By Ambassador Steve Miller
Just because you're landlocked- say in the US midwest- doesn't mean you have to travel for quality open water underwater photography. Natural swimming pools can attract a wide variety of aquatic life that are just waiting for you to work on your skills year round.
And how about shooting underwater while relaxing with a cold beverage? It's all possible with a tethered rig on a boon right off your back patio. We use the backyard studio to test all kinds of systems, from compact cameras like the Olympus Tough TG-6 to full frame DSLRs.
Each season brings a different light and different life to the natural swimming pool. It's awesome to be able to shoot underwater in the Ohio winter without a drysuit. When the pool is frozen over no filtration is necessary and the water gets its clearest.
The Chorus Frog is terrestrial, and they come en mass to spawn for about one week a year in the Spring.
This shot has won some awards... people really seem to relate to it. What makes it unique is that if you have seen these animals in an image, it was undoubtably taken with a long lens from a comfortable distance away. That is a very different perspective from this image that was shot with a fisheye lens approximately two inches from the frog’s face. They would never let a photographer get so close. When the camera is tethered to a boom, they realize somehow that there is no threat. I have had to shake it, because sometimes the frog will hang on to the port. I would prefer the visual experience of looking through the lens- but they would never let me that close. This shot was done blind. I concentrated on getting him centered and close- knowing that the fisheye lens can actually focus on the port (or something stuck to it).
One of the images on my dream shot list is a reflection of me- or at least my camera- in my subject’s eye. You can see the reflection of the house here, barely.
Only at night do you really acquire the ability to control light like a true "studio." during the most pleasant time of day to swim (in the heat of the afternoon) is typically the harshest, most unforgiving light. Most of my tools are useless then- the sun dominates everything.
"I lost my ball." In this pool, there are tethered shots that I couldn't do any other way. Here the housing is attached to a stick and set to time-lapse. IT makes for lots of misses, but it's easier to delete them than it is to get in under the ice to shoot.
Water Boatman, Oarsman, bugs... macro and super macro photo opportunities are everywhere, once you step outside your house. I found this bug when I was just testing a macro lens. I have yet to explore the macro potential in the pool... some day.
Someday I will capture the right reflection that's an image within an image. I still haven’t “nailed it." In case you are interested, the eyes of many fish will produce a mirror image in a “fisheye” perspective. The key is to make yourself very bright in relationship to the background... that’s the tricky part.
Native to this region, and seldom photographed, they are the stars of the pool. Sadly, I relocated them to the big pond, and haven’t figured out how to get them back... yet.
Version 1 of the swimming pool photographed well in the shallows once the Regeneration Beds filled up with plants, but the swim zone always had liner and cinder block walls in the images. Version 2 features large boulders dry-stacked for a more pleasing backdrop.
Photography is an art and there are many ways to create the shot. Studio lighting above and below the frog for the over-under shot. Then the image was composited with two other shots of a sunset and full moon for a more dramatic effect.
My tiny world.
Ambassador Steve Miller has been a passionate teacher of underwater photography since 1980. In addition to creating aspirational photos as an ambassador, he leads the Ikelite Photo School, conducts equipment testing, contributes content and photography, represents us at dive shows and events, provides one-on-one photo advice to customers, and participates in product research and development. Steve also works as a Guest Experience Manager for the Wakatobi Dive Resort in Indonesia. In his "free" time he busies himself tweaking his very own Backyard Underwater Photo Studio which he's built for testing equipment and techniques. Read more...