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A matter of choice

by Martin Edge

Reproduced from in focus 70 (February 2001)

This article is all about options. Not selecting the first subject you see on a dive, but taking time to look around.

The image was taken during a night dive beneath Town Pier in Bonaire last December. The great potential of this site during the hours of darkness is the number of orange cup corals that grow off the pillars.

That night I dove with Colin Bateman, another BSoUP member. Like Baldrick, we had a 'cunning plan'. My intention was to scour as many pillars as possible in order to find the most pleasing, photogenic and pictorial bouquet of Tubastrea possible

It was in such profusion beneath Town Pier at night that I couldn't fail! Or could I?

After 15 minutes of dissatisfaction with every spray I found I decided to settle down on a small clump situated in mid-water at around three meters. To be honest I was loosing a little patience! I knew that it wasn't working even before I took 4 or 5 shots. . It was difficult to get in to it, was in disarray and looked so feeble in my viewf inder.

I was confident that I would recognize a photogenic spray when I saw one, but that was the problem - I couldn't find what I wanted!

I put the idea to one side for half an hour or so and concentrated my efforts on small nocturnal crabs. I left ten shots over and recommenced my search. Situated no more than two feet above the seabed I found an ideal spray. Intact, growing proud of the pillarsand content to tolerate the red fiIter in my super Q-light torch.

This shot was taken with a Nikon F90x 105mm lens, F16 @ 125th sec using two flashguns. One Sea and Sea YS 50 set to manual and positioned far enough away to underexpose the subject by about 2 stops. A second Sea and Sea YS 50TTL set to TTL but snooted with the top of an old black Domestos bleach bottle which restricted the beam of the flash to the diameter of a twenty pence (20p) piece. Colin was holding this second flash directly over the primary stalk at various distances with the intention of creating the impression that the orange glow was emanating directly from the Tubastrea.

Only one shot out of the ten taken really worked. The composition and focusing were consistent throughout but the snooted flash beam was so narrow that it proved difficult to illuminate the primary stalk to my satisfaction even with Colin holding and directing it.

So, why was this particular bouquet such good potential?

o It was situated just above the seabed, which made it so simple to approach, to settle beside it and work on the composition.

o It was growing proud of the pillar which made it easy to frame against the water column which at F16 @ 125 th sec using 100 asa at night recorded black.

o The accessibility of the bouquet made it easy for both Colin and I to work close to it

o The main stalk was growing so proud of the bunch that it provided (in my opinion) an idea focal point.

The moral? Take your time to find the right subject, maintain patience, persevere with selection, don't pick the first thing you see and remember that you have a choice in the matter.

My thanks to Colin Rateinan for his assistance with this shot.

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