I started out on my imaging career as an underwater cameraman. Long story short I had started work as a SCUBA Diving facility videographer initially in the Canary Islands off of Africa’s North West Coast and ended up living in the Islands of Micronesia from 2001 onward.
Fig 1.Pushing Glass in South Africa filming Tiger Sharks for National Geographic
I would dabble in still imaging but only on land at that time as for me underwater imaging needed to move, it had to have that fluidity of the Ocean. Underwater still photography, in my mind, couldn’t convey the magic as well as video could. Sublime movements of a Giant Manta Ray as it glides inches overhead, blocking out the sun. Or the reactionary movements one has when the air cavities within your body is invaded with the penetrating sonar of an inquisitive Sperm Whale. Still motion imaging for me couldn’t catch that, that and a myriad other scenarios.
If there has been one staple element in my life it has been the Ocean. I grew up along the South Coast of the UK as a child, many days spent at the beaches around my hometown of Bournemouth. I had long been captivated by it, its movements, its rage, its tranquility. There’s something about the qualities of movement of any body of water that can lend itself beautifully to landscape photography.
Eddies around the base of a rock in a fast flowing river, the actions of a wave receding along a high shoreline, the maelstrom of energy and ripples as waves crash over a rocky shoreline, but how to best capture them photographically?
I’ll have to admit, my first foray into filter use simply revolved around purchasing the ‘super stopper’ filters, those ND Filters so dense that they would allow for a reduction of 6, 10 and 15 stops of light. As a result I could then lengthen my shutter to emphasize the movement of the Ocean or a flowing river in the middle of a sunny day with the sun at its peak. I would chip away at both ends of the balance insofar as opening my aperture to such a level that would still allow me to lengthen my shutter speed so as to introduce motion blur into the feel of the shot.
Fig2. ND1000 in the early evening allowed for this 5min shutter to calm a truly rough Ocean. – Mermaid Grotto, Okinawa, Japan – ND1000 + Soft GND0.9
As with all forms of imaging the shooter is always looking for the best way to hone in on the ‘vibe’ or ‘look’ that they feel best signifies their work. For me I soon got out of the desire to simply place an ND1000 on everything as was the temptation at the start of my filtered journey.
I soon found that the same look, especially when dealing with a scene that relied heavily on a liquid or cloud element rapidly adopted a catalyst vibe, one that I was starting to grow less and less fond of.
Fig3.Different Coloration but the same technique, the silky water effect, for me, gets old, quick.