• Canon Powershot G7X Mark II @ 8.8mm. 1/125s @ f8, ISO 160.
    Canon Powershot G7X Mark II @ 8.8mm. 1/125s @ f8, ISO 160.

Behind the lens: Up close and personal

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I'm not sure if it's the large formidable beak, the massive wingspan, or how they always look so impressively groomed, as if they have just had makeup and eyeliner applied, but ever since I saw my first albatross 20 years ago, I have always been fascinated by them.

I call the eastern coastline of Tasmania home, and I find I don't have to go too far into the Tasman Sea to find one of the few different species that rule these parts. I don’t take this for granted as many of the species are listed as near threatened with
a decreasing population.

Being predominantly an underwater photographer, I had always wanted to try to get a series of split shots, or half over, half under shots of the albatross, not only to show the impressive upper half of the bird that most people get to see, but also its big powerful feet below the water.

One of the first things I learned was that you cannot approach these birds – you have to let them come to you. There is a way that you can draw them very close that I have kept a secret for a long time. It involves putting a fish frame over either your arm or your head, whichever you feel is the safest. Then you have to try and forget about the 80m of deep blue water below you that might not be empty!

The other challenge with this type of photography is water drops on the housing port which can easily ruin what might have been a good photo. Thankfully, the camera housing for my compact Canon G7X Mark II only has a very small 6.5cm flat housing port which leaves just a few centimetres of glass above and below the waterline, leaving a small area to keep drip free.

Before taking this photo, I had already taken a series of test shots, doing my best to set the exposure for the brilliant white feathers of the bird. Direct sunlight on the feathers can produce very strong highlights which can make it almost impossible to get any details in post-production.

With my camera set to high-speed continuous and my camera housing just above the waterline, I composed the shot and held the shutter while gradually lowering the camera into the water.

In post-production, I did not need to crop this shot at all. I just had to lift the shadows in the underwater section of the shot to make the feet pop a bit, and, surprisingly, I still had to lower the highlights in the bird's feathers. I actually wonder if there is anything whiter in the natural world than the chest of the black-browed albatross?  

Canon Powershot G7X Mark II @ 8.8mm. 1/125s @ f8, ISO 160.
Canon Powershot G7X Mark II @ 8.8mm. 1/125s @ f8, ISO 160.

About the author: Danny Lee is an award winning underwater photographer from Tasmania, Australia.  He loves sharing photos from his Ocean encounters and the stories that go with them. Danny chooses to use a simple compact camera setup for all of his work. See more of his work on Instagram @submerged_images and on Facebook. 

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