Following on from Part 1 in this series, here’s another of the Top Tips we learned from internationally renowned photographer Kip Evans during our Red Sea voyage aboard blue o two’s M/Y Blue Melody: Eye Contact
Last time we looked at the ‘Rule of Thirds,’ the idea that the human eye is drawn to the way objects are located within a picture. Something else that draws the human eye’s attention is – other eyes!
Eye contact between two intelligent beings (even humans) is a very personal, often intimate recognition of the other’s presence. Most people will be familiar with the concept of looking another person in the eye when you talk to them. That could be up close and personal when you’re shaking hands at a job interview. It could also be from the stage when you’re giving a presentation or singing a song. Some people claim to have fallen in love with their partners when ‘their eyes met across a crowded room….’
Making eye contact delivers a message that you have seen each other and are aware of, and respect, the other’s presence. Eye contact is a form of communication without language, especially between different species. Anybody with a pet dog will understand how a look can be filled with meaning. (Anyone with a pet cat will know that it can mean ‘feed me or I will eat you’!)
Underwater, eye contact with the strange and wonderful creatures that we encounter can be even more thrilling. When we scuba dive, we are visiting an alien domain filled with strange and wonderful creatures. Knowing we don’t belong there, and meeting the gaze of the creatures that do, can be a very moving experience. It also helps to make great pictures and movies!
Eye Contact and the Rule of Thirds
In the last article, we talked about how positioning things along the grid that divides a picture into ‘thirds’ is pleasing to the human eye. In this article, we talk about how other eyes are pleasing to the human eye. A great way to make the best of both worlds is to position the eye(s) of the subject somewhere along the same lines. The mean’s the viewer’s gaze is automatically drawn to make eye contact with the subject.
Be At The Same Level
It’s not always easy to tell if something is looking at you underwater if it’s more than a few metres away. Also, a lot of underwater critters’ eyes move in rather mysterious ways. Try to be as level with the animal as possible, that way you will have a better idea of whether it’s actually looking at you, or something more interesting that it wants to eat.
Look for a Reaction
Taking a photo of an animal’s eyes is not the same as eye contact. If an animal moves its head towards you, it’s more likely that it’s actually observing you and your camera personally. Look for the movement of the animal’s pupils, if they have any, and they are visible.
Don’t try to force a reaction or chase an animal that doesn’t want to react. Doing so might force a defensive reaction from the creature. This might result in a nasty injury to the diver, but more importantly to the animal. In other cases, it will probably just chase the animal away, in which case nobody will get a photograph of anything, and nobody will like you after the dive. Keep your movements calm and unthreatening, and remember that you are in their world.
Why not give it a try and post the results on our Paralenz facebook page? We’d love to see your attempts at photo composition and editing!
Coming soon – Top Tips with Kip Part 3: Framing your Footage