from Theo's Wreck. The original panorama is 8" high x 16.6" wide. I used the same PTGui program to stitch the two photos together. Photoshop CS3 would not do it automatically and either would PTGui. I had to manually set control points for the two images. The photos were taken with an ISO of 800, a lens opening of f11 and a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second. The image below has been resized to 800 pixels wide. Click on the image to see the full-sized image.
Theo's Wreck Panorama


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