CAPTURING THE PERFECT
Cover images are vitally important to Sport Diver, as we want to ‘pop’ on the newsstand against our rival titles and ‘wow’ subscribers when they pick up the magazine from their door step.
Choosing a cover is never an easy thing to do. While we need an image with plenty of impact, we also require room for the masthead and cover lines—a remarkably hard task to accomplish. I get cover photographs from everywhere—image banks, regular contributors—I’ve even stumbled across the odd great shot on Facebook and tracked the photographer down to get the original image. However, I have also started to capture my own cover images, taken while on assignment for the magazine, and seeing firsthand what goes into taking a solid cover shot has given me even more of an appreciation for the skill involved.
The December issue of Sport Diver was a case in point. I was on assignment in Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean, just north of Venezuela. My wife, Penney (my regular buddy and underwater model) and I were cruising along a wall at 25m when I spotted a massive Caribbean spiny lobster crawling along the reef some 10 meters below us. I caught Penney’s attention, pointed out the lobster and then carefully dropped down to its depth several metres in front of it, which then allowed me to slowly approach the crustacean without spooking it. At the same time, Penney stealthily approached from behind it. Getting close enough to shoot took several minutes, as every time the lobster looked like it was getting ready to dart away, we had to pause, hold position and then move once it had settled down.
I was initially shooting landscape, and got a couple of great shots in the bag with Penney right alongside it. However, upon realising that the large lobby was quite relaxed in our presence and didn’t seem to mind us surrounding it, my mind turned toward cover potential.
I carefully rotated my camera into position to shoot portrait and eyed the viewfinder on my underwater housing. The lobster was big and boasted some great colouration on its carapace and legs. Penney was located right next to it to give some idea of size and scale, and the reef on which it was perched pleasingly ran from the bottom left to the top right of the image. I snapped a couple of shots, and the second one was the image we eventually ran with on the cover.
Everything just fell into place. The reef nicely splits the cover in two, with the coral and the lobster on the one side, and Penney and the dark background on the other. I deliberately shot with a high F-stop to achieve a dark background, which gives the masthead and top cover lines a deep black to stand out against.
For once, the marine life played ball and because of our careful, non-threatening approach, the lobster was happy for us to ‘wrangle’ it into position. It is not normally that easy, and we have spent ages working a subject only for it to tire of our presence and swim away, just as I was getting ready to take the shot. So frustrating!