Underwater Photography 101: “White Balance”


This is a post-processing tip inspired by the many almost beautiful photographs I see in my underwater group news feeds.  So many of these photographs have great composition, interesting subjects, and good lighting, but lack the “umph” needed to be truly fantastic.  It’s an easy fix, too, and one that should be employed as a matter of routine in all post processing.  I’m talking about correcting white balance, of course, and using a few other basic tools.  Here we will cover how to make a photo go from this:

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to this:

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in just a few easy steps. I use Adobe Lightroom CC for the majority of my post-processing and I will use Lightroom in this tutorial.

Underwater photography has its own unique rules when it comes to post-processing.  If you shoot with a DSLR, you have likely been taught to shoot in RAW format, and to use the auto white balance in-camera.  This is because it is expected that you will finish processing the photos yourself, rather than letting the camera make decisions about the photograph for you, (as it will if you shoot in jpeg format.) Why shoot RAW files?  A RAW file retains ALL the information that the sensor of your camera records.  If you use jpeg, the camera picks what information is important, processes it, and throws the rest away. Under water images are affected by the water itself and have issues with lighting, contrast, and loss of color to name a few.  The camera is manufactured for images taken topside, so the camera is likely to throw away the wrong information.  That is why post-processing under water images is so important.

White balance can be set manually for every shot you take under water, but it is cumbersome and time consuming and can easily be taken care of in post processing.  Set your camera to “auto white balance” and use RAW files if possible.

After you have imported your images, you will see them in the “LIBRARY” module.  There are several modules in Lightroom along the top right of the screen.  After you choose the image you want to work on, you will click on the “DEVELOP” module.

develop

This will bring up a set of tools to the right that you will use to process your image. You can open the tools by clicking on the triangular arrow to the far right of each toolbox.  In the toolbox below, you can see that I have the Histogram and the Basic toolboxes open.

basic

I will use the Basic tool box to adjust the white balance of my image.  My photo has too much brown/gold in it, and the beautiful colors of the fish are muted.  *Unless you are very close to your subject, you are likely to have too much green, blue, or yellow in your image.  In the Basic tool box (above), you can see “WB:  As Shot” towards the top.  You can click on “As Shot” for a drop-down menu of different white balance effects.  Try them.  You may like “auto” the best.  If none of these correct the color issues, you can try adjusting the Temp and Tint sliders or use the eye-dropper tool to the left.  Just click on the eyedropper tool, move it over your image until the R.G.B. values in the drop down box are close to 50%, then “click.”  (You can also see what your image will look like before “clicking” as you move the eyedropper over it in the small box on the upper left.

WB eyedropper tool

Here is my image with only the white balance corrected:

WB fixed

That took only one “click” and it is already much better.  I can fine tune it further if I want, by moving the Temp and Tint Sliders.

After I fix the white balance, I will use the sliders from Exposure down to Saturation to bring up the contrast, take down the highlights, etc.  The box below shows what settings I used for this image.

settings

This is my final result:

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It takes only a few minutes to adjust the white balance and a few other basics.  But what a difference it makes!

To watch a video of this tutorial, click HERE

*The reason you will have too much green, blue, or yellow in your image if you are more than a few inches away from your subject, is because of the distance the light has to travel through the water column from your camera to the subject and back again.  Water is denser than air, and has a “tint” to it.  This will show up in your images, thus the need to redefine what is “white.”

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.
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

Flashback Thursday- A Nudiphile Episode


It’s no secret that I have a serious slug crush on nudibranchs.  So for Flashback Thursday, I thought I would just share some of my favorite nudibranch images.

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The cryptic nudibranchs are the most interesting to me.  I love the translucence of this one.  For the full article see “Cryptic, A Nudiphile Episode

California has its share of beautiful nudibranchs.  This Hermissendra crassicornis was just a tiny juvenile about half an inch long.

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

Hermissendra crassicornus is one of the beautiful nudibranchs found in California

Here is an adult Hermissendra crassicornis:  (See “Are you a Nudiphile?”)

Hermissendra crassicornis

Hermissendra crassicornis

My all-time favorite is Placida cremoniana, a nudibranch I discovered in Southern California last year, which has since disappeared from California waters.  (See “Love Affair, A Nudiphile Episode.”  And also  “Slug Bug! Another Nudiphile Episode “)

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

Some of the prettiest nudis come from Anilao, Philippines.  (See “Are you a Nudiphile 2?“)

Hypselodoris kangas

Hypselodoris kangas

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If you enjoy these images, you can get the full story by clicking on any of the “nudiphile” links above.

 

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.
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

Underwater Photography 101: “Face the Music!”


One of the challenging things as an underwater photographer is getting your subjects to face the camera. Marine critters are inexplicably camera shy!  Most likely, it is because of the bright focus light you are shining in their face, but it could also be that your dome port looks like a big eye and that can freak out any little beasty. Luckily for photographers, there are some tricks we can try, and common sense we can apply.

Trick #1:  Red Light!

Underwater camera gear manufacturers are aware of the lighting issues photographers face.  On one hand, we must have enough light that our camera can focus on the subject and the thing we want in focus the most is our subject’s eye.  On the other hand, shining a bright light in our subjects eyes causes it to turn away before we can get the shot.  The solution to this is a red focus light. Several lights on the market have a switch that will turn the light red, a color that is theoretically not seen by marine animals.  The following image is a good example of critters that don’t tolerate light well. The pygmy sea horse has no eyelids and cannot shut it’s eyes.  Because it is so small, it is a challenge to focus on, even with good light, and the moment you get it in focus, it turns away.

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However, with a red focus light, there is enough light for the camera to focus, but the animal is not as sensitive to it and it is more likely to face the lens, such as in the image below.  (Don’t worry about the red showing up in the image.  When your strobes fire, all the red will disappear.)

Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse

Trick #2:  Fake them out!

Another trick to help turn a camera shy critter toward the lens is to hand hold the focus light behind the animal, or have your dive buddy hold the light so that it faces the camera.  The animal will turn away from the light, toward the camera.  There will be enough light for the camera to focus, and walla!

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Okay, on to using some common sense:

#3 Patience is a virtue

Sometimes you just have to wait for the critter to get used to you.  Most marine animals have little or no brains.  Instead, they have fight or flight instincts.  If you are not perceived as a threat, it only takes a few minutes for the critter to forget about you.  As far as it knows, you may have been a feature in it’s environment for months or years.  Give your subject time to forget about you, and eventually it may face the camera without being coaxed.  This goby and shrimp took only a few moments to forget I was there, and go about their business of shoveling sand out of their home.

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This leads me to a cardinal common sense rule,

#4:  Don’t be a Predator!

Nothing is more displeasing to an underwater photographer than getting pictures of fish butts.  Sometimes we become so excited to get a shot of that rare critter, just to prove we saw it, that we sacrifice good photography.  The following image is of a goby on eggs.  I really wanted this image, but unfortunately, in my excitement, I was not patient, I did not use red light, and I stalked this poor fish.  The result is a fish facing away from the camera, eye blurred, and generally just an uninteresting photograph.

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 Chasing the animals produces the same result.  This poor harlequin shrimp felt very vulnerable and could only flee from my big bubble blowing self.

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 So remember, try red light, move your focus light behind the subject, wait for your subject to forget about you, and don’t be a predator.  Using these tips will help you get good “face on” shots.

Jawfish with eggs

Jawfish with eggs

 If you have suggestions for underwater photography tips, or questions, 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.
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

San Diego Sampler


It could have been the dead sea lion, or the tope sharks, or maybe the fascinating topography, because today I discovered that La Jolla Cove is one of the best kept secrets in Southern California scuba diving.  Besides all the great sea life, the cove was perfectly flat with no surge and visibility a staggering 50 feet or more.  (Unusual for Southern California shore diving.)

I had planned to photograph nudibranchs and other critters, even though I knew there were lots of large animals in the area.  I thought I could compromise by taking a 60mm lens which would allow me to photograph both tiny critters and basketball sized animals.  However, the larger creatures were more abundant and the only tiny critters were a few MacFarland’s Chromodorids:

MacFarland's Chromodorid

MacFarland’s Chromodorid

On a relatively larger scale, I found an octopus defending her hole,

Southern California Octopus

Southern California Octopus

And several lobsters who have survived this season’s lobster hunt.

Lobsters

Lobsters

One of the most interesting things, if not the most morbid, was the carcass of a sea lion that was covered with sheep crabs who were scavenging for food.  At this point, the lens I had was not sufficient for the whole scene, so only a single sheep crab was captured in the frame.  The whitish material is the sea lion.

Sheep Crab picking flesh off a sea lion carcass.

Sheep Crab picking flesh off a sea lion carcass.

Also spotted on this dive were four tope sharks which were too far away to photograph, but were nonetheless exciting to see.  I am eager to visit this site again as it appears to be a treasure trove of marine life.

 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

Shipwrecked!


One of the great things about diving in Puerto Galera is the variety of wrecks to explore.  There are several sunken ships just in the harbor that are full of amazing sea life and have great structure.  Two of these are the St. Christopher, also known as Anton’s wreck, and the Alma Jane, a Chinese MV cargo ship which was sunk purposely in 2003.

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A small boat can be found in 70fsw at Monkey Beach, and several other large wrecks dot the coast.

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Above, a diver explores the hull of a cargo ship.  Below, a diver hovers above the wreck.

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There is plenty of structure for batfish to hide around.

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There is a deep wreck called “Dry Dock” that was interesting because of it’s structure and because of the large sweetlips that made it home.  These sweetlips are in a cleaning station where they are being cleaned by cleaner wrasse.

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Sometime in the 1620’s, a spanish galleon known as Nuestro Cenora De La Vida, sank on the shores of Verde Island.  The wreck has long since washed away, but the evidence of it’s demise can be found all along the shore of the island in the form of broken pieces of chinese pottery.  The dishes from the ship are still being washed ashore, and tourists can find pieces on their own, or purchase larger pieces from the local residents.  It is interesting to note that no one perished in the sinking of this ship, but the captain was hanged for his responsibility.

 

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.

New Galleries!


I have added two new galleries to my webpage at waterdogphotography.com  from my recent trip to the Philippines.  Stop by and have a look!

Wonderpus

Wonderpus

Anilao Philippines 2015 Gallery

Diver over a bed of Chocolate Chip Stars
Diver over a bed of Chocolate Chip Stars

Puerto Galera Philippines Gallery

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 Wee Beasties of Anilao


Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

Wi’ bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,

Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

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I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!
Hairy Frogfish, yawning
Hairy Frogfish, yawning
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Blue Ribbon Eel

Blue Ribbon Eel

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Pygmy Seahorse

Pygmy Seahorse

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell –
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
Ambon Scorpion fish

Ambon Scorpion fish

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
Candy Crab  (Soft Coral Crab)

Candy Crab (Soft Coral Crab)

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Hairy Squat Lobster

Hairy Squat Lobster

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
–Robert Burns  (To a Mouse)