By Caitlin Hale
Sometimes you get an image in your head that you know you want to shoot, and sometimes the ocean provides you with a unique opportunity to do this! A week after receiving the new Olympus TG-6 camera, FCON-T02 Circular Fisheye accessory lens with my Ikelite housing and 6" Dome Port; I had not one but two moments where this happened. Cue the shallow stationary seahorse and the turtles of Salt Pier! First I had to test the set up so I can ensure success.
When testing the Olympus TG-6 paired with the FCON-T02 accessory lens; I was fortunate to encounter several opportunities of scenes and subjects that resulted in circular fish-eye images that told the story I was looking for. This is a really fun and different perspective for shooting underwater, and is great for your wider angle images. Add this to not losing the ability to shoot macro at the same time, and you've got yourself a stellar accessory! I was mainly operating in Aperture Priority mode in order to have the flexibility to shoot both macro and wide angle. I was able to do this with the zoom function, providing access to different aperture values. When I start off with a new system or accessory I like to give myself easy subjects to practice on, typically of the stationery kind.
Elkhorn Coral • ISO 100 • A mode f/11 • 1/250 • Dual DS161 strobes with RC1 TTL Receivers
The shallows of Bonaire are a classroom and playground in one, so this is where I headed. First up was to try the circular fish-eye in it's full scope, then move into a wide angle composition. Across the shallows I tried various different zoom levels to try out different apertures, and when I do this I like to bring the sun's lighting into the equation.
As you zoom the TG-6 camera in A (aperture priority) mode, the camera will choose smaller and smaller apertures (larger f/numbers). This provides additional depth of field which is beneficial in both macro and wide angle shooting.
Brain Coral • ISO 100 • A mode f/22 • 1/30 • DS51 strobe with RC1 TTL Receiver
Following this I moved on to get a feel for taking macro images, and this is where brain coral make perfect practice subjects. I can start taking photos of the brain coral from a wide perspective; and then change my variables for different results: get closer, zoom, move strobes etc. Brain coral texture and color provide great practice for macro- plus they don't move!
Once you get a feel for the focus and how the camera can behave in these settings on this subject, you can move on to other (most often moving) subjects. You're setting your self up for a higher chance of success when it comes to those darting teeny blennies etc by taking the time to slow down and practice!
Octopus Eye • ISO 100 • A mode f/18 • 1/30 • DS51 strobe with RC1 TTL Receiver
I first saw this beautifully bright orange seahorse in the shallows around 10 feet of water midday while teaching a course. I instantly knew I was coming back to snap my own photos and it would have to be at dusk that day. Inspiration struck: imagine that seahorse in the golden hour, the sun setting behind it captured in the circular fisheye. I was super excited just thinking about the possibility. I entered the water in delight to clear conditions, found the seahorse, and chose to set up my settings by shooting a nearby coral head to see how the sun behaved with the camera and what aperture would work best. It was as I suspected F8 is great! After 5 minutes of various changes etc I got the photo I was hoping for, I do not linger long with seahorses in order to respect their fragility.
Seahorse • ISO 100 • A mode f/8 • 1/60 • DS51 strobe with RC1 TTL Receiver
The Salt Pier
Salt Pier Bonaire is home to some of the friendliest turtles you'll meet. Ever wanted an up-close shot of a turtle with knowledge you are being respectful of these creatures? Divers on Bonaire can head straight to Salt Pier and in no more than 10 feet of water encounter a dozen green sea turtles munching away at the algae; with absolutely no care for divers and snorkelers around them.
Disco Turtle • ISO 100 • A mode f/8 • 1/125 • Dual DS161 strobes with RC1 TTL Receivers
Turtles are one of my favorite ocean creatures, and this spot provides photographers a chance to shoot them from every angle. Cue the circular fish-eye again! Now I knew I wanted to get the turtles with the sunshine piercing through the water, and here was my perfect place to do this. A small juvenile soared up for air, I saw the light piercing through around him and snapped away.
Turtle Swim • ISO 100 • A mode f/8 • 1/125 • Dual DS161 strobes with RC1 TTL Receivers
Rappel: Wide Angle Wonder
Divemasters delight! Anytime your boat gets to moor up at the site Rappel, you'll hear the excitement from regulars. This is a stunning part of the Northern coastline which is only accessible by boat. The topography and coral health found here is stunning, and creates different image opportunities at different times of day. A sheer cliff of exposed fossilized corals plunges below the surface to reveal a reefscape of a wall covered in soft corals which plateaus out around 30 feet down and hard/soft corals cover a 50 foot shelf. It is easy to get stuck here, but head over the reef's edge to a sloping wall of beautiful sponges and corals protruding into the water column. Luckily our request that morning to try and shoot this site with the circular fish-eye worked out, and it was thrilling! I cannot wait to try and go back for an afternoon shoot!
Rappel • ISO 100 • A mode f/8 • 1/60
About the FCON-T02 Lens
This compact converter lens is independently waterproofed and can be used with the TG-6 housing in the water in or out of the housing. It produces a circular 180º fisheye effect at full 25mm wide angle, but can be zoomed through for a diagonal fisheye perspective and even great macro shots as well.
Peacock Flounder • ISO 100 • A mode f/16 • 1/30 • DS51 strobe with RC1 TTL Receiver
Though compact, the length and diameter of the lens requires a dome port to be installed on the front of the housing. It's super simple to unthread the housing's flat port and attach the dome in its place. You can shoot the dome port with or without the FCON-T02 lens attached to the camera.
The Ikelite Housing for the Olympus Tough TG-6 camera with the optional Dome Port for FCON-T02 Lens attached. The dome is essential for shooting split shots.
Having a dome on the front of the housing also makes it possible to shoot over-under photos where the frame is half-in, half-out of the water. This type of image is perhaps the most relatable of all underwater photos, as even those who don't scuba dive or snorkel can imagine peeking just beneath the surface of the water.
The dome is lightweight and durable with an included shade to reduce unwanted reflections and protect it when you set the housing down.
This smooth, single waterline would not be possible with a standard flat port or with a traditional wide angle wet lens. You need a dry dome for crisp over-unders.
All images Copyright © 2019 Caitlin Hale
Caitlin Hale started out with a PADI Digital Underwater Photography Course and her passion bloomed from there. She went on to meet a variety of professional underwater photographers while working in Little Cayman and Komodo. Since then Caitlin has started the Photography Department at Dive Friends Bonaire and channels her love for photography into an enthusiasm for teaching visitors how to get results, fast. She has been particularly focused on the Olympus Tough series and has developed a course around how to get phenomenal results with this pocket point-and-shoot.
Olympus TG-6 Wide Angle Photography: FCON-T02 Fisheye Lens Underwater Photography Guide website