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  1. #1
    olleorama's Avatar
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    Shooting through the surface

    Okay, so another strange idea. I wanna make a portrait of someone in water, with the subject maybe around 12 inches below the surface. The camera over the water. If I choose to use strobes to light the whole thing up, what should I think of? Polarizing filters? How much of the light will bounce right back? Water has a pretty high albedo last time I checked. Could I put a small flash unit in quadruple freezer bags and go nuts with electrical tape on it and trigger via radio trigger, it a few inches below the water? I plan to use a handheld flash meter in reflected mode since it won't work under water, but how do I now I get a reading from the subject and not just the surface reflection? Should I just bracket away?

    Tips welcome..

  2. #2
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    This is one case in which I would both use a polarizing filter and bracket; two things I almost never do.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  3. #3

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    An underwater camera housing or maybe you can find an old Nikonos. Get in (under) the water with them unless the water is shark infested. If it"s a swimming pool it should have an underwater light but I would think if it is a pool and the water is clear there should be no need for additional light. Take a spotmeter reading off your subject from an angle that won't reflect the water surface as suggested bracket.

  4. #4
    Rick A's Avatar
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    I've seen Sea and Sea dive cameras for really cheap lately. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I saw an entire kit with electronic flash, extra lens, extra seals and everything else you could think of on CL for $65. Sure looked like a neat kit, but I dont need schtuff like that.
    Rick A
    Argentum aevum
    BTW: the big kid in my avatar is my hero, my son, who proudly serves us in the Navy. "SALUTE"

  5. #5
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Hmm, flashing from above sounds like a difficult approach. Polarizers might help but the surface will be moving (and if it weren't you'd probably not get the desired underwater effect at all).

    My first thought is to keep the light sources very shallow to the surface. If you check out the applet here you'll see why: less backscatter in the direction of the lens, but still quite a lot of light to the subject.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

    [APUG Portfolio] [APUG Blog] [Website]

  6. #6
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    The OP wants to shoot from the air into the water, so an underwater camera will not help in the least, and will likely hurt, with most of them being of the clunky scale focusing and viewfinder-framing variety, and requiring dedicated flash connectors and other bits. I have a Nikonos V, and I love it, but I would not use it for this picture. Personally, I'd use a medium format SLR with a leaf shutter.

    To the OP, do you want to use a bathtub, or some other body of water?
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  7. #7
    olleorama's Avatar
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    2F/2F, you are very right. I will use both bathtub and shallow coastal sea when it's calm enough. I would like to have above surface features in the frame as well to give it more dimensions, like rocks, seaweeds sticking up through the surface and whatnot. I imagine the hair of a person calmly swaying amidst the kelp, preferably a pale person, with some wicked haute couture clothes.

    Right now I'm out of MF slrs, so I will see if I can go with LF or TLR. Gonna need waders for this one.

  8. #8
    olleorama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithwms View Post
    Hmm, flashing from above sounds like a difficult approach. Polarizers might help but the surface will be moving (and if it weren't you'd probably not get the desired underwater effect at all).

    My first thought is to keep the light sources very shallow to the surface. If you check out the applet here you'll see why: less backscatter in the direction of the lens, but still quite a lot of light to the subject.
    Yes, this was my thought as well, that's was why I was gonna try to put a strobe or two a few inches below the surface. I wonder if there is any submersible softboxes outhere..

    I wonder how polarizers gonna affect if the light is coming from the water. I guess this one just gonna take a lot of film.

  9. #9
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Well how about putting some tupperware in the water and directing your strobes into those. Then you will have diffused side lighting, through the water.

    I once had a nutty idea that I never got around to carrying out. It was simple, put a mirror on a stick and immerse the mirror below the surface of the water, and then shoot the image in the mirror. The idea being to have the watery surface effect applied to things that are not actually underwater.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  10. #10
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    OK, let's make sure we understand what you want. You do *NOT* want an "underwater photo" but rather a photo of the surface of the water that also shows the model underneath the surface.

    First, you need to decide where you want the illumination. I suspect you need to illuminate both the subject under water and the surface of the water. If you didn't want to "see" the water surface you wouldn't be going to this much trouble.

    I doubt you'll have a lot of success trying to wrap up a bunch of flash units in plastic bags and tape. Check out lights made for underwater pool illumination at a pool store. Barring that, look at flash bulbs rather than xenon strobes. (Make sure you have M sync available. X sync won't work with flash bulbs. But bear with me till the end.) There was a fairly famous underwater photographer whose name escapes me now that used flash bulbs all the time. Kept them taped to his legs. So they will work underwater, as counter-intuitive as it sounds.

    The next thing I expect you'll need is illumination specifically for the surface of the water, not the model under that water. You probably need to control this pretty well to get your surface effect like you want, and the only thing I can say is experiment. Obviously there must be some small motion to the surface or it will be invisible in the final image. But you don't want so much reflection that you cannot see through the surface. So I would guess that you want to illuminate the surface obliquely to create small amounts of specular reflections without overwhelming the image.

    Now, depending on your format, and if you take my suggestion to use flash bulbs below the surface of the water, you might get away with a xenon strobe above the surface if you have a flash solenoid you can use to trip the shutter. Get an old style press camera flash bracket, fire the flash bulbs and the solenoid from the flash handle, then fire the above water xenon strobe from the x-sync on the camera/shutter.

    Of course, all of this might be way too much trouble.
    Michael Batchelor
    Industrial Informatics, Inc.
    www.industrialinformatics.com

    The camera catches light. The photographer catches life.

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