PHOTO GEAR FOR CAPTURING SCHOOLING FISH
Schooling fish are one of the most mesmerising sights underwater. Alex Tyrrell selects some of his favourite photo gear for capturing great images…
Tokina 10-17mm fisheye
This is my lens of choice for schooling fish, with a 180-degree angle of view for the big schools, plus the ability to zoom to 17mm reducing this to 100 degrees if you need a tighter composition. This lens has great close focusing ability, which is perfect for close-focus wide-angle images when paired with a mini dome port, gives you flexibility with the 10-17mm zoom range, is very reasonably priced and is available for both Nikon and Canon mounts. Okay, the image quality is not quite as good as the Canon 8-15mm or Nikkor 10.5mm, with noticeably more chromatic aberration, but this is easily fixed in Lightroom, so I think it is worth the trade off for the additional focal lengths the zoom allows. Even though the majority of my shots with this lens have been at 10mm, there are a few subjects that would not have suitably filled the frame without zooming to 17mm, so unless I know for sure I will be shooting subjects that require only the widest focal length, I find it hard to leave this lens behind.
Price: from £430 | www.tokinalens.com
Zen dome ports
I use two different size Zen Dome Ports, the DP-100 & DP-200, my selection of which to use is dependent on the intended subject and style of shot. The DP-200 works with all of the wide-angle lenses I use with my Nikon D7000, from fisheye to rectilinear to mid-range zooms, and is great for the majority of wide-angle shots. The smaller DP-100 is only suitable for use with fisheye lenses and my go-to option for close focus wide-angle or if I need a slightly smaller system. Zen use high-grade crystal glass with a magnesium fluoride broadband anti-reflective coating to minimise internal reflections from camera lenses, lettering on cameras, and the like, that can ruin an image.
Price: from £750 | www.zenunderwater.com
Inon z240 strobes with 4600k diffusers
The Z240 is probably the most popular strobe on the market, and for good reason. They are travel-friendly being compact and lightweight, run on four AA Batteries (Alkaline or NiMH rechargeable), and are fairly powerful for their diminutive size. They don’t quite match the output or recycle time of the much larger and heavier Sea & Sea YS-250 or Ikelite DS160 & DS161, but when shooting reflective fish they are more than sufficient and need to be powered down quite a bit. They now come supplied with two temperature-warming diffusers, the one to go for is the 4600-Kelvin, that produces a richer blue background in wide-angle images (assuming you are shooting in blue water!). You achieve this by setting the colour temperature in your cameras WB Settings or adjust the WB of the image to a cooler colour temperature in post processing.
Price: from £595 each plus £25 for diffusers | www.inon.jp
Subal 45 degree magnifying viewfinder
In my opinion, a magnifying viewfinder is an essential piece of kit, albeit a fairly expensive one. Why spend thousands of pounds on a camera, lenses, housing, strobes and the many other accessories needed, and then have a viewfinder that is partially obscured so you have to move your head around to see the edges of the frame? A magnifying VF allows you to easily see the whole frame for accurate composition, plus lets you read camera settings without taking your eye off the viewfinder so you don’t miss the action. I previously owned the straight GS180 VF, but since getting the WS45 model I have not put the old one back on the housing, as once I had adapted to the different viewing position (that does take a few dives) I do not want to go back to the straight one, I like the 45 so much!
Price from £750 | www.subal.com
I use strobes for the majority of my imaging, but when the water is clear, I am staying shallow, have good light levels and the school is big, I prefer Magic Filters to get colour much further back into the shot than strobes could manage. The conditions have to be right to get the best out of them, but when they are, they are my preference over strobes that can only light the front of the school. But you need to be aware of the direction of the ambient light and shoot with it, at a level or slightly downward orientation, making images with sunballs and shots at steep upward angles out of the question!
Price from £22 | www.magic-filters.com