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Stunning Split Scene Images of the Sea Above And Below the Surface

By Hanssie on June 2nd 2015

Growing up, my dream was to be a marine biologist. Nevermind that I didn’t really like science and was a bit iffy about going into open water. I was enthralled with the animal trainers at Sea World and figured marine biology would get me somewhere in the same circles. Sea life has always fascinated me. I’ve gone scuba diving once before and watching the strange, beautiful sea creatures skimming just underneath my feet in silence simultaneously provoked both fear and awe within me. The hidden mystery world of the oceans where the tiniest and the largest creatures dwell hides beauty that we rarely get to see.

It's taken me several early mornings to develope this lighting technique. Using high powered underwater strobes place beneath the blue bottles I hit them with a burst of light, the crystal clear deep water reflects no light but the bluebottles pop with that amazing electric cyan blue colour! And framed againt the the silhouette backdrop of the bay and the orange glow from the sun I think they look quite amazing wouldn't you agree?  Well done mother nature you did it again!

It’s taken me several early mornings to develop this lighting technique. Using high powered underwater strobes place beneath the blue bottles I hit them with a burst of light, the crystal clear deep water reflects no light but the bluebottles pop with that amazing electric cyan blue color! And framed against the silhouette backdrop of the bay and the orange glow from the sun I think they look quite amazing wouldn’t you agree? Well done, Mother Nature you did it again!

Australian photographer, Matt Smith has always been fascinated by the underwater world and how light plays with the rippling blue surface. As an ocean and wildlife photographer and a diver, Matt uses photography to share his diving experiences with nondivers, melding “the wet and unfamiliar world with a dry and more familiar one.” In his series, Over/Under, Matt captures some stunning imagery of life above and below the surface in one image.

Having to find interesting images above and below the ocean at the same time takes a lot of planning and research on Matt’s part. He first looks for an interesting landscape shot, followed by some good light (usually during sunrise or sunset hours) so he can get a nice handheld exposure of the sky and clouds. Then he skims beneath the surface looking for some of his favorite creatures. As you can imagine, exposure and lighting plays an integral role in Matt’s images. Matt uses very little post processing – all images you see are created in camera, in a single frame. Matt does a lot of experimenting with various lighting techniques to capture the tricky lighting underwater and uses powerful strobes, snoots and diffusers to correctly light both sides of the image. Adding to the challenges are making sure the timing is perfect and the image is compositionally sound.

[REWIND: TIPS FOR SHOOTING UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHS]

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The resulting split scenes are incredible and has earned Matt numerous awards including Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photographer of the Year 2014,
Ocean Geographic 2014 Pictures of the Year 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place Prize Winner and
BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 prize winner. Below some of the images are Matt’s descriptions of the scene. As you can see, he uses Nikon with Aquatica Housing.

You can see more of Matt Smith’s photos on his site www.mattysmithphoto.com and Facebook page www.facebook.com/mattysmithphoto.

I had discovered from previous visits to dive this small bay that after strong summer northeast winds hundreds of bluebottle cnidarian are blown in and trapped, they float around the bay on the tides and sometimes clump together in huge rafts. I began planning this shot because knew that the blueness of these animals lights up wonderfully with a strobe and figured the sun would rise somewhere in the background towards the mouth of the bay. I thought that orange and the blue would make a striking shot. It took quite a few early mornings and lots of lighting experiments to make this image, but in the end I’m very happy with it.

I had discovered from previous visits to dive this small bay that after strong summer Northeast winds hundreds of bluebottle cnidarian are blown in and trapped, they float around the bay on the tides and sometimes clump together in huge rafts. I began planning this shot because knew that the blueness of these animals lights up wonderfully with a strobe and figured the sun would rise somewhere in the background towards the mouth of the bay. I thought that orange and the blue would make a striking shot. It took quite a few early mornings and lots of lighting experiments to make this image, but in the end I’m very happy with it.

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“Midnight Nudi” – Bushrangers Bay, NSW Australia Being an ocean photographer has led me into some strange and curious habits. Wading around in low tide rock pools in the middle of the night is one of them. However, the rewards can be endless from a photographers point of view, such as finding this Hypselodoris bennetti in inches of water. Photographing it from a low angle just beneath the surface has created this wonderful reflection. This species of nudibranch is endemic to south-eastern NSW, you’ll find it nowhere else in the world! Nikon D300s, Nikkor 40mm F2.8 Micro Lens, Aquatica AD300 Housing

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“Your Move” – American Crocodile, Jardines de la Reina, Cuba. So for this shot I’m deep in a Cuban saltwater mangrove snorkeling in about 2 metres of murky water and looking at this through the viewfinder, the business end of a wild 2.5 meter American saltwater crocodile. Now my photography has led me into a few interesting situations in the past, but this takes the cake. I’m staying as still as can be and mumbling profusely to myself “Focus, frame, just get the shot” One of the most exhilarating moments of my life! After our brief standoff, he turned around and drifted off into the cloudy green water. Nikon D810 Nikkor14-24 F2.8 Lens, Aquatica AD810 Housing

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CREDITS: Photographs by Matty Smith Photo are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

[Via My Modern Met]

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com. Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Scott Pacaldo

    excellent stuff!

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  2. Gabriel Rodriguez

    Amazing shots!!

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  3. Jesper Ek

    Amazing pics! I get so inspired to go diving.

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  4. Yankel Adler

    I would like to know what gear is being used?

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  5. Peter Nord

    Remembering Greg du Toit who sat in an African water hole for hours at a time getting great wildlife photos and an array of worm and other parasites. How’s Mr. Smith’s blood count?

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  6. Thomas Major

    Underwater photographers saying: When you think you are close enough….get closer.

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  7. Thomas Horton

    Concerning the shark and croc shots, I wonder how the photographer was able to Photoshop out the yellow stain in the water so well.

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  8. Peter Nord

    All those teeth raised my heart beat and respiration.

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  9. Liam Doran

    strong work!

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  10. Thomas Horton

    “If your pictures are not good enough you are not close enough” I wonder if that applies to crocodile portraits? :)

    I would like to photograph crocodiles… if I could only find a 10,000mm lens. :)

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  11. Justin Eid

    When I was reading this it reminded me of myself. I loved marine biology and even went scuba diving once. I found this post inspiring! I have to try ocean photography more often.

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  12. Graham Curran

    What excellent pictures, there is a lot to admire in the execution, planning and commitment to get them.

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  13. Kris Cox

    Absolutely Amazing work and patience!

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  14. Lauchlan Toal

    Spectacular. Definitely showcases the wonder of nature.

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  15. Anthony McFarlane

    Beautiful work!

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  16. Brandon Dewey

    well done! I love the tidal pool image!

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  17. J. Dennis Thomas

    That’s pretty awesome stuff.

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  18. Paddy McDougall

    Stunning shots, must have taken incredible patience, knowledge of lighting and photography not to mention understanding of animal behaviour

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  19. John Cavan

    Yikes on the crocodile! Beautiful shots though, quite well done.

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  20. Barry Chapman

    Amazing stuff! And don’t try this at home. Not only are the croc and the sharks dangerous, you don’t want to be stung by one of those blue bottles.

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