Visually, culturally and physically, the world around us is a profoundly complex system. From an ancient, overcast European cityscape, to a vibrant Fijian coral reef, the scenes before us are as diverse as the emotions and sense of place they elicit. Into each scene is woven a concept as well as a mood and it is the photographer’s responsibility to capture these and to employ the best possible style that will stir an emotional response from the viewer.
To that end, I strongly believe that the world’s vastly diverse imagery warrants diverse shooting methods and styles to accurately represent it. My portfolio is comprised of scenes from five continents as well as a wide variety of styles and techniques including color, black and white, infrared, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and underwater photography.
I try to apply the best style and shooting technique to each of my images. A tropical sunset may warrant one particular set of methods while a Lake Superior shipwreck demands something far different. Capturing a scene’s essence is the always the goal – from sharks to people to architecture – and by choosing the best technique to do so, the mood of an image can meet or even exceed the visual memory we have of it.
HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range. The method combines multi-exposure shooting techniques with digital post-processing to produce contrast ratios that are generally unachievable with a single aperture and shutter speed.
Modern digital cameras can match and even exceed the performance of silver halide film. Nonetheless, this small performance difference alone cannot solve the challenge of adequately representing a scene’s dynamic range (defined in real-world scenes as the ratio between lightest and darkest regions). Real-world scenes can contain light ranges that exceed a 50,000:1 ratio. Unfortunately, digital camera sensors and film aren’t capable of capturing these ranges. In fact, traditional media has historically been limited to around a 300:1 ratio.
With HDR photography, several exposures of the same image (1-4 underexposed images, 1 properly exposed, and 1-4 overexposed) are digitally tone-mapped or blended together resulting in a much higher dynamic range. The HDR image will often more accurately depict the true range of the scene. Additional processing can produce an almost painting-like image.
Although the fundamental photographic principles still apply underwater, there are a number of factors that make it quite different and in many cases, much more difficult than shooting terrestrially. Before any of these can even be addressed, the camera has to make its way into a very unforgiving environment. There are a number of options for doing this, from disposable underwater cameras to digital SLRs in a sealed housing with underwater strobes.
Perhaps the most problematic aspect of underwater photography is the ambient light (both amount and color). The visible spectrum (from low energy to high) is comprised of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. These colors fade drastically with depth in the same order. Consequently, adding artificial light (the right amount, at the right distance, and with the proper angle) is essential for bringing the colors back to the image. With very few exceptions (such as shipwrecks or sun-lit silhouettes) it is best to be close to your subject in order for the strobe light to reach it. Because of this I typically use a wide-angle lens, which allows me to frame my subject while reducing the amount of water between the on-camera lighting and the subject.
I currently seal a full-frame Canon 5D MK II digital SLR camera in an Ikelite underwater housing with a variety of ports to accommodate specific lenses. For on-camera lighting, I use dual Ikelite strobes. If the scene warrants, I may use a third off-camera, slave-triggered strobe.
Pioneered by photographer Robert Wood, infrared photography can be used to create fascinating imagery. The method requires the use of a filter that allows infrared (IR) light to reach the camera sensor or film, while blocking out most of the visible light spectrum. The resulting photograph is often dreamlike, with vegetation reflecting light much like snow, dark skies, and interesting water reflections.