Martin Edge ex­plains how a failed at­tempt at a whale­shark work­shop ended up be­ing a mas­ter­class in shal­low-wa­ter macro.

A failed whale­shark work­shop ends up pre­sent­ing some mega macro op­por­tu­ni­ties in Dji­bouti

Sport Diver - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs by MARTIN EDGE

Last year, I had the plea­sure of es­cort­ing a group of en­thu­si­as­tic un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phers for a six-day ‘full-on’ photo work­shop to pho­to­graph whale­sharks, which reg­u­larly visit the straits of Dji­bouti sit­u­ated on the Horn of Africa. It was my sec­ond group-visit in 12 months to this rel­a­tively un­known coun­try. The draw, with­out doubt, be­ing the vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed whale­shark sight­ings be­tween the months of Oc­to­ber and Fe­bru­ary each year. Un­for­tu­nately, it was not to be this sec­ond time around. While only a few day boats were busy in the straits with in­di­vid­ual clients, Sylvia, my­self and the rest of the group were scan­ning the waters for a sight­ing but it just wasn’t to be! Cut to the chase, I turned the ‘Whale Shark Work­shop’ into a ‘Dap­pled Light and Macro Mas­ter-class’ and while we all con­tin­ued to scour the oceans en­thu­si­as­ti­cally dur­ing the day, we came to a con­sen­sus that be­tween the hours of 5am-7am and again be­tween 4pm-6pm we would visit (which turned out to be) some ex­cel­lent reef-scapes. In prepa­ra­tion for this trip, I had packed an assortment of wide-an­gle lenses and it was al­most an af­ter- thought to in­clude in my kit bag a cou­ple of macro lenses, specif­i­cally a Nikon 60mm and a 105mm macro lens as I had never con­sid­ered Dji­bouti as a macro des­ti­na­tion. No more than a ten-minute boat ride was a shal­low macro photo-dive site, teem­ing with close-up op­por­tu­ni­ties. So pop­u­lar and pro­duc­tive was this par­tic­u­lar site that we aban­doned our orig­i­nal dive pack­age in favour of one very long (120 min­utes plus) both morn­ing and af­ter­noon in a max­i­mum of 5m-10m deep. There were all man­ner of macro sub­jects, but what caught my eye were the blennies and go­b­ies. My first se­ri­ous at­tempts to shoot these were us­ing a Nikon 60mm macro lens, though I con­sid­ered that the work­ing dis­tance of this lens would be enough to al­low me close enough to get a de­cent com­po­si­tion with­out spook­ing them, but I was so wrong with this as­sump­tion. Now, I’m a very big fan of the 60mm macro and I use it first and fore­most when­ever I can be­cause I find it a tad eas­ier and faster to fo­cus than its big brother, the 105mm macro. I must have en­coun­tered at least 20 over a pe­riod of ten min­utes, none of which would al­low me close enough to get a de­cent head shot. The fol­low­ing af­ter­noon I broke out my ‘lit­tle used’ Nikon 105mm macro and set off in search of a lit­tle more suc­cess. It’s per­ti­nent to men­tion that I like to keep my Nau­ti­cam cam­era rig as slim, light­weight and er­gonomic as I pos­si­bly can so on this macro site, I stripped it down and used two short 20cm ‘Stix’ flash arms. I was re­warded! The ex­tra 10cm or more work­ing dis­tance of my 105mm macro lens al­lowed me to ‘shimmy’ on my side along the sand with my cam­era in a ver­ti­cal ori­en­ta­tion and pick off one par­tic­u­lar sabre­tooth blenny. The left side of my cheek was so low that it was in con­tact with the sand and it’s this low pro­file that al­lowed me to get eye-level com­po­si­tion and sep­a­rate the im­me­di­ate back­ground be­hind the sub­ject. My Nikon D7200 con­tin­u­ous 3D fo­cus mode did a good job of track­ing their move­ment. I was close enough to them to use a small aper­ture of f22 (large depth of field) which helped achieve sharp fo­cus from front to back. As al­ways when hav­ing a pro­duc­tive ses­sion such as this, I backed off to re­view my LCD screen to en­sure that I had achieved a shot which pleased me.

EQUIP­MENT

Nikon D7200 in a Nau­ti­cam hous­ing, twin Inon 220 flash­guns on short ‘stix’ flash arms po­si­tioned above and to each side of my hous­ing, point­ing out as if to ‘wrap’ the light around the sub­ject. Nikon 105mm macro lens. F22 at 1/320th sec­ond, ISO 200, auto white bal­ance. Con­tin­u­ous 3D fo­cus mode.

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