NEVILLE COLEMAN : Honorary Fellow Australian Institute of Professional Photograpy
Australian Photographic Society Commonwealth Medal winner for Advancement in Photographic Technology ( the first ever awarded to a photographer)
A behavioural study of a Trumpetfish using the Sweetlips as an ambush host for its hunting activities. I have chosen to shoot the series of images from the position of allowing the sweetlips to be alligned with the reef edge and follow along the the 'right to left' diagonal of the image.
This chosen angle illustrates the trumpetfish's expression of looking out into the blue infinity for small prey as it swims past, as indeed it was.
Apart from the identities of the players in this event, with only a small amount of knowledge on behalf of the viewer, the image tells the story.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
- "Australian Underwater Photographer of the Year" (South Pacific Divers) 1982 – 1983
- Judge of Photography Heron Island ( Great Barrier Reef) Dive Festivals – Underwater Photographic Competitions – 1984 – 1985 – 1986 – 1987 – 1989 – 1990 – 1991 – 1992 – 1993
- Judge of Photography at Shedd Aquarium (Chicago, USA) – Underwater Photographic Competition 1989
- Judge of Photography 2nd Annual Flores Underwater Festival (Indonesia) – International Underwater Photographic Competition 1991
- 1st Great, Great Barrier Reef Photography Shootout (Lady Elliott Island) 1991
- Judge of photography SUBIOS ‘95 – Seychelles/"SUBIOS" – ‘97 – Seychelles (Indian Ocean)
- Judge of Environmental Awards: Banksia Environmental Foundation Award – Waterways and Marine – 1990
- Judge of Environmental Awards Banksia Environmental Foundation Awards – Waterways and Marine – 1992
- Judge of Photography Papua New Guinea Divers Association International Underwater Photography Competition Port Moresby, PNG. 2003
- Judge of Photography Papua New Guinea Divers Association International Underwater Photography Competition Port Moresby, PNG. 2004
- Judge of Photography Celebrate the Sea Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2004
- Judge of photogrphy Celebrate the Sea Singapore 2005
- Judge of Photography Celebrate the Sea Singapore 2006
- Judge of Photography Byron Bay Underwater Festival Shootout 2007
- Judge of Photography Byron Bay Underwater Festival Shootout 2008
Taking pictures -v- Making pictures
In simple terms a portfolio presentation should provide an overall example of the photographer's skill in the usage of various lenses and formats over a range of subjects. Sending in five close ups or five wide angle images is not a portfolio, just five pictures in a single category.
A portfolio generally ranges through from 15m to 20m wide angle up to 28mm or 35mm, 50mm to 80mm or 105 to macro including portraits and both horizontal or vertical formats.
The criteria by which photographs are judged are often varied depending on their category.
Photography of racing cars and other sports or news categories has different measurements of photographic excellence than wedding photography. The basics are similar, it's just the percentages of points are ascribed to different aspects.
One of the best ways I know to learn about assessing good wildlife photography is to study the pictures displayed by field professionals. Most professional nature photographers are regularly published and if a standard is based or even emulated on what is already accepted as a good style it will certainly set the scene for individual progress.
Quite often, an image which looks good, when projected on a screen or wall may appear good enough for publication yet when checked, it's completely out of focus. On the same issue a small post card size proof print shot on (low resolution (DPI)) can appear visually attractive but if blown up, it loses its integrity. The following criteria need to be addressed before making any judgment on the quality of a wildlife photograph for judging.
Images are generally judged on the above points and also all up on technical merit, artistic merit and presentation.
As far as natural history photography in any of its many guises is judged. The most important feature or features in the picture is the subject. Depending on the reason for its significance it should (with the exception of camouflage or deceptive resemblance examples) stand out and present itself to the viewer as the main element.
Although the subject ( frog) is small here in comparison to the overall image, the fact that it is sitting on a circular lilly pad surrounded by contrastingly shaped water weed, draws the viewer's eye directly to the subject.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
With visual identification it's important that the subject is isolated from a `busy' background wherever possible and that it is taken from a perspective, which allows its main identification features to be recognised.
Natural history photography should be authentic and accurate depicting the purpose of the picture. Taxonomic, field and research photography covers a vast range of disciplines, simple, comparative, activities, and relationships, internal, external, specific, or intraspecific. In all cases the subject is the main criteria, having factual relations blended with compositional relations.
Without doubt the subject or subjects must be sharp and in focus. This is sometimes extremely difficult with fast-moving subjects underwater. Quite often a fish may be shot from a three quarter head-on position with the tail running slightly away from the point of focus. If the subject's eye is sharp and in focus, it is generally acceptable from a judging point of view.
Any out of focus foreground is unacceptable because the foreground detracts from the subject. Sometimes when framing a subject the frame itself may be slightly out of focus. As long as it draws the viewer into the picture and emphasizes depth, the `in focus' subject can often be made even more dramatic by the out of focus surround.
A 105 mm lens is not designed to give unlimited focus at aperture settings of F8 or even F11. However, with twin strobes and an aperture setting of F16 this fully mature Spiny Squirrelfish Sargocentron spiniferum (40 cm) has resulted in a very attractive visual identification image. The image emphaphizes the main features of the fish and because the front end and the eye are all in focus and the scales run away at an angle, the tail provides depth to the photo.( photo: Neville Coleman)
Always check images for sharpness; without it they are only keepsakes. On the other hand, even some out of focus pics where the subject can be identified are still valuable records of existence, zoogeography or behaviour, but may not be suitable for competitions.
Each subject lends itself to being viewed a `natural' way. Long, narrow upright subjects are more natural in a vertical format, while the opposite applies to horizontal format viewed in the same way we see. The picture is complimented by the way the photographer `sees' or visualises the result.
The same mangrove leaves shot on a horizontal format record exactly the same subject BUT ( as can be easily seen by comparison) the image ( although technically as good) does not have the impact or the drama of the portrait format above.( photo: Neville Coleman)
The subject or subjects need to be balanced within the overall image to comply with the rule of thirds and the nine elements of composition.
Shot for a book cover, this vertical /portrait image is shown as an example for Rule of Thirds and the Nine Elements of Composition.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Horizontal example of the imaginary Rule of Thirds and the Nine Elements of Composition that every photographer should visualise in their heads when estimating the composition of each image they capture.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
A judgment must be made on whether the image is too dark or too light. The subjects must be adequately lit showing reasonable details in the shadows and mid-tones balanced with fine colour toning in the highlights. Shallow water sunbursts underwater are often burnt out in the centre, in most cases this is not considered degrading as long as the effect is pleasing and doesn't dominate the picture
Subjects can be lit in a number of ways from different angles. Each picture represents its subject. While some lighting angles are attractive other are detractive. It depends on what the picture is meant to convey to the viewer.
When lighting subjects underwater, care must always taken in regard to the uneven terrain and the difficulty of subject and diver control coordination when approaching subjects.( photo: Neville Coleman)
Certainly, as far as most underwater wildlife is concerned, good colour, pattern and design in any subject makes it more spectacular and in many cases, accounts for the visual identity of a species. Vibrant, impacting colour is extremely difficult to beat at any time. Even if the subject is mediocre or common, anything out of the norm is especially worth recording. Where animals have many different colour patterns it's always important to take a series of images.
Shot from a lateral, low down perspective, this anglerfish image provides the viewer with every colour and pattern detail required for accurate identification. Had it been shot from a dorsal aspect, above the subject (although brilliant of colour) would have been lost in the bottom growths and shown few of its features, appearing a a blob of colour, just like the sponges it mimics.( photo: Neville Coleman)
Having a steep perspective, high contrast or backlighting brings about drama. It can also be applied to situations where subject behaviour entails danger, or life and death situations.
Although this bow gun is impressive whichever way it is viewed, when a forelit image is compared to a backlit image, the difference is simply stunning. Backlit silhoette is by far the best way to shoot this subject as it appeals to the viewer's imagination and creates the mood for a good story.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
Backgrounds can play a very large part when composing a mobile or controllable animal for it often supplies contrast, making the subject more definable. However, more than just any background the emphasis must be on realistic backgrounds. Some underwater photographers have no idea of where the animals they pose, actually live. Publishing pictures of sand-dwelling sea stars (that cannot climb) on top of gorgonians and soft corals only emphasises the lack of one's natural ability and knowledge of the subject.
When I first saw this fish swimming above the kelp beds at Izu Peninsula in Japan I was convinced that it would make a perfect black background image. I worked my butt off to get the shot close enough for F22. Everything worked beautifully until I saw the results.
I had been half right and in the excitement of the moment I had not noticed that the the fishe's forhead was dark green with no pattern what so ever. Unfortunately the dark green forehead is very close to black as I had designed the background to be and therefore there was not enough contrast to delineate the forehead from the background.( photo: Neville Coleman)
In hindsight, a light blue background would have been perfect!
To find a sea star of any description standing on the tips of its arms is rare enough. ( It generally means the sea star is releasing eggs or sperm, or has something large in its mouth which it is attempting to wrap around)
At 30 metres at Jervis Bay New South Wales in 1968 confronted with my first Firebrick Sea Star in this position I was absolutely stunned and could only think to get the shot exactly as I first saw it. I did not notice at that early stage of my photographic experience to check the background, or that to go around the subject and shoot from the other side would have made it even more spectacular.
I shot 2 or 3 images on the Rollei Marine ( bulb flash) and it was time to get out of there. If I had to do the shot again today I would have noticed the giant tunicates behind and approached form the other side, so the impact of the subject would not be compromised by the background.( photo: Neville Coleman)
Most subjects, depending on the way they grow, move or are shaped can be viewed from different directions, or angles. The viewing angles allow the camera to see the subject from several perspectives. These perspectives can be increased or diminished depending on the lens they are viewed through. Some combinations of views and lenses distort the subject's natural features and although they may increase the drama the authenticity suffers. A natural history picture should reflect the best perspective at all times.
Displaying two diferent aspects and perspectives of the giant cutlefish Sepia apama gives an initial outlook on how different situations demand different approaches.
Here the subject is shy and retiring, attempting to blend in with its background by displaying its mimicry of colours and forming pustules and fringes in its skin to give an appearance of weedy bottom. The best perspective in this case it to shoot it from a three quarter dorsal position to emphasise its behaviour and display to the best advantage.( photo: Neville Coleman)
In contrast to the above images, this large male is right out in the open displaying to females and is shown from a low dramatic perspective, which with right hand angled flash allows the cuttlefish to float above and appear almost menacing.( photo: Neville Coleman)
Most brittle stars are low profile crawling, bottom – dwelling subjects that due to their characteristic, fast crawling behaviour lend themselves best to overhead ( dorsal ) perspective to ensure enough characters can be seen for possible identification.( photo: Neville Coleman)
Natural integrity as was once known and practised in science and natural history photography is unfortunately no longer a benchmark for accuracy, or professionalism.
With the advent of digital images, simple scanners and computer enhancement the differences between taking a picture and making a picture are no longer as defined and seeing is no longer…believing. Photoshop is here to stay, and the art of imagery?
I will leave to your imaginations. Few images today are published without the assistance of Photoshop.
However, in competitions there is no room for enhancements, images must stand on their own in whatever catagory they are entered in.
ROLE OF AN AQUATIC PHOTOGRAPHY JUDGE
The experience of judges of aquatic photography, video's and shootout competitions varies immensely.
From my own point of view I earned my credentials by achieving both the highest amateur photographic awards and the highest professional awards in Australia and have been judging underwater photographic competitions throughout the Asia/Indo - Pacific for over 25 years.
(1) Photographic assessment should be accomplished at the highest level and judges should be experienced in all fields of judging, with personal experience of winning numbers of photographic awards, wide experience in publishing, photojournalism and or, editing.
(2) Judges are responsible for recognising, acknowledging and assessing all work entered in the competition. They are required to objectively assess and score in a fair and consistent manner.
(3) A judge's score must not only reflect the value that they place on an image as a numeric value, but also still give credit where it's due.
(4) Where scores may be tied, judges should (after internal discussion) re assess the images to provide a clear outcome in each section.
Judges have a point score sheet by which they give a number out of ten for each photographic subject criteria. None of the images are identified with the photographer's names and it is all taken quite serious, with the utmost integrity maintained.
Competitions in Australia
Today, the diving industry is very professional and all the competitions and shootouts are well managed and judged by experts and the prizes actually exist and are delivered.
Unfortunately in the past many underwater competitions in Australia were farces, maligned by the organizers demanding that their particular persons be given the prizes without the judge's results being considered. Even though the judge's names were advertised to give credibility to the competition.
Copyright Neville Coleman