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Hints to taking the best pictures possible in the South Pacific


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Taking pictures in the South Pacific can be a bit tricky. Most cameras are not made for the incredible dynamic range, meaning dark shadows and bright light in the same composition. I will share a few pointers that most will get something out of. No this isn’t a class for the avid amateur photographer or one that makes their living shooting professionally.

A bit about me. I do take pictures professionally and with my 20th trip to the South Pacific in the near future I’ve gleaned much on how to best take pictures in this part of the world. I just ordered a new setup just for this next trip and can’t wait to try it out. But I’m going to keep this simple, just the basics.

Most of you shoot in either full automatic or what some manufactures call ‘Program Mode’. In either case it is important keep your subject and the background in similar lighting. Every take a picture of someone and they are basically a silhouette with no detail. What happened is your camera is automatically adjusting for the overall brightness of your composition. If there is significant bright light behind your subject(s) they will become a silhouette. To eliminate this problem keep the light on your subject similar to the light behind them. Sure you can place the subject(s) in the same light but if it’s in the bright sun the subject(s) will either squint or have raccoon eyes if the sun is primarily overhead. You could make sure they have sunglasses on but then you lose one of the most expressive parts of our body, our eyes.

I would suggest that you place the subject(s) in the shade with landscape behind them so there isn’t the bright background ….. Or you learn how to shoot in aperture mode, which is a semi-automatic mode that allows you to use ‘exposure compensation’. This works best when you have a camera that has a live view electronic viewfinder so you can actually see the exposure before you push the button. This allows you to take pictures against back-light and compensate so the subject(s) are properly exposed. This is one way to do it but remember you’re in paradise and you want your subject(s) to be seen in ‘paradise’. If you do it this way the background will be ‘blown out’, another words the details of the background setting will be lost.

 

The best way is to use aperture mode and expose for the background, the harsh light. Your subject(s) back is against that harsh light, this keeps their eyes not pointed at the bright light. You then learn how to use you camera’s flash in the manual mode. If you take your camera out for an afternoon and practice you will have it figured out before you head to paradise. You’ve set the exposure for the bright light behind the subject(s) and now you use the flash to illuminate your subject(s). What you must be careful of is the light can be so bright in the South Pacific that your flash can’t overcome the bright background. Most point and shoot cameras (what most people bring on the cruise) don’t have a very good flash. To overcome this you need to keep your subject(s) close to the camera. Try 10 feet away and if they are still silhouettes bring them a bit closer. You will become an expert at knowing how close the subject(s) need to be in order to deal with the bright background. A bit of practice before you go and you will take much better pictures on your trip to paradise.

 

If you’re purchasing a camera to take on your trip pick one out that can do the job. For $500 - $800 you can purchase a camera that will do just fine. Better yet call a reputable camera store and ask for a bit of help. Let the person know exactly what you want to accomplish. A camera with aperture priority, one with a powerful built-in flash that you can set manually. A few extras might be a camera that has built-in ND filters which are useful in bright light environments. A camera that has threads on the end of the lens so you can add a circular polarized filter which is very helpful when you really want to get that blue blue sky.

One last tip …. Place your subject(s) not in the middle of the picture but on a third. Look through your viewfinder. Imagine a tic-tac-toe in the screen. Where the lines intersect that is a third placement. Subject(s) always look best on a third when you taking them in a landscape setting. Place the horizon on one of the third horizontal lines. Decent cameras, even in the price range I mentioned have the third grid as an option you can place on your viewfinder, another question to ask that guy at the camera store.

 

Enough for now …. If enough people respond to this shortlittle ‘tips’ thread I’ll go a bit further and give a bit more detail on composition and how to use a polarized filter and/or ND filter.

A few ‘real’ camera stores to visit or call when you’re wanting to purchase that camera for your trip to paradise. B and H, Samy’s or Adorama. The help at these three places are top notch and will give you good advice….

Edited by Tahitianbigkahuna
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Taking pictures in the South Pacific can be a bit tricky. Most cameras are not made for the incredible dynamic range, meaning dark shadows and bright light in the same composition. I will share a few pointers that most will get something out of. No this isn’t a class for the avid amateur photographer or one that makes their living shooting professionally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit about me. I do take pictures professionally and with my 20th trip to the South Pacific in the near future I’ve gleaned much on how to best take pictures in this part of the world. I just ordered a new setup just for this next trip and can’t wait to try it out. But I’m going to keep this simple, just the basics.

 

 

Most of you shoot in either full automatic or what some manufactures call ‘Program Mode’. In either case it is important keep your subject and the background in similar lighting. Every take a picture of someone and they are basically a silhouette with no detail. What happened is your camera is automatically adjusting for the overall brightness of your composition. If there is significant bright light behind your subject(s) they will become a silhouette. To eliminate this problem keep the light on your subject similar to the light behind them. Sure you can place the subject(s) in the same light but if it’s in the bright sun the subject(s) will either squint or have raccoon eyes if the sun is primarily overhead. You could make sure they have sunglasses on but then you lose one of the most expressive parts of our body, our eyes.

 

 

I would suggest that you place the subject(s) in the shade with landscape behind them so there isn’t the bright background ….. Or you learn how to shoot in aperture mode, which is a semi-automatic mode that allows you to use ‘exposure compensation’. This works best when you have a camera that has a live view electronic viewfinder so you can actually see the exposure before you push the button. This allows you to take pictures against back-light and compensate so the subject(s) are properly exposed. This is one way to do it but remember you’re in paradise and you want your subject(s) to be seen in ‘paradise’. If you do it this way the background will be ‘blown out’, another words the details of the background setting will be lost.

 

 

 

The best way is to use aperture mode and expose for the background, the harsh light. Your subject(s) back is against that harsh light, this keeps their eyes not pointed at the bright light. You then learn how to use you camera’s flash in the manual mode. If you take your camera out for an afternoon and practice you will have it figured out before you head to paradise. You’ve set the exposure for the bright light behind the subject(s) and now you use the flash to illuminate your subject(s). What you must be careful of is the light can be so bright in the South Pacific that your flash can’t overcome the bright background. Most point and shoot cameras (what most people bring on the cruise) don’t have a very good flash. To overcome this you need to keep your subject(s) close to the camera. Try 10 feet away and if they are still silhouettes bring them a bit closer. You will become an expert at knowing how close the subject(s) need to be in order to deal with the bright background. A bit of practice before you go and you will take much better pictures on your trip to paradise.

 

 

 

If you’re purchasing a camera to take on your trip pick one out that can do the job. For $500 - $800 you can purchase a camera that will do just fine. Better yet call a reputable camera store and ask for a bit of help. Let the person know exactly what you want to accomplish. A camera with aperture priority, one with a powerful built-in flash that you can set manually. A few extras might be a camera that has built-in ND filters which are useful in bright light environments. A camera that has threads on the end of the lens so you can add a circular polarized filter which is very helpful when you really want to get that blue blue sky.

 

 

One last tip …. Place your subject(s) not in the middle of the picture but on a third. Look through your viewfinder. Imagine a tic-tac-toe in the screen. Where the lines intersect that is a third placement. Subject(s) always look best on a third when you taking them in a landscape setting. Place the horizon on one of the third horizontal lines. Decent cameras, even in the price range I mentioned have the third grid as an option you can place on your viewfinder, another question to ask that guy at the camera store.

 

 

 

Enough for now …. If enough people respond to this shortlittle ‘tips’ thread I’ll go a bit further and give a bit more detail on composition and how to use a polarized filter and/or ND filter.

 

 

A few ‘real’ camera stores to visit or call when you’re wanting to purchase that camera for your trip to paradise. B and H, Samy’s or Adorama. The help at these three places are top notch and will give you good advice….

 

 

 

Thanks TBK. This is very helpful. Advice is always appreciated to really amateur photographers. Just purchased the Olympus TG-5. So I don’t know yet if it has the capabilities you are talking about. I know they say it isn’t fully manual. But I like your advice to experiment with it before our trip - in 4 weeks [emoji847]. Advice on underwater, if you have any, would be great,too.

 

 

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The Olympus TG-5 will shoot in aperture priority mode and has a built-in flash plus exposure compensation capabilities.

 

You may wish to buy a CLA-T01 adapter so you can mount a circular polarized filter on the lens.

 

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/859972-REG/Olympus_V323060BW000_CLA_T01_Conversion_Lens_Adapter.html

 

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/122502-REG/Tiffen_405CP_40_5mm_Circular_Polarizing.html

 

This camera is designed for underwater use and unless your going under 10 feet I wouldn't worry about buying a filter for color correction.

 

Personally I've use a GoPro for underwater pictures and video. Excited about having a new one this year and looking forward to trying it out later this year in FP.

 

One hint for underwater. You want to take underwater pictures/video in full sun light, this will give you the vivid stuff you want. Taking underwater stuff in full clouded skies and it will come out dull looking.

Edited by Tahitianbigkahuna
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Thanks again TBK! We plan to get an Olympus TG-5 for this trip. I have a Canon Rebel that I'll tote along as well.

 

We have a GoPro too, but have never been thrilled with how our snorkelling pictures and videos turn out with it. We often end up shooting video when we intend to take pictures and vice versa. The lack of a viewfinder and the wonky menu make it challenging to use, for us at least! The worst was getting home from the US Virgin Islands where we snorkelled with several huge, gorgeous turtles... We got maybe a few seconds of footage of the turtles and several minutes of footage of my feet! LOL!

 

Any GoPro tips would be appreciated! Thank you! Merci! Mauruuru! :)

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Thanks again TBK! We plan to get an Olympus TG-5 for this trip. I have a Canon Rebel that I'll tote along as well.

 

We have a GoPro too, but have never been thrilled with how our snorkelling pictures and videos turn out with it. We often end up shooting video when we intend to take pictures and vice versa. The lack of a viewfinder and the wonky menu make it challenging to use, for us at least! The worst was getting home from the US Virgin Islands where we snorkelled with several huge, gorgeous turtles... We got maybe a few seconds of footage of the turtles and several minutes of footage of my feet! LOL!

 

Any GoPro tips would be appreciated! Thank you! Merci! Mauruuru! :)

 

Sounds like your using an older GoPro. The new models Hero 5 and 6 have a rear screen so you can view what your taking though it's a bit small and the menu is touch screen. The newer models are very much superior to the older models and they are waterproof to 33' with no housing. I'll be taking a bunch of new underwater stuff this year and will share.

 

Keep in mind the Olympus TG-5 will take nice underwater pictures and video so there is no need to run out and buy a new GoPro plus the Olympus ;)

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Taking pictures in the South Pacific can be a bit tricky. Most cameras are not made for the incredible dynamic range, meaning dark shadows and bright light in the same composition. I will share a few pointers that most will get something out of. No this isn’t a class for the avid amateur photographer or one that makes their living shooting professionally….

 

 

Thanks for this advice. We're travelling there next year and are currently looking at the Canon EOS 80D. For underwater, we have the Fuji FinePix, but I've seen some Nikon photos which look much brighter so I may consider replacing that as well. Any and all hints you have on photos or what not to miss are welcome! Thanks!

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Thanks for this advice. We're travelling there next year and are currently looking at the Canon EOS 80D. For underwater, we have the Fuji FinePix, but I've seen some Nikon photos which look much brighter so I may consider replacing that as well. Any and all hints you have on photos or what not to miss are welcome! Thanks!

 

Interestingly many of my pictures were taken with the predecessor of the 80D .... I used a 70D with a standard kit lens. In fact the picture on the back of the Paul Gauguin brochure was taken with a 70D. So ..... the 80D is a great choice for your primary camera and not only does it take nice pictures but super video ;);)

 

This year I'm taking a new Sony a7III with some Sony top of the line 'G' lens, one of the very best cameras out there right now. My better half will again use her trusty 70D as she is so used to it.

Edited by Tahitianbigkahuna
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Thanks. I just ordered the lens

adapter and filter. Somehow I missed the last part of your reply and probably could have gotten by without it as the plan is mainly to use

it as an underwater camera. We have a very old Canon Rebel XTi and have been debating wether to take it. It still takes decent pictures - just kind of bulky when traveling.

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I am way to guess I would call a serious hobbyist photographer. I used a canon 5d Mark ii, replaced it with the mark iii when it died right before a big trip. I recently (also) purchased the Sony ar7 because I grew weary of carrying around such a heavy camera. It’s been an adjustment learning Sony but find myself using it a lot more because it’s so much easier to carry around.

 

I’m decently knowledgeable about using aperture, shutter and manual mode. For the most part, have learned what I need to do for indoor and outdoor sports, wildlife, and portraits/ family pics. I haven’t delved into using aperture priority along with explore compensation so this will be a fun learning experience for me.

 

Questions. Do you keep the aperture around 7 while focusing on subject? Or another value? What are the factors that would make you change it.

 

Does the ar7 let you view the different exposure compensation scenes in the viewfinder? (I’m sitting in my sons eye dr appt reading this so can’t test it). I rarely use the screen because I am so used to using the diopter after so many years with the mark iii.

 

I recently bought the $100 (vs the more expensive one) external flash. Not sure how much I can program that. I will have to figure that out as well.

 

Any other tricks you have learned specific to the ar7?

 

Thanks for these tips. I will have to practice and see what I can do.

 

 

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I'm purchasing the a7III which is the newest version of the high end Sony cameras though it is very similar to the camera you have.

 

Aperture is set based on the circumstances and the depth of field you want. Lets say I'm shooting a humming bird @ 200mm and the subject is 6 feet away. I may very well try and stay in the sweet spot of the lens which is typically 3 - 4 stops above being wide open. Plus your depth of field is about 1 inch at f/8 6 feet away at 200mm so f/8 - f/13 is needed.

 

On the other hand I may be using a 85mm portrait lens and want that creamy background so I'll shoot wide open at f/1.4 and focus on the nearest eye.

 

As you will be in paradise you likely will want the depth of field to be in focus from the subject to the background thus F/8 - F/13 will be likely settings.

 

Every circumstance is different but the nice thing about the Electronic view finder on the Sony you have is it is 'live' another words you are viewing the actual exposure and yes the exposure compensation can be seen in the viewfinder. This is one of the major reasons I'm changing to Sony from my full frame Canons. However, don't sell of your better L Canon lenses as the rumor is Canon will finally put out a mirror-less to compete against the Sony's.

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A little advice in regards to the Olympus TG-5.

 

The 4X zoom lens is a similar equivalent to most standard zoom lenses from the major camera/lens manufactures. The manufactures are not nuts and give a zoom that is in the 'sweet' spot for 95% of your picture needs/requirements.

 

Unless you know how to use a wide angle lens I would suggest not buying to go on this camera. Many times you end up with a picture that is distorted primarily 'stretched' plus the foreground can appear very close and the background very small compared to what it actually looks like in real life.

 

Yes there is a place for a wide angle lens but I wouldn't use on a trip of a lifetime unless you understand how to properly use, you might end up with pictures that could of been far superior if taken with the standard lens provided on the camera form the manufacture.

 

Again this is my own opinion, some my believe differently and that is OK :)

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A little advice in regards to the Olympus TG-5.

 

The 4X zoom lens is a similar equivalent to most standard zoom lenses from the major camera/lens manufactures. The manufactures are not nuts and give a zoom that is in the 'sweet' spot for 95% of your picture needs/requirements.

 

Unless you know how to use a wide angle lens I would suggest not buying to go on this camera. Many times you end up with a picture that is distorted primarily 'stretched' plus the foreground can appear very close and the background very small compared to what it actually looks like in real life.

 

Yes there is a place for a wide angle lens but I wouldn't use on a trip of a lifetime unless you understand how to properly use, you might end up with pictures that could of been far superior if taken with the standard lens provided on the camera form the manufacture.

 

Again this is my own opinion, some my believe differently and that is OK :)

 

Thanks. Value your opinion and we are not expert enough to attempt experimenting with other lenses. Hubby is fairly knowledgeable about all that and we have those lenses for our old canon. But we’ll probably keep it simple. I will try using the filter we purchased for land shots and I’m sure we’ll be getting plenty of those. :o

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Thanks. Value your opinion and we are not expert enough to attempt experimenting with other lenses. Hubby is fairly knowledgeable about all that and we have those lenses for our old canon. But we’ll probably keep it simple. I will try using the filter we purchased for land shots and I’m sure we’ll be getting plenty of those. :o

 

Remember a circular polarized lens for getting that blue blue sky works best within 3 hours after the sun raises or within 3 hours of the sun setting. Best when you are off axis from the sun 90 degrees. Does not work when looking toward the sun or 180 degrees opposite of the sun.

 

Best pictures are always taken in early morning sun or late afternoon sun.

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I'm purchasing the a7III which is the newest version of the high end Sony cameras though it is very similar to the camera you have.

 

Aperture is set based on the circumstances and the depth of field you want. Lets say I'm shooting a humming bird @ 200mm and the subject is 6 feet away. I may very well try and stay in the sweet spot of the lens which is typically 3 - 4 stops above being wide open. Plus your depth of field is about 1 inch at f/8 6 feet away at 200mm so f/8 - f/13 is needed.

 

On the other hand I may be using a 85mm portrait lens and want that creamy background so I'll shoot wide open at f/1.4 and focus on the nearest eye.

 

As you will be in paradise you likely will want the depth of field to be in focus from the subject to the background thus F/8 - F/13 will be likely settings.

 

Every circumstance is different but the nice thing about the Electronic view finder on the Sony you have is it is 'live' another words you are viewing the actual exposure and yes the exposure compensation can be seen in the viewfinder. This is one of the major reasons I'm changing to Sony from my full frame Canons. However, don't sell of your better L Canon lenses as the rumor is Canon will finally put out a mirror-less to compete against the Sony's.

 

 

 

Thanks for that info. I will have to play around with my Sony. I have some local birds who have volunteered to help me test it. One of the other reasons I haven’t used the viewfinder is I need to use my reading glasses to see it, but I will have to get used to that.

 

And happy to hear that about canon. Although I’m not in a hurry to sell my canon equipment. It has served me very well over the years and still invaluable for indoor sports, but that is probably also in my lens investment. And my go-to even for outdoor sports when I don’t mind carrying about the heavy stuff. I have my monopod when i use the 70-200 lens and have taken some of my best pics with that. Part of that is I just know that camera so much better with the different focusing options and a lot is like muscle memory to me. But I need to spend the time on the Sony to learn that and you have given me encouragement. Thanks!

 

 

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I get it! Yes shooting with my Canon 5DIII and Canon L glass is automatic to me. I can go outside and snap away knowing my capture rate is extremely high. However, the new Sony's are incredible and Canon has fallen way behind. My new a7 III is back ordered but I should have it shortly and I'll be proficient on it before my next trip to FP later this year.

 

Birds are always good practice ;)

 

Canon 5DIII with a Canon 70-200L f/4 IS @200mm, 1/2000, f/4, ISO-1250

 

i-trk9SqR-X2.jpg

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I get it! Yes shooting with my Canon 5DIII and Canon L glass is automatic to me. I can go outside and snap away knowing my capture rate is extremely high. However, the new Sony's are incredible and Canon has fallen way behind. My new a7 III is back ordered but I should have it shortly and I'll be proficient on it before my next trip to FP later this year.

 

 

 

Birds are always good practice ;)

 

 

 

Canon 5DIII with a Canon 70-200L f/4 IS @200mm, 1/2000, f/4, ISO-1250

 

 

 

i-trk9SqR-X2.jpg

 

 

 

WOW! Incredible picture!

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well back to the South Pacific ...

 

Taking the hints I gave you and with some practice you will have a chance to pull off those tough back-lite pictures, even sunset shots like this ...

 

i-2JBghT6-X3.jpg

 

Don't wait until your on that dream vacation to try and figure it out ... take the time to go out a few evenings and practice. You will be glad you did.

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Well back to the South Pacific ...

 

Taking the hints I gave you and with some practice you will have a chance to pull off those tough back-lite pictures, even sunset shots like this ...

 

i-2JBghT6-X3.jpg

 

Don't wait until your on that dream vacation to try and figure it out ... take the time to go out a few evenings and practice. You will be glad you did.

.

 

What an amazing picture!

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Thank you so much for the great tips! I wish I would have been a little more knowledgeable about my camera equipment when we went on our dream FP cruise. I'm going to start practicing now so that I'll be prepared the next time I visit (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later).

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Thank you so much for the great tips! I wish I would have been a little more knowledgeable about my camera equipment when we went on our dream FP cruise. I'm going to start practicing now so that I'll be prepared the next time I visit (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later).

 

For some reason I figure it will be sooner than later ;)

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