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Alert Diver is the dive industry’s leading publication. Featuring DAN’s core content of dive safety, research, education and medical information, each issue is a must-read reference, archived and shared by passionate scuba enthusiasts. In addition, Alert Diver showcases fascinating dive destinations and marine environmental topics through images from the world’s greatest underwater photographers and stories from the most experienced and eloquent dive journalists in the business.

IMAGING PHOTO TECHNIQUES

IMAGING PHOTO TECHNIQUES Giant kelp’s fronds, stalks and gas bladders together construct beautiful seaweed that follows the ebb and flow of ocean surge. It almost never stops moving or reaching for the surface light. (1/40 sec @ f/16, ISO 400, strobes) 100 | FALL 2016

OUT OF THE BLUE A CHANGE IN PALETTE AND APPROACH By Jason Bradley Photography means different things to different people. It’s a way to capture a moment or record a memory. It can be functional or artistic. People take pictures to render a scene with a literal perspective or as a medium to translate an abstract concept or feeling. The reasons I take pictures have changed over time, and my approach over the years shifted as my technical knowledge developed. A few years ago something happened to me totally out of the blue: I became completely bored with color photography. I was just done with it. I know it’s strange to become fed up with a whole palette, but it happened nonetheless. As a result I’ve shot black-and-white images almost exclusively for the past few years, and I’ve loved it. I have spoken to photographer friends, read articles, and written many words to try and gain some insight; I eventually realized that my underlying reason for taking pictures had changed. The narrative I intended for my work had shifted. My subjects didn’t change, but how I looked at them, lit them and developed them in Adobe Lightroom did. THE GOAL OF EXPERIENCE AND FEELING As any photographer attempts to do, I hope to create images that are compelling and thought-provoking. I want to create pictures that stick with people, and I believe the best way to achieve that is not to simply present an image of a cool fish but to create a feeling about that fish. My goal is to create work that doesn’t show a thing but instead provides a sensation, mood or feeling or leaves an impression relative to that thing. To say it another way, I want my images to translate an experience, not just be a literal visual. When I take pictures in color, the images tend to be about color, at least to some degree. Color has to work to be part of the frame — it has to grab and contrast, and we photographers tend to want to saturate it, emphasize it and show it in some spectacular fashion. Very little of what I see and experience in the ocean, however, has anything to do with color. For example, one of my favorite things to encounter in the ocean is a giant school of fish. I get mesmerized when I see hundreds or thousands of fish rhythmically and cooperatively moving together through the water. There’s something melodic about it; it feels like an organism that’s exhibiting a choreography that no solitary animal could possibly display. A lot of the ocean gives me this feeling of many things being together harmoniously, which is an experience that has nothing to do with color. To me, color even distracts from it. THE PRACTICE OF EXPERIENCE AND FEELING Visualization is the practice of forming mental images of a finished photograph before a frame is ever composed. It’s an extremely helpful way for photographers to conceptualize what they are trying to do. When visualizing black-and-white images during a dive, my frame of mind is vastly different than if I were visualizing in color. By removing color from my thoughts, I’m left with things that are closer to what I’m experiencing. I begin to look at shapes and forms, light and tonality, patterns and textures, details and outlines. By removing color I can escape the idea of wanting to take a picture of the fish and pursue the concept of capturing my experience of the fish. Visualizing in black and white also changes my technical approach. How and why I light things changes from concerns about backscatter and strobe placement to aesthetics. If my goal is to emphasize a shape, I know to backlight it. If I want to create a texture, I know to sidelight. Or I can deemphasize shapes and flatten a subject or scene by frontlighting. Whatever the case, I connect more with black and white because my mind is in tune to all the things I experience with a school of fish that have nothing to do with color. The following are a few exercises that may help you refine your personal vision in black and white. Simplify your gear, and leave your strobes behind. This set of photos was achieved by working solely with ambient light. A strobe would have added little besides backscatter. ALERTDIVER.COM | 101