Canon 100mm F2.8L Lens – Underwater Macro

In my last blog (canon 100mm F2.8L Lens – A new love/hate relationship) I told you about experiences with this new macro lens above the water. I found it very difficult to get my subjects in focus due to the small depth of field.

Despite the problems I had, I couldn’t wait to take the lens underwater. After all shooting macro is something I had been dreaming about for years.

As I would need to spend a lot of time on a single subject I decided it would be best to do a shallow dive alone on the house reef (Bunutan, Amed, Bali)

 

First Impressions

Upon entering the water from the shore I let go of the camera to put on my fins. It quickly sank towards the bottom. I hastily grabbed it, realising that I had not considered the difference in weight of this lens and the one I normally use or the difference in air volume inside the flat port verses a dome port.

After struggling with my fins, I started my descent and search for small critters. To start easy I was looking for none moving subjects and quickly found a tunicate. I moved in close to make the most of the macro effect, but when I looked through the view finder the tunicate was so big it would not fit inside the frame.

Tunicate
F13 1/200 ISO100, two strobes 3/4 power face on

How big things appeared is something which amazed me above the water but the effect underwater is even greater. This is because the water makes everything look 33% larger and 25% closer.

Reflecting on this knowledge it struck me that I might be able to get some great shots of those more timid creatures which have always alluded me before. Being able to keep a distance from the animals worked and I finally got some decent close-ups.

 

Blue Spotted Ribbon Tail Ray Eye
F13, 1/200, ISO200, two strobes at 3/4 power head on

 

Lizard Fish Head
F13, 1/200, ISO200, two strobes at 3/4 power head on

Keeping Still

This was by far the hardest part of the dive. I was lucky that there wasn’t too much current and being dramatically over weighted made it easy to sit on the sandy bottom. However the lens was still swaying back and forth over the subject. Getting the correct focus seemed almost impossible.

I adapted a technique of holding a focus point with my back button and watching the subject through the viewfinder. I waited until the subject swayed into focus and instantly pressed the shutter button down.

Doing this a few times for each subject I hoped that at least one of the images would be correctly focused.

 

Nudibranch attempt one
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Single strobe on 1/2 power from top right.
Here the composition was good but the focus point is on the middle of the nudibranch not on its head.

 

Nudibranch attempt two
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Single strobe on 1/2 power from top right.
Now I have the head in focus but the lens has moved and chopped off part of the subject.

 

nudibranch attempt three
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Single strobe on 1/2 power from top right.
Now both composition and focus are off.

 

Nudibranch
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Single strobe on 1/2 power from top right.
It took me 6 attempts to finally get one with the correct composition and focus.

 

Lighting

As I had discovered with the above water pictures, I needed to use small appetures to get a depth of field which I could work with. I started the dive with F13, 1/200 and ISO100 I also had two strobes which I set to 3/4 power. As the dive went on I found myself increasing the ISO and reducing the strobe power. The strobes were giving too much contrast between the highlights and shadows.

On some of these subjects I started to experiment with moving the strobes around to get different lighting effects.

 

Wart Slug
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Single strobe on 3/4 power from right.

 

wart slug small
F13, 1/200, ISO320, two strobes one on 1/2 power from top right and one on 3/4 power from bottom left.

 

Conclusion

I was expecting this dive to be difficult and it was. In an 85 minute dive I took 77 pictures, of which only 19 were in focus. However those 19 pictures do look amazing.

I have learnt some lessons from this experience, like to remember to take less weights and to be patient.

I can’t wait to go and take some more beautiful pictures with this lens.

 

Feather star
F13, 1/200, ISO200, two strobse on 3/4 power from front on. Featherstar

 

Christmas Tree Worms
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Two strobes on 1/2 power from top and right.  Christmas Tree Worms

 

cushion star
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Two strobe on 3/4 power from straight on.
Close up of cushion star, creates interesting patterns

 

Feather star pattern
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Two strobe on 3/4 power from straight on.
Close up of feather star, creates interesting patterns

 

Crab Hiding
F13, 1/200, ISO320, Two strobe on 1/2 power from straight on.
This crab was extremely difficult to capture because it was hiding in the middle of a spiky coral. I had to hover above the coral and shoot down, which made it very difficult to hold still. Pulling the strobes very close to the lens to avoid shadows created by the coral obstructing the crabs face.

Related Images

Leave a Comment