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Old 05-31-2005, 03:31 AM   #1
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Photos for Hermit Crab Fans and an ID question...

Here are some macro shots I took tonight (no great effort expended on these, but they are decent) of a few among out army of Hermit Crabs.

http://sparhawk.sbc.edu/tank/hermits

I'm curious if someone can identify the hitchhiker living on the first guy's shell. These crabs are like an inch or less in size (and I mean the shell, not their bodies), so that creature on his shell in TEENY!

Thanks!
- Aaron
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Old 05-31-2005, 09:35 AM   #2
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Aaron,

Sorry, can't help with your hitchiker.

But what kind of camera do you have? It takes amazing macro shots. And are you able to get these without the flash? The colors are brilliant.

Thanks
David
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Old 05-31-2005, 09:40 AM   #3
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it looks like a macroalgae or caluerpa to me.... Kind of looks like mexicana or fern type caluerpa.
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Old 05-31-2005, 09:46 AM   #4
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OK Aaron,
This isn't fair. I just went to your pics and found the model for your camera. 8O

You can't cross your hobbys like this... bringing professional-level camera equipment into this aquarist-habitat.

This site is full of people like me going broke trying to set up my little 75g tank... now I gotta start saving for that darn camera (in addition to joining and obsessively scouring the photoadvice.com site...).

Thanks Aaron,

Soon-to-be-more-penniless in MD.
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Old 05-31-2005, 10:17 AM   #5
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Well, here's the part that will make you extra cranky. The camera I've spent plenty of money on (one of a series of cameras over several years with a lens investment I can now carry from Canon SLR to Canon SLR over time). The tank system, however, was -given- to me fully established by a friend getting out of the hobby.

So, I'm avoiding the combined costs here for sure. In fact, I can tell you with certainty that I'd be into my photography and not into marine fish right now if this wasn't the case.

On another note, part of why I was thrilled to get this marine setup (aside from wanting back into the hobby after fifteen years) was the fact that it would give me another ever-changing subject to attack with my camera.

I've just started the tank photography and it still needs a bit of work. It is definitely not without its challenges. Even slight angles, for instance, introduce all kinds of odd distortions and blurring (just like you see with your eyes but far less forgiving in a photo). Lighting is kind of wild, too, since you've generally got too low light to shoot lower ISOs and not get motion blur. Actinic light plays hell with the white balance. I'm tackling that with the flash... but a straight-on flash is seldom the answer. Fortunately, I already strive to avoid straight-on flashes for their flatness (and with a tank the problem is reflection), so I use a wireless transmitter to be able to use my speedlight off-camera. I use the flash on a tripod next to me set to the angle I want or even laying flat on top of the tank with a diffuser and spreading light down from above. You also get the added advantage of a sunlight-esque light that wipes out the extreme blue poisoning of your white balance (which, of course, you could correct in Photoshop when shooting RAW images with the Canon).

Anyway... that's likely more than you wanted to know. Moral of the story here is that I totally agree on the cost side of it and I just plain got lucky on this one.

- Aaron
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Old 05-31-2005, 10:30 AM   #6
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I look forward to seeing some of your pics, once you've "figured it out." I think we'll all benefit from that.

I'm hoping to move from Canon SLR to Digital Canon SLR as well.

How do your fish react to the flash? I've heard that it may add a bit of stress, but am not sure. Perhaps some of our AA aces can chime in on that.

Keep sending in the pics!

David
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Old 05-31-2005, 10:45 AM   #7
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Nice shots, Aaron! I have a Sony F828 and I may steel your settings and see what happens. Thanks for listing them.
As for the hitch hiker n the crab, I to think it is some type of macro algea. My best guess is the caulpera as well.
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Old 05-31-2005, 10:46 AM   #8
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I meant to mention... it doesn't take thousands of dollars of camera gear to get good photos, though (aquatic or otherwise - and I'm not claiming my aquatic stuff is all that great either since it still needs work). Not at all. A lot of it is in the technique since even a "cheap" digital camera these days tends to have pretty decent optics (sometimes better than the average SLR for various reasons of sensor tolerances) and plenty of megapixels.

Before I started buying higher end cameras, I went through several generations of the "consumer" models and took tens of thousands of photos that I was thrilled with. My wedding/honeymoon trip to France, for instance, was shot entirely with a Canon Powershot G2 (which they stopped making four generations ago). It's by no means a pro camera, but I was thrilled with the results. Of the 4,000+ shots I took in those 2.5 weeks, here are 117 you might enjoy perusing:

http://sparhawk.sbc.edu/dp-france

(those shots are on two pages of thumbnails, so look for the number ranges at the top or bottom for the second page)

There are times when I miss the relative simplicity and the live LCD screen of that generation of camera. They are inherently tuned to produce pretty eye-pleasing shots (color, perceived sharpness, etc) that you sometimes have to work for a little (in Photoshop) on a digital SLR. The SLR advantages are numerous, though, and worth the "extra labor" in the grand scheme of things. Lenses, manual controls, ergonomics, etc., are awesome advantages, but by no means a necessity.

Another deciding factor is complexity vs. yield. I, for one, love the challenges and the process is as much fun as pleasing photographic results. If you're just wanting to take good pictures more often than not and wish to avoid getting down in the mud with myriad technicalities (and a seemingly endless array of new things to buy as accessories), then you can be happy knowing you don't need to spend thousands on the camera.

I'll stop babbling now... I just love photography is all.

Enjoy!
- Aaron
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Old 05-31-2005, 10:54 AM   #9
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I was writing my last post while those two previous replies were being posted.

To answer your question, the fish seem completely oblivious to the flash from what I can tell. Nobody ever darts away.

There are a couple of shots of the fish in this set where they are in an aggressive posture. The one with the butterfly being puffed up as he looks toward my flash, however, is misleading. I took that shot because he was puffing up for some other reason and he's not reacting -to- the flash firing as the image may imply. Same for the Imperator in another shot.

So, all in all, I'd say I don't think I'm stressing them out since I never see any reaction. I blast off multiple-shots right at them when they are sliding by and they never react in any way I've witnessed. If I'm wrong, though, I'd defintiely like to hear about it since I don't want to make my fish insane, ichy or dead.

Thanks!
- Aaron
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Old 05-31-2005, 10:59 AM   #10
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So how do you keep the flash from reflecting on the galss? I end up with photos that have a large glare in the middle of them.
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Old 05-31-2005, 11:28 AM   #11
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Aaron,
Since Lando is one of the "AA Aces" that I was talking about... and since he didn't mention anything, I think that you are fine.

I'm glad to hear it, since that is one of the things I'm looking forward to doing when my tank is completely set up.

Cheers
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Old 05-31-2005, 11:39 AM   #12
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I do not think a flash will have a negative effect on the fish. Mine do not seem to mind when I use it.
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Old 05-31-2005, 11:50 AM   #13
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It's a combination of things, really...

Flashes are most likely to glare when taken straight on against the subject. It's the same principle as photographing yourself in a mirror with a flash.

Angling the flash, however, will reduce that... or changing your angle relative to the flash (same thing, really). With a built-in flash, shooting at a downward angle, for instance, might help... but you get that hideous distortion in the water that will hose the focus of your subject. Like I said, tank photography is not without its challenges.

My flash is a top-mount type speedlight - but I don't use it on the camera. In the hot-shoe where the flash would go is a wireless transmitter (model MT-E2). My flash can now be anywhere that it can see the infrared remote control beam (which can be tens or a hundred feet away and at shockingly odd angles sometimes since the infrared bounces like mad on anything reflective... try operating your TV remote perpendicular or even backwards sometimes if there is a shiny surface nearby).

This allows me to move the flash around freely. In some cases I shoot fairly straight, but I have the flash slightly above and to one side and I'm practically against the glass with the lens. This kind of scenario is making the frame so tight that the glare you describe isn't within the frame itself. In other cases the angle itself eliminates the glare.

You can, of course, end up creating scenarios here where you don't get glare but instead light the tank such that it ends up reflecting you. I've got quite a few shots I'd like except that I can faintly see myself or my camera overlapping the subject or just off the side. Sometimes you can crop that out or remove it in Photoshop if you're so inclined.

The best shots, though, are coming from placing the flash overhead. This is an acrylic tank, so the top is mostly covered and provides a lot of flat, clear surface area. I can literally lay the flash down on the acrylic top and the receiver will get the infrared triggers through the water from where I am at eye level. The result is a light that comes down very much like sunlight and doesn't create harsh shadows. I tend to use a diffuser as well that scatters the light more.

Multiple flashes would be great and I'll try that someday when I get more speedlights. I can borrow some from friends with compatible models to try it out and have been meaning to do so for a while. This wireless transmitter also has the ability to do ratios. That means I can assign multiple flashes to two different groups and declare the ratio of light I want (more for A than B, for instance) while it remains proportional. That would allow for a strong light from the top and possibly a lesser light from a side (or behind) or vice-versa.

One thing I'll point out about Canon flash systems (and this is true for their Powershot series of cameras, too... so it's not limited to SLR): they are very, very intelligent. When you take a shot, the flash actually fires twice. The first shot samples the effect of the flash on the scene and the meter samples this combination of flash and available light. Based on the result, it adjusts the flash up or down and fires a second time to actually take the picture. This all happens so fast that it looks like one flash burst. You literally cannot see this happen since we're talking fractions of a second... you just hear the shutter and see a burst. This ability exists even in the wireless mode.

The more light you have in the scene, the less the flash has to produce. You can tell this both by eye and by how long it takes the flash to recharge. If I need a lot of light, I get a big flash and a longer recharge time before I can get another shot with the flash. If it's just filling, I can likely get quite a few flashes out of it in quick succession before it has to recharge. Since this camera can do 5 frames per second (the buffer rolls them out as new ones come in, so it can be continuous until the card fills up - sounds like a machine gun), rapid fill flashing is a real advantage. Fire off five shots, select the one that works... or end up with an action sequence that can be neat in its own right - like looking at still frames in a video. The flash in this case is kind of like a strobe light going off - flick flick flick flick flick.

If your flash is built-in and not movable, the glare situation is going to be hard to tackle. You might gain some benefit by diffusing the flash. You can do this by putting some kind of translucent or gauzy material in front of it. It might not eliminate it all, but it might be less harsh or less of a star-like burst in the frame.

Also, try getting very close to the glass and seeing how that affects the image. The more distance between you and the glass, the most opportunity you have to be illuminating the surface and not shooting through it.

Does your camera have a flash hot-shoe on the top? Many non-SLR digital cameras have these. If so, the door is open for an external flash like I'm describing. You can also get a slave flash that fires when it sees the internal flash go off. There are ways to rig it up so a transmitter can see the internal flash and send a signal to a slave flash while not exposing the internal flash to the scene. That will likely be far more trouble than it's worth - just depends on the design of the camera and your willingness to do bizarre and possibly counter-intuitive things.

Another thing to experiment with...make the room VERY dark and even leave the tank lights out. Set up a shot for a long exposure and use a cheap handheld flash or strobe manually. It's called painting with light and the results can be gorgeous. You might be able to borrow or score a totally manual older style strobe for super cheap. The camera will need to be on a tripod or resting on some surface. The cool thing, though, is that you can do an exposure of several seconds and flash multiple times... what ends up in the picture are the things it sees in those instants of brilliant light. This would also include some very neat shots where the same fish is several places in the tank in one picture.

In thinking about this, it also occurs to me that you might be able to pull off what I'm describing above using two cameras. Set one up for the long exposure and use the other to generate the flashes. This could be a digital and a non-digital with no film in it, for instance. All you're needing here is the source for the flash that can be moved to a different angle.

It's all about experimenting. The things that are challenges when taking a "normal" picture might be turned into ways to make some very, very creative images.

That's also the benefit of digital... unlimited "film" and no processing fees with instant feedback. Do really off the wall stuff and you'd be shocked what kind of neat results you can get.

Hope this is helpful (albeit long)...
- Aaron
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Old 05-31-2005, 07:19 PM   #14
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WOW! A+ Info! Please, please keep it coming..............
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Old 05-31-2005, 07:38 PM   #15
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Glad to do it.

- Aaron
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Old 05-31-2005, 08:38 PM   #16
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More then I could have hoped for. Kudos to you for all of the great info and the time it took to post it here! Thanks!
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