The Bow Shot
The San Francisco Maru
The image that many wreck photographers aim to achieve is the quintessential, "Bow Shot". This is a photo that summarizes best what it is the viewer is looking at in a glance. There can be no doubt, even to the layperson, that the photo before them depicts a shipwreck. This observation will likely invoke welcomed inquiries from the viewer with questions such as, "where is this wreck, what is the name of it, and how did it end up on the bottom of the ocean?". After all, shipwrecks invoke feelings of mystery, adventure and tragedy. To see what was once a robust sailing vessel helplessly lying on the seafloor triggers the morbid curiosity inherent in most of us.
Tips and Techniques for getting the shot:
1- Go wide or go home. The wider the lens the better chance of success. If one is not shooting wide then one must back up more and more to fit the often leviathan wreck into the frame. This only increases unsharp images due to distance from target and the turbidity of the water.
2- What about the Viz? Without ideal visibility bow shots will often be an effort in futility. What's the point of shooting a grand wide angle image if you can only see a small part of the wreck and it's fuzzy to boot? The image of the San Francisco Maru to the right was one I attempted numerous times before achieving optimal results. If I could not frame the photo without seeing the forward mast in the background, I didn't waste my time with the shot. There would be another day with clearer water. (An advantage of living and working in Truk Lagoon.)
3- It's all about the angle. Every wreck has it's own personality or what nautical types call, "lines". The lines of a ship will determine how you want to shoot it. Personally, I opt most often for the direct head-on shot when the wrecks are sitting upright. The viewer sees the ship coming right for them and this has impact (pun intended). With this shot, I was careful to frame the wreck where the foredeck was visible in addition to including a view of the seabed. The bow gun pointing to the port side was a huge bonus. Lastly, I liked the white whip corals on the tip of the bow that added marine highlights to the shot but, was careful to not have them block the view of the gun.
4- Black & White's Rule. Most of my super wide bow shots convert to black and white from color rather effectively. For one, there is little color to photograph in the scene at this distance so why not go B & W? The image would be mostly a variation of blues without the conversion. B & W also offers a different mood; maybe one of antiquity and suspense.
5- No Fisheyes. Fisheye lenses will, by design, create barrel distortion in the corners of the images. This barrel distortion often will not work for a man made object such as a wreck. Straight lines like the masts or cross beams will appear wonky. However, sometimes the fisheye can result in cool artsy images but require experimenting with composition. In the end, the fisheye for this image just wouldn't work for me.
Join me in Truk Lagoon on the M/V Odyssey for my Rec•Tec Photo Expedition Oct/Nov 2020
Dive and shoot the Wrecks of Truk.
Camera: Nikon D850
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm 4.0
Strobes: Not Used
Depth: 160' (200' to the bottom)
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