As I See It with Audrey GarBacik

I started almost 4 years ago with a GoPro. After less than a year with the GoPro I upgraded to a Canon G16. About 3 months ago I upgraded again to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mirrorless camera.

1. How long have you been diving?

About 9 years.

Giant Acorn Barnacle - We are used to seeing the barnacle shells around but there are animals living inside the shells. When open, the lip is orange with pink cirri (feathered fingers) reaching out to catch food. These fingers are constantly extending, catching food and retracting into the shell. This picture is of the cirri retracting into the shell. The fingers on this barnacle were about 3 inches long.

2. What equipment do you use?

I started almost 4 years ago with a GoPro. After less than a year with the GoPro, I upgraded to a Canon G16. About 3 months ago I upgraded to an Olympus OM-D E-M1 mirrorless camera with an 8mm wide angle lens or 60mm macro lens. I put it in a Nautilus underwater camera housing to which I can attach a 7" wide-angle dome lens port or a macro port. I also have 7x and 14x wet close-up lenses to increase my magnification for macro. For lighting I use two Sea & Sea strobes: a YS-D1, a YS-D2 and a Sola 3500 lumen video light.


3. Challenges shooting underwater?

Buoyancy is the ability to float in the water at a certain depth. As you are focusing your picture you don't want to drift up or down in the water. On top of that, when you inhale you will go up and exhale you go down. You have to really control your breathing while taking a picture so you are not bouncing up and down.

Surge is the movement of water, which you see as waves on the surface. This tends to push you back and forth when you are trying to focus on a picture. It also pushes your target back and forth. For example, if your target is on a kelp leaf it will get "blown" back and forth in the water, sometimes taking the target out of site.

Current occurs as tides flood and ebb. Tides will pull you away or push you into your target. Most critters face into the current so if you are taking a picture of the front of a critter the current is pushing you into your target. In a flat topography, this position allows current to get under your fins and try to flip you over.

Visibility in the Pacific Northwest water can be very mucky to the point that it can be nighttime dark in the middle of the day. As a result, you have to provide your own lighting with strobes. This muck also causes a lot of backscatter in your pictures. There are techniques with the strobes to minimize the backscatter.

These challenges have made me practice extreme patience, which wasn't previously a part of my personality.

Juvenile Wolf Eel - I found this small eel swimming around when I startled him and he ducked into a crack. He was less than 3 feet long.

4. What’s missing in your equipment bag? In other words, your next investment?

I have only been using my new camera system for three months and am very happy with my gear for underwater photography. However, I am starting to get interested in land photography. I would like to collect a couple of zoom lenses to use on land. I have played around with land photography using my macro and wide-angle lenses and have had some interesting results but would like a couple of standard zoom lenses.

Mosshead Warbonnet - One of the cutest fish, this thin, 6 inch long fish likes to live in an empty Giant Acorn Barnacle shell. This particular warbonnet was swimming around when I captured this picture.

5. Locations where you’ve dived and photographed?

Honduras, Fiji, Indonesia, Philippines, Sea of Cortez, Channel Islands, many places in British Columbia, many places around the San Juan Islands and many places around Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

6. Do you have a favorite underwater subject to photograph?

I like to photograph all critters but a very small percentage of my pictures are fish. I like color in my pictures and am very happy if a critter poses for me. I am very comfortable with macro photography as I just got the wide-angle capability three months ago with my new camera. Since that time, I have been falling in love with the flexibility of wide angle.

MultiColorDendronotid - This is a nudibranch which could be described as a sea slug. There are thousands of different nudibranchs in various shapes, sizes and colors, most are beautiful. This one is about 2 inches long. Nudibranchs will raise up on their haunches to "smell" the water with their rhinophores.

7. What’s the smallest underwater subject you’ve photographed?

I frequently take pictures of things I can't see with my naked eye (and mask with prescription lenses). I have to take the picture and enlarge it on my camera's LCD screen to determine where the head is. In the past I used a 60mm macro lens with a 7x wet close-up lens. To get more magnification and fill the screen with these super macro critters I recently purchased a 14x close-up lens. This lens really reduces my depth of field which is creating new challenges and training me to be even more patient. I included an example of a super macro picture, the solitary pink-mouth hydroid. The heads of these are 1/2 inch wide at the most. They look like a little piece of lint on a string to my naked eye. Blowing up the picture shows the color and texture of these creatures. A surprise for me was finding a small amphipod on every solitary pink-mouth hydroid I took a picture of. In my investigations of this hydroid I found that this is a normal commensal relationship. In this picture you can see two glowing eyes of this amphipod to the right of the mouth. You can imagine how small this amphipod is if the hydroid looks like a piece of lint.

Solitary PinkMouth Hydroid - See question #8 below

8. What captured your attention and make you want to take up photography?

I have to give my husband credit for getting me interested in underwater photography. He doesn't know how to swim and every time we saw an advertisement, TV show or documentary with underwater shots he was asking me "Did I see that?", "Does it look like that?" etc. I am an avid cyclist and rode my bicycle back and forth to work everyday. I had a couple of close calls and purchased a GoPro to mount on my bike. It came with an underwater housing so I thought, what the heck, let me take it diving. I started showing my green GoPro videos to my husband and he loved it. The next thing I knew I was purchasing red filters and lights so then my videos had color and weren't green. At this point I started looking at pictures my dive buddies were taking and I wanted my pictures to be sharper. I upgraded to a Canon G16 and have been spending money on underwater photo equipment ever since. I started out taking pictures to show my husband what I saw and to identify critters. I have now evolved into trying to make the most mundane critter beautiful. I spend a lot of time working with my lights to achieve different effects. I am totally addicted to photography to the point that I want to do it on land when I can't dive. Considering I had never taken a picture before four years ago I think this is quite a transition.

Candy Stripe Shrimp - They are usually found hiding under Crimson Anemones and it requires a lot of patience to get a picture. This shrimp was almost two inches long. Skeleton Shrimp - Actually these are from the amphipod family and not real shrimp. They are very small, about half the length of a toothpick and they move like an inch worm. I have never seen red skeleton shrimp before and was very pleased to get this picture of three of them clustered together. Notice that they are all carrying eggs.

9. What is your workflow in post-processing?

I have the monthly subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop. I try to keep my pictures organized and sorted with Lightroom. I do color and light adjustments, sharpness, vignetting and cropping in Lightroom. In Photoshop I enhance using the Image Adjustments, remove backscatter, transmission wires etc, add details like light reflection in eyes and copyright the pictures.

Top Snail - This snail was extended out of his shell and moving along. They are usually so small I can't tell where the eyes are. In this picture I got lucky to catch both eyes. The shell of this snail was about 1 inch in diameter.

by Karla Locke - Author of The Blood Stone Queen and other ebooks, Freelance Writer and Photographer for Stories from the Front Porch and other publications. Karla shares her passion of the arts and artists, photography, writing, small businesses, and people who live, work, and play with passion.

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Created By
Karla Locke

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