Sabang Beach 2001 - A divers guide for beginning photographers, Philippines, Sabang beach, Puerto Galera
This guide is for those of you which want to start with taking picture in the deep blue.
Three weeks before we started this trip I purchased a used Niconos V and a Subtronic flash.
There wasn't any time for testing this new equipment. After my arrival in Manila I headed to Sabang
on the next morning. I booked an aircon room at the Sabang Inn for a four week stay. They gave me
a nice price much below P1000,- per day. I felt queasy as I put this equipment together, because
all what I had learnt about the photography underwater came from an old book.
In the first step I searched two years for the right equipment.
I personally like the wide-angle-lens photography more than macro.
That's why I only mention my experiences with this kind of equipment.
The most important thing, that you need, is light. The camera you want to use
depends on the budget you may like to invest.
The wide-angle-lens dictate the price of the whole system.
But let's go back to the synthetic light. There are two
ways to reach an area-wide exposure. The best results you get
with two small flashes, but the handling is very unwieldy.
Therefore I would recommend one flash with a high capacity that
makes you independent from charging in remote areas or on the boat.
The capacity of the flash should be easily to regulate by manual handling.
In many situations you have to reduce the light. Most pelagic fishes
are reflected the light depending on your distance.
The second important decision is the choice between a single-lens reflex camera
or a viewfinder camera. In most cases the manual exposure is much better then
the automatic exposure. Simply is the best. If you try to take pictures in a deep 40 meters
when a strong current occurs you aren't able to use all functions of a modern SLR-camera.
You should also think about the aditional weight and the resistance of your whole
system in a strong current. The most and biggest fishes you will only see during
a strong current occurs. If you want to use a viewfinder camera I recommend
the Niconos V model. This camera is very dispersed under amateurs and professionals.
The Niconos V is reduced of the most important functions so that the handling
looks very clear and simply even the price is relatively high.
The Niconos V is the best decision for beginners and also the door to the professional
photography. You should try to find some used equipment if you arn't sure
if you like this kind of photography. There are many cheaper cameras on
the market, but you could loose your interest if you see the results.
It's also very easy to sale a used Niconos V when you come back from your
vacations. For my further explanations I assume that
you have purchased the Niconos V with the 15 mm or 20 mm lens and
a Subtronic flash (250-300 Ws).
Imagine you are sitting in a boat somewhere in the Philippines
before you will test this equipment for the very first time.
My first advice is a principle for all kinds of sharp photography.
The highest sharpness you will get if you close the aperture as much as possible.
For example: The aperture number 22 give the most depth of focus, but
therefore you need a maximum of light. If you want the blue color for
the background you should choise the longest exposure time, before the
motive starts to smudge through it's movement. This long exposure time
make it possible to use a small aperture when you want to take a picture without
a flash. Most bigger fishes moves slowly enough to stop them with
1/60 secound on your pictures. That's why I highly recommend to use a 1/60 second
as a capture setting for 90 percent of your pictures.
What we have to do as next is to find the right aperture for every situation.
In the Philippines you have a lot of sunshine, so that
you can probably use the same settings every day.
On a sunny day the using of a film with ISO 100 will be the best decision.
You may try to use the measuring system of the camera to find the right aperture.
It's very easy to change the aperture systematic until you see the red 60 in the
viewfinder. But beware to use this aperture, because the result will be an overexposure
if the flash ignites. So it's better to close the aperture a little bit until
you see a red 30 in your viewfinder.
Maybe this all is very confusing for a beginner, so I want to give away some of my
settings on the most interesting dive spots around Puerto Galera.
On a hot summer day I use the aperture number 11 and 1/60 second exposure time
in the shallow water at every place. More difficult is my favorite place "The Canyons",
where the current is strong and the diving time short because of the deep.
In many cases you have twenty minutes for 36 shots.
If you realy like a motive I suggest to shot a serial of different apertures.
For example start with 11 and open than via 8 to 5.6. Under this three shots is
the right one, I swear you. But the depth of focus lose
with a wide open aperture.
You have to reduce the capacity of your flash when you open the apertures too.
Try always to find a place for the camera below the motive.
If you hold the camera in direction to the ground you don't get a blue background.
The canyons is the best divespot in Puerto Galera. Here is the place where
all kind of pelagic fishes appears. Tunas, Jacks, schools of snappers, Jacks and
barracudas. The variety of soft and hard corals is breathtaking. But that isn't all.
Between this beautiful scenery cross swarms of sweetlips. I counted four different species.
During the first three dives on this place I hadn't any chances to approach the Sweetlips.
The escape distance is to long for the 15 mm lens. Sometimes the current was extremely strong,
so that we hung on that old anchor and looked around. On the last two dives I had the possibility
to surprise the striped Sweetlips behind an overhang. At the same time an other diver came
from the opposite so that the way to escape was blocked. I took six or seven pictures in a few seconds.
You can find all kind of maritime life there, includig big turtels, scorpions- and lionfishes.
Only the best diveshops offers this amazing point every day.
© 2001 by Henry Wedekind