Wide-Angle with Dual Strobes
I’ve only been able to get in a handful of dives since adding a second strobe, and they’ve all been shore dives where I left my WAL behind to focus on macro and close-up shooting. But an outstanding marine forecast was enough motivation for me to make time for some boat dives with my WAL in order to see if I could tell a difference with my added YS-D2.
I headed out with ScubaTech, my local go-to operator, on a nice and calm Gulf of Mexico. The first site we visited was Whitehill Reef where visibility was only around 25-30 feet, which is average for the site. Whitehill Reef has never disappointed in quantity or quality of marine life and this particular morning was no different. As my dive buddy and I made our way along the reef, I began scanning for opportunities for shooting both portraits and scenes. As I began shooting, I surmised fairly quickly that the lighting with two strobes was much more evenly distributed in the foreground compared to using only a single strobe. As we traversed the reef we spotted many interesting creatures; frogfish, moray, nudibranch, filefish, cowfish and more. We made our turn and headed back to the anchor looking for any critters we may have missed on the way out. After a few more interesting shots I started my ascent, excited to review the results. I was pretty sure that the lighting improvement with the second strobe would be significant.
There had been recent reports of a big shark in the area and during our surface interval one diver mentioned getting a glimpse of a shark while descending at Whitehill. Our game plan for the second dive was to keep an eye out for our toothy friend while making our way toward the bow of the Thomas Hayward Liberty ship where goliath grouper frequently hang out.
Almost as soon as we’d reached depth and began the trip to the bow, we got a brief glimpse of the first shark. The visibility was a little lower at this site so our first looks of the shark weren’t great. However, after spending a little time at the bow checking out a couple of goliath grouper, we headed toward the stern and the shark returned for a closer pass. It crossed the ship about 10 feet in front of us allowing for a clear look at its size; we were being visited by an 8 foot bull shark! A second, slightly smaller shark appeared a moment later and, after a handful more passes, they had both apparently satisfied their curiosity and we didn’t see them the remainder of the dive. I was unable to get a good shot since they stayed mostly on the edge of visibility and I wasn’t ready when they made their close initial visits. My dive buddy did manage to get a great shot of the bigger one when it crossed the wreck, seen below.
I couldn’t wait to review my shots when I was finally back on land after a great morning of diving along the Florida Emerald Coast. After just a few dives I’m pretty impressed with the effectiveness of dual strobes in providing better lighting, particularly for wide shots. An example of the difference is shown below in the side-by-side unedited photos; on the left is a scene shot with my single strobe last season. My single YS-03 strobe did a good job lighting the tomtate school directly in front and above, but the bottom of the photo (especially the corners) are not lit very well at all. On the right is a shot of schooling tomtate taken with the addition of my YS-D2; as you can see, the lighting is much more evenly distributed across the entire foreground into all corners.
A secondary advantage of the dual strobes is that, thanks to the superior lighting they can provide, you can angle them out a little more to minimize backscatter and still get good coverage. With a single strobe you can’t utilize these techniques for minimizing backscatter as much because you are getting less foreground coverage. I’m happy with the addition of the second strobe since it provides better lighting for closeup and wide shooting and gives more overall options for lighting as well. If you intend on shooting wide angle scenes – particularly with a fisheye lens – dual strobes are worth considering.
Scamp scene, Whitehill Reef Destin, Florida