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Simple as That Sunday #116 – Capturing the Aquarium Experience

f/ 4.0, 1/80 sec, ISO 1250 | Processed with Olive Juice Presets

Rainy days in Southern California can be tough with the kids. So we took the kids the Aquarium of the Pacific. First, if you have toddlers, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the aquarium. I remember the first trip we made with Katie my four year old. Oh my, the pure awe and visual stimulation of these amazing creatures! The moments are priceless – wish I had captured all the squeals of delight along with the facial expressions. I did the best I could with my D40 shoot JPG and having no idea what I was doing.

Yesterday was Luke’s first time to the Long Beach Aquarium. This time around I had a better camera., one that does an awesome job shooting in low light (translation – high ISO settings), a fast lens (aka – not the kit lens), and shooting in RAW (translation – not JPG). The photo above is one of my favorite pictures of the day. I processed it as a Black and White to simplify the moment and to really appreciate the curiosity of a toddler. He could have sat at that window for hours just watching the fish swim by and naming the different types of sea life that prior to that moment, he had only experienced in books and in cartoons.

So here are some of the things that I’ve learned about getting better photos at the aquarium.

  • Don’t be afraid of upping your ISO. My minimum ISO indoors was 1250 and I went up all the way to 2500 with no problems. Aquariums are usually dark places and I  wanted to capture that as a part of the story my pictures told.  You can always reduce your noise in your post processing.
  • Don’t use your flash – ever! It just reflects back on the glass and you’ll get a wicked glare.
  • If you can, shoot RAW. You can get some awful color casts and it will make it easier to adjust your white balance when you’re processing your pictures.
  • Get down at eye level. Use Live View on your dSLR to make it easier to capture your child’s perspective like in the photo above.
  • Get out of Auto mode. You have to shoot in Manual in order to control your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. For most of the aquarium visit my settings were ISO 1250-2500, aperature 2.8-4.0, and shutter speed of 80-125. The setting that I changed most frequently was my ISO.
  • Crop and process your photos in BW to help tell the story. I know that it will be tough to frame up every moment in camera so cropping in processing will help with telling a tighter story.
  • Capture silhouettes by metering (adjust your settings) on the fish and water. This will create those beautiful images that make feel like you’re seeing the moment through your child’s eyes and bring you right back to the moment.

Here are some of my other favorites from yesterday.

A day at the aquarium




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