Small fish on a tunicate

Small fish on a tunicateAnilao, Philippines.

Nikon D810, Nikon 105 Micro VR, 2.8, Nauticam SMC

Sea and Sea MDX D810, 2 x Subtronic Nova,

1/320, f.22, ISO 64

Double exposure can be a very creative tool on UW photography or, in this case, a way to deceive the viewer into believing in an impossible scenery.

There is no way a fish could be swimming inside a tunicate, though its big eyes seem to be curiously looking from a hiding place.

This idea started as I was just trying to get a front shot of a small fish among a school of them. I eventually got it, but it was too small in the frame, and not centred. Also, there was another fish on the background, whose glitter created a weird bokeh. So I thought on framing it inside a very common blue tunicate.

The fish was shot without the SMC wet lens, so it is small but not that small. For the tunicate, I picked the biggest one I could find, to fill the frame, and manual focused to get the focus point to the same plan where I believed the fish eyes would be. Otherwise the trick would be too obvious.

Both frames were then blended in camera, resulting on only one raw file. There are no adjustments on the blending process.

To get impressive double exposures there are a few things to take into account:

Framing of both needs to be decently accurate. Here I was fortunate enough to get all the bokeh inside the tunicate. One millimetre to the left and it would have been ruined as it would no longer appear to be inside.

Exposure (specially highlights) needs to be precise. Often I expose to avoid burning the highlights, knowing that raising the shadows a bit won’t result in any noticeable noise, in post processing. Here it’s better to expose as you would if you were shooting JPG – what you see is what you get! It would be too difficult (if not impossible) to underexpose both shots to the exact same degree so that after blending and post processing, both areas would retain the same saturation and contrast.

– Speaking of contrast, it’s important that the darks are really dark as well. That was fairly easing while shooting the fish, since it was just blue water with no background, but a bit more tricky with the tunicate, since it tended to be all blue. Strobe positioning was critical on this one – they were pointed slightly outwards, to get the least possible amount of light inside it.


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