5 FebArtificial Reefs - New Jersey, Atlantic Ocean, Bahamas, Common sea robin, Dykes - Steel Schooner, Fish, Loggerhead Turtle, Nature Photography, New Jersey, Pilot Fish, Robin Reed, SCUBA Diving, Sea Girt Artificial Reef, Sigma 28-80, Tokina 10-17mm, Underwater Photography / Scuba Diving, Warren Reed, Wildlife | 1 Comment
I can’t imagine how many times over the last thirty plus years of underwater photography I went to the bottom with the wrong lens. Usually in New Jersey, it was having a wide angle lens and having poor visibility. In the tropics, I usually found myself with a wide angle lens but I just could not find good wide angle subjects. Even more prevalent than the wide angle lens dilemma was having a macro or close-up lens when an amazing wide angle subject presented itself.
While scanning and correcting my 35mm slide library, I come across images that vividly remind me of certain situations. A group of photos reminded me of a dive when I really wished I had a wide angle lens or at least that was my thought at the time. I was diving in the northern Bahamas with my great friends, Robin and Warren Reed. Warren was our guide and pathfinder. I am pretty poor at underwater navigation and Robin isn’t much better. Warren always finds his way home (well almost always) but the times that he does not, I could count on one hand. I think that Robin and I both had a Sigma 28-80mm macro lens on my housed film camera.
We were wandering around across a flat plain that was devoid of wide angle subjects. There weren’t many large sea fans, sponges, gorgonians or anything else that would fill the lens. Initially, I felt that I had picked the correct lens and looked close to find suitable subjects. About half way through the dive, Warren started pointing excitedly. I turned my head to see what he saw and found myself staring at a huge loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, slowly meandering along. I looked at my camera and lens combo and felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t have very many photos of a loggerhead turtle swimming in the open ocean. Most that I have seen in the northern Bahamas were on a little wreck named the Hesperus in about fifteen feet of water on the Gingerbread Grounds near Bimini. The turtles came to this spot in the evening to sleep so although I have quite a few loggerhead photos from the Hesperus, most were of turtles on the bottom.
This may have been the first turtle that we saw on the trip and I really wanted to increase my library of loggerhead turtle photos. I knew that I would not be successful on this dive. Rather than give up, I swam towards the turtle and tried to figure out what I could do with the lens that I had. It was swimming slow enough that I could easily stay with it. Then it occurred to me to shot the head of the turtle as it swam along – kind of like taking headshots of a person. Why waste the opportunity completely?
As I swam parallel with the loggerhead and looked through the viewfinder of my camera, I was pleasantly surprised. The loggerhead was not alone. He had a juvenile pilot fish swimming with him. I never would have seen it if I was shooting with a wider angle lens.
I shot at least a dozen photos of the head of the loggerhead turtle and in everyone but one, the pilot fish was in view.
While I shot photos of the turtle and his little friend, Robin was shooting the same type of shot on the other side of the turtle. Unfortunately, she never got to see the pilot fish and the opportunity was over so fast that there was no time to tell her what I saw. In the end, we were both pleased with our results.
So what is the point of this story? Even without a wide angle lens on my camera, many divers (myself included) often take a wide angle view of the underwater world and we miss so much. We also miss opportunities like this one when we get bummed out for not having the right equipment. In reality, the equipment that we have with us on any dive is the right equipment. We just have to figure out how to make it work in our situation.
Sometimes, it means looking at different lenses to be ready for the unknown. My standard lens while diving in New Jersey right now is a Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens. That seems like an odd lens to take diving where visibility isn’t always ideal for wide angle photography.
One of the advantages of the Tokina lens is that it will focus just about to the surface of the camera housing dome port.
I use a 100mm (4”) Zen port for this lens which makes it easier to light subjects when they are very close to the dome port. The disadvantage of this port is it is not very useful for over/under in/out of the water) shots. Since I don’t shoot over/under shots in New Jersey, it is not a concern.
To give you an example of how this works to my advantage in New Jersey. If the visibility is good, I shoot the lens as a wide angle lens as in the shot above. The photograph of the artificial reef Dykes (Steel Schooner) on the Sea Girt Artificial Reef was taken at 10mm.
If visibility is not so good, I can move the lens very close to the subject and use the 17mm end for the shot. This common sea robin was shot on the same dive as the wide angle photo above. This photo was shot at 17mm with the lens less than six inches from the fish. I could have gotten closer to fill the frame even more with the fish. I have been to the Caribbean since I purchased this lens and also use it as an all around lens in clear, tropical waters.
The bottom line is that we must make the best of our current situation. Many of the subjects that we are exposed to may present themselves to us only once and if we miss the opportunity, it is gone forever. So when you are in my “wrong lens” predicament, try thinking outside the box and find a way to turn the “wrong lens” frown upside down.