President Coolidge Shipwreck

16-Feb-2012 Back to Image Gallery

President Coolidge Shipwreck

The year is 1987 and Chris Deacon, is working twice as hard keeping up with the demands of two professional underwater photographers, my friend David Doubilet from National Geographic & me. David had seen my film documentary, Grave of the President, and was inspired to do a story on this awesome shipwreck for Geographic. National Geographic hired Chris and I to make it happen. The Promenade Deck was littered with the relics of war; Chris selected one of many rifles lying about and illuminated it with a powerful 250 watt movie light which cast an eerie shadow on the wall. I had planned this image and conceived the concept of combining my filming techniques with my still techniques. Rather than using sunlight with strobes to illuminate the foreground, I used movie lighting. A new concept at the time! The result was a dramatic image that captures the mood of wreck diving and one of five images that contributed to first place, South Pacific Australasian UW Photographer of the Year award,1988.

Photo Data: Location: Santo, Vanuatu Genre: Extreme Wide Angle Sunlight & Movie Light. Photo Data: Nikon F3, Nikkor 16mm lens, Aquatica Housing, Manual Exposure Mode. ISO 64 Kodachrome film. Exposure f2.8 @ 1/15th sec. Image by Kevin Deacon.

Photo Hints: I chose a slow shutter speed to allow the very low sunlight levels to expose the background. I am always willing to shoot at shutter speeds as slow as 1/15th as long as both photographer and subject are not moving. With this image I didn’t have much option, my aperture was already wide open and I didn’t want to increase the film speed which can result in too much grain and loss of colour saturation. The model needs to be careful that the powerful light does not point towards camera and holding it well back provides light spill onto the model revealing more detail. Believe me, holding a heavy rifle in one hand and heavy movie light in the other with arms outstretched inside a wreck at 35 meters was no easy task for a petite lady. Fortunately she is a Viking descendent!

Interesting Facts: The key equipment element for this image is the use of the Nikkor 16 MM Full Frame Fisheye lens. This lens gives almost 180 degree angle of view which allows the photographer to capture large subjects up close and within range of strobes. I was introduced to this powerful lens and its creative possibilities by David Doubilet and I still consider this the greatest gift an underwater photographer has ever given to another.

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