Ocean Photography: How To Photograph Translucent Creatures

One of the most difficult things to do in ocean photography is to photograph translucent creatures. Unlike their fellow sea creatures, they have a translucent, see-through body. However, given enough perseverance and the right equipment, photographing translucent sea life, such as jellyfish, krill, squid and octopuses, is very rewarding.

You may be wondering how you can take photos of something that is translucent. 'Translucent' means that although you can see through the body of the item, there is still a color to it. In terms of translucent ocean life, like jellyfish, the creatures actually give off light in a process called bioluminescence. As translucent sea creature generally lives in the depths of the ocean where it can be very dim (they have to create light and carry it in their bodies through a mix of chemical compounds). Most translucent creatures have a light wavelength of approximately 440 - 479 nanometers, which is why when you take photos of the jellyfish in the ocean; they match the blue-green sunlight that exists in the far depths of the ocean.

Step 1: Order the Jellyfish

It is extremely difficult to shoot in the ocean due to many variables that are outside of one's control such as lighting and the weather. However, translucent sea creatures, such as jellyfish, can be purchased and ordered through companies that specialize in natural science or scientific education. Many of these companies have catalogs of both animals and scientific equipment. The translucent sea animals that are ordered can be shipped straight to your doorstep.

Step 2: Preparation

The aquarium should be placed in a dark room to minimize reflection from any light sources. As a result, the photographer will also be required to wear dark clothing to reduce the chance of seeing their reflection through the glass tank. A non-reflective dark piece of felt or black paper will need to be set up for the background. After this, the flash system should be set up. A fiber optics flash system is the best, although tungsten can be used if it can allow to you shoot at 1/125th or more. One of the flash units should be placed above the water's surface, and another unit should be placed from the side of the aquarium. If you wish to add some color to the translucent sea creatures, then you can add colored gels on the front part of the flash strobe unit.

Step 3: Photographing

Patience is a virtue when photographing translucent sea creatures, as they have a mind of their own. It is impossible to coerce them to move into the camera frame. Try taking photographs in depths of field at 1:2 or more.

Step 4: Photoshopping

Although this method does not require a lot of digital manipulation, it can be cleaned up additionally in Adobe Photoshop. It is possible that white particles from the water resulted in producing white dots on your photograph, so this will need to be eliminated. You may also wish to use filters to digitally enhance the photograph.

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