View Full Version : how much is too much?

11-11-2007, 11:33
i haven't had my camera for very long and have never had this 'problem' until yesterday. usually there are lots of divers that are trying to see everything so i try and limit my pics to 1 or 2 to let everyone else get a pic or view. this weekend my wife and i did 5 dives and it was basically just us.

so with nobody to share the fish with and no rush from the dive guides i was able to take my time and take all the pics i wanted. while i have no problem shooting 10+ pics in a row of coral but i feel bad doing that to fish. so i was wondering how many pics do you limit yourself to before you decide that you've blinded the fish enough and move on?

11-11-2007, 13:34
Generally you can tell when you're starting to annoy a fish (or other critter). I leave them alone at point, or at least turn off the strobe.

11-12-2007, 06:19
There are varied elements to being an underwater nuisance, with a few of them not being unique to photographers (I will not address physical contact in this post). The first element is physical proximity. The second is blocking travel or chasing the animal from the chosen path. The third is repeated flashing of stroboscopic light. A fourth is perhaps the most significant, in that you are playing God.

1. Physical proximity. C-Dude is accurately describing the phenomenon whereby the creature sends you a message (i.e., you are threatening me). The message in fish may be as simple as the gaping of the mouth or the raising of the dorsal fin, with or without some fidgeting. In territorial animals, the signs may be more overt, with exaggerated body movements, bumping or, yes, even biting. This may not be a happy event when bigger animals are involved.

What to do -- watch for subtle indications of agitation. Do not approach beyond receiving this message. If the animal relaxes, you may find that the signal either weakens or returns only with a closer approach.

2. Blocking travel or chasing the animal from a chosen path. Animals on the move are usually doing so for a purpose (e.g., a turtle grazing, or a barracuda stalking). Blocking the path of travel is disturbing the function of the organsm as part of the reef community.

What to do -- Photographers often stampede after a creature on the move. In addition to disturbing the organism, poor photo opportunities tend to emerge (with lots of photos of the animal's rear providing the yield). Moving parallel to their path is less likely to disturb them and may actually facilitate close observation and photos.

3. The repeated flashing of stroboscopic light. It is generally conceived that stroboscopic light is disturbing to the animals with photoreceptors (get your friend to take your picture repeatedly from close range while you are eating). If small invertebrates are irritated, they usually withdraw rapidly (e.g., a worm back into a tube). However, they rapidly adapt to repeated exposure suggesting a far greater interest in feeding than in the threat.

Fish are varably affected by the light from a camera. Larger fish and bottom dwellers don't seem to mind the flash itself (but who really knows?!). Yellowtail snappers, for example, will continually pass within a few centimeters of the camera lens in open water, despite the seemingly blinding flashes. Small schooling fish near the bottom, such as chromises, are highly sensitive to the flashes, however, but that is not surprising. Their life is integrally linked to such a reaction, as the flash is reminiscent of sunlight reflected from the rapidly moving tail of a hungry barracuda.

What to do -- Because we can really only gauge the impact of the flash on the animal by their behavior, it would seem that if it looks disturbing, it almost certainly is, and the photographer should back off, change camera settings to reduce strobe intensity, or simply eliminate the strobe (as per C-Dude -- perhaps the addition of a red filter would make this effort more palatable). The photographer should take great care not to risk exhausting the small schooling fish who must not fail to react to a bright silvery flash on the prowl.

4. Playing god. More commonly at night but also during the day, clever predators can have their interest piqued by a photographers. Some may have learned that the photographer is interested in many of the predator's favorite food items, and they simply wait for an opportunity to gobble the photographic subject or his buddies. As noted above, the problem becomes acute at night. Some divers (photographers or otherwise) like to heat up the action by intentionally pointing the tasty bits out to the predators. This is taking the God role to an extreme.

Some photographers unintentially send the signal to strike with modeling lights, but the effect is the same. The photographer should even be careful of the flashlight that is not being used for modeling. For example, my buddy was taking a photo of a wall of cup corals. I decided to help by using my flashlight to assist with modeling. She let her flashlight hang aimlessly from her wrist. While hanging down, it coincidentally illuminated an unfortunate trumpetfish, whose life promptly ended with a crunch and a shake (courtesy of a gigantic opportunistic dog snapper). The gathered crowd was thrilled; we were not. On the flip side of the coin, ambush predators are also vulnerable to an unintantional God-like act. Frog fish or scorpion fish make their livings by going unnoticed. Overly persistent photographers can accidently tip the balance against the predator by chasing the pray from the vicinity.

What to do -- Don't play God on purpose. Be careful not to play God by accident.

11-12-2007, 07:02
i never play God on purpose and haven't yet on accident that i know of. i also never try and block a path of a fish, just not worth it.

the strobe flash is what i'm most concerned with. i was on a night dive recently and came across an octopus. he was pretty much in the open and made no attempts to move when we found him. i sat about 2' away and snapped 4 pics before i moved on. while he showed no signs of being bothered by my flash (color change or movements), i couldn't sit there and take endless pictures of him. at night the strobe has got to bother his eyes and i know i was affecting his hunting. i figured 4 pics in less than a minute wouldn't be too much of a bother.

02-29-2008, 14:50

Great information!

I have skipped a second shot of a sleeping turtle during a night dive, because I didn't want to wake the turtle.

(I didn't have the flashes configured properly during the first shot).

02-29-2008, 15:04
I guess I need to be more considerate... I've never thought of it being bothersome to the fish... They are usually headed in the other direction when they see me coming. :)

03-13-2008, 05:17
Good to see your concerned about stressing your subject .:smiley20:
i actually think its in your own best intrest not to stress your subject as freaked out critters can often looked freaked out and make for bad photos.

what i do a lot is take a few shots nearby of a rock or a sponge to get your exposure right then start shooting your subject . at times i find i only have the chance to take a few shots then the critter moves away.


03-13-2008, 09:06
what i do a lot is take a few shots nearby of a rock or a sponge to get your exposure right then start shooting your subject .

This is a good idea...