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BSoUP Meeting - October 2004

by Gill McDonald

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Reproduced from in focus 80 (Winter 2004)

DIGITAL, FILE USAGE AND THE FUTURE - PAUL KAY

Paul is now very firmly involved in the 'digital revolution' but it took some time to get there. When Nikon's D1X camera was launched, by various means he managed to find the money and bought one. Although he used this camera for a couple of years and sold many images taken on it, he was not overly impressed either by the image quality or the versatility.

The turning point come when he realised he was relying on TIFF images and using his shiny digital toy exactly like a film camera. The D1X is a 5 mega pixel camera and he felt the images were no better than 35mm film, even after shooting a great many pictures. Then, he bought an even shinier new toy - the S2 Pro - and everything started to come together. This was because he started to use it underwater at about the same time as Adobe produced the RAW plug-in for Photoshop 7. Paul discovered that shooting on RAW then using Photoshop's RAW file converter really started to change things. Now Paul's firm view is that the key to digital photography is the correct use of software and his advice is to buy good software and learn to use it properly. With digital, unlike film, you con shoot and shoot without worrying about film costs. Sometimes this can lead to photographers taking less care about the subject matter end relying on software to make the images look good. For this reason and others, some people consider digital photography to be 'cheating' with the manipulation that can be applied to the image file. However, Paul considers manipulation end what he would class as optimisation to be very different things. Optimisation is a global function whereas manipulation usually takes piece on only part of a file, and manipulation can be applied to film just as much as digital images.

Paul also considers using JPG format on a digital SLR to be equivalent to having a Ferreri and driving it at 30mph! For Paul, RAW is definitely better. Another criticism heard about digital is that the highlights can burn out, but Paul firmly believes things are getting better all the time particularly with more and more sophisticated software which is so vital.

Photoshop CS (Creative Suite), the latest version from Adobe, can do just about everything you are likely to need. The file browser is particularly useful and will now read RAW files. Many, many things can be adjusted with this software including lighting, exposure, etc. You can run at 16 bits/channel, edit the image then move to 8 bits/channel. It makes the pictures Paul shot as TIFF files with the D1X look very inadequate indeed.

As to locations, Paul recently visited the Canary Islands and was impressed by the amount of marine life including masses of groupers end moray eels, also by how tame and photogenic the creatures were. Paul also ventured to the Beagle Channel at Tierre del Fuego, Argentine. Interestingly, apart from the giant kelp, it was very reminiscent of beautiful Loch Fyne in Scotland. Everything was bigger and just slightly different in an indefinable way, but fundamentally the same, which is somewhat disconcerting when you have travelled so for!

But Paul's favourite trip this year was to the Outer Hebrides. He was 'playing' with a 12-24mm zoom on the S2 Pro varying between TTL and manual with the additional fun of a large Subtronic f lashgun with which he was very impressed. The 12-24 without a diopter is also good above water. As for as equipment capability goes, Fuji is the only digital SLR with TTL so in that sense is equivalent to film.
Paul also tried some comparative macro work with the S2 Pro off the coast of Ireland. He luckily came across an inconvenienced anglerfish as an ideal subject, it could not move due to the lunch protruding from its mouth and still in the process of being slowly swallowed. A dark subject with a light background, it came out very well on the S2 and Paul has found the S2 to be good for straight portraits - looking at the LCD display is good for composition but not exposure which is where the histogram proves invaluable.

To the future, Paul believes digital success depends largely on the RAW file and using software like Photoshop CS to 'process' your image. Adobe are now trying to introduce a standard RAW f ile, which effectively converts RAW to a RAW 'tandard'. Paul avers 'the near future is probably RAW'.
Paul concluded with the following statement:

'At the end of the day it is the image that matters, not the technology. Although I now use an 11.1 mega pixel Canon for above and below water, the technology will not be new in 5 years time and at the end of the day the 'perfect' image is what we are all striving for, whatever equipment we use to achieve it.'

Reproduced from in focus 80 (Winter 2004)


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