By Laurent Leard
My father taught me B&W from shooting to processing when manual measurement of light and manual focus were the rule. Contributed to mastering the basics. Photography was a serious hobby when I was a teenager / young adult. I also tried macro, I mean when the ratio image to subject size is at least 1:1.
At the age of 18 I had my introductory dive…or should I say two of them because I did not made at first as I was too anxious. Since then, I became a CMAS scuba instructor. This is a story I tell my beginners students to explain that it is normal and good to be nervous to breathe under water, as we are not fish. This fear does not need to prevent them from enjoying diving.
When I started in the late 80’s, dive training was far from the recreational style later introduced by PADI and others. Maybe the reason was that the French = Cousteau = founder of the CMAS = not a joke. Retrospectively, it was closer to a Navy Seal boot camp than a laid-back leisure practice. Nevertheless, the benefit was solid foundations and safety.
Night dives are ideal for macro on Parrot Fishes as their do not move when lit. Most of the parrot fish sleep in a rock crack and are not visible in full. Not all species produce a cocoon made of mucus to it meant to protect them from predators by containing most of their smell inside the cocoon.
I was still into photography and quickly made the decision to build my own underwater housings for a motorized Canon A1 film SLR as well as for a strobe. My grandfather welded the parts for me using scrap metal.
After some success and also drowning a couple of bodies, I switched to the Amphibian, then to the Nikonos IV. It was compact but the lack of ability to check the focus was a pain. I then made the decision to get my first Ikelite gear in the 90’s. More bulky than the Nikonos but what a change!! Last year I wanted something more compact, the ability to get rid of my GoPro by leveraging the video capability of the mirrorless camera and the benefit of a larger screen for pointing and reviewing. My choice was the Canon EOS M6.
Sometimes it happens...being at the right place at the right time. I was exiting a canyon at Abu Dabbad II when I came across a reef bannerfish who seemed to eat the top of a jellyfish. I turned around to get the blackness of the canyon behind this couple. Et voilà!
I dove various places in the world including the northeast coast of the US where I lived for 5 years in the 2000’s. It was fun to go for lobsters in an environment very similar to what I experienced in the most western part of France: Brittany.
Back in France in 2007, I traveled back to the Red Sea on a regular basis. When living in central Europe, the Red Sea is as close as the Caribbean when living on the US east coast. That is a 5 hour flight and no time difference. Nevertheless, is it much less crowed and prices are very attractive.
Do not try this at home! Lion fishes are quite venomous but some species are stunning. Nevertheless, one wonders if they are smart. It has happened to me several times that on reef were night divers are, that they come at me to use the light that attract small creatures to feed on them.
In addition to very decent resorts with some having a nice house reef, there is always a harbor/jetty for day trips nearby. Of course a liveaboard, though slightly less comfortable than luxury resort, does have to offer more for divers. 70+ liveaboards are available to explore a large portion of the Red Sea. That is from Sinai to the northern border of Soudan.
These clams chemically dig a hole for their shell into a block of coral. The actual size is less than an inch. No special effect here: only the 5500k light of the strobe. This picture was made using a DS125 attached to a homemade light ring using fiber optics.
Diving remains a favorite pastime with around 30 dives per year in warm waters. The rest of my diving is in fresh water, at various depths, inland (former gravel quarries, some as deep as 120ft / 36m).
Photography is the main reason for me to dive. It extends the pleasure to be underwater by allowing you to bring back nice memories. I also realized that it made me a better diver. Mastering buoyancy is a must, particularly when shooting macro. Being able to handle a big piece of gear and not compromise safety nor pleasure is not a given.
Incurrent siphon - Giant Clam. A piece of modern art... Endless source of inspiration for some.
I am always amazed by the ability of the spanish dancers to lay their eggs by doing several concentric circles. Look like flowers in a soft breeze.
This crab was spotted at the end of a night dive in 15 ft / 5m of water...because it was moving. The 4 in / 10cm crab walks to the right...it helps to find the eyes and antennas. The common name of 'decorator crab' is obviously related to its ability to transfer small sponges of various colors on this body using his hair to help. Mostly nocturnal he is considered vulnerable.
The use of two strobes provides a softer light, ideal to lit the rounded body of the Blackpearl Moray.
Acropora at night extend their polyps. First dive with the fluorescent accessories. Good combination of the IKELITE multi layer excitation filter with the barrier filter (I am using a Tiffen #12 that cuts a tad higher). Using pilot lamps with a filter that is close to the dichroic one provide light to facilitate aim and focus without contamination of the subject (Rosco Permacolor #4600).
Laurent Leard has been a long time user of Ikelite gear from the Canon EOS Rebel XT to a Canon EOS Rebel T1i DSLR and now a Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera. He prefers dual DS125 strobes to which he sometimes adds a DIY fiber optic ring light adapter that channels the light of the strobe around the front of his macro port. He has also used the accessory port on the EOS M6 housing to add a wired remote control to shoot shy creatures. Laurent has a Masters degree in Biochemistry & Genetics and when he's not shooting underwater he handles marketing and business management in the healthcare industry. See more of Laurent's work...
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