May 6, 2013 “Bad” vis? There is always something to photograph! By Gayle Van Leer


Here in Southern California we consider coastal near shore conditions with 20’ of visibility a good vis day. Anything more than that is a treat indeed and a day to break out the wide angle lens.  We have plenty of 10’ vis or less days too so as a photographer who takes her camera on every dive, I have learned to be creative and try to make a great shot happen despite looking in every direction and feeling surrounded by a conspiracy of floating particles just waiting to make that brilliant shot turn into a blinding snow storm of backscatter.

There is always safety in close ups, abstracts and macro, and it does not have to be tiny macro just a small object that mostly fills the frame so you can hide from the ruination of so many great underwater shots, backscatter. You may have to think outside the box like I did with the abstract of the sunflower sea star. I recall the day I shot that as being particularly dark and dirty water and yet I still end up with a shot that has some merit and might be best described as rivers of lava running down a mountain through snow covered trees at dusk. Shooting with continuous lighting lends itself perfectly to the close up environment as I can keep moving my lights until I see the backscatter “disappear” in my display.

Getting close to small objects in tight spots is another place where the compact Beneath The Surface tray and arm system excels. So many of the smaller critters, like the shrimp, are going to be hiding in some tight place where you are just not going to be able to get with a large camera system. I have been able to squeeze my camera into some fairly tight spots to get up close.

Another subject that I seem to rarely pass by without grabbing a few photos of are the tube anemones. No two photos come out the same as they move in the “breeze” of the surge or a current. You can come in close and get just the center or move out a bit. Here they also seem to come in a wide variety of colors  from the one pictured that is multi colored, to dark purple and bright peach. They make interesting photo subjects because you can shoot them from many different angles and come up with entirely different effects.

And lastly don’t forget to look in the sand!  You may think it is just sand but it is teeming with critters if you just stop and look, including large ones that burry themselves such as this banded guitar fish whose eyes only were the only thing exposed.

So “bad vis” does not have to be a bad photo day!

5-6-13-eye-banded-guitar-fish 5-6-13-sand-dollar 5-6-13-shrimp 5-6-13-Sunflower Star, Pycnopodia helianthoides detail 12-8-12a 5-6-13-Tube-anemone


Happy shooting!



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