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Schooling bigeyes in the current!

Peter Verhoog, Nature and Conservation Photographer

Schooling bigeyes in the current!

Taking a picture of schooling fish in a current can be challenging.
How do you get all the fish to swim in the same direction, how do you get close enough? Especially with a fishey lens, this can be difficult, the range can be as small as 30 cm. You also want all fish to be let well – and that does not mean that you create a very ‘flat picture’. Photography is the art of drawing with light, not putting your subject into a floodlight

Well, there are some factors that you to take into account, in this case: the current is the first. A school of fish wants to swim into the same direction. Easy fort the fish, but as a photographer, you want to stay at the right spot. Buoyancy control is a prime quality for a photographer. You have to be able do dive well before you can take pictures under water.
Your behaviour will determine if the fish will come close. Let them come to you. Be calm, do not make any sudden movements. Some fish have a ‘fixed spot’ on the reef. They will initially move away, but will return later – if the coast is clear. This means that you have to wait for them. Be patient. Always. Be motionless, and they will see you as a fixed asset in their surrounding – harmless.
In this picture, you can see that the school is well lit: the light is distributed evenly over the fish, most intense at the front fish, fading into the background. It s not overdone: some use a strobe with a very wide angle. This does not add to the atmosphere of the picture and effectively eliminate all structure and depth from the photo.
They fish have placed themselves in a line from front to back in this picture: this too creates movement and depth. This depends on the current.
When making a shot as this one, where you work in currents at a depth of 35 meters, it is extremely important to keep an eye on your time and air consumption. And if you have a buddy, he or she can check time and check on you.

Photo data:

  • 1/125 sec
  • F/11
  • ISO 800
  • Camera: Nikon D700
  • Lens: Nikon 16mm fisheye
  • Sealux underwaterhousing

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