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Underwater Video: Techniques for Shooting Macro

Macro Lenses There are a variety of tools necessary to shoot good macro video. The most important tool being your lens. The standard lens in your video camera can actually zoom in close enough for very good macro shots. This allows you to shoot decent macro through any housing with a flat port: the Top Dawg or any of the Gate's housings. (Gates has a wide selection of ports to choose from including a flat port, wide lenses, and a zoom through port) To get even closer macro you can screw on a +2 magnifying diopter. Some higher end cameras such as the Light and Motion FX1 Bluefin and the Gates FX1 have an extremely convenient flip down diopter built into the housing. With the flip of a lever you can shoot wide, and then instantly get in close without ever changing ports.

Bluefin FX1 flip down diopter.
Some housing manufacturers offer what's called a zoom through lens as a front port option. These specialized lenses allow for both wide angle and close focus macro work in one lens. Most wide lenses do not allow your camera to focus when zoomed fully in. Zoom through lenses do. With a diopter some zoom through lenses are capable of macro work. Light and Motion housings come standard with a zoom through lens and Gates has a line of lenses for you to choose from, one of them being a zoom through lens.
To get even closer macro Backscatter sells the Macromate. The Macromate is a wet macro lens, or a lens that you can attach and detach from your front port while underwater. When the Macromate is on your port, it will increase your macro capabilities from 1:1 to 3:1, or three times life size. With the Macromate you can literally zoom in close enough to see blood pumping through the rhinophore of a nudibranch. Most of Light and Motion's smaller housings, the Bluefin A1U and the Mako will fit the macromate, but Backscatter can custom fit one to just about any housing.

Light and Motion Mako housing with a Macromate Lens.
Lights When shooting macro, control of your lighting is very important. The normal method of shooting with light heads on each side of the housing doesn't really work when shooting macro. For macro one light is the key or main light and the other is the fill light. The key light is your subject's main source of light and should point in the direction your subject is facing. You should point the key light at your subject at a 45 degree angle. Having just one light exposing your subject will create harsh shadows on the opposite unlit side of your subject. To get soften these shadows a fill light is required. The fill light should be positioned directly above your camera's lens and point down on your subject. This will fill in your shadows and provide a more even and natural look to your video.

When shooting macro being able to control your exposure is crucial. Since you're usually close to your subject your lights can easily overexpose your footage. Keep the zebra striping on in your camera so you're aware of over-exposed highlights, then manually dial in the exposure, if your housing allows it, or turn the output of your lights down to a lower setting.
All other skills required for macro shooting lay in your diving abilities. Being able to remain still for long periods of time is essential. Work on your buoyancy skills. Footage that shakes and jives all over the place is very distracting. When lying on the bottom try to stir up as little silt and sand as possible. Floating particulate can spell doom for an otherwise perfect shot. If you can, brace your housing against a solid surface. Either place it on the bottom, or a rock, or if these don't work, try bracing your arm on a solid surface, then place the housing on your arm as an impromptu tripod. A real tripod, though bulky and hard to maneuver, is the best for stable shots.
Good luck and good shooting!!!

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