Monday, November 28, 2011

LIGHTROOM - Getting Tone Curve Sliders back

Light most Adobe products, LIGHTROOM works in "strange and wonderous ways."  This best tool we have for organizing photos is sometimes a "challenge" when editing.  Another case in point is using Tone Curve to edit contrast in a photo.  Tone Curve acts somewhat like Curves in Photoshop.  I discovered a feature the other night that I did not know existed.  Nor did Adobe give an informative way out without combing the depths of the Help Jungle.

When editing a photo using Tone Curve, the slider controls look like this. The default mode.

During a session the other night, I was presented with the following view without consciously doing anything to change the view.  The sliders DISAPPEARED.

I was not a happy.  There is NOTHING obvious to suggest a toggle command or "go back."

When I did a mouse-over on the Linear ICON, this informative message shows:  "Click to stop editing Point Curve."   I did not know that I had started! It should say "return to Slider Mode."  Photographers are clearly not used in Adobe testing, just programmers.

The way to get out of this mode is simple but not obvious: Click the icon at the bottom right and you will be toggled back to "Slider" mode.

By the way, using the Point Curve mode is not bad at all.  It is very much like Photoshop in that you can add points to the line and bend the curve to change contrast.  Here I added two points and shifted their positions to adjust the tones to my liking.  See more on curves here.

Click here to see the Great White Sharks and the rest of the underwater galleries.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Being able to swim with big animals is one of the great pleasures of being a Diver.  Humpback Whales, Whale Sharks, Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, Manta Rays, Sea Lions, Sea Turtles and Manatees are all a thrill to dive with.   Obviously, the Great White Shark presents some challenges since they are the apex predator.

is one of several reliable locations around the globe where you can predictably and safely dive with Great White Sharks.  A population of about 120 sharks visit the island from about July to year end.  Diving operations end around November.  The sharks migrate to Hawaii and other locations during the rest of the year.   Surprisingly, there is much more to shoot there. 

Guadalupe island is about 22 x 6 miles and is mountainous, being composed of two extinct volcanos.   It has a very low population being declared a biosphere reserve. Guadalupe Island has a microclimate that tends to burn off clouds that are around the island.   Visability at Guadalupe, perhaps 190 feet (calculated via boat length and anchor line to 60’) and water temp 64 to 70 degrees F.

Not being reckless or a daredevil by nature, the idea of diving and photographing Great White Sharks from the safety of a strong cage was very appealing.

BOAT SPECIFIC – This article is based on experience on the Nautilus Explorer.  The tips will be most useful for shooting at Guadalupe Island.   The Baja Aggressor and other boats diving these waters appear to offer similar cage logistics.  Other Great White destinations such as Australia or South Africa, will require modifications to the techniques and equipment needed as the animals, local customs, visibility and cage configurations vary.

Fly to San Diego – meet at the Ramada Airport hotel via shuttle bus.  At the hotel, store your equipment and have lunch / dinner (no dinner on the boat this night). Photograph the shore birds at the extensive Marina area.

San Diego to Ensenada Bus Ride
Meet the bus around 7pm ish for the 2-3 hour ride through customs stop in Tijuana to Ensenada.  Board the boat around 11pm in Ensenada for the 20 hour ride to Guadalupe Island, about 200 miles off shore.

Theere are two SUBMERSIBLE cages are maybe 15 feet tall, double decker affairs.  Very well constructed out of 2 inch diameter aluminum tubes and strong (steel?) grates on the bottom of the cage.  There are backup SCUBA units to supplement the surface supplied air.  The cages are winched up and down to 40' via lines and there are backup ballast tanks for independent ascents. 

Getting into the cages requires a little, easily learned maneuvering wearing a 40 lb harness.  Divemasters assist entry and use of the Hookah.   Divemasters also control the ascending and descending of the cages and generally ride in a semi exposed position on the top of the cages.

There are two cages attached to the stern of the boat that do not change position.  They have surface supply and can fit three people.  One is about 7-8 feet deep and the other is about 15’ deep with a semi-exposed entry “tunnel / ladder.”    These are great for testing equipment and settings and getting more action in-between submersible cage dives.  These are really the only place you can attempt Over/ Under shots.  I was not at all comfortable with the idea of doing this with the 15’ Cage. 

You should have some situational awareness that you need to keep your arms and legs inside the cage for obvious reasons.  These are the “big hungrys” and are not as docile as Reef White Tip Sharks.  Can a shark stick its snout between some of the bars?  The answer is yes, but they are too big to enter the cages.

There are two man and four man Submersible cages.   The two man cage is the better to be in from a logistic standpoint.  You will be rotated around and have opportunites in all the cages.  Try to ask the divemasters on the departure night to schedule you with non-photographers or small camera/video folks.   Four photographers in the same cage with big cameras and strobes would not be a comfortable situation.

 When the action gets active, you may be joined by the divemaster from the top.  Using surface supplied air, the lines can get tangled and you may want to use a free hand to hold the regulators to avoid tugging or pulling out of your mouth. 

Situational awareness is needed when moving around the cages.  You don’t want to hit the other divers with your housing or strobes.  On our trip, we found that sharks tended to circle in a clockwise fashion around the cages, so you need to be aware of coiling your hose.  Circle back and turn the opposite direction when the action cools down to be sure you are keeping your lines free and not coiled.

There are four dives offered each day with the activity and numbers increasing toward the end of the day.  The earliest dive may have one shark from a distance, and the last dive have multiple sharks making close passes.  You never know, this is the ocean and not a zoo but there are trends.  Yes, that is an upside down Sea Lion taunting the shark in the photo below.


Over three days, the sharks were window shopping on the first day and more cautious, on day two, they were taking test bites of the cages and ramming the cages on day 3.  You never know, this is the ocean and not a zoo.

LENSES – Get close, but not too close
Get close, then  closer is the U/W photographer’s mantra.  Lens choice is a challenge given the behaviors described above.  Be prepared to change lenses or zoom settings frequently.  On earlier dives and earlier in the morning, you may want to go with longer focal lengths like a 35mm equivalent of a 35mm lens.  On an APS-C size sensor, this is the equivalent of about 22mm on a Canon 10-22 lens or about 54 degrees when using a dome port. 

You will want to vary this if your controls allow depending on the behavior of the sharks.  You may start the day at 22mm and as the sharks get bolder, you may use 15mm in the middle of the day and 10mm at the end of day when they are very close to the cage.  Maybe too close.

I used a Tamron 11-18 at 18mm half the time and a Tokina Fisheye set at 17mm half the time.

Click here for more shots from the trip.

Click here for the Trip Logistics,

In the next post, Part 2, we'll discuss using strobes, "Hail Mary" shots, Going "Up Top," Video Opportunities, Developing the Shot List, Diving Equipment and the Cast of Sharks.



This picks up from Part 1 with some more technical discussion. 

To strobe or not to strobe, that is the question.  On this trip, strobes both enhance and detract.  They enhance because at 40’ they add the natural color when the sharks are closer than 10 feet.  They detract because they pose a logistical decision when the action gets going as you will be slamming the strobes into the cage bars as you whirl around trying to get the right angle and they will slow you down.  You don’t want to be bashing your buddies or more likely, pulling out regulators from other divers.  This will not make you popular. 

When using strobes, you will need to be flexible on position, sometimes setting them above the lens to accommodate the bar positions.  Other times you will need to set them below the bar depending where the shark is.  If you are not skilled at positioning your strobe arms, you will get frustrated.  Two strobes are recommended because on half your shots, a cage bar will be blocking one strobe.

I generally shoot on manual and tend to use 1/60th of a second for shutter speed and  f/8 or 5.6 depending on distance.  ISO 100 whenever possible.  ISO 400 when things get dark-ish.

You might choose to use strobes early in the trip and for the last dive of the day as the sun will be setting.  For the fast action dives, you will most likely want to go without strobes.  JUST REMEMBER TO CAP YOUR BULKHEADS and cords when removing the Strobes to prevent floods and corrosion!

For available light exposures,  I will shoot at 1/60th and switch to Shutter priority (Tv) mode due to differing lighting conditions when shooting fast.

“HAIL MARY” shots
A "Hail Mary" is where you point the camera in the basic direction and hope/pray for the best.  I probably shot 1/3 of my underwater photos by pointing the housing in the general direction of the shark, not using the viewfinder due to the rapidity of the action and anticipating where the cage bars were and where the shark was going to be.   Viewfinder or not, I always pre-focus for a half a second or so, then hit the shutter at the “decisive moment.”  This reduces the shutter delay or time parallax. 

For upward angles, I stuck my hands out of the cage and pointed the camera up.  You always need to be mindful of the shark positions.   “No surprises” awareness is good way to keep your hands and camera.  Situational Awareness.  When a third shark arrived, I did not even consider this maneuver.

There is at least one another way to beat the issues of the cage bars.  Go up top with the divemaster.  Let’s give that a moment to sink in.  The divemasters are very experienced piloting the cages in a semi-exposed part of the cage.  It is not without risk. 

You can get clearer shots, but I declined due to valuing my skin more than the off chance of impressing some editor somewhere.  That is up to you and I especially DON’T recommend using strobes on top.  In the event of a suddenly active shark, you need to get down the cage bottom quickly (tight logistics like a submarine conning tower).  Strobe arms could easily get caught going down, perhaps putting the divemaster’s intact condition in jeopardy trying to follow you down.

VIDEO OPPORTUNITIES – “Camera on a stick.”
The new Go Pro video cameras are a stunning breakthrough in small technology.  Using these cameras on a short three foot monopod stick is ideal for beating the cage bar blues.   On two dives, I used a Canon G-9 and got some nice footage.  Click here to see the YouTube post.

SHOT LIST – here are some suggestions:

·      Shark Head Shot
·      Full portrait
·      Shooting the other cages with the shark
·      Shooting upward / down
·      Distant approach and retreat
·      Cage test bite
·      Cage attack sequence
·      Two or more sharks in one frame
·      Huge schools of the Rainbow runners and the boat
·      Divers in the cage / different angles
·      Cage Geometry
·      Rainbow runners inside the cage
·      Sea Lions – Surface,  Underwaters and Coastal Tour
·      Tuna individuals and Wolf pack hunting
·      LIMITED OVER/UNDER Opportunities - Patience
Coastal tour of the beach life “BEACH” PHOTOS / NO GOING ASHORE ALLOWED  (Bring a long lens, perhaps 400mm) ELEPHANT SEALS  & GUADALUPE FUR SEALS
·      Around the Boat
·     Great SUNRISES / NO SUNSETS due to the height mountains.
·     Ensenada Harbor  - Sea Lion colony on arrival back at port.


I prefer a Black Skirt Photographer's Mask that prevents reflections and distractions.

7mm full wetsuit, boots, gloves and Hood or drysuit.  Mares 2/3mm gloves provided ideal dexterity vs warmth.  Water temp down to 63 F at depth of 40.’  Dives last 40 minutes or so and you will get chilled.  Expect four dives a day with unlimited time available in the surface cages.

Leave the following at home:  BCD, Regulator, FINS,  (optional - SNORKEL could be of limited use in the shallow cage if all hoses are being used).  Snorkels will get tangled in all the other cages – mostly useless and a hazard.  Macro is useless.  If you can use a macro lens on these sharks, you are TOO CLOSE.

Ship supplied Hookah (Surface supplied hoses with SCUBA in cages as backup)

You are supplied 40 lb DUI harnesses.

Click here to see the gallery of the seven individual sharks.

4 Females:
1.     Large, “clean” unscarred shark with cleanly TRIMMED Right Pectoral fin
2.     Ragged Left Pectoral fin (notched)
3.     Dorsal fin flaking in two spots, tagged and distinctive gill slits
4.     Caudal fin has spot roughly looking like Italy

3 Males:
1.     Bump on Nose, caudal fin dot
2.     Dorsal tag at top of fin, shark looks beat up.
3.     Two spots on ventral side

Click here for Part 1 of this article.

Click here for the Trip log

Click here to see the Shark Galleries

 Click here to see the YouTube post.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NOTE TO SELF: Full Frame Sensor Prices


We need to do a post on Full Frame Sensor Prices.  Specifically as they relate to DSLR pricing.  Seems like the Canon 5D Mark III is way too late and not much has changed in this technology according to Moore's law in the last three years.  Given the drop in storage pricing, big sensor pricing ought not to be far behind.  Hmmm.

But still...APS-C ought to go the way of the flood - ASAP.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Retaining Lightroom Metadata when transferring between computers

It is hard to remember all the features that Photoshop and Lightroom have.  Adobe Products are not exactly known for being intuitive.  There is nobody at the head of Adobe that is driving simplicity and ease of operation.  No Steve Jobs.  No one with his passion for ease of use.  No one with a name to stamp on a concept.  Indeed an entire corporation, Kelby Training, has formed a cottage industry in trying to explain what the Adobe Enginneers cannot.

Back to Metadata.  A simple IMPORT on the Desktop from Lightroom WILL LEAVE ALL METADATA AND ADJUSTMENTS BEHIND on the source computer (laptop).  I sometimes forget that to retain the Metadata, like Keywords and adjustments that you input on the road (using a laptop)  you need to combine or merge catalogs.  The following is from Adobe's webpage:

Combine or merge catalogs in Lightroom

You can create a catalog from existing photos in Lightroom by selecting the photos and exporting them as a new catalog. Then, if desired, you can merge the new catalog with another catalog. This is useful when, for example, you initially import photos into a catalog on a laptop computer and then you want to add the photos to a master catalog on a desktop computer.

  1. Select the photos you want to add to the new catalog.
  2. Choose File > Export As Catalog.
  3. Specify the name and location of the catalog.
  4. Indicate whether you want to export the negative files and previews, and then click Save (Windows) or Export Catalog (Mac OS). “Negative files” refers to the original files that were imported into Lightroom.
    The new catalog contains the selected photos and their information. You must open the new catalog to view it.
  5. (Optional) To combine catalogs, import the new catalog into another. See Import photos from a different Lightroom catalog.
The keywords for this one are: ascending, attacking cage, cage, Great White Shark, GUADELUPE ISLAND, Mexico, Nautilus Explorer, Pilot fish