Guest post: Nikon D800 captures underwater color explosions

Hi NikonRumors. I'm Heath from (FacebookInstagram). When Art Fairs Australia commissioned me to photograph clouds of colour underwater, I had a long learning curve ahead. I'd done a reasonable amount of in water surf photography with an Aquatech housing I'd purchase years ago for my D2x (which fits the D800 nicely with extra space for radio triggers), but I had no idea how to make a cloud of colour in an environmentally responsible way, underwater. Tests with hand-pumped sprayers filled with beetroot juice was useless and fairly expensive. The flow was slow and unimpressive, and the colour was akin to shark attack! Not to mention it was a dark colour that couldn't be tinted.


Some hand-spear fishermen saw how bad it was working and really helped by suggesting that full cream milk shows up really well in salt water:

A few other failed vessels later, we had food colored milk in ordinary balloons, popped by little knives:

The other issue that needed to be overcome was water clarity. There had been a lot of rain around Sydney, and the deadline was looming. So we had no choice but to shoot in water that wasn't clear. This is where the D800 + 24/1.4 combination shone. The shots had very little colour and were very murky, but with some photoshopping, it appeared as though the water was far more clear. The RAW files have just that much data. See the before and after example:

before and after

If you have an interesting idea for a guest postyou can contact me here.

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  • style in the pocket


  • Quite the challenge!

  • stormwatch


  • Why?

    Next please.

    • jenxrj .

      Just ignore the post and wait. Why post a downer reply? It was something new for some of us.

  • IslandNature

    So it’s “environmentally responsible” to add food colouring and milk to ocean water…hope natural rather than artificial colouring was used. Maybe this should have been done in a pool.

    • Global

      What a stupid comment. He used beat juice and milk with tiny drops of food coloring — which are edible. The manufacturing of your camera and your lenses leached exponentially more toxins to the environment than this photoshoot ever will even if reproduced 1000 times. I dont see you giving up photography.

      Some people have a lot of heart, but absolutely no brains. The heart of your argument is right — dont put paint or toxic dyes in natural waters…. but your details are wrong. The milk and edible food coloring will break down and virtually disintegrate in water, due to waters solvent characteristics and water life, within minutes.

      Meanwhile, your camera and your lenses and your carbon fiber tripod and your plastic backpack or cases will pollute this earth for generations. So have some perspective. This is an i teresting photoshoot and he teaches how to do it responsibly, whereas someone less informed might make a terrible using paints; he does it the right way using milk and food coloring.

      • Global

        One note, to avoid losing balloons in the water, a tiny string could be tied to them for retrieval. This could also help with placement of multiple balloons, by hanging them.

        • jenxrj .

          I’m with Global on this one.

      • IslandNature

        It’s just an opinion – why not do this in a pool which is a closed system and treated? The poster doesn’t tell us whether or not he used artificial (petroleum based) or natural food colouring, doesn’t tell us how much he used or how long the shoot was. These “details” would have been interesting.

        Just because a product is edible doesn’t mean that it is good for the environment or doesn’t harm the organisms that live there. That’s a human “perspective.”

        Google “milk kills fish,” you might find it informative.

        • I did googled “milk kills fish” and read it carefully. So you are willing, just to bashing the poster here who threw few liters of milk (how much milk can be pumped into a balloon?) into the PACIFIC OCEAN, to compare his behaviour to a spill of thousands of liters of milk into a stream or into a small reservoir? Put things into perspective, or part of the readers may consider your concerns for the environment as disingenuous.

          • IslandNature

            I’m just trying to suggest we be mindful of our environmental impact as photographers when we’re practicing our craft. The poster stated he wanted to do this in an “environmentally responsible way.” Aside from saying edible products were used (again, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for the environment) there’s nothing that gives us an idea that anything else was considered.

            Sure it’s a question of scale. Judging from the photos it looks like it’s probably more than a few/3 litres. Heath doesn’t give us an idea of how long or how much milk was used, but it sounds like some experimentation was involved. Scale is a slippery slope that can be used to justify all sorts of water contamination issues. Industry does it all the time.

  • esolesek

    This imagery could also be achieved with more control using a good particle generator inside of many 3D and motion graphics software programs, including apple motion.

  • Eon 01

    I am a
    geologist. We think in eons. This is a comment which I copy and paste from the
    desktop to all ecology touching forums. Do whatever you want to do on Earth
    since this is only a blink of an eye for this planet. It is however life or
    death of human species which still can hardly be registered using any toxic
    marker on any poster scaled to 4.5 billion years. The planet saving is the
    wrong word – the humanity survival is the correct one. But still we will hardly
    register on this planet history – trust me! We will expire like a dinosaurs, woolly
    mammoths or dodos.

    Do not
    worry about planet – worry about our (good) but not endless time on

    And this
    good time can be way more enjoyable with fresh air, clean water and colorful backdrop
    of millions of plants and animals. And for this forum – yes I am a nature
    photographer with ten thousand dollars in “polluting” equipment…..

  • Joseph Farrugia

    Colourful fart!

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