Today’s blog post is another great contribution from Chris Manacop about the challenges of shooting through glass in an aquarium.
Let’s face it. Shooting inside an aquarium in not the most ideal place to be shooting. There are many factors that we as photographers are challenged with. Overcoming these challenges can prove to be a tad difficult. Some are even out of our control.
- Glare from The Glass
- Dark Surrounding, poor lighting
- Murky waters
- Creatures will not sit still
Certainly, these are not all the challenges which lie before the photographer who dares to shoot in an aquarium. You also have to deal with children running around, pushy parents, and limited working space.
When dealing with glare from the glass, you can use a circular polarizer (CP). I don’t advise this because by nature it is already a low-light situation. A CP drops exposure a tad and you need as much light as you can get. A simple fix to this would be shooting at an angle in which you don’t see the glare. Move up and down and look through the viewfinder until you see a view in which the glare is eliminated. At this point, stop and take the picture (this is considering you cocked glocked and ready to rock … I mean, you’re all metered up and exposure is good).
Bringing your flash can be impractical in this setting. If there was space between the tanks I suppose you can light it from the side, but most aquariums don’t have gaps where you can set up your gear. Also, it would be difficult because of the busy atmosphere to actually have a full flash setup going, not to mention you will probably freak the animals out. Dealing with the poor lighting has a multiple-step solution. First, a fast lens really helps. The faster the better. You want to be able to shoot at shutter speed that is fast as possible because these animals generally move and it could be a blurry mess. In my case, I chose the beloved thrifty fifty (Nikon 50mm f1.8d). It’s very light and very fast, and I was shooting at f1.8-2.8. Generally the 2.8 shots yielded better clarity.
Here, I dropped the f-stop and turned the other critters into bokeh.
Next, you will need a steadying device. A tripod would preferably work extremely well, but in this atmosphere, it might not work out so well. Generally space is limited and you don’t really want to be hogging up all kinds of space. I chose to use a monopod because it gave me some stability while keeping it compact and within my personal space.
For metering mode, I tried the different metering modes that were on my Nikon D50 and I ended up settling on spot metering. Sometimes, when there was one animal in the tank, I just spot metered for it. In Matrix metering the images tend to be dark due to the darkness of the tank.
I couldn’t do much about the water here but I spot metered this jellyfish.
Even with a fast lens, you will likely be metering at around 1-second exposures. This may not seem long but in actuality its pretty long because the animals are always moving. The movement will cause an unpleasing motion blur. On my D50 I cranked the ISO up to 800. On a D50, ISO 800 is still fairly clean so I was not too concerned about the noise. This gave me a shutter speed of around 1/10-1/40 which is a little slow but fast enough to catch these little critters.
As far as the murky waters and animal movement, I unfortunately can’t help too much there. You should just hope the animals did not have an “irregular day” so the tank is not so dirty.
This was my favorite photo of the day