We talk about underwater photography with Christopher Picón
Good morning AmetllaDiving family!
As we told you ... today we bring you an interview with Christopher Picón, photography and audiovisual professional @cpiconvisuals.
• Good morning Christopher Picón, thank you for being here with us once again. Today we talk about you, how did you start in the world of photography? Why did you decide on this world? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Good morning, very happy and delighted to be here! In response to the first question, although I will surely link everything to the same answer with the second, it can be said that I started when as a teenager I spent part of the first payment for a summer job buying a camera, a "point and shoot" from Sony. So, I didn't know what I was doing, the truth is, I liked the fact of capturing moments, that was clear to me, taking pictures of things that seemed interesting to me, to be able to show them later to my loved ones.
Over time I developed my creative facets around this and digital editing and creation, reinforced with my studies related to delineation and later to architecture. In all this maelstrom I began to like video even more and to be able to capture scenes and actions. I fully connected with it when I started a higher telecommunications technician course, about 5-6 years ago. There I developed my passion for video and further developed my knowledge related to everything audiovisual.
Finally, to specify that I found a field in which photography and video can go hand in hand and combine, I have always liked, valued and appreciated, that field is dance.
You can say ... that's how it all started!
• I remember that you started scuba diving in order to carry out an underwater project. What is that project about?
Correct! Like most of the personal projects that I develop in recent years, these are linked to dance video clips / shorts and are practically 100% in collaboration with Verónica Hernández, a close friend of mine and choreographer, with whom I connect perfectly, and that transmits some ideas to me that he hopes I will adapt and transform into a reality.
That is the case of this project, “MERMAIDS”, the idea was to link dance to the underwater world, specifically, to the exciting world of mermaids. Thus, we thought that a video of mermaids could not have images only on the surface, we wanted to obtain added value and incorporate underwater scenes.
For a long time, I was interested in the idea of trying scuba diving, as a personal improvement, and visualizing to what point my audiovisual vision could take to another world such as the seabed.
What better springboard to take advantage of than that moment? And as this interview reflects well, that's how it was, I found the strength and a lot of desire to take the step.
• How did you feel about taking your Open Water Diver course? You like me? Will you continue to train in this world?
At first, nervous, like everyone else I suppose they have not had the experience before, as was my case. Still, on my first dive I was pretty clear. The moment I hit the bottom for the first time breathing underwater with my instructor Paula Gómez, not only was I impressed, I knew that I had to go all out, and that I wanted to be able to teach what I saw from my point of view. I felt capable, in a seemingly hostile environment.
During the course of the course, despite starting off on a fairly good footing, I must say that I had moments in which I lost the clarity with which I had started, especially in the development of some specific practices such as those related to removing your mask and in the open sea and at a certain depth, and not in calm or confined waters. It seems like a pretty simple thing, but in my case it made a big impression on me. Despite those moments of panic, my instructor was not only able to reassure and understand me, but to encourage me to continue. And so it was, with courage and her support, the subsequent practices were carried out with success.
The overall experience, great. What if I liked it? I loved! A very unique year and overcoming a personal barrier of this type, I could not be more satisfied.
And answering the more training in this regard, the idea is yes. I have discovered a world, and if everything goes as it should, I want to keep exploring! And if it is with your team of people, even better.
• With the little experience you have diving, how did you manage to maneuver buoyancy, fear, insecurities, etc. And at the same time take pictures.
I believe that initiative and being focused on a goal make you face your fears and insecurities, although they never go away, nor should they go, they make us strong and aware. Knowing that you are not alone is also reassuring.
As for buoyancy, it is true, it is extremely difficult to control it and obtain neutral buoyancy, but you must feel your body in the water, how it moves, and see how your breath acts on how you move ... with a lot of practice and effort you can adapt your movements. I have a long way to go in this regard. I should add that incorporating an underwater housing camera, which by default is credited with positive buoyancy, helped to offset my predisposition for negative buoyancy.
The fixation for trying to take a good photograph or a stabilized video under water also provides a concentration that helps control the other factors.
• Are the same photography techniques applied to underwater photography or do you use other mechanisms to get these incredible images?
The techniques yes, practically everything is perfectly extrapolated. The exceptions, the color and depths of field and lens range. Although understanding how it works or what exactly changes regarding the surface, you can make the necessary adjustments.
In the case of color, there are ways to proceed, and a low-budget technique is to keep a control of the color balance, close to magenta, which is a good solution up to about 10m deep, with that and some post-production touch-ups if you capture images. In RAW, they give good results, in the case of video you should obtain the best possible result with the camera balance or move on to the use of red / magenta filters, which would be the next step. It helps to correct color using spotlights and flashes (for video and photography respectively).
• What type of underwater camera do you use? Around how much money have you invested?
The camera is of the Mirrorless type, to be exact a Sony A7-III (FullFrame - Full Frame), which I use combined most of the time that I have been underwater with a Tamron 28-75 f2.8 and with a housing of the company “SeaFrogs”, which would be one of the most affordable in this field, accompanied by two Mangrove SL-19 spotlights.
As for investment, practically the camera, lenses and the like have been very calm investments in recent years. Currently the combination named above could be close to € 2,500.
Regarding the housing and the two lights that I have purchased to take the first steps, we would be talking about an investment of around € 1000.
Sometimes putting the camera in the water is more scary than yourself.
• What model / type of camera do you recommend to start with?
To begin with, whenever you want to obtain more special results than with a “gopro” or similar submersibles, and go a little further, the ideal would be a mirrorless type camera with a micro 4/3 or APS-C format. They're small and lightweight, the underwater housings are affordable, and they have perfectly professional camera capabilities. In the Sony (a6XXX series) or Panasonic (Lumix Series) brands, we find the most affordable options.
• How can we get a good macro photo?
I must warn that my field is not macro photography, although following the basic concepts and my short experience in the underwater world I can give some directions.
Lighting is important, we can obtain this with a flash or some spotlights. Sometimes bulbs with a diffuser that concentrates the beam also allow to obtain macro photos of very small elements with great clarity, or with a simple diffuser or without it, for slightly larger subjects (most of fish and crustaceans, anemones, etc. .).
Obviously another important step will be to have a zoom or fixed lens from 50mm (for accessible, not the most appropriate for very small elements) onwards, to be able to maintain distance from the subject, since most are living beings, living quietly; Another important feature will be a close enough focus distance, obviously if the lens is rated for macro it will be ideal (most brands have macro lenses, the most common is 90mm or approx.).
Having a good diaphragm aperture (≤f2.8) will also allow us that the light that enters is more appropriate and the subject of the photograph is highlighted, making elements that can be found between the camera and the subject are not appreciated or are hidden, making the photo sharper.
As a last point to have a good buoyancy, of course.
• Do you use flash? What kind of flashes are better?
I do not use flash, I have opted for some spotlights, they allow me greater freedom between the
video capture and photography.
Although the Sea & Sea or Sea Frogs underwater flashes are an option and both have “economic” options, which in underwater flashes the prices can rise a lot, since the most affordable ones are already practically more expensive than the mid-range ones of surface, as well as in the world of underwater lights (With a single flash will be good to start with).
• Do we need any accessories to take night photos?
If you only have a flash, it is appropriate to have a supplementary focus, to keep your hands on the camera. In principle, underwater flashes are very appropriate to operate at night.
If you already have bulbs, you may not require an extra accessory. Although it should be taken into account that the lights have a sufficiently long-lasting battery for the programmed dive, since during the day you can turn them off and on only at key moments.
For the rest, I do not think we need any complement apart from the PADI night specialty course or the Advanced with the night specialty, I understand.
• How do you prevent microfragments floating in the sea from appearing in a photo? Especially when these are with flash or focus.
The answer to this question follows part of the answer given in the question on macro photography.
The way to avoid microfragments and other floating particles is to have a lens with an aperture of ≤f2.8, capable of creating a sufficient depth of field to isolate the subject in focus.
Normally, Mirrorless or SLR cameras with interchangeable lenses will achieve this effect, but most compact and “GoPro” cameras are unable to create this effect, revealing any particles that may be between the subject and the camera.
Well, here we end the interview with Christopher Picón, thank you very much for your time and for giving us these tips on underwater photography. Follow him on Instagram @cpiconvisuals, he has spectacular content!
See you on the next blog! See you soon