Lilli Pilli (#265, 6.7 m, 66′) – going manual…

The diving conditions were better than last week in terms of visibility, but the strong SE winds incurring wind warnings along the whole coast of NSW and also for the bays around Syndey prevented the entry at many of the dive sites. We decided to go to Lilli Pilli baths and fiddle around a bit with camera and strobe settings. That is, for macro shots. Seahorses.
seahorse at Lilli PilliI am on my way of getting a feeling for manual settings on the camera as well as on the Inon Z-240 strobe I purchased recently. I decided to start shooting in manual mode because I want to have a better control of the final picture in terms of foreground AND background exposure and still be able to decide on the DOF myself. Using the G9 in manual mode automatically defines that the Inon Z-240 also needs to be used in manual mode, because the camera doesn’t emit a preflash. There would also be the option of using the External Auto setting of the strobe – the dial on the back of the strobe needs to match the aperture setting of the camera, and the strobe needs to be pointed straight at the object in front of the lens. Even though producing very nice pictures at times this mode has some drawbacks in my opinion. The strobe needs to be placed straight at the object in front of the lens to allow the strobe sensor to meter the reflected light correctly. This can be an issue in terms of backscattering. The second thing is that the strobe should have the same distance from the object as the camera in order to get the metering right. This could be overcome by tricking the strobe and choosing a different aperture value from the one used with the camera.
I saw about ten seahorses on this dive. I wish I could prove that with nice pictures, but I had a few issues… I shot most of the pictures with a manual setting with aperture value f/8.0, shutter speed 1/125 and the strobe with the -0.5 EV diffuser mostly on roughly 1/2 – 1/4 of the power. This worked well to get rid of the green water in the background and to obtain the maximum DOF possible. The exposure was reasonable for most of the pictures. The main problem I was facing was backscattering (at times I was sitting in the middle of a “snowstorm”) and focusing problems. The G9 was doing a really good job focusing in the custom settings described here, and I was a bit surprised to find out that so many of my pictures were out of focus. The solution to the problem: the macro mode is deactivated upon turning off the G9. The inability to focus ruined most of my pictures, but this can be overcome easily. I have changed my custom setting C1 to a manual setting with f/8.0 and shutter 1/125s and setting the macro mode. Like that the macro mode is activated whenever the mode dial is turned to C1.
Apart from the mentioned problems I am very positive that at least for macro shots it is not all that hard to handle camera and strobe manually. I will certainly need to get a better feeling of the effects of aperture and shutter speed changes, but I have understood the basic principles. Choosing aperture for the desired DOF and sharpness, adjusting the strobe to get the correct exposure, setting the shutter speed to influence the intake of ambient light.
The picture above is as straight from the camera, only cropped. The problem of backscattering is obvious (and was sometimes hard to avoid because if the strobe was placed too far away from the lens there would have been a shadow of the net on the seahorses), the problems of focus a bit less (with this being one of the best focused shots, and still not completely unblurred…)

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