The next time you are under water with a camera in the Red Sea, look out for subjects with a splash of red, writes Diver Photographer of the Year Linda Dunk. She guarantees that the impact of your pictures will increase.
After many years of struggling with underwater photography, many miles travelled, and I hesitate to think how much money spent, I still think that the Red Sea offers perhaps the best underwater photographic location of them all. Its close (only a five-hour flight away), so time zone changes will not leave you with debilitating jet-lag; its not hugely expensive; the coral reefs are wonderfully diverse; and it affords you the possibility of first-class warm-water diving. Also, there are lots of different reds (and oranges and pinks) to be found there! Include a bit of red is a maxim as old as the hills as far as photographers and painters are concerned, and its true that red subjects against the tropical blue of the sea can go a long way to creating outstanding underwater pictures. Red brings a shot alive, and can greatly increase visual impact. I recently had one of the best dives I have had in 15 years of diving, at Ras Mohammed, a location sometimes dismissed as old-hat and over-dived. I think youll agree that the pictures I brought back disprove that notion with the help of a splash of red.
Pyjama nudibranchs are quite often found on red sponges, and they make a very high-impact shot with their jaunty stripes against such a background. So whenever you come across a red sponge, spend a few moments carefully looking to see if one of these photogenic individuals is at home, as they make for easy and satisfying macro shooting. The settings for this (and the picture opposite) were f22, 1/60th, ASA 50 film, flash about 9in away. Vary lighting angles and settings, and take as many pictures as you can; some photographers will use the whole film up on just the one subject if they think that it has potential.
This is a classic diver silhouette combined with a wide-angle close-focus red soft coral, and camera settings are the same as for my picture of soft coral overleaf. The red of the coral is dramatically offset by the wonderful blue of the sea, and the diver figure is included to add another dimension. To take a picture like this you are going to need a patient and willing model who ideally can maintain an elegant and tidy position underwater. Having grappled with the art of modelling myself, I know that this can be something of a tall order! However, a bit of topside communication before you start should make clear what you have in mind. Signal your model to do the Icarus bit by flying near the sun, and you should end up with a well-defined and evocative silhouette.
The picture opposite was taken at Anemone City, Ras Mohammed, using a macro lens, in this case a 60mm lens on a housed single lens reflex camera. Sea and Sea and Nikonos amphibious cameras with their close-up lens attachments and framers also enable this type of shot to be taken with relative ease. Anemone City is rightly famous for its marvellous giant red-bodied anemones, and although I have seen giant anemones in other places, I have yet to see any as beautifully and intensely red as these. Just look how the red of the anemone offsets the orange colour of the juvenile anemone fish. Usually these attractive creatures nestle among the tentacles, but patient watching from a distance will reveal that they occasionally go off on rounds of inspection of the host anemone, and I wanted to capture this one against that terrific red. It took about 20min to get this shot, waiting, pre-focused on the anemones body, ready to press the shutter release when the fish came by. My concentration was also just a little diverted by the persistent and decidedly unwelcome chewing of my fins by a nesting titan triggerfish, and I still have a bite mark on my foot to testify to my true grit (or stupidity).
The last picture in my quest for Red Sea red is an example of what you can do with a suitable piece of red soft coral and the sun. A good tip on how to get that Red Sea red into your shots to bring them alive and abolish boring blue-water blues is to carry a small torch on every dive. Only then can you see the real colours around you.
Another tip is to use Fuji film to capture your images, as in my experience Fuji is hard to beat when it comes to reproducing those deep saturated reds on film. All four of these pictures were taken using Fuji Velvia, a relatively slow 50 ASA film.
This shot is a wide-angle close-focus picture. Images like these can be among the most dramatic of underwater shots, and Ill try to give you a few pointers about capturing them on film.
You need a wide-angle lens, 20mm or wider, flash to light up that red soft coral and, of course, the sun, to create an image like this one.
Using 50 or 100 ASA film, set the camera aperture to f22 or f16, the shutter speed to 1/60th or auto, and get in as close as you can to the soft coral (without damaging the reef in the process here the lens was about 10cm away).
Focus on the coral, probably at the minimum focus distance of the lens, hold the flash about 24-30cm away from it, compose and shoot.
Rather than just snapping away at different things here and there, take several shots when you find a good subject, as some will almost certainly be more to your liking than others.
Shallow depth is also a must for a picture like this 10-15m maximum, as shallow water is where the sunlight is most intense. Turn the camera on its side, to give you a vertical format, as this lets you get more into the picture.