Behind The Shot: A Sunset & Coral Reef "Over-Under"

Behind The Shot: A Sunset & Coral Reef "Over-Under"

Posted by Ashlee Jansen at Sony Alpha Universe on 2022-08-10

Ashlee Jansen (@ashkarasphotography) was born and raised in Melbourne, Victoria and developed a love for the ocean at an early age. “After many years traveling, developing skills and improving my knowledge on the ocean, I am now based in Exmouth, Western Australia living my dream job as an underwater photographer,” she explains. “I have a passion for wildlife photography, capturing subjects such as sharks, rays or turtles and pairing them with the incredible sunsets and shallow corals that the Ningaloo Reef has to offer.” We saw this split-shot sunset image and connected with her to learn more about how she captured it with her Sony Alpha 7R II and Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. Keep reading as she explains how her story behind the shot.

A Sunset & Coral Reef "Over-Under" photo by Ashlee Jansen

Photo by Ashlee Jansen. Sony Alpha 7R II. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/250-sec., f/14, ISO 500

The Scene

I have a passion for capturing split-shot photography, a process where you hold half the camera underneath the water's surface using a large glass dome, while keeping the top half of the camera above the surface. Coral Bay, Western Australia is the perfect location for capturing split shot photos. At low tide, the coral is right beneath the surface creating the perfect foreground for these types of photographs.

This particular evening, the clouds were scattered over the sky showing potential for an amazing sunset. I grabbed my gear and ran down to the beach as the sun was setting quickly. The ocean was absolute glass, not even a ripple on the surface. I found a shallow patch of coral and waited for the sun to go down. The sunset went fiery red, reflecting the clouds on the glassy ocean surface as well as the coral underneath. I was absolutely blown away by how perfectly everything lined up.

Gear & Getting The Shot

I shoot underwater with a Sony Alpha 7R II, using the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens. This lens is perfect for this style of photography, allowing for a clean, crisp image corner to corner, as well as easy focusing both above and below the surface. To light up the underwater section of the image, I use 2x Inon z330 strobes, placed down and out to the side of the dome. I use a Nauticam underwater housing over my Sony camera with an 8" glass dome port.

The fastest shutter I am able to use with my strobes is 1/250. Aperture was set at f/14 to help get the entire frame in focus, above and below the water. ISO was set at 500. To get the shot, I was snorkeling in the water. I carry a lifeguard float with me, which helps me keep my body buoyant while lifting the heavy equipment half out of the water, also protecting the shallow coral reef from any potential fin kicks/bumps. I spend quite a bit of time snorkeling around the area before picking the patch of coral I intend to photograph.

This particular evening I was a bit more rushed, but lucky enough I know the area well and was able to swim straight out to a section I knew would be great to photograph.

A Sunset & Coral Reef "Over-Under" photo by Ashlee Jansen

The Edit

This photo actually didn't require much editing. The bright red sunset reflecting on the surface was so perfect in itself, and the strobes were positioned correctly and lit the coral up so nicely. In Lightroom, I brightened the image a fraction and made the colors slightly more vibrant, then removed a few dust spots on the lens.

See more of Ashley Jansen’s work on her website and on Instagram @ashkarasphotography

Interested in learning more about underwater photography? Join us at our Underwater photography event with Vancouver Photographer Stewart Sy

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