5 Top tips to improve your Nudi Photography
I never considered myself a 'Nudi lover' and neither a Nudi hater...
I was an in-between diver that didn't get overly excited seeing the strange little pokemons of the underwater world. During my years of diving I met with many Nudi lovers and their love for the little colorful sea slugs seemed incomprehensible to me. When sharing my infidelity with a true Nudi believer I got frowned upon!
I really didn’t get what all the excitement was about. It was a world in the dive community that I did not understand. But passion for UW photography changed my views towards the little creatures and I have to admit that I became a nudi lover too!!
In fact, Indonesia made me a believer!
If you are reading this blog, then you are probably interested in nudibranchs and how to best capture the little sea creatures on photo, so that it is worthy of sharing with your fellow nudi lovers.
But if you are not familiar with them than let me quickly explain what they are and why so many people are fascinated with them. Otherwise skip to our TOP 5 Tips.
A NUDI WHAT?
The name Nudibranch, comes from the Latin word for ‘naked’ and the Greek word for ‘gills’.
They are mollusks in the class of gastropods. But basically, it is a sea slug!
However there are some species of sea slugs that are not nudibranchs. The name ‘sea slug’ may sound pretty boring, but surprisingly these little creatures have become enormously popular and have a great number of fans around the world. Especially in the photography dive community, as they make great subjects to unleash your underwater creativity as well as a beginner or professional photographer.
Nudis are about the size of your thumb, but many are a much, much, … much smaller. Some are soo small and well hidden, that it makes you wonder how they were discovered in the first place. But some are big and measure up to 60 cm, like the Spanish dancers.
Nudibranch are a true wonder of nature with over 3,000 different species that come in an infinite range of colors, shapes and supernatural abilities which makes them subjects of top scientific research. If you are not convinced yet of why there are so many nudi lovers. Check out the wonderfull little slugs below!
5 TOP TIPS TO GET A GREAT NUDI SHOTS
The reason I love nudibranch is because they are little pieces of art that can be found in almost every ocean and they move very slow which makes them great subjects for underwater photography.
You do not need an expensive underwater camera and some of the best Nudi photographers are using compact camaras like the Canon G series, Sony RX series and now the Olympus TG has a great macro possibilities. Our favourite setup is our Sony A7III with a 90mm macro lens in a Nauticam housing with a SubSee +10 magnifier attached to the housing lens port to capture details and really small nudis.
But whatever setup you use, you can really get creative with the little slugs, but there are a few tips that I wish I knew when I started photographing them.
1.GET YOURSELF A SPOTTER
First you need to know that the little bastards can be very difficult to find!
So if you are serious about getting good shots then ask your dive guide about which Nudis can be found in the area and if he can point them out to you. Especially if you have a bucketlist.
For example, Indonesia offers some of the best macro and nudibranch diving in the world and has great dive guides and spotters that are specially trained to find the tiniest little nudis. Ask around before you go. Some of the facebook groups are a great place to get info.
Second a spotter understands a photographer and the time you need to get a good shot. And while you are playing around with settings and lighting, he will go and search for your next subject so you never waste precious time underwater.
If you start with nudi photography, then get low at eye level. This is not always possible depending on where you find your nudi so you might have to decide if it is worth the shot or move on to another subject. If you are struggling with composing your first shots then focus on the head or gills and then move on to whatever you deem interesting.
The easiest way to get a sharp picture, is to stop down your lens to the smallest aperture (largest f/number), f14 or f16 is a good start. Since nudis move slow, you can keep your shutter speed relatively slow at let’s say 1/125 or 1/160. And finally keep your ISO low, I usually set it around 200-400 ISO. But these are just the settings I start with and after I fine tune little.
The main idea is that smaller apertures give you a greater depth of field, meaning more of the image will be in focus and it gives a nice black back ground behind the nudi. If your camera allows, then also use spot focus and spot metering to help you nail the focus where you intent to focus.
3.USE ONE STROBE FACING DOWN
I own two strobes and I struggled with getting good Nudi shots till the moment one of my strobes died and I was left with one strobe. Nudis can be found at any depth ranging from shallow to deep but to get a good shot, I would highly recommend to use one strobe, a small dive light or a snoot to light up the subject. And underwater lighting also helps to get creative.
Personally, I now prefer to use one strobe. It keeps things simple and I get good results. Combined with the camera settings as explained above I position my strobe (INON Z330, fiber optic cable) just above the lens port under an angle looking down towards the subject. Then I adjust my strobe intensity (-0,5 to -6) manually based on trial and error. I always practice on a piece of coral to not disturb the subject to much until I get the settings and focus right. That way I do not disturb any behavior and have a better chance of a good shot.
4.PATIENCE - TAKE YOUR TIME
If you love underwater photography you quickly realize that it takes time to get a good shot!! Sometimes I spend 20 minutes with a subject!... waiting for the animal to show some form of behavior or for it to move to an interesting angle.
But your dive buddies and guide might quickly get annoyed by it. So, if you are diving to take pictures then get your own guide/spotter. And dive with other photography buddies to brush up your skills and compare results which help you improve quicker.
5.USE A DIOPTER +10 (MAGNIFIER)
I did not know what a diopter was until I met other macro photographers. And soon I realized I needed one, when I saw that they got shots that were impossible for me to get.
In short diopters are wet lenses or magnifiers. They are a type of lens that attaches or screws to the outside of the lens port and they enable you to magnify your subject. This way, you can shoot really small nudibranchs (0.5 cm or smaller) or get some really nice close-up shots of interesting features like the gills, rhinophores or eggs.
Diopters come in different strengths and offer various measurements of magnification. For example, +5, +7, +10. Personally, I use a SubSee +10 diopter and it is a great combination with my Sony 90 mm macro lens. Shooting with diopters is a natural progression for many macro photographers and you might want to buy one sooner than later.
However before buying a diopter, I was able to try different diopters from other photographers. This was great because shooting with a diopter is a very different experience and needs a bit of practice before you get the hang of it. And since quality does not come cheap (260-600 euro) it helps you to quickly figure out how much you really want to spend. But once you have one, you will see it greatly increases your range of options for shooting these little wonders of nature!
Thanks for reading !
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By Travel2Sea.com (August, 2021)
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