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08-06-2013, 09:08 AM   #1
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Aquarium Photo Tips?

At the end of the week, I am planning to go to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL as part of my vacation and of course going to shoot some photos.

Does anyone have tips for shooting great photos at Shedd or aquariums in general?

I've shot in aquariums before including the Shedd, but haven't had a whole lot of success.

I have a K-r with a 18-55mm kit lens and a 70-300mm Tamron telephoto lens. I got the camera last year so I'm still trying to learn the DSLR/a beginner and would like to improve.

08-06-2013, 09:34 AM   #2
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A fast prime would be better. Fast as in f/2.8 is enough. And 35mm Focal length as maximum. A polarizing filter would be useful to minimize glass reflections but it also takes away an stop and a half of light... A rubber hood could serve the same purpose...
Also take a cloth to wipe finger prints or dirt from the window if you are shooting throuh it.
08-06-2013, 09:40 AM   #3
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I got some great images years ago when I just used the 10-17 fisheye in the aquarium. Yeah, it was a "theme" set but some of the images were great.

If you could get them to turn off all the lights, it would help.

Honestly, at the Shedd, the biggest problems I had was with forgetting my minimum focus and reflections of the signs on the opposite wall. That was annoying. Beyond that, there was plenty of light.

Have a look in my flickr acct. for the Shedd set.
08-06-2013, 10:00 AM   #4
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Get a fast wider prime or zoom (35 F2.4 comes to mind) - and a fast 50 (FA 50 F1.7). Then get a rubber hood, and stick it on the glass. You won't have any reflections in your shots with this method.

08-06-2013, 10:45 AM   #5
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Thank you for the tips! Unfortunately I don't have any $ or much time (leaving in 2 days) to buy another lens unless I could find a good price for a used one at my local camera store. (Though I really would like to get a prime lens) Last time I went the only primes for Pentax they had was a 50mm f2.0 M manual focus and a Vivitar 19mm f3.8. I'll have to check the store again.

I have a polarizing filter, but never used in an aquarium since it would cut down the light. I might give it a shot.

I'll definitely get a rubber hood. It might be the only thing I could do at this point, but should still worth trying. Thanks again.

Also TER-OR, I'll definitely check your account out. Thank you!
08-06-2013, 10:46 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by JinDesu Quote
Get a fast wider prime or zoom (35 F2.4 comes to mind) - and a fast 50 (FA 50 F1.7). Then get a rubber hood, and stick it on the glass. You won't have any reflections in your shots with this method.
Do you mean press the front edge of the rubber hood directly onto the glass? I know that in Atlanta at our new aquarium that would not be allowed in many (all?) places, or would not be possible due to curvature. A CPL can help with some of the issues encountered.
08-06-2013, 11:07 AM   #7
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I wonder if you can boost your EV and keep your Aperture a bit more closed for better DOF? I haven't tried that, but it might be worth a shot.

Generally speaking, though, I think the Shedd's aquariums are pretty easy to photograph.
08-06-2013, 11:38 AM   #8
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I'm no pro or anything, but when I go to the Georgia Aquarium it's pretty dark inside so I use a 50mm f/1.7 manual focus lens. f/1.7 isn't actually necessary, it's just what I have. I often set it on more like f/2.0. No flash, it just creates nasty reflections. Never tried any hood or filters either. So yeah, that 50mm f/2.0 at your local store would probably work fine and these older manual "fast 50's" are often pretty inexpensive.

Here are some sample aquarium pics I took with my manual 50mm to see if you like what that would give you, I tend to like things a bit close up as you'll see. I do have a manual 35mm lens but it's an f/2.8 and I haven't tried it for aquarium duty yet:
GA Aquarium 03/26/2013 - a set on Flickr
GA Aquarium 03/09/2013 - a set on Flickr

Btw, on the frog shots I typically swap to my 18-135mm so I can zoom in more, your Tamron should work fine for this and any other well-illuminated subjects. A little adjustment in whatever software you have can help put the finishing touches on your pics too if they come out a little dark or whatever. This is also good to edit out the occasional reversed "Exit" sign reflection from your pics


Last edited by dboeren; 08-06-2013 at 11:46 AM.
08-06-2013, 12:11 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
Do you mean press the front edge of the rubber hood directly onto the glass? I know that in Atlanta at our new aquarium that would not be allowed in many (all?) places, or would not be possible due to curvature. A CPL can help with some of the issues encountered.
Yep - rubber hood on glass. My DA 35 didn't do so badly with regards to curvature (rather, the aquarium glass was flat, not curved). The Brooklyn Aquarium I went to didn't have anyone to say no, so I was able to get right on the glass ;x
08-06-2013, 12:12 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by JinDesu Quote
Yep - rubber hood on glass. My DA 35 didn't do so badly with regards to curvature (rather, the aquarium glass was flat, not curved). The Brooklyn Aquarium I went to didn't have anyone to say no, so I was able to get right on the glass ;x
Ah well...Brooklyn
08-06-2013, 12:53 PM   #11
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QuoteQuote:
Do you mean press the front edge of the rubber hood directly onto the glass? I know that in Atlanta at our new aquarium that would not be allowed in many (all?) places, or would not be possible due to curvature. A CPL can help with some of the issues encountered.
I've been to several aquariums in Japan and never had an issue. Georgia Aquarium is the only place I've been to that was got after people a lot. Like my focusing light came on on my point & shoot and someone immediately came and told me to turn it off.

QuoteQuote:
I'm no pro or anything, but when I go to the Georgia Aquarium it's pretty dark inside so I use a 50mm f/1.7 manual focus lens. f/1.7 isn't actually necessary, it's just what I have. I often set it on more like f/2.0. No flash, it just creates nasty reflections. Never tried any hood or filters either. So yeah, that 50mm f/2.0 at your local store would probably work fine and these older manual "fast 50's" are often pretty inexpensive.

Here are some sample aquarium pics I took with my manual 50mm to see if you like what that would give you, I tend to like things a bit close up as you'll see. I do have a manual 35mm lens but it's an f/2.8 and I haven't tried it for aquarium duty yet:

Btw, on the frog shots I typically swap to my 18-135mm so I can zoom in more, your Tamron should work fine for this and any other well-illuminated subjects. A little adjustment in whatever software you have can help put the finishing touches on your pics too if they come out a little dark or whatever. This is also good to edit out the occasional reversed "Exit" sign reflection from your pics
Thank you for advice! Your pictures are great. Great aquarium. Love to go there again this time with my K-r. I'll go see if the store still has the lens.

QuoteQuote:
I wonder if you can boost your EV and keep your Aperture a bit more closed for better DOF? I haven't tried that, but it might be worth a shot.

Generally speaking, though, I think the Shedd's aquariums are pretty easy to photograph.
I'll try it out. Thank you for the tips. Also your photos are great especially the Jellyfish ones. I am confident I'll have more success this time around. Last time I went, it was basically my K-r's debut and after a little over a year, I know a lot more plus all the tips here.
08-06-2013, 01:13 PM   #12
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Shedd never complained about me sticking my camera hood against the glass. Neither have the National Aquarium in Baltimore or the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, which I thought was better than the others by far. My biggest problem at the Shedd was minimum focus distance. Ended up with much better photos with my old point & shoot than I did with my DSLR in many of the tanks, because it could go close to the glass and still get photos. The rubber hood is a great suggestion -- I need to get one of those. But you can also use a little dark cloth or something.

And you'll still have to retake a few photos because some dumbass takes an ipad photo with the flash on.

If you go to the dolphin show, don't bother adjusting your exposure for the bright sunlight coming in through the windows -- they block them off completely as the show is starting, leaving you in the dark futzing around trying to reset your camera.

There's a door near the otters (I think -- I have otter photos, then outdoor photos, then back to coral or something) that takes you out to a little outdoor seating area... great views of the city skyline from there.

The telephoto will only be useful for the dolphin show. Mostly stick with the wide end.

And this is one reason why I have amazon prime -- last minute orders of things for vacations.

The only really good photos I got out of my last trip to the Shedd were the jellyfish and the dolphin/whale show, and maybe the penguins. I don't know if the penguin photos were all that great, but they were fun to watch
08-06-2013, 01:34 PM   #13
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I'll post some photos this evening along with focal length/exif info for reference. I didn't have any issues with minimum focus distance with the DA 35 F2.4 (MFD: 30cm). If anything, getting the 35mm F2.8 macro would solve any MFD issues (provided you don't mind the increased magnification caused by getting so much closer).
08-06-2013, 02:11 PM   #14
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I was using my Nikon, with the 18-200 lens (minimum focus distance is about 18-20 inches). If you're sticking the lens against the glass, the fish need to be far enough away from the glass that they can be in focus. The 35mm 2.4 has a good 6 inches closer focus, so that would definitely have been easier. With the 2.8 macro you can make it down to about 3.5 inches from the front of the lens. (My point & shoot can do 1.6 inches, which is why it got the good "fish close to the glass" shots.)
08-06-2013, 02:19 PM   #15
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Just be aware that MFD is taken from the sensor. My k-x is 6cm deep (give or take), and the DA 35 F2.4 is 4.5cm long. The hood is about 2-3cm as well. This is a total of 12 cm, and the MFD is 30cm - meaning my subjects must only be 18cm (or about 7 inches) from the front of my hood. And given that the aquarium glass is usually several inches - the DA 35 F2.4 really can focus on objects almost next to the glass.

Still not as good as a point and shoot, but heck - it's workable!
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