Underwater Photography 101: “Azure Blue” Tips for achieving a beautiful blue background


Beautiful blue water behind a mesmerizing subject is one of the goals that every underwater photographer strives for.  It is not always easy, especially if the water you are diving in isn’t a beautiful blue!  This tutorial will address a few ways you can achieve great backgrounds in-camera, while giving your images a little creative punch.

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Underwater photographers shooting with a DSLR or compact camera with a manual mode, have several options when it comes to capturing the color of the water behind a subject.  These options include the ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and strobe use.  I always shoot in manual mode when I am under water.  It allows me to control how much light reaches my sensor.

In the photograph below, I used a higher ISO to boost the ambient light in the image.  In this case, I had the ISO set to 500.  This allowed more color and light saturation.  Historically, DSLR’s have a lot of “noise” when the ISO is higher.  However, the newer cameras are capable of getting a finer image with a higher ISO.  This can be a great advantage to the underwater photographer.

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Aperture is one of the tricky concepts when trying to control ambient light and get a bright blue background. Opening up the aperture does allow more light and may be necessary if you are using a high shutter speed. If for example, you are trying to freeze the sunbeams coming down through the water, you would want a high shutter speed to stop the light (1/250th or higher) and meter the background for aperture, so the sun isn’t too bright. This image has a shutter speed of 1/320th (the highest speed my strobes can sync with). The aperture is f/11.

A Hard and a soft coral bask in the sun

A Hard and a soft coral bask in the sun

If you are using strobes, (and sunbeams aren’t a factor) I advise using an aperture of f/8 or above, and metering into the blue water for the shutter speed.  The ISO may need to be a bit higher as well. The strobes fire at a fraction of the shutter speed and will freeze the subject so you can use shutter speeds as low as 1/13th, 1/25th, or 1/30th for close focus, wide angle shots, and macro shots.  The image below has an ISO of 200, high aperture at f/18, and very slow shutter speed at 1/13th.  The strobes fire at about 1/1000th of a second, so the movement of the subject is frozen because it is only lit up for a fraction of the time the shutter is open.

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Macro shots can be very interesting when they utilize ambient light.  This tiny nudibranch was created using a higher ISO (400) and shooting almost directly into the sun to get enough light to expose the blue background.  Because I wanted a sharp focus on the entire nudibranch, I stopped down the aperture to f/36, and the shutter speed was metered against the sun to 1/80th.

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

It has been very trendy lately to get a black background behind your subject.  To achieve this, you need to have nothing but water behind your subject, and a high shutter speed.  Here is the same nudibranch with drastically different settings:  ISO 100, f/36, 1/320th.  This lets in no ambient light.  Only the strobe lights the subject.  Which image do you like better?

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If you are new to underwater photography, you should spend some time experimenting with the aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings on your camera.  Light plays such a big part in creating images, that it is arguably the most important concept to master as a photographer.

If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here atwaterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

 

 

 

The Colors of the Sea


The colors of the wind, the colors of a rainbow, and the colors of the mountain have nothing on the colors of the sea!  One of the most beautiful places to see beautiful underwater reefscapes is Verde Island in the Philippines.  This island has an interesting history.  In 1620 the Spanish galleon known as Nuestro Senora de la Vida, sunk off the shores of this island.  It wasn’t until 350 years later that this ship was discovered and excavated.  Now the currents have washed the remains of the ship away, but shards of blue Chinese pottery from the ship’s galley can still be found on the shores of the island.  Some of the local people collect the broken dishes, vases, and tea sets and make them into jewelry, or sell the pieces to tourists.  Some of these shards can even be found in paving stones in some of the local resorts.  But this isn’t the reason tourists visit Verde Island.  They go there to dive the very beautiful reefs that surround the island.  When there is a lot of current present, the corals will open up to feed and this is what makes the reefs so beautiful.

In addition to the beautiful corals and anemone's, fish abound.  These beautiful pinkish fish are anthias.
In addition to the beautiful corals and anemone’s, fish abound. These beautiful pinkish fish are anthias.
Here a crinoid or feather star has crawled out on the tip of the coral to catch planktonic nutrients as they pass by in the current.
Here a crinoid or feather star has crawled out on the tip of the coral to catch planktonic nutrients as they pass by in the current.
This massive sea fan is not only large, but has a beautiful color that compliments the schools of fish.
This massive sea fan is not only large, but has a beautiful color that compliments the schools of fish.
The variety of corals and anemone's on this reef are astounding and beautiful.
The variety of corals and anemone’s on this reef are astounding and beautiful.
This coral head is one of my favorite images because of the diversity of life surrounding it.
This coral head is one of my favorite images because of the diversity of life surrounding it.
As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

California Divin’


All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray

I’ve been for a dive, on a winter’s day.

I’ll be warm and dry, when I get back to L A,

But now I’m California divin’  on such a winter’s day.

I spend a good amount of time on this blog talking about the exotic animals I have seen all over the far reaches of the world.  But truly, I spend the majority of my diving time along the coast of California.  These temperate waters host some of the most interesting creatures in the world, and the topography is unique and beautiful.  One of the first things my non-diving friends ask is if it is green and murky in our California waters.  I am here to tell you, that the coast of California can rival the most pristine diving in the tropics.

Pink and Orange cup corals cover this pinnacle near Catalina Island

Pink and Orange cup corals cover this pinnacle near Catalina Island

The images above and below show some of the corals that can be found along the California coast.  Above are pink and orange cup corals covering a pinnacle at Farnsworth Banks near Catalina Island. The photo below shows part of a wall there called “Yellow Wall” and also shows some purple hydrocoral, which is found in just a few dive sites along the California coast.  These two images were taken just minutes apart, showing the diversity that can be found on just one site.

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 Another gem of California diving are the oil rigs.  There are only a few rigs that divers can visit, and since there can be current and depths of up to 700 feet, the oil rigs are for advanced divers only. The structure under the oil rigs provides an artificial reef for hundreds of animals.  The structure is encrusted with life, and great schools of fish and sea lions enjoy life under the rigs as well.

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The Channel Islands are a favorite dive destination for local divers as well as world travelers.  Santa Barbara Island boasts a sea lion rookery where the young curious pups will come out to play around and with scuba divers.

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Anacapa Island is loved by photographers for its macro subjects such as nudibranchs and amphipods.

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

This pregnant skeleton shrimp is one of the amphipods commonly found in California

This pregnant skeleton shrimp is one of the amphipods commonly found in California

Catalina Island has a large population of blue-striped, orange gobys commonly called the Catalina Goby.

Catalina Goby

Catalina Goby

Beautiful fish of all different colors can be found in dive sites all around Southern California, not to mention our own state marine fish, the Geribaldi.

A Geribaldi and a red sculpin (rockfish or scorpion fish) look curiously at the diver with a camera.

A Geribaldi and a red Cabezon  look curiously at the diver with a camera.

But the one defining feature of diving in California is the beautiful kelp forests.  In many ways the kelp reminds me of a forest in a fairy tale.

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The King's Forest

The King’s Forest

The great thing about diving in California is it doesn’t matter if it’s Winter or Summer.  The diving is great year ’round.  The water is temperate and requires adequate protection.  I recommend a 7mm wetsuit in the Summer and late Fall, and a drysuit during the winter months.  And oh, how I love diving California in the Winter months.

California divin’ on such a winter’s day.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me.

Welcome to Aquaholics Anonymous!


Hello. My name is Brook, and I am an aquaholic. I crave salty water and don’t care whether it is warm or cold. Being in and around the sea lowers my inhibitions and allows me to express myself openly through digital film.  While I enjoy photographing the miniscule creatures under the sea, I occasionally shoot wide angle scenes as well.   What is your favorite type of underwater photograph?  Do you prefer reef scenes or unusual creatures?  If you are a diver, where is your favorite place to dive and why?  Please feel free to post your comments in the “comments” section below.

Anthias on a coral reef

Anthias on a coral reef

Crinoids and Anthias

Crinoids and Anthias

Duck Billed Shrimp

Long Nose Rock Shrimp

Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse