Thursday, April 2, 2009

#12: Underwater Photography: The Artistic Beauty of the Marine Environment

Guest Post by Keith Ellenbogen, Parsons School of Design

Diver with wide angle lens

Diving into the clear blue waters of Fiji, I arrive in a biodiverse world spectacular in nature. Approaching the corals and fish, I focus my underwater lens on their elaborate colors, patterns, textures and behaviors. The images of these photographs allow the viewer to gain an awareness of the underwater world in an artistic and visually pleasing way.

A crab resting on a soft coral at night

However, the excitement of taking pictures begins onboard the boat during the dive briefing. This is the moment when the dive masters relay current information as to where some of the animals of photographic interest were last seen as well as a dive plan based on time of day, tide charts, and expected currents. Using the information provided, I select a lens, either wide angle or macro, depending on the underwater topography and the marine life I am expecting to encounter. With a careful pre-dive visual inspection of the o-rings, the camera is sealed within the housing and all functions retested, before transferring the housing from the Naia to Skiff-A.

Textures and patterns of hard corals

Once underwater, one of the primary challenges is to find the animals. It's a big ocean and most of these subjects are relatively small. While many of these animals are not rare they are often hard to find, well camouflaged, living in nooks and crannies or swimming at a distance just beyond a good photographic moment. However, with slow breathing, patience, and a bit of good luck, it is possible to wait for just the right moment that reveals a visually interesting body movement, eye contact or wiggle of the tail.

Soft coral crab hiding within the soft coral

Sabre squirrelfish in crevasse

On one of many dives within Fiji's protected Namena Marine Reserve, I decided to rearrange my lights and photograph one of the most common fish on the reef, the golden damselfish (photo below). Looking for a different perspective, this image showcases the de-tails of shape, form and composition. The individual scales and tissues that perhaps are often overlooked as this fish swims past us time and time again are emphasized. In contrast to abstract macro photography, the above example of a wide-angle photograph captures a moment peering into a small crevasse to discover a colorful Sabre Squirrelfish. The stunning vibrant yellow-orange fins and red-orange body is rotating in one direction while its eye curiously looks backward in the opposite direction towards the camera.

Tail of a golden damselfish

The abundance of undersea life in Fiji is amazing and on every dive there was always something new to see and photograph. Enjoy!

-Keith Ellenbogen, Parsons School of Design

P.S. All my photographs for this expedition were taken using Nikon D200, Sea&Sea Underwater Housing, and duel YS-250 Strobes.

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