In the PHOTO CLINIC

Scuba Diver Ocean Planet - - Through The Lens - Pam Murph

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

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