Using the Available-Light Option

Underwater photography is considered a gear-intensive endeavor. Few will argue that it takes some time and effort to learn how to use everything from cameras and strobes to computer software. However, just because you own a piece of equipment doesn’t mean you have to use it all the time. We want our equipment to give us options, not orders.

Photo by Marty Snyderman

Photo by Marty Snyderman

The question of whether to use a strobe(s) provides a good example. With all the emphasis on the value of using strobes in underwater photography, I think that too often we fail to consider the possibility of creating images illuminated solely by Mother Nature’s strobe — the sun.

Both of the photos you see here were created on the same dive using natural light — aka available light, or sunlight. One image is a silhouette; the other reveals colors and detail in a blacktip reef shark and the pleasing patterns of dappled light on the shark’s body.

The conditions were perfect for available-light shooting — a bright sunny day, calm seas and very clear water. Rather than get into the techniques involved in creating these images, the point I want to emphasize is this: Before you go charging off with your strobes ablazing, take a few minutes to consider your surroundings. There are times when sunlight might be all you need when composing compelling images.

Story and photo by Marty Snyderman