Sight Search

Out of the Blue

CREDITS | A Change in Palette and Approach | Text by Jason Bradley|
Alert Diver Magazine

Photography means different things to different people. It’s a way to capture a moment or record a memory. It can be functional or artistic. People take pictures to render a scene with a literal perspective or as a medium to translate an abstract concept or feeling.

The reasons I take pictures have changed over time, and my approach over the years shifted as my technical knowledge developed. A few years ago something happened to me totally out of the blue: I became completely bored with colour photography. I was just done with it. I know it’s strange to become fed up with a whole palette, but it happened nonetheless. As a result I’ve shot black-and-white images almost exclusively for the past few years, and I’ve loved it.

I have spoken to photographer friends, read articles, and written many words to try and gain some insight; I eventually realised that my underlying reason for taking pictures had changed. The narrative I intended for my work had shifted. My subjects didn’t change, but how I looked at them, lit them and developed them in Adobe Lightroom did.


As any photographer attempts to do, I hope to create images that are compelling and thought-provoking. I want to create pictures that stick with people, and I believe the best way to achieve that is not to simply present an image of a cool fish but to create a feeling about that fish. My goal is to create work that doesn’t show a thing but instead provides a sensation, mood or feeling or leaves an impression relative to that thing. To say it another way, I want my images to translate an experience, not just be a literal visual. When I take pictures in colour, the images tend to be about colour, at least to some degree.

Colour has to work to be part of the frame — it has to grab and contrast, and we photographers tend to want to saturate it, emphasise it and show it in some spectacular fashion. Very little of what I see and experience in the ocean, however, has anything to do with colour. For example, one of my favourite things to encounter in the ocean is a giant school of fish. I get mesmerised when I see hundreds or thousands of fish rhythmically and cooperatively moving together
through the water. There’s something melodic about it; it feels like an organism that’s exhibiting a choreography that no solitary animal could possibly display. A lot of the ocean gives me this feeling of many things being together harmoniously, which is an experience that has nothing to do with colour. To me, colou even distracts from it.


Visualisation is the practice of forming mental images of a finished photograph before a frame is ever composed. It’s an extremely helpful way for photographers to conceptualise what they are trying to do. When visualising black-and-white images during a dive, my frame of mind is vastly different than if I were visualising in colour. By removing colour from my thoughts, I’m left with things that are closer to what I’m experiencing. I begin to look at shapes and forms, light
and tonality, patterns and textures, details and outlines. By removing colour I can escape the idea of wanting to take a picture of the fish and pursue the concept of capturing my experience of the fish.

Visualising in black and white also changes my technical approach. How and why I light things changes from concerns about back-scatter and strobe placement to aesthetics. If my goal is to emphasise a shape, I know to back-light it. If I want to create a texture, I know to sidelight. Or I can de-emphasise shapes and flatten a subject or scene by front lighting. Whatever the case, I
connect more with black and white because my mind is in tune to all the things I experience with a school of fish that have nothing to do with colour. The following are a few exercises that may help you refine your personal vision in black and white.
Simplify your gear and leave your strobes behind. The set of photos was achieved by working solely with ambient light. A strobe would have added little beside backscatter.

Try using grain or noise as an aesthetic. You’ll likely have to increase your ISO to capture a scene
without strobes, but don’t fear that, as the presence of noise can be aesthetically pleasing. In fact, in the Effects panel in Lightroom’s Develop module, there is a Grain slider that allows you to add grain to your images. Increase that ISO, jump into those natural monochromatic tones
around you, and play. Modern cameras are far more efficient in low light anyway, so higher ISO values should not necessarily intimidate you. Consider the background to be as important as the primary subject. When color is removed you have to rely on distinguishing the subject from
the background by other means. To start, try finding and incorporating simple, clean, uncomplicated backgrounds that contain a solid shade of either white, gray or black. Or use simple gradations from dark to light, but make sure your subject is set in front of a background tone from which it can be clearly distinguished.
Garibaldis are known fir their vibrant orange colour, but their shape and settling in front of the afternoon sunlight at Catalina Island is just captivating. (1/400 sec @ f/22, ISO 80, no strobes.)


If you’re a Lightroom user, converting to black and white is easy. Although there are a couple of ways to turn your image black and white in Lightroom, I suggest going straight to the B&W panel in the Develop module. Simply click B&W, and your image is converted. The trick is in
stylizing what you’ve captured. Here are a few styles to try for your monochromatic workflow.
High-key and low-key. A high-key image is inherently bright in tone, while a low-key image is inherently dark in tone. With many blue-water images, creating either look can be achieved with a simple wave of the mouse.
In Figure 1, above,  notice the small icon in the upper left of the panel. This is called the Targeted Adjustment tool (TAT), and if you click on it, your cursor turns into a crosshair. With this crosshair you can click and drag your mouse on any color in your image that you want to adjust. Click and drag upward for one effect, and drag downward for another. To create a high-key image, click and drag your mouse upward. Notice as you do that the blue slider in the B&W panel moves to the right, and all the blue tones are brightened, as shown in Figure 2. 
Figure 2: Starting with the image on the far left, we have our original color image followed by the unaltered black and white. The third image moves the Blue slider to the left, thereby darkening the blues, and the fourth image moves the slider to the right, lightening the blues.

To create the opposite effect, or a low-key image, you’ll want to click and drag the mouse downward. Note that it’s rare to have an image that can work as either a high-key or a low-key image. They usually work as one or the other; experiment to figure out which. Moving just the blue slider left or right will likely be the first in a series of steps to develop the image’s final look. Color toning. In addition to the straight black-and-white look, you can also tone images. To tone your black-and-white images, look no further than the Split Toning panel. There are three sections to this panel, as shown in Figure 3, below.
You can control the hue and saturation of your highlights and shadows, or you can shift the balance of the two to favor one or the other. My personal preference is to warm-tone images, which imparts a sepia feel. I especially like this look for printing, but Figure 4 shows three different ways you can tone your work. The first image is warm toned, the second cool toned, and the third is split toned.
Figure 4: The first image on the far left is warm toned, the middle image is cool toned, and the third image is split toned with warm highlights and cool shadows.

To create a warm tone, I suggest setting your Hue slider in Highlights and Shadows to 35, and then slowly moving the Saturation slider to the right to taste. Feel free to adjust the Hue slider in either direction to fine tune it to precisely what you like, but I’ve found 35 to be a good number for warmth. Cool toning an image is similar to warming; just begin with your Hue slider at 220. To split tone, try splitting the difference, but play and experiment as you go. You can set your Highlights to 220 and your Shadows to 35, or visa versa. Whichever direction you choose, toning can help create just the feel or style you’re looking for.

Treat my suggestions as starting points for a process that will take you toward a photographic style that only you can discover. Whether you simplify your camera gear and dive without strobes, focus on uncomplicated backgrounds or shift your approach from photographing
creatures to focusing on patterns, shapes, textures, tones and moods, the trick for finding what you like is to continue to experiment and be playful with your photography. AD


Aqua Pool Noodle ExercisesUnderwater Photographer and DAN Member Madelein Wolfaardt10 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Your Underwater PhotographyCOVID-19 and Diving: March 2021 UpdateDiver Return After COVID-19 Infection (DRACO): A Longitudinal AssessmentGuidelines for Lifelong Medical Fitness to DiveExperienceFitness Myth or Fitness Fact?The Safety of Sports for Athletes With Implantable Cardioverter-DefibrillatorsCardiovascular Fitness and DivingHypertensionPatent Foramen Ovale (PFO)Headaches and DivingMiddle-Ear Barotrauma (MEBT)O’Neill Grading SystemMask Squeeze (Facial Barotrauma)Sinus BarotraumaInner-Ear Barotrauma (IEBT)Middle-Ear EqualisationAlternobaric VertigoDecompression IllnessOn-Site Neurological ExaminationTreating Decompression Sickness (The Bends)Top 5 Factors That Increase Your Risk of the BendsHow to Avoid Rapid Ascents and Arterial Gas EmbolismUnintended Rapid Ascent Due to Uncontrolled InflationUnexpected Weight LossFlying After DivingWisdom Tooth Extraction and DivingYour Lungs and DivingScuba Diving and DiabetesDiving after COVID-19: What We Know TodaySwimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)Motion SicknessFitness for DivingDiving After Bariatric SurgeryWhen to Consult a Health-Care Provider Before Engaging in Physical ActivitiesFinding Your FitnessHealth Concerns for Divers Over 50Risk Factors For Heart DiseaseJuggling Physical Exercise and DivingSeasickness Prevention and TreatmentMember to Member: Guidelines for SeniorsHigh-Pressure OphthalmologyOver-the-Counter Medications
immersion and bubble formation Accidents Acid reflux Acute ailments After anaesthesia Air Quality Air exchange centre Air hose failure Air supply Airway control Air Alert Diver Magazine Alternative gas mix Altitude changes Altitude diving Altitude sickness Aluminium Oxide Ama divers Amino acids Anaerobic Metabolism Animal life Annual renewal Apnea Apnoea Aquatic life Aquatics and Scuba Diving Archaeology Arterial Gas Embolisms Arterial gas embolism Arthroscopic surgery Aspirin Aurel hygiene BCD BHP BLS BWARF Back adjustment Back pain Back treatment Backextensors Badages Bag valve mask Bahamas Balancing Bandaids Barbell back squat Barometric pressure Barotrauma Basic Life Support Batteries Becky Kagan Schott Bench press Benign prostate hyperplasia Benzophenones Beth Neale Beyond Standards Bilikiki Tours Biophysics Black Blood flow Blood thinners Blue Wilderness Blue economy Blurred vision Boat safety Boesmans gat Boesmansgat Bone fractures Bouyancy compensators Boyle's Law Boyle\'s Law Bradycardia Brain Breast Cancer Breath Hold Diving Breath holding Breath hold Breath-hold Breathing Gas Breathing gas contamination Breathing Breathold diving Bright Bank Broken bones Bruising Bubbleformation Buddy Exercise Buddy checks Buoyancy Burnshield CGASA CMAS CO2 COVID-19 Updates COVID-19 COVID CPR Cabin pressure Caissons diseas California Camera equipment Camera settings Cameras Cancer Remission Cancer treatments Cancer Cannabis and diving Cannabis Cape Town Dive Festival Cape Town Dive Sites Cape Town CapeTown Carbon Monoxide Carbon dioxide Cardio health Cardiological Cardiomyopathy Caribbean Carmel Bay Catalina Island Cave diving Challenging Environments Chamber Safety Chamber science Charging batteries Charles' Law Charles\' Law Charles\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' Law Charlie Warland Chemotherapy Chest compressions Children diving Chiropractic Chlorophll Christina Mittermeier Citizen Conservation Cleaning products Closed Circuit Rebreathers Cmmunity partnership Coastalexcursion Cold Water Cold care ColdWater Cold Commercial Fishing Commercial diving Commercial schools Composition Compressed Air Compressed gas Consercation Conservation Photographer Conservation photography Conservation Contact lenses Contaminants Contaminated air Coral Conservation Coral Reefs Coral Restoration Coral bleaching CoralGroupers Corals Core strength Corona virus Coro Costamed Chamber Courtactions Cozumel Cristina Mittermeier Crohns disease Crowns Crystal build up Crystallizing hoses Cutaneous decompression Cylinder Ruptures Cylinder handwheel Cylinder valves DAN Courses DAN Profile DAN Researchers DAN medics DAN members DAN report DCI DCS Decompressions sickness DCS theories DCS DEMP DM training DNA DReams Dalton's Law Dalton\'s Law Dalton\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Law Danel Wenzel Dangerous Marinelife Dauin island Dean's Blue Hole Dean\'s Blue Hole Deco dives Decompression Illness Decompression Sickness Decompression Stress Decompression illsnes Decompression treatment Decompression Decorator crabs Deep diving Deep water exploration Deepest SCUBA Dive Delayed Offgassing Dental Dever Health Diaphragms Diopter Diseases Disinfection Dive Buddy Dive Chamber Dive Computer Dive Destinations Dive H Dive Industry Dive Instruction Dive Instructor Dive Medical Form Dive Medical Dive Practices Dive Pros Dive Research Dive Safety Tips Dive South Africa Dive Training Dive Travel Wakatobi Dive Travel Dive accidents Dive buddies Dive computers Dive courses Dive excursions Dive exercise Dive experience Dive fitness Dive gear Dive heallth Dive health Dive medicals Dive medicines Dive medicine Dive operators Dive planning Dive procedures Dive safety 101 Dive safety Dive safe Dive skills Dive staff Dive travels DiveLIVE Diveleader training Diveleaders Diver Health Diver Profile Diver infliencers Diver on surface Divers Alert Divesites Diving Divas Diving Kids Diving Programs Diving Trauma Diving career Diving emergencies Diving emergency management Diving fit Diving guidelines Diving injuries Diving suspended Diving Dizziness Dolphins Domestic Donation Dowels Dr Rob Schneider Drift diving Drysuit diving Drysuit valves Drysuits Dyperbaric medicines EAPs EAP Ear pressure Ear wax Ears injuries Eco friendly Education Electronic Emergency action planning Emergency decompression Emergency plans Emergency underwater Oxygen Recompression Emergency Enviromental Protection Environmental factors Environmental impact Environmental managment Equalisation Equipment care Equipment failure Equipment inspection Evacuations Evacuation Evaluations Even Breath Exercise Exhaustion Exposure Protection Extended divetime Extinguisher Extreme treatments Eye injuries FAQ Factor V Leiden Failures FalseBay Diving Fatigue Faulty equipment Female divers Fetus development Fillings Fire Coral Fire Safety Firefighting First Aid Equipment First Aid Kit First Aid Training First Aid kits Fish Identification Fish Life Fish Fit to dive Fitness Training Fitness to dive Fitnesstrainng Fitness Flying Focus lights Foundations Fractures Francesca Diaco Francois Burman Fredive Free Student cover Free diving Free flow Freedive INstructor Freedive Training Freediver Freediving Instructors Freediving performance Freediving Gar Waterman Gas Density Gas consumption Gas laws Gas mixes GasPerformance Gases Gass bubbles Gastoeusophagus Gastric bypass Gastroenterologist Gear Servicing Germs Geyer Bank Giant Kelp Forest Giant Kelp Girls that Scba Gobies Gordon Hiles Great White Sharks Guinness World Record Gutt irritations HCV HELP HIRA HMLI HMS Britanica Haemorhoid treatment Hazard Description Hazardous Marine life Hazardous marinelife Headaches Health practitioner Heart Attack Heart Health Heart Rate monitor Heart fitness Heart rates Heart rate Heart Heat stress Helium Hepatitis C Hepatitus B Hiatal Hernia High Pressure vessels High temperatures Hip strength Hip surgery Hippocampus History Hot Humans Hydrate Hydration Hydrogen Hydroids Hydrostatic pressure Hygiene Hyperbaric Chamber Hyperbaric research Hyperbarics Hypothermia Hypoxia I-52 found INclusivity IdentiFin Imaging Immersion Immine systems In Water Recompression Indemnity form Indian Ocean Indigo SCuba Indonesia Inert gas Infections Infra red Imaging Injections Inner ear Instinct Instruction Instructors Insurance Integrated Physiology International travel International Interval training Irritation Irukandji Syndrome Isotta housing Joint pain Junior Open Water Diver KZN South Coast Karen van den Oever Kate Jonker KateJonker Kidneys Kids scubadiver Komati Springs KwaZulu Natal Labour laws Lake Huron Laryngospasm Lauren Arthur Learning to dive Legal Network Legal advice Legislation Lembeh Straights Lenses Leukemis Liability Risks Liability releases Liability Life expectancy Lifestyle Lightroom editing Live aboard diving Liver Toxicity Liver diseas Liz Louw Lost at sea Low blood pressure Low pressure deterioration Low volume masks Lung Irritation Lung function Lung injuries Lung squeeze Lung surgery Lung MOD Macro photography Maintenance Malaria Mammalian Dive Response Mammalian effect Mandarin Fish Marine Biology Marine Science Marine Scientists Marine conservation Marine parks Marinelife Masks Master scuba diver Maximum operating depth Medical Q Medical emergencies Medical questionaire Medical statement Medicalresearch Medication Mehgan Heaney-Grier Mermaid Danii Mesophotic Michael Aw Middle ear pressure Mike Bartick Military front press Misool Resort Raja Ampat Mixed Gas Mono Fins Mooring lines More pressure Motion sickness Motionsickness Mozambique Muscle pain Mycobacterium marinum National Geographic Nausea Nautilus Ndibranchs Neck pain Neoprene layers Neuro assessments Neurological assessments Nitrogen Narcosis Nitrogen build up Nitrox No-decompression Non-nano zinc oxide Non-rebreather Mask Nonrebreather masks Normal Air North Sulawesi Nosebleeds Nuno Gomes O2 providers O2 servicing OOxygen maintenance Ocean Projects Ocean Research Ocean pollution Oil contamination Open water divers Optical focus Orbital implants Oronasal mask Osteonecrosis Out and about Out of air Outer ears Outreach Overhead Envirenments Oxygen Administration Oxygen Cylinder Oxygen Units Oxygen deficit Oxygen deicit Oxygen dificiency Oxygen ears Oxygen equipment Oxygen masks Oxygen supplies Oxygen supply Oxygen systems Oxygen therapy Oxygen P J Prinsloo PADI Freedivers PFI PJP Tech Parentalsupervision Part 3 Partner Training Perspective Philippine Islands Philippines Phillipines Photographers Photography tips Photography Physical Fitness Physioball Physiology Physiotherapy Pills Pistons Planning Plastic Pneumonia Pneumothorax Poison Pollution Pool Diving Pool workout Post-dive Pre-dive Predive check Pregnancy Pregnant divers Preparation Prepared diver Press Release Preventions Professional rights Provider course Psycological Pulmanologist Pulmonary Barotrauma Pulmonary Bleb Pulmonary Edema Pulse Punture wounds Pure Apnea Purge RAID South Africa RCAP REEF Radio communications Range of motion Rashes Rebreather diving Rebreatherdive Rechargeable batteries. Recompression chamber Recompression treatment Recompression Recycle Reef Chcek Reef Conservation Reef safe Reef surveyors Refractive correction Regulator failure Regulators Regulator Remote areas Renewable Report incidents Rescue Divers Rescue Procedure Rescue breathing Rescue breaths Rescue training Rescue Resume diving Return To Diving Return to diving Risk Assessments Risk assesments Risk assessment Risk elements Risk management Roatan Marine Park Roatan SABS 019 SMB SafariLive Safety Gear Safety Stop Safety SaherSafe Barrier Salty Wanderer Sanitising Sara Andreotti Sardine Run Saturation Diving Save our seas Schrimps Science Scombroid Poisoning Scuba Air Quality Scuba Guru Scuba Injury Scuba Instructor Scuba children Scuba divers Scuba dive Scuba education Scuba health Scubalearners Scubalife Sea Horses Sea slugs Sealife Seasickness Sea Shallow dives Shark Protection Shark Research Shark conservation Shark diving Sharks Shipwrecks Shoulder strength Sideplank Signs and Symptoms Sit-ups Skin Bends Skin outbreak Skin rash Snorkeling Snorkels Social Distancing Sodwana Bay Solomon Islands Sonnier bank South Africa Spinal bends Spinal cord DCS Spinal pain Splits Squeezes Squid Run Stability exercise Standars Stay Fit Stents Step ups Stephen Frink Stepping up Strobe Lighting Stroke Submerge tech Submerged Sudafed Sulawesi Sun protection Sunscreen Supplemental oxygen Surface Marker Buoys Surface supplied Air Surfaced Surgeries Surgery Suspension training Symbiosis TRavel safety Tabata protocol Talya Davidoff Tattoes Tec Clark Technical Diving Technical divng The Bends The greatest Shoal The truth Thermal Notions Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Tides Tips and trick Tooth squeeze Transplants Travel smarter Travel tips Travel Tropical Coastal Management Tunnelling Tweezers Ultrsound Umkomaas Unconsciousness Underground work Underseaa world Underwaater Photos Underwater Photographer Manirelife Underwater floral Gardens Underwater hockey Underwater photographer Underwater photography Underwater pho Underwater University of Stellenbosch Urinary retention. Vaccines Vagus nerve Valsalva manoeuvers Valve stem seals Vape Vaping Vasopressors Vasvagal Syncope Venting Verna van Schak Virus infections Volatile fuels WWII wrecks War stories Washout treatments Wastewater Watchman device Water Resistance Water Weakness Weigang Xu Weights West Papua Western Cape Diving Wet Lenses Wet diving bell Wetsuit fitting Wetsuites Wetsuits White balance Wide Angle Photos Wide angles Wildlife Winter Wits Underwater Club Woman and diving Woman in diving Womans health Woman Women In Diving SA Women and Diving Women in diving Womens Month Womens health Work of Breathing Workout World Deeepst Dive Record World Records Wound dressings Wreck divers Wreck dive Wreck diving Wreckdiving Wrecks Yoga Youth diver Zandile Ndholvu Zoology abrasion absolute pressure acoustic neuroma excision adverse seas air-cushioned alert diver altitude alveolar walls anemia antibiotics anticoagulants antiseptics bandages barodontalgia bent-over barbell rows bioassays body art breathing air calories burn carbon dioxide toxicity cardiovascular cerebrospinal fluid cervical spine checklist chemo port children child chronic obstructive pulmonary disease clearances closed circuit scuba corrective lenses currents cuts dead lift decompression algorithms decongestants decongestion dehydration dive injuries dive medicing dive ready child dive reflex dive tribe diver in distress diver rescue diver training dive diving attraction doctors domestic travel dri-suits drowning dry mucous membranes dry suits dry e-cigarettes ear spaces elearning electrolyte imbalance electroytes emergency action plans emergency assessment emergency training environmentally friendly equalising equalizing exposure injuries eyes fEMAL DIVERS fire rescue fitnes flexible tubing frediving freedivers gas bubble gas poisoning gastric acid gene expression health heartburn histidine hospital humidity immersion and bubble formation immersion pulmonary edema (IPE informal education isopropyl alcohol jaundice join DAN knee laparoscopic surgery longevity lower stress malaise marielife marine pathogens medical issues medical procedures medical risk assesment medications mental challenge mental preparedness micro-organisims micro minor illness mucous membranes nasal steroids nasal near drowning nematocysts neurological newdivers nitrogen bubbles off-gassed operating theatre operations orthopeadic otitis media outgas pain perforation phillippines phrenic nerve physical challenges pinched nerves plasters pneumoperitoneum polyester-TPU polyether-TPU post dive posture prescription mask preserve prevention proper equalization psychoactive pulmonary barotrauma. pulmonary injury. pulmunary barotrauma radiation rebreather mask rebreathers retinal detachment risk areas safety stops saturation scissors scuba equipment scuba single use sinus infections smoking snorkeling. spearfishing sterilising stings strength sub-aquatic sunscreen lotion swimmers ears tattoo care tecnical diver thermal protection tissue damage toxicity training trimix unified standards upwelling vision impaired vomiting warmers water quality zinc oxide