The Right Dome – Size Matters

Knowing the Difference Can Make the Difference

By Michael Zeigler

Melibe leonina nudibranch at Catalina Island, California.

Melibe leonina nudibranch at Catalina Island, California.

Was the shot above taken with a macro lens or a wide-angle lens? If you said wide-angle, you are correct.

My goal for this particular trip was to fill the frame with a Melibe leonina nudibranch, while capturing the blue hues of the deep water where they were found. Knowing the various properties of my underwater photography tools (in this case my fisheye lens and dome ports), I was able to make the dive knowing I had given myself the best possible chance to obtain the photograph I aimed to create. For the image above I used a Nikon D7000, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens at 17mm, Zen 100mm (4″) dome, and dual Ikelite DS-160 strobes. The higher magnification and virtual image properties of the mini dome along with the close-focus properties of my Tokina fisheye lens allowed me to fill the frame with this nudibranch.

Know Thy Dome

Knowing how to operate your camera so that it’s second nature when you’re enjoying some underwater “studio” time is a great way to increase your chances for success as an underwater photographer. Knowing which tools in your bag to use for the shot you desire increases your chances even more.

There are two main sizes of dome port: standard (~8″) and mini (~4″). Knowing which one to use for a particular shot, or in combination with a specific lens, can greatly affect your chances for a successful shoot. Generally speaking, mini domes are better for close-focus wide-angle work (and travel), while standard, larger dome ports are better suited for split shots. In addition, certain lenses will simply not work well or at all when used with certain dome ports. For example, rectilinear wide-angle lens demand the optical properties of a larger dome port like the Zen 8″.

So, before taking a giant stride off the boat for your next wide-angle shoot, do a bit of research to make sure you’re using the best possible tools for the job.

The dive boat Peace at Santa Barbara Island.

Split shots like this are easiest to capture with a fisheye lens and larger dome port like the Sea & Sea 8″ port. Nikon D7000, Tokina 10-17 @15mm, 1/320, ƒ/16, ISO 400.

To learn more about the differences between dome ports, please check out this very informative article written by Alex Mustard here.

Interested in joining Michael for his next local “wet” workshop focusing on macro photography? Click here for more details!

Michael ZeiglerMichael Zeigler is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for Samy’s Underwater Photo & Video, as well as an AAUS Scientific Diver. More of Michael’s underwater photography can be seen at SeaInFocus.com.

One thought on “The Right Dome – Size Matters

  1. Pingback: The Big Picture | Samy's Underwater Photo News & Tips

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