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As many of you have probably seen in my recent posts, I’ve been shooting some very detailed coral photos with my new Nikon 200mm macro lens. (see examples below this post)

Since my tank is relatively new and only has a handful of small corals, I’m getting bored taking the same photos over and over.  I’d like to improve my photography skills, so I’m looking to do some free photo shoots of corals in other local (Portland metro area) reef tanks.  These photos won’t be used for any commercial use or profit; I just want to explore the various camera settings in order to improve my resulting images.  I’ll provide you with copies of all photos taken.

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I’m shooting these photos with a Nikon D610 DSLR camera and a Nikon 200mm f/4 macro lens, one of the best macro lenses available.  It’s able to capture incredible detail, but there are certain requirements to get a good shot:

  1. Because macro lenses have a very narrow depth of field, in order to get a good focused shot showing a lot of detail requires using a high F-stop, but that also requires a long exposure time up to several seconds due to the reduced light entering the lens.  In order to avoid motion blur during a long exposure, the flow pumps in the tank need to be turned off, otherwise the polyps moving in the current will just show up as a blur in the final shot.  If you’re not willing to turn off the flow for a few minutes, we can’t get the detailed shots like the examples I’ve shown.  It’s still possible to get a close-up shot with a quick exposure, but only with a small area in focus:Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 9.33.37 AM.png
  2. Soft corals move too much even with the flow turned off, so getting a good macro shot of soft corals is impractical.  I do have other non-macro lenses that can capture good shots of soft corals, but they won’t be the detailed close-ups like the macro lens.  My equipment is better suited to SPS or LPS corals.  Fish are practically impossible to shoot with this lens (except for gobies or blennies that just sit there motionless).
  3. I have an Avast top-down portal for the camera, but this macro lens requires a 10” working distance, so any corals near the surface of the water will not be within focus range of this lens.  Anything at least 7.5” below the surface of the water should be within focus range with the portal attached for top-down shots.Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 9.56.55 AM.png
  4. The long exposure times require using a tripod, so depending on your tank dimensions it may be difficult or impossible to position the tripod for certain shots.
  5. Most of the shots I take are through the aquarium glass, so you will want to clean the glass before taking photos for best results.  
  6. The camera needs to be exactly perpendicular to the glass to avoid distortion of the image.

If you’re OK with the limitations outlined above, then you can expect to get some pretty cool close-up shots of your corals.

My camera captures each photo in both JPEG and RAW format.  The RAW photos can be manipulated in LightRoom, Photoshop, or other photo editing software for enhancement and adjustment.  I will provide copies in both formats to you on a USB memory stick that you provide.  The Nikon D610 produces file sizes of approximately 12MB for JPEG and 29MB for RAW images, with a resolution of 6016 x 4016 pixels which can be printed up to 13” x 19” in high quality or even 24” x 36” with acceptable quality.

I’m retired so my schedule is flexible, though my wife would prefer to have me home for dinner with her than out shooting coral photos in the evenings.  Mornings or afternoons would be best, any day of the week including weekends.

If this sounds interesting to you, let me know if you want to schedule a photo shoot.

-John (aka SuncrestReef)

Example photos:

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