September Activity: Birch Aquarium

With our new meeting schedule (see calendar) we had to move our monthly activities too. We’re heading to the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla on Sunday, September 23, 2018. Open to anyone who wants to join us – not limited to members!


Making great images of underwater critters through the glass is easier than it sounds, but good results can look just like you were using scuba equipment and underwater housings:

Hybrid Anemone Fish
Hybrid Anemone Fish, 1/400s f/5.6 ISO 800, 70mm focal length, flash


Tips & Tricks from Steve

I have had lots of success using a Canon 7D II camera in Manual Exposure Mode, with a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom in Auto Focus Mode. The key is using a top quality shoe mount flash like a Canon 600 EX.

Starting settings I recommend are: Manual Exposure Mode, f/8, exposure time 1/125 to 1/400th second, ISO 800. For subjects far away from the glass, use more like f/2.8. Put your flash in ETTL mode and use the +/- adjustments to brighten or darken your image as needed. Be sure to set you flash in High Speed Sync Mode when using shutter speeds faster than the normal sync speed of the camera (typically 1/200th second).

More tips

  • Bring a soft cloth to wipe condensation off the glass.
  • Wear black/dark clothes so your reflection is not visible in the glass.
  • Point your lens almost straight into the tank, to avoid distortion from the glass.
  • If you are seeing your flash head reflected in the glass, angle your lens just a hair.

Please observe the rules: a tiny percentage of the exhibits have a sign, “No Flash.” These tanks have critters sensitive to light. Be respectful.

I have many photos from Birch Aquarium in my Flickr account, with the settings and gear specified.

Happy Image Making! Please share your photos from this outing with us, in our Flickr group and/or in our Facebook group, or share them on Instagram (hashtags #sandiegophotoclub #sdphotoclub).

Steve Cirone
Chair, Sierra Club Photo Section

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