Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label photography. Show all posts

Saturday, July 20, 2013



Oslob is not one of those familiar names like Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Bonaire that resonates in the SCUBA diving community.

Oslob is a tiny town on the beach on the island of Cebu in the Philippines.  It is close to Dumaguete, a place that is very hot now in SCUBA diving circles.  Dumaguete will get even hotter once the word gets out about the Whale Sharks.

At the moment, in 2013, the chances are very good to see whale sharks on most every attempt, but this could change.  Not many places in the world can claim a record like that.  The reason is outright bribery.  The local fishermen are feeding the Whale Sharks plankton.

The sharks apparently like it and show up in the morning for a lazy dose of “shrimp soup.”  On our encounter, we saw a total of six Whale Sharks in 45 minutes of snorkeling.  One should consider themselves lucky if you have ever seen ONE Whale Shark, this was an embarrassment of riches.  A bucket list experience for sure.  Whale Sharks are the ocean's largest fish, completely harmless and get up to 45' long and weigh over 20 tons.  Photos are shown at the bottom.



Since the sharks are right at the surface, there is no need for strobes, indeed they are prohibited.


Since the Whale Sharks are BIG, we saw individuals from 15’ to 30’, use the widest lens you have.  I used a 10mm Tokina fisheye to get full fish pictures.


Being able to shoot over / under split shots of the fisherman feeding the Whale Sharks from their outriggers is a big part of telling the story of why everyone is here.

A DSLR housing is preferred since you can put an 8” Dome port on it.  The 8” dome port takes full advantage of the Wide Fisheye angle with edge to edge sharpness.  The second reason to use it is that it makes taking over / underwater split shots possible.


Under most circumstances, I am a fan of using ONE SHOT drive mode.  However, for this dive, it is best to put the camera in high speed burst mode.  When taking split shots, the ocean does not sit still while you calmly compose.

To shoot decent over/under split shots, you must take a lot of pictures and high speed mode will help your chances of getting the effect you intend.  Start with the camera held just above the waterline, press and hold the shutter down and slowly lower the camera until almost submerged.  

My camera has a buffer of nine RAW shots like this, so I can shoot this sequence in about two to three seconds.  The camera must “rest” in between to regain its computer buffer and "catch its breath."   During the 45 minutes, I shot about 350 photos.  Many were clearly poor, but I got enough to choose from using this technique.

Using SCUBA for most of the trip, I used 10 pounds on the weight belt with my 3mm wetsuit, 2/3mm neoprene gloves and 3mm neoprene beanie.  This being a snorkel only dive, I set up a weight belt with 3 pounds on each side to let me dive easily.  This was perfect to allow me to get to 15’ – 20’ which is near the sand bottom.

We left Atlantis Dumaguete about 7am.  It takes about two hours to get to Oslob.  After a bus ride, a ferry ride and another bus ride, the whale sharks are a relatively short distance from the beach, you can actually swim to them.  You will be in relatively small outrigger canoes, have your fins ready to pop on at a moment’s notice.  Sit at the front or the back of the canoe to make entry easier.  Turn on the camera on the surface and be prepared to enter the water quickly with minimal splashing. This is generally good behavior when diving period.

First one in the water in the area gives you immediate shooting advantage with fewer divers in the water.

General situational awareness of where the sharks are, is good to avoid surprises but also to avoid injury or scrapes to you or the sharks.  Bumping into a many-ton animal is not pleasant for either party.  Entering on top of a shark is considered bad form and will get you entered in the diver's book of dopes.

Generally, you can get good shots from about three to five feet from the side of the sharks.  You will want to be at least four feet away when swimming in front to the sharks to avoid hitting them with your fins.  You will not get scooped up by the sharks as you do not in any way look like a shrimp.  

The fish cruise slowly but can suddenly gain speed.  As the fish in Oslob are there to be fed, a great many of your pictures will show Whale Sharks at a 45 degree angle with their mouth near the surface and tails near the sandy bottom.  Try to get pictures of the sharks cruising between fish feeders for a more natural posture.

How much longer will the interaction be around?  Cannot say with any certainty.  As any place around the world, when people and animals interact, there will be strong opinions generated that do not necessarily approve of the interaction.  Google the controversy to see how soon you want to go see the sharks.

Apologies if the captions do not line up correctly below.  This is a Google Blogger special feature.  All look perfectly aligned when I view the post in editing in either Firefox or Chrome.  It is worth the price Google charges me.  $0.00  If you are thinking of a Blog Platform, I think Wordpress is the way to go.  It is just too painful for me to switch.

Establishing shot

Shooting upward

Circus shot (too many divers)

 Multiple Sharks - Five Whale Sharks
  Multiple Sharks - Four Whale Sharks
 Accidental Humor (no photoshop used)

Frontal shot with Remora below

Split shot

Top Shot w/ many remoras upside down on left pectoral fin

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Photographer Produces Photographs...

Short observation.  Since most of us are digital these days, does this mean we are no longer Photographers?  After all, Kodak is on life support.

If a photographer produces photographs, or a photo or pictures, who produces IMAGES?  An IMAGIST?  An IMAGE-OGRAPHER?   When we change the names, the meaning changes.  Marketing is very powerful and SUBTLE.  HOW IS IT DIFFERENT? AND WHY?

How has this term IMAGES infiltrated the culture? How are images meaningfully different from Photographs?  We know how BOTH are different from SNAPSHOTS.  I contend we need to do away with the word IMAGES.  Fragments use as components of Photographs should be called by those names.  If your name is Denise, and I call you Britney, do words mean anything?

Bring back William Safire.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

CREATIVITY - A Kick in the Seat of the Pants

Like its predecessor, this not directly a book about photography. No megapixels were hurt in its creation. But is is a valuable tool for idea generation that can translate into better photographs.

A Kick in the Seat of the Pants is the second book by Roger von Oech, author of 
"A Whack on the Side of the Head." The concept of WHACK was "...we're all born with the ability to think about things in original ways, but as we grow up, we develop attitudes that undermine this creativity." von Oech then goes through steps and exercises to expand your thinking.

It this second book, he explores the fact that there are different ways of thinking. This ground has been covered in different ways by people like 
Ned Hermann, Carl Jung and Myers-Briggs.

von Oech treats the four modes of thought as the Explorer, the Artist, the Judge and the Warrior. We have aspects of all the above characteristics in our personalties, but he explores how each contributes to the creative process. Photographers that are "socially conscious" will approach their craft very differently than say a "Fine Art Printer." Their brains are wired differently.

One actionable tip: Put a waterproof slate in the shower with a grease pencil. Many people get their best ideas in the shower. I use a SCUBA Diving slate.  
This was a GREAT idea from the book that I use every day. Most of the ideas I get are of course Photo related.

Click here to see my photos that were inspired by Sarah Palin and the Tea Parties. I wrote the ideas on the slate so I wouldn't forget.

You can purchase the book here.

Click here to see the first article on A Whack on the Side of the Head.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

CREATIVITY - The Decisive Moment

Creativity, its source and those who wrote about it have been one of my hot topics this year.  Creativity is always important, but I have been trying to synthesize the writings of those who most inspired me in the hopes of really putting the concepts into action and by extension, becoming a better photographer.

Henri Cartier-Bresson is without a doubt, one of my earliest influences.  Cartier-Bresson was famous for the concept of “the decisive moment  "Photography is not like painting," Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. "There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative," he said. "Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever."  (

I especially like this quote:
"My contact sheets may be compared to the way you drive a nail in a plank," he said. "First you give several light taps to build up a rhythm and align the nail with the wood. Then, much more quickly, and with as few strokes as possible, you hit the nail forcefully on the head and drive it in."

I took the photo above using the same philosophy.  After 10 minutes of stalking and shooting the school of Plotosis catfish in Sulawesi, Indonesia, this scene revealed itself with perfect alignment.

... For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which - in visual terms - questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photos with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself.  

... To take photographs is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge in the face of fleeting reality.

... "It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."   

...It is putting ones head, one's eye and one's heart on the same axis.

...It is a way of life.

 You can purchase the book here.

See another of my images that used his "Decisive Moment" concept.  It is the one with the two cats and the red door frame.  A variation on the above theme of the build up, there was ONLY time for one shot before the bottom cat moved. Shot in Padova, Italy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I am very excited about this one.  The Lightroom BETA 2 is here with VIDEO SUPPORT!  The Beta Ver 1 had improved Watermarking capability, but this is great now that it recognizes Videos.  You can not use the develop module at the moment, but in Library Mode, you can do keywording and other Metadata tasks.  FINALLY! Thank you Adobe.

In addition, there is now:
- DIRECT TETHERED CAPTURE for select Canon and Nikon cameras
- Point Curve behavior like Photoshop Curves on the Tone Curve
- Improved Noise Reduction with Luminance added
- Improved Watermark formatting
You can upgrade the Catalog you had been using in BETA 1 (Not your production Catalog)

The 11 min video below is really good.

Click here to see the Adobe Video on what's new.

Click here for the download.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SOFTWARE: Aperture 3 Released

Apple has released Aperture 3. Click here for more info. Aperture is Apple's competitor to Adobe's Lightroom. Meaning it is a combination RAW converter, organizer, limited editor and "workflow" tool. If you shoot RAW and work with a lot of photos, you need one of these. A big plus for Aperture 3 is that is now handles video. Lightroom Version 2.6 currently does not. Version 3 is in Beta.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


There are of course, many ways to shoot subjects but they can be boiled down to planned shots, incidental, or shot in the normal course of observing, but there is a third distinct category I love: SURPRISE! These occur outside the other two circumstances.

And you need to have your equipment ready and WITHIN REACH. This means batteries and cards with capacity, camera available to pick up and use, not "safely" in a bag. I usually carry THREE sets of batteries. You will discover battery failure only when shooting. This will leave you hopefully with two sets of batteries ready to shoot.

The deer above IS inside the car. The camera was two feet away when she suddenly stuck her head in the window. Shooting was natural and the results show it. You need to be ready. Click here to see more from the day's shoot in New Zealand.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lightroom 3.0 Beta is Available

(Click on image to enlarge)

I live in Lightroom so this is a big deal.

According to Abobe:
Some of the new features included for you to play with in the Lightroom 3 beta are:

  • Brand new performance architecture, building for the future of growing image libraries
  • State-of-the-art noise reduction to help you perfect your high ISO shots
  • Watermarking tool that helps you customize and protect your images with ease
  • Portable sharable slideshows with audio—designed to give you more flexibility and impact on how you choose to share your images, you can now save and export your slideshows as videos and include audio
  • Flexible customizable print package creation so your print package layouts are all your own
  • Film grain simulation tool for enhancing your images to look as gritty as you want
  • New import handling designed to make importing streamlined and easy
  • More flexible online publishing options so you can post your images online to certain online photo sharing sites directly from inside Lightroom 3 beta (may require third-party plug-ins)*

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography

The late Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography is perhaps the finest book on Photography I have read. It is a compilation of articles he wrote for Outdoor Photography Magazine. It is copyright 2001, so much of what he writes predates the digital age. But is not really a book on technique as much as "seeing." The first third of the book is worth the price of entry alone. The book is divided into four parts:
  • Visions
  • Preparations
  • Journeys
  • Realizations

Rowell is a master teacher and visual artist. This is for intermediate and advanced photographers that want to hone their skills even further. Some of his observations include:
  • "[Photographs] are visual illusions that trick our senses into believing that the images represent theyway the eye would see a real scene."
  • "Cameras capable of making great photographs have become commonplace but photographers have not. While technical innovations have made photography even easier in recent decades, the art of producing images that other people will care about has become even more formidable."
  • "Literal images of nature no longer wow the public."
  • "...a visionary image communicates the intentionality of the artist's experience."
  • "The best pictures show us a world different from the one we directly observe."
  • "We all take pictures to communicate what is important in our lives."
All these quotes are just in the first three pages of the Preface. To paraphrase Al Pacino from "Scent of a Woman," HE'S JUST GETTING STARTED!

 You can purchase Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Photographing Birds

When I was a kid, I was a naturalist at heart. Maybe it started at age 6 with impromptu talks the nuns selected me to give to the 8th grade. I used the Powerpoint of the time, a book on Fish. Birds get a bad rap. I have heard people downgrade birds as being something for "old people." How does an entire classification of biology get associated with an age group? What age group are Amoeba associated with?

BIRDS and FISH exhibit the same hard to photograph behavior as individuals and in schools or flocks. True, you need much more equipment and training to photograph fish. But the "eye," focus on behavior, concentration and fast reflexes are the same.

PHOTOGRAPHING BIRDS by Rulon Simmons and Bates Littlehales of Nat Geo fame is a great book. These veterans share their secrets of different methods such as feeding, vs stalking, vs blinds, nesting, flight, etc.

There are sections on using remote controllers and accessory tree limbs on feeders. I shot the Cardinal below using these techniques. This alone was worth the price of admission for me. Some text is still back in the film era, but most is still valid in the digital age because of its concentration on the subject matter: the birds.

You can purchase PHOTOGRAPHING BIRDS by Rulon Simmons and Bates Littlehales here.

See my gallery of birds.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

BASICS: Using the Levels Tool to get WOW!

The worst comment a photographer can get on their work is "NICE" or "INTERESTING." If your photography is not generating WOW reactions, this technique could help. Many factors of course effect the WOW reaction, but for photos to be dramatic or LEAP off the page, you must edit using some kind of Editor such as Photoshop Elements, Paintshop pro or iPhoto.

Despite all the marketing, digital cameras do not always produce perfect photos. Today's cameras are after all, dumb computers with a lens attached. An Editor can quickly correct TONAL RANGE problems, the factor that is responsible for photos looking muddy or "lacking something."

The quickest way to get the most out of the tonal range is to use the LEVELS tool to set the White point, Black Point and Contrast or Gamma. A Japanese photographer named Sammy (Masafumi Tanaka) taught me how to do this in five minutes in the Maldives back in 2003. It got me hooked on the power of digital editing. As this is a powerful tool that changes the picture, you may want to first make a copy of the file as you practice. You can also CLOSE the picture without saving if you are not happy with the results.

1. Open the Editor application. In this example, we are using Photoshop Elements.
2. Open a picture
3. Press the COMMAND + L keys (Mac) or CTRL + L (Win) and the following histogram shows up. Very similar to your camera histogram. In iPhoto, click Edit your picture and click the Adjust Icon. For others, check for Levels help.

In this example, the photo has poor tonal range in both the shadows (to the left) and the highlights (to the right). This shape of the Histogram "mountain" tells us this. The picture will have a muddy quality to it. Using the controls it is easy to improve this picture.

1. Click and hold your left mouse button on the White Point slider, circled here in Yellow.
2. Drag it toward the left until it almost touches the "mountain" of the Histogram.
3. Repeat with the Black Point slider, circled here in Red.
4. Drag it toward the right until it almost touches the other side of the "mountain."
Your picture will appear "crisper"and the controls will be in their new positions as shown:

The last control is to adjust the center Gamma slider (or Contrast) circled in green. Click and hold and move to the left and right slightly to see the effect and leave it where you think best.

Save your picture when you are happy with the result.

If you reopen the Levels tool, the changes to the histogram are evident showing a much better tonal range, one step closer to WOW! Once you are proficient with Levels, it will be time to explore the next step up in editing sophistication, the Curves Tool.