Aquarium Photography - what functions so what camera?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by craynerd, Aug 1, 2006.

  1. craynerd

    craynerd TPF Noob!

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    Hi Guys,

    I have posted this topic in this forum since it is what i consider ( and have been told) is advanced photography. BUT i am certainlly a beginner with a beginner question! I am sorry, i hope you have the patience to help.

    I am after taking QUALITY pictures of professional planted fish tanks, know as planted tank aquascapes. We are not talkin about your regular fish tank here, i mean proper quality tanks. We spend months and months perfecting these.

    Examples are shown below:

    http://www.cau-aqua.net/images/zoom/justinlaw_SummerDance/a.jpg

    http://www.cau-aqua.net/images/zoom/garywu_waterfall/a042805120.jpg

    http://www.cau-aqua.net/images/zoom/TranquilForestsetup/a.jpg

    Basically, most of the best pictures are taken by pro photographers in China (since this is where most of the best aquascapers are) so it is VERY difficult to get advice due to translation problems.

    I know lighting is a MAJOR factor, these guys often use lighting hoods above their tank with an external flash or even more externals or slaves. Also there is the difficulty of shooting through the glass tank front and reflections.

    My question is, i know very little about photography, but would love a digital camera "capable" in the right hands, of taking good pictures. This way i could practice.

    Of course, this is always said, i can`t afford the earth, obviously or would just go out and buy one, so my question, what functions would i need on a camera to achieve these sorts of results or more importantly what camera would have all the functions i require, but a resonable price!

    Hope someone can help

    Regards

    Chris
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    As you said, it's the lighting that is the challenge...which really has very little to do with the camera. It would probably help to have a camera that has the capabilities to trigger other lights (flashes/strobes)...so that would mean it would need a hot-shoe or a PC socket. However, you might be able to use 'hot' lights (lamps etc)...in which case you won't need to fire them with the camera.

    As for functions of the camera...I'd suggest getting one that has manual control and priority modes along with auto modes.

    I would start by looking at what kind of lighting you will need.
     
  3. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    One of the tricks I learned to avoid reflections in the glass is to use a rubber lens hood on the lens and place it right up to the glass. The flexible hood will give you some leeway as far as tilting the camera. This works well for detail shots, but you wouldn't be able to get whole tank shots like the above. Lighting will definitely be the key. You'll probably need everything in front of the tank in the dark, otherwise it will reflect. If you use strobes, you'll probably have to place them so that you can't see them reflected in the glass. I'm guessing either above or to the side.
     
  4. craynerd

    craynerd TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for your advice. I have managed to get hold of my grandads SLR Minolta which is quite old AND its 35mm film rather than digital.

    Will this me any use? it has all the controls and also port for an external flash sync.

    However is being 35mm a big disadvantage?
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Film is actually better than digital in many ways. Only the best & most expensive digital cameras have more 'resolution' (for lack of a better word) than a good 35mm film.

    For your needs, a 35mm camera should work just fine...as long as you have the proper lighting.
     
  6. craynerd

    craynerd TPF Noob!

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    The only worry i have, is with zero experience, how do i know what i am taking is right ? If i was using a digital i could see the photos and make adjustments accordingly, but this way i won`t be able to. How do i know what settings to even start with ?
    ---------------

    When you say proper lighting, what would you suggest? From what i see most aquarium photographers cover the top of their tank with a large cardboard box painted black on the outside with tinfoil in the inside, 2 x 8w flurescent tubes at the sides and a hole in the top where the external flash sits. Obviously, this means the light flashes into the tank rather than at the glass.

    I really appreciate your comments and advice

    Chris
     
  7. Flash Harry

    Flash Harry TPF Noob!

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    turn off the flouro tubes and just use flash, for a good exposure you will need a lightmeter to give you your aperture/shutter speed settings, to cut the reflections hang a black curtain, (velvet is best) with a hole for your lens to poke through, then its a matter of trial n error I'm afraid, bracket exposures, 1 under 1 over etc till you see what you get back, expose for the darker area in the tank and the prints should be fine.
     
  8. craynerd

    craynerd TPF Noob!

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    Can you just explain those two bits. Whats 1 over 1 under mean, i presume its a method of systematically trying different settings?

    What do you mean by, expose for the darker areas in the tank...?


    I have been looking very closely at getting a digital SLR, would the Canon 350D or aka Digital Rebel be a good choice and suit my needs ? I will have to persivere with the 35mm for now, but it is something i am considering if i can get some cash together in the next few months.

    --------------------

    One more question, i have been told now by 3 aquascapers to shoot using transparency film!! I really don`t understand why, is this something you guys recommend? How could i can this media to a digital file, much harder than a standard photo i presume?


    Thanks once again for everyones input.


    Chris
     
  9. Flash Harry

    Flash Harry TPF Noob!

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    Sorry mate, I'v seen your post elsewhere too and I havn't the time to teach you basic photography practises, if this is for your business venture I suggest you get a pro or waste time n money shooting loadsa film, try your local college, HND/C photography students will supply your shots at cost or a little over. Failing that, do a lot of reading and join a camera club.
     
  10. craynerd

    craynerd TPF Noob!

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    No this is not a business venture. I am a planted tank fanatic and now my tanks are good enough to justify me spending money on a camera.

    Since it is a hobby, i want to take my own pictures of my own tank.

    I am prepared to do lots of reading, i have done so to get good at aquascaping. I need to know what equipment i require before i can look in any depth. I also near to hear peoples opinions of how these shots could be done, before i start researching techniques.

    Thanks for everyone who has helped me so far. I am considering the Nikon D50 or the Canon 350d.

    Chris

    Chris
     

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