Full Tank Photos

Subject: Aquatic Photography

>Will you "professional" aquatic photographers give a few hints?  For 
>example, why is a short depth of field used when photographing so 
>frequently?  This causes part of the photo to be out of focus. 

First let me say that IMO, taking _really good_ full tank shots is one of
the hardest forms of aquarium photography.

It's not that people _want_ to use a short depth of field, but depending on
the lenses and lighting you have at your disposal, sometimes you are forced
into using a low F-stop or going with a higher speed (grainier) film.

 >Take a 
>look at Amano's pictures where he photographs the length of the tank - 
>everything is in focus except maybe a darting fish.  My guess is he uses a 
>long depth of field and longer exposure times. 

First, let me say that Amano, as good as he may be as an aquatic gardener,
is even more of an artist with the camera.  While his tanks are beautiful,
what _really_ makes his books the show stoppers they are is the photography.  

Most of us who are "professionals" in that we have published photos, are
really hobbyists who enjoy using our cameras as part of our hobby.  We earn
our livings in other areas (which is a good thing or we'd all starve<g>)
For the same reason, most of us make do with the photo equipment that we
have.  Very few of us have at our disposal the large format cameras that
Amano uses for at least some of his work.

>The recent palaudarium article had excellent photos - weren't those by
Karen Randall?  

Yes they were mine, and although I thank you for the praise, I wouldn't
call them "excellent".  They were the best that I've been able to manage on
that particular tank.  It is the hardest tank I've ever worked on, because
if you get the exposure of the land section right, the water section is
under exposed and vice versa.  To my credit though, I've had other aquarium
photographers with more experience than I try taking pictures of that tank,
and they've done no better.<g>

> The few I've tried were off color (no lens filters were used) and the
images weren't crisp. 
> What kind of lenses are used, filters, film speed, etc, for the folks who
are successful?

Funny thing, but Neil and I were just talking about this off the list.
Here's my response to him:

Neil wrote:

>I have always had problems taking full tank views with my flash. did you use
>time exposure with tripod or did you use a flash. IF the latter, I would be
>interested in knowing who you positioned the light.

I wrote:

I have been very disappointed with full tank photos with the flash.  Even
when I get the exposure right, and manage to avoid flash back and streaks
on the glass, the color is all wrong when the light comes from the front.
I've tried slaves on top, but I just don't have enough or the right
intensity to make it work.  I end up with hot spots.  

When I discussed this problem with Tony Terciera,(who I consider to be one
of the best aquarium photographers around) he suggested using more smaller
slaves and wrapping them in bubble wrap to diffuse the light.  I just
haven't gotten to the point that buying a bunch of small flashes (and slave
attachments) has made it to the top of the spending priority list.<g>  (a
better Macro comes much higher on the list, as does another Canon AE-1
body)  Dave <my husband> got me this humongous "SunPak" flash that looks
like an atomic bomb has gone off in your house if you use it at full power.
 It's been fun for close up stuff, but is lousy for the full tank shots. (I
usually use it at 1/4-1/2 power)

I've been playing around with time exposures on a tripod and different
speeds and brands of films.  My favorite film at the moment is one called
"Provia".  I was using Ektachrome, but without the flash, I didn't like the
yellowish color I was getting. (actually, I think the ones I sent you were
taken with Ektachrome)  I've found that in a well lit tank, I can sometimes
get away with using ASA 100 film, and I can almost always get the job done
with ASA 200.  With the camera on a tripod, I set the shutter speed at
either  1/15 or 1/30, (1/30 if I can get away with it) and an aperature of
1.8-2.5.  This would give you a pathetic depth of field with the macro on,
but seems to be OK with the little bit more distance you have with either a
50mm or 28mm lens.

>I seems to me that the color temperature of the bulbs should be matched to
>the film. I think alot of films are rated at 5500 or 6000K . If the bulbs
>are different than there would be a color shift. I have no idea, however, if
>500K is  noticeable.
>It also sounds like your 6 or so bulbs are paying off for you in the
>photography department. My time exposures take longer.  

My big problem on my 70 with this approach is the @#$% Giant Danios in the
tank.  They just won't slow down for my shutter speed!<G>

I'm still not completely satisfied with what I'm getting,  (when are we
_ever_ satisfied?<g>)  But I _am_ getting better at it.  I find full tank
shots, particularly if the tank is not really well lit, the hardest shots
to get right. 
Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association