SoCal Shootout: Story Behind the Shot, Cindy Shaw

SoCal Shootout: Story Behind the Shot, Cindy Shaw

Oct 21
SoCal Shootout: Story Behind the Shot, Cindy Shaw

Shooting Portraits underwater can be especially challenging as most subjects like fish are moving constantly. You must nail that perfect composition, eye contact and focus. With that in mind we loved this playful capture of a Bat Ray from Cindy Shaw which took First Place in the Open Portrait Category. Here are the details that went into this winning image.

Title: Wanna Play?

Location Captured: Farnsworth Banks, Catalina Island

Camera / Housing: Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm Lens in Nauticam Housing

Strobes / Lights: Dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 Strobes

Camera Settings: F8, 1/125th, ISO320

The Story: We arrived at Farnsworth early after crossing over from San Pedro on the Perfect Mistress with Captain Derek.  There were four divers, two of us with cameras set for the shootout.  We weren’t sure we would be able to dive the pinnacle when we saw so many boats there even earlier than our arrival.  Most were fishing boats and we smiled when we saw that the dive boat Vision was anchored at the high spot with divers already in the water.  Our Captains managed a smooth switch so we moved onto the pinnacle as they slipped off, all divers back on board.  Nicely done Captains!  We dropped into the water and could actually see the purple on the top of the pinnacle from the anchor line.  One of our divers had never been able to dive Farnsworth before and I loved knowing his first experience would be an epic dive.  We were able to stay for 2 full dives before the conditions encouraged us to move on.  I absolutely love California diving because you really never know what you will find until you go in and see.  We have incredible diversity and myriad of opportunities here.
At about 80 feet, it was darker, so I bumped my ISO  to try and allow more light in while still keeping blue water.  I shot LOTS of purple hydrocoral shots and loved doing it, but then I swam over a rise and saw this magnificent bat ray in a shallow sandy spot.  Her wingspan was easily 6 feet across I am sure because it was head to booties for me when I approached sideways.  I Quickly went to the most versatile camera settings I could in case she decided to fly.  Then I settled down slowly and moved my lens to 50mm a good distance back.  I took a series of shots as I approached closer ever so slowly and moved my lens to 12 mm.  We spent about 5-10 min together, but it felt much longer making me quietly check my remaining air frequently because of course I found her at the end of my second dive.   I approached from a slightly sideways angle hoping to frame her diagonally and she kept constant eye contact.  She shifted perfectly for me and rose up a little to prepare to fly but stayed as I put the camera down and we just hung out.  As she seemed more comfortable but didn’t settle flat again I picked up the camera and took 2-3 more portraits before she slowly rose, circled and dipped a wing in farewell.