How To?? – Big Animal Photography

Silver Tip Big Animal PhotographyMola molas, sharks, whalesharks, and mantas are common big animal photo subjects for adventurous divers looking for something a little more exotic than a nudibranch. However, these big animals can be difficult to photograph as they tend to be large, shy, and elusive! The best knowledge to arm yourself with has nothing to do with camera settings but rather body language and behaviour. All large aquatic animals are naturally skittish and spook easily, that is why they are able to grow as large as they do. In order to approach one close enough to take a photo, a diver must move very slowly and use a gradual intersecting angle; whatever you do don’t “swim as fast as possible with flashes firing”, this will backfire! A slow and steady approach works wonders. The best way to illuminate a large animal properly is to use natural light, with a bit of flash as fill (if possible). As its not often a diver can get closer than 1 metre (3 feet) of a large subject the best fstop setting is f5.6 – f8. Then, in order to get the correct natural light setting, dial in the shutter speed until it reads -0.3 –to -1.0 in the direction you are going to shoot, this will provide the perfect blue background. Obviously, the shutter speed will vary for every encounter depending on available light, depth, water clarity, and time of day. There is no magic shutter speed that will work in every situation. For very big subjects such as whalesharks and whales, divers should avoid using strobes so as not to spook the animals too much, and strobes are not powerful enough to light one of these larger animals anyway.

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