Underwater photography is a race against time. Moreover, you might not always be able to bring along multiple lenses for your shoot. Macro lenses are most often used for photographing small fish, but here is a technique for using them to take underwater shots with bokeh. (Report by: Yasuaki Kagii）
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM/ FL: 100mm/Manual exposure (f/5, 1/100 sec)/ ISO 100/WB: 4,600K
The blue pearl-spot chromis crowding around the table coral looked like powdered snow to me, and I tried depicting them as such .
Widen your aperture in bright locations to create bokeh from fish in the foreground
100mm macro lenses are often used by professional photographers who take photographs of living things for documentation purposes. The lenses are often used together with an f-number of about f/7.1 - 16, which clearly depicts the features and state of the creatures.
But 100mm macro lens can double up and be used to shoot photographs with bokeh. This makes it even more useful for underwater photography, especially since there is a limit to how many lenses you can carry with you underwater.
For the shot above, which features a school of blue pearl-spot chromis on top of the table coral, I set the aperture to f/5. I selected a subject in a bright location where there was sufficient sunlight and then framed the shot with the blue ocean as the backdrop while shooting the subject at eye level. I used a low intensity flash because I wanted to create changes in the gradation of the blue colour. Although the blue pearl-spot chromis is the main subject, I focused on the coral at the back in order to create a layer of dots by blurring the fish in front.
EOS 5D Mark III/ FL: 100mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/10 sec)/ ISO 100
I took this shot at f/4 as I wanted to create large bokeh circles. I did so by placing the silver fry directly in front of the lens, and using a flash to illuminate the area.
EOS 5D Mark III/ FL: 100mm/ Manual exposure (f/5, 1/10 sec)/ ISO 100
I created colourful beads in the water by making bokeh circles from the fish crowding in front.
Point: Shoot at the same height as the corals
The focusing distance to the corals was 80cm. I lay prone and made sure I rose until I was at eye level with the coral. I then used an external flash to take the shot.
Working with the lens: A 100mm telephoto macro lens is essential for underwater photography
Although a basic requirement of underwater photography is to get close to the creatures you shoot, a lens with a long working distance becomes necessary when it is difficult to do so. 100mm and 500mm class macro lenses are used in such cases but, personally, the only lens I have used in the past 15 years is a 100mm macro lens.
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Born 1971 in Hyogo Prefecture, Kagii is an underwater photographer, and was apprentice to the underwater photographer, Katsutoshi Ito, during his university days. He became a freelance photographer in 1998, and specializes in a photography style that lets him get close to the natural rhythm of living creatures so as not to stress them where possible.
Kagii has been a representative of Clé et Photos since 2013.