In the PHOTO CLINIC
I am a landlocked diver, and when I’m not underwater, I am a psychotherapist. I work so that I can live out my passion – underwater photography. My family and friends say it’s an addiction. I did a PADI Discover Scuba programme in 1997, and after that I could not get certified fast enough. Then, during a dive trip to Cozumel the following year, a friend handed me a camera and said, “Here, have fun.” And that is where my love for underwater photography began. But I was no stranger to photography. As a kid, I fell in love with telling stories through photography from my dad. My parents encouraged me to see beyond the ordinary and envision what the world has to offer. Photography brings together so many important elements for me. I love to learn as well as savour the journey of life. Underwater photography has a wonderful combination of both. Seeing the world through another lens, envisioning the possibilities, always planning the next adventure – that is where you will find me.
Joseph Tepper: This is certainly a unique take on an image of a juvenile spotted drum, as most photographers opt to include all the colours of the surroundings. Having said that, and knowing the subject well, the spotted drum is essentially black and white to begin with, so I find the after-effects appropriate. I do, however, find the brain coral distracting, and shooting up from a lower position would starkly frame the fish against a dark background to really make it pop.
Lia Barrett: Shooting a macro subject in black and white is very brave, and I commend you, for not too many people attempt it. If you stumble upon such an encounter in the future, I would suggest trying to capture the drum while it is a bit higher. Contrasting its beautiful black and white body against a black background, and then complementing the lines of the scales with those of the coral would make for a beautiful composition. Here, the two subjects are competing with each another, which is a bit distracting.
Joseph: Lunchtime for this turtle! Using a turtle’s feeding time to get up and close is a smart approach. And while I do like all of the elements in the image, including the bright coral colours and sunburst, I can’t help but feel the turtle is a little small in the frame. The image might be even more powerful if the tip of the turtle’s nose was touching your camera’s port.
Lia: I think this is a lovely image. You have great exposure, a great balance in composition between the sunburst and the turtle, and you are displaying animal behaviour nicely. The only nitpicky thing to point out is the slightly warm area at the bottom corner of the image where your strobe was pointing. But that doesn’t even bother me in comparison to the other aspects that are really working in the photograph.
Joseph: What a classic shot this is: an anemonefish grinning for your camera in his iconic home. And you’ve done a great job of bringing out the orange colour and detail with the perfect combination of strobe light and aperture. With iconic and frequently photographed subjects like this, the devil is in the details. In this case, that detail here is composition. By squeezing the fish into the bottom right of the frame, it gives the viewer a subtle feeling he’s trying to escape from the frame. Instead, always try to leave room in front of the face of a subject to make the frame feel more open.
Lia: You have done a fantastic job in capturing this clownfish. The composition is nice, you have everything wonderfully in focus, and we, as the viewers, are engaged head on with the fish. I would only suggest “cooling off” the colour cast. You can do this in Lightroom, Photoshop, or any simple editing program. The cast is warm, meaning you have more reds and yellows present; adding a touch of blue will bring the colours back to a neutral, truer representation.
Joseph: There are so many creative techniques in this image that make it spectacular and demonstrate your knowledge of composition. First, there’s the obvious presence of the topside environment – mangroves and sky – through Snell’s window. There’s also a subtle reflection of the cuttlefish at the surface, which is lovely. You may have benefitted from a longer focal length in your fisheye zoom (say 16mm) to help fill more of the frame with the subject. But even without a dominating primary subject, it’s a wonderful reefscape image.
Lia: I love what you are doing in this image. A cuttlefish in mangroves and a reflection – you are capturing quite a unique set of circumstances. You are also implementing a unique view of Snell’s window, which certainly makes the photograph more interesting. I would suggest trying to get a little closer. I feel like we could see just a bit more of the cuttlefish, especially if it extends its tentacles. Otherwise, well done!
Joseph: This is perhaps my favourite image of the series, again with the use of Snell’s window to give the viewer just a tiny view of the world and clouds above the water’s surface. And while there’s no primary marine subject, there are so many other compositional elements that make this a successful reefscape image. The only detail that could be improved is a bit of harsh lighting on the lower part of the frame. It appears one of your strobes was closer to the jetty and soft coral than the other, resulting in uneven lighting. This can easily be fixed using dodge/burn in post-processing.
Lia: The contrast between the cool sky and the warm corals is a nice balance, and your composition is spot on. I have two suggestions that would potentially make this image a bit stronger: first, watch the intensity of the bottom strobe, and second, find a spot in the pier with an animal to focus on or use a diver to add an extra level of interest and focus into the image. The allure of a pier is what lies beneath, and if you’re not a diver, you are often unaware of the life that calls these artificial structures home. SDOP
CLOWNFISH, RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA Equipment and settings: Nikon D90, 105mm macro lens, Ikelite DS161 and DS125 strobes, f/20, 1/160s, ISO 200
CUTTLEFISH IN THE MANGROVES, RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA Equipment and settings: Nikon D90, 10–17mm lens at 11mm, Ikelite DS161 and DS125 strobes, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 200
TURTLE, “NUDI ROCK” DIVE SITE, RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA Equipment and settings: Nikon D90, 10–17mm lens at 10mm, Ikelite DS161 and DS125 strobes, f/14, 1/125s, ISO 200
BLACK AND WHITE JUVENILE SPOTTED DRUM, BONAIRE
JETTY AND SOFT CORAL, ARBOREK JETTY, RAJA AMPAT, INDONESIA Equipment and settings: Nikon D90, 10–17mm lens at 10mm, Ikelite DS161 and DS125 strobes, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 200