Friday, July 9, 2010

Underwater Options Part 4

This was supposed to be part 4 in the "underwater options" series, which in part it is. However, I've added two more topics to this same post, because some things happened along the way during my testing period which I felt needed to be shared.

Part A, Underwater: I headed out to shoot with a Nikonos V with 35 F2.5 lens. A Nikonos is a 35mm camera produced by Nikon designed specifically for underwater photography.
This camera offers the most control out of our tested underwater cameras and allows you to choose your own ISO, aperture, shutter speeds, and focal distance. It's slightly heavy and bulky out of water, but in water it's not an issue. It does include an exposure meter, but the meter is quite hard to see, especially if you're moving under water. The camera does not contain an auto aperture feature, but does have an auto speed setting which came in quite handy. The most difficult thing that I experienced while using this camera was the focus. It is completely manual focus, and not by sight but by distance scale. You must set how far away you are from your subject (1 ft., 5 ft., etc). This was tricky since I was shooting in a pool and not in the ocean with tanks where I would be more stationary. My subjects and myself were constantly moving, I had no measuring tape, and therefor had to just estimate our distance from one another.

Pros:
- Complete control over functions
- Has interchangeable lens, flash, and accessory options
- Has a decent size viewfinder to frame subjects
- Tough, thick body material
- Able to be taken in deeper waters

Cons:
- Camera contains seals which must be maintained (greased) on a regular basis
- Manual controls can be more difficult to work with in an underwater setting
- If you're shooting a lot of pictures, it's tricky to get the finished roll out of the wet camera without dripping water into it, and getting a new roll in quickly (and obviously you must exit the water to do so).

I would recommend this type of underwater camera for a more advanced amateur or pro photographer. You must understand the basic principles of photography and light including how to work with different apertures. This is not a system for someone just wanting to take some beach photos. While the specific camera I used was manual focus, Nikonos did produce an auto-focus model as well. Kit used (V w/ 355 F2.5 lens), EX+, $310. BGN, $189.

If you plan on shooting underwater images at depths greater than that of a swimming pool, then there is more things you need to know and should consider doing more in depth research. One example is that colors shift at greater depths, and color correction filters will need to be used in these instances.

(clarity is not representative of the Nikons, but due to processing issues and editing,
see below info. for the story)


Part B, Film issues: When picking up my film from the underwater shoot from the photo lab, I was handed three rolls of completely green film, from edge to edge. I was a little puzzled, as I have never have an issue exactly like this before. I knew it wasn't an expired film issue. I knew it wasn't a fogging issue. The images were clearly on the film, and there were no spots of any sort on it. The color was just completely wonky. To make sure it wasn't a camera issue, or some weird chlorine issue, I shot another roll and had it developed at a different lab. My suspicions were confirmed, bad chemistry. My film had been ruined due to a processing lab mistake. Something had happened- old chemicals, wrong temperature, bad mixture of chemicals, something. With digital being so widely used now, photo labs are receiving less and less film to process. Most of the machines are designed to process a certain amount of rolls in a certain amount of time. If the chemistry and machines are not tended to properly, then bad, icky things can happen. Unfortunately, I had done everything right during my shoot, and properly exposed my film, but was handed green film (which scans/prints as red, see below).

There's not a lot that you can do to insure that this won't happen to you, but there are a few things that could lessen your chances. You can certainly only take your film to a trusted lab, one that you have done some research on. Make sure that the lab receives a decent amount of film customers, and in some cases you can ask to see their upkeep paperwork. Tests should be run on the machines and their chemicals on a normal basis to ensure everything is where it should be. If the lab is doing these and keeping proper track of their tests, then they should hopefully have this info. on hand. Another tip to keep in mind, if you have multiple rolls of film, and especially if they are important, take a little extra time to have them developed either individually, or at different labs.

Part 3, Changing perspectives: Since this film issue occurred with the images I was shooting, and this was not a shoot that could be easily redone or rescheduled, I realized I needed to change my perspective of the images. I wanted to work with what I had taken, and do my best to salvage what I could. Luckily, some of the colors were still available through the red, and some color correcting could be done. However, the images were grainy and much more difficult to work with. I decided to switch directions and instead of looking at them for the way I had intended them to come out, which was crisp and clear, to embrace the grain, softness, and color shifts and transform the images into an "underwater dream" type of series. If I look at the images for the way I had intended them to turn out, then they were a big fat fail. If I look at them with my new intentions, then I feel successful in my goal and am happy with the end result. Either way, I believe in sharing the good and the bad. The successes and the failures. It's a way to learn, for myself and hopefully for you as well. So, I'll take it with a grain of salt, or a bag of sand, and like them for what they are, and what I could salvage from a big huge red mess.

(Yes, all of the above images came out red like the one red example above and needed some serious editing help. To see more of the images from this series, click here.)


© Jenn Alexander Fletcher