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Aquarium Photos - Tips & Techniques 4

Aquarium Photos - Tips & Techniques 4
Photo Information
Copyright: Loot Eksteen (loot) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5524 W: 722 N: 4163] (11276)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-04-11
Categories: Fish
Camera: Canon EOS 350D, Sigma 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 HZ DG Macro, Digital ISO 100, UV 62mm Kenko
Exposure: f/14.0, 1/200 seconds
Details: (Fill) Flash: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): _Fotos adicionadas por 5 ou mais membros, Fishes from around the world, Underwater World #2, 60-69 points (Chapter 3), 5 favs. and up - PART 3, Different Fish, A study in Ichthyology (fish) 1, Underwater Wonder World 3, jmp *2, RARE or SIGNIFICANT contributions to TN 2, !!! STOLEN PHOTOS !!! I [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2007-08-27 8:26
Viewed: 8205
Favorites: 4 [view]
Points: 66
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Yellowhead butterflyfish - Chaetodon xanthocephalus

This lovely specimen appears to be somewhere in-between juvenile- and adulthood. It was captured at the uShaka Marine World aquarium, in Durban and it is the first photo of this species on TrekNature.

At first I though that I would be able to find ample info on this species, but after "surfing" around the Internet for a couple of hours I came to the somewhat surprised conclusion that it is mostly useless stuff telling me zilch. I had to gather bits and pieces from so many different sites that I feel it won't be fair to identify any specific "source" for the information.


The adults are grey overall with a yellow "face", a thin yellow line along the gill cover and thin bluish grey lines on the body. Both the soft portions of the dorsal and anal fins are orangey-red or yellow to olive in colour. Juveniles are highly variable mostly creamish-white overall with a black eye bar, a black spot on the caudal peduncle and black patch on the posterior portion of the dorsal fin. Max size = 20cm.

Western Indian Ocean: East Africa from Somalia south to Durban, east to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, southeast to Mauritius.

Most common on coral reefs, with rich coral growth, but is also reported from algae-covered rocky reefs. Known from a depth range of 1-25m.

Usually solitary, but may form loose shoals of 5-6 individuals and usually found around isolated coral heads. Territorial and aggressive to other chaetodonts.

Omnivorous; natural diet consists mainly of coral polyps, ascidians, benthic algae, sponges, worms, and tunicates.

Before I continue just a word of "APOLOGY". Because of a defective monitor that had to be sent away for repairs I was borrowed a replacement monitor on which I could hardly see anything due to all the scratches on the screen. I was not prepared to do any postings under these circumstances, nor critique anyone’s photos while I could not properly see what I was supposed to critique. Further I had a bad bout of flu that kept me in the bed for the past 5 days. Thus, after a lengthy absence on TrekNature I have so much catching up to do, critiques to write, and e-mails to answer.

I also need to continue with my series on aquarium photography and hopefully won't bore you too much with all the fishy tales. But first I would like to do a quick overview of my previous postings concerning this topic, just to pick up the thread of the series thus far:

Part 1
Lighting & Exposure

Part 2

Part 3
Understanding the LCD image (the Histogram and Blinkies)
The fish or subject/s
Habitat or background

Tips and Techniques for Aquarium Photography – Part 4

While doing some research on the Internet I noticed that certain photographers used the word "aquatography" to describe their work. I think it really express this particular form of photography quite well and it's a rather unique and articulate way to refer to "Aqua(rium Pho)tography".

You need to work with your camera & equipment, the subjects, and also with the resultant photos until you have eventually achieved "a work of art" that is right not only for your own taste, but also true to nature, and especially so with regards to the colour rendition. Unfortunately with digital photography the possibility exists that you could very easily edit or change any object or organism to display some crazy colours that are quite different from the original and thus unnatural. Keep in mind to stay well within acceptable or ethical bounds for optimisation. Do proper research of your subject/s and optimise your photos to such extent that accurately and honestly display the correct or true colours of the subject/s and in so doing create your own new style in aquatography.

I don't want to spend too much time explaining standard photographic terms that should be relative familiar to most of you, but just so you all have a fair understanding of the basics I will briefly touch on a couple of these points and hopefully you would be able to relate this to an aquarium environment where lighting could be in sparse supply.

The most important aspect of photography surely must be exposure. It determines how the final picture turns out and it is the result of a combination between shutter speed and aperture (i.e. light and depth of field).

Shutter Speed
Shutter speed determines the length of time that the shutter is left "open" while allowing light to come in to the sensor to capture the image. A fast shutter speed will prevent a blurry photo simply because the camera and the subject will not have time to move relative to each while the shutter is open. However, a fast shutter speed might not have sufficient time to allow enough light to enter the camera and therefore the photo may be dark and underdeveloped. Shooting photos with a faster shutter speed requires more light reflecting from, or shining on to the subject.

Aperture or F-Stop
It's a term used to describe how wide the camera lens will open. It can be wide creating a large opening for light to enter, or be closed down and allow little light to enter. Too much light and the photo is washed out and overexposed. Too little light and it is dim and underexposed. A larger F-Stop seems like a better choice, but the more open the aperture the shorter is the depth of field. In other words, opening the aperture helps to let in more light, but makes less of the picture in focus.

From here I will address most issues with two types of cameras in mind:
1) Small point and shoot cameras, or
2) Large, full control dSLR cameras.

Sorry, but we're out of space once again. To be continued...

Post Processing was done with Adobe Photoshop CS2

janhendrik, haraprasan, nglen, Silke, Alex99, uleko, Arjun, jmp, SunToucher, jrobertop, Aaltjie, Janice, parthasarathi, snowfalken, manyee, jcoowanitwong, Dyker, peter_stoeckl, NellyD, marhowie, hester, thor68, Luc, extramundi, Miss_Piggy, betsie, Rehanna has marked this note useful
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Die foto is fantasties, en dit lyk onverbeterlik. Regtig fantasties. Goed om jou weer hier te sien.


Hello loot
A fantastic picture of a fantastic specimen..I know how hard it is to capture a fish in a tank and faithfully reproduce what the eye sees. I tried many times when I had an aquarium which contained mainly african cichlids all to no avail with my 2mp fuji..Now I have found your work I shall look through it with much interest. I thank you for rekindling my love of the many and varied aquarium fish.
Best Regards

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  • Arjun Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 358 W: 7 N: 1237] (7593)
  • [2007-08-27 10:05]

hi mr.loot,
a superb picture from you once again.wonderful details,xcellent sharpness.beautifully composed.

bonjour loot
poseidon etait le dieu de la mer et vous etes le dieu de la photo de poisson.
je ne peux que vous feliciter.

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  • jmp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1659 W: 95 N: 2273] (8415)
  • [2007-08-27 10:29]

Hi Loot,
Sureley the colours of this fish are exactely as the original!!
Accuracy is the common factor of every parameter here: colour saturation, exposure, focus, sharpness, dof, pov and pose. You are always defining the standard to achieve! Bravo!
TFS, José M.

Hi Loot,
Wonderful colors; excellent sharpness and texture.
Very interesting drawings.
Congratulations for the wealth of details.
Well done!
My best regards!
José Roberto

Hi Loot
Lyk my hoe langer jy vat om te plaas hoe mooier raak dit. Hierdie is vir my een van die mooiste vis fotos wat jy geneem het. Dis om dit minste te se ongelooflik!! Ek wens ek het meer tyd om op hierdie website te spandeer - daar is net van al die members sulke mooi fotos, maar mens kry net nie tyd om op almal erkenning te gee nie. Mens kan sommer sien jy is hart en siel in die fotos. Ek sien BAIE uit na jou wildlife fotos wanneer julle terugkom van vakansie af. Wat vir my nogal interessant sal wees is as jy 'n paar insekte doen - bv miskruiers en daai tipe goed wat mens nie elke dag te sien kry nie. Goed gedoen Loot.

Hi my dear friend Loot,
How is life treating you these days. I do hope that all is better and that you will soon be jumping around Kruger again.

I like the term quatography a lot and it does cover this range of photography perfectly. I think you are becomming the quatographer expert. If not, than this is at least a super example of it and you are underestimating your knowledge and skills.

What I really love about this photo is the color contrast between the blue BG and the mostly yellow colored fish. The BG really helps to bring out the details and colors of the fish. The sharpness and exposure are of great quality and the composition is perfect. I even think that the fish has a bit of human expression.


:) follows

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  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2007-08-28 1:33]

Hello Loot,
Another wonderful capture of a fish from you today! Fantastic bright colours and very sharp details. I don't think I've ever seen this species before. I'm very impressed by these aquarium shots of yours and look forward to more!
Many thanks and best wishes, Ulla

Hi Mr. Loot,
An excellent capture of this butterfly fish. More beautiful is the notes you have provided for us to learn. Just beautiful. I love the composition and details of this fish a lot. Thanks a lot for sharing.


Dear Loot

Sometimes it is difficult to find the right words to describe your photo’s and then I have to take some time to rethink what I want to say. When I saw your posting yesterday, I had such a moment. So I thought I’ll take some time to think. But you know what? The thinking did not really help, because the right words still does not seem to “appear”.

This Yellowheadbutterflyfish is indescribable beautiful. Words really fail me. It is such a colourful portrait. The detail is remarkable, the shimmering glow of the fish is eye-catching, especially the upper part on the back with the combination of black and yellow. The “make-up” under the eye fascinated me tremendously. It is such a light and soft colour. All the colours of this fish blends well with one another.
I am also fond of the background, and the colour of it accent the fish even more.
Well done!
Thanks once again sharing your knowledge with us, and most of all thanks for all your effort put into compiling and preparing your notes. I am sure many members appreciate you just as much as I do.

I see you are nearly at the 7000th pointer mark. Looking forward to that. Before you know it is at your doorstep.
Kind regards

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  • Alex99 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4072 W: 133 N: 7096] (23735)
  • [2007-08-28 5:36]

Hi Loot.
Once more your fantastic fish shot. I am amazed with terrific details and sharpness of the fine wish, impressive nicely coloured and blurred BG, tremendous lighting, excellent composition and cropping and superb note. Bravo. Great, skillfully done work. My congratulations and kind wishes.

Hi friend,
it's great to see you again, I really hope everything is well
both with you and with the monitor.
You had become a reall expert of fish tank photos, I read
all your note with big interest.
The picure is as always very good with fine details, good exposure and lovely colours.
Beautiful work,

BTW, I'm a "canonist" again.;-)

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  • Silke Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 729 W: 98 N: 1707] (5458)
  • [2007-08-28 9:27]

It is wonderful to have you back again and I hope that your health continues to improve.
On the technical side of things: one of the things that really draws me in here is the contrast: very light specimen against dark background. superb on all other technical counts too -- of course!

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  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2007-08-28 10:14]

Hello Loot. Once again a fine picture which makes the fish look as if its in 3D.The fine detail and colours are first class. sharp focusing. with a very good POV. excellent note to go with the picture. very well done TFS.

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  • Janice Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3277 W: 148 N: 6163] (18832)
  • [2007-08-28 14:12]

It's a beautiful fish Loot. Once again you have produced a wonderful image for us. It is so colourful and sharp, it's quite wonderful

And I forgive you over your absence here. I also haven't been here much lately, but more than you! And once the rugby starts, I imagine you're going to be too busy anyhow!!

Kia ora my friend, and good to see you back and to catch the continuing Tips and Techniques - thank you

A superb picture from you once again.

Hello Loot,

It is great to see you back on TN! I hope you are well and can enjoy your hobby on a well fixed monitor as you did before your absence.
I've always loved tropical fish and also had six large tanks with hundreds of them when I was younger but it was just until I saw your fish pictures when I started to see the beauty of such work of art. I didn't pay too much attention to these kind of pictures but now I will look at them with different eyes.
You resumed your work with a great picture and you must feel proud to be the only member who has a picture of this species.


I guess there weren't too many choices to compose this picture as there is nothing else in it but the Butterflyfish and the background. You avoided the boring middle of the frame and correctly arranged the empty space around the subject, leaving plenty of space for it to breath. The blurred, blue background is more than appropriate for this shot and it isolates the fish perfectly. You placed the eye of the fish into one of the strongest hotspots of the composition. Well done!


The colors are just brilliant and there are just a few subjects that can compete with tropical fish from a chromatic POV. I like the fact that the bright part of the fish isn't completely white but slightly creamy. Also the blue background conveys a feeling of crystal clear water.


The contrast was well adjusted! I also love the way the colors contrast with the background. It makes the subject stand out even more.


The exposure was well controlled and you supplemented the environmental light with just the right amount of flash. I've seen many pictures where the light reflects too strongly from the scales. Have you placed the flash off the camera so that the light doesn't come along the optical axis of the camera?


Focus is sharp and DOF was well controlled via a small aperture. I guess the flat fish laying perpendicularly on the lens helped avoiding sharpness fall-off.

An excellent post accompanied by interesting notes and a great lesson about aquatography! Thank you for sharing!

With Friendly Regards,

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  • manyee Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3089 W: 230 N: 6774] (23770)
  • [2007-08-30 23:47]

A much awaited posting, Loot, and well worth the wait.
What a beauty.
Amazing how you were able to capture that mellow yellow on the body and differentiate it from the white.
I also like the sheen on the gold and blue scales,
which you managed to bring out without over-exposing the rest of the fish.
A true master of light!
The sharpness, as observed in the details of the white pectoral fin, is superb.
Welcome back, my friend, and looking forward to seeing more of you.
When are you leaving for Kruger again?

hello loot,
your aquarium series has been very good and this shot is also no exception, liked the colours and the contrast very much, well composed shot, nice light, the scales looks beautiful,
tfs & regards

Great work Loot, the shot is spot on. Excellent sharpness, superb pattern details and well composed.
I see you used flash, we are not allowed to use flash in Australian aquariums.
A lovely colourful contribution.


Hello Loot,
This one is fantastic. Sharp, well exposure, and very nice color. Well done and well seen image. Also thanks for your informative note.

Hi Loot,
Excellent capture of this butterfly fish, and yes photographing them can be quite difficult but you seem to have mastered the technique and produce wonderful results. Well done Loot. :)

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  • Dyker Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 136 W: 0 N: 57] (170)
  • [2007-09-03 7:10]

Hello Loot
You've done it again. A great aquarium photo showing every bit of detail on the fish in perfect contrast, colour, focus, and exposure. Every time you upload a new episode to your ongoing theme I think that you have reached the peak of your abilities and that it is impossible to improve any more. But then you just surprise me anew with the next one and you show that you can post an even better fish photo. You are definitively proving that you must be the Trek Nature aquarium master.

Hi Loot,
a most delicious combination of bright colours, strong contrasts, and very, very subtle hues of whites.
Excellent, delightful!
The calibration of your screen seem to work perfectly well, again.
Thank you for that beautiful image, and the lot of information coming with your perfect notes.
My best regards,

Hi Loot,

This is a really fantastic image of this beautiful fish.
Great sharpness, details, composition and wonderful colours.
And I like the contrast of the fish against the blue background very much.

Greetings, Nel

Hello Loot,
Excellent post processing, the science of aquarium capture has been maximized here.
Superb image, and the informative notes/help you've offered are beyond the call of duty..Stellar actually :)
Much appreciated mf.
Very Well Done!

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  • hester Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1515 W: 18 N: 3165] (11638)
  • [2007-09-10 11:00]

Hi Loot

I have never tried aquarium photography. It looks so difficult! You produce wonderfully bright, well composed and sharp images. They are wonderful (and calming) to look at



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  • thor68 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 795 W: 138 N: 1319] (5674)
  • [2007-09-25 16:15]

hi loot, hope you are doing fine! :-)
i have not been around too much lately so i almost missed your amazing Tips & Techniques series - and i noticed i really need
them because the last time i visited the cologne zoo i of course went into the aquarium and looked at the fish.
i had all your wonderful fish-pics in mind and tried to "catch" some too, but i had no real success - either the light was wrong or the fish too fast or..or..or..maybe i will show one of the nicer ones sometime.
but when i see yours here, in fantastic colors, perfectly exposed and razorsharp - i can only say: "wow!"
very well done & take care, thor.

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  • jesst Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 368 W: 0 N: 172] (2441)
  • [2007-10-05 2:10]

Very bright and sharp picture! Detail is so good as if the fish is unreal. Great work!

Hello Loot.
I think you have done a splendid job, not only talking about the artistic and photographic quality of this aquarium series, but also describing the technical tips, thanks very much, a pleasure to watch and to read.
Great TN stuff, my hat is off to you :)
Regards, Felipe.

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  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2008-01-20 17:42]

Hello Loot

Exceptional clarity and focus.The details are sharp.
Excellent use of lighting the colours are vivid and well saturated.
The POV and DOF are very good.
You have captured this fish without the distorted look that often comes with the added aquarium glass.
Great job!


Hallo Loot
The variety of colours on this fish is stunning. This is a super shot, with super focus and super clarity. The arrangement of yellows of the scales are really an eye catcher, as it looks as if it have been dipped into an artist’s paint box. A delightful view. The clarity of the huge black and golden eye is absolutely great. Thanks for sharing.

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