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What are these balls for?

I ran into them for the first time at the dive fair 'Boot' in Düsseldorf. There I saw them lying in a showcase of a booth specialized in underwater photography material: Underwater flashes with a frosted glass hemisphere mounted at the front. In the very first instance, it looked like a big bowl of vanilla ice cream! I frowned my eyebrows ... "What-is-that?!"
I had not seen this before! Upon inquiry from the friendly assistant of the booth, it appeared to be a so called “dome diffuser”. The dome diffuser would provide a wider angle and even more "high beam" light in particular wide-angle images. ”Yeah right!?”, I thought. I just let this novice settle down.
Not long after my first meeting with these balls I encountered them again during the dive fair in the Netherlands! As a small "ceiling lamp" they featured in a showcase of Jos Broere (Dutch champion Underwater Photography 2015) and founder of Aquacam. After a conversation with Jos, it seemed to me that these balls could maybe solve a common problem that I regularly encounter when taking wide-angle photos. 

With my current camera set up, a PEN E-PL 2 with 2 Sea & Sea flashes with the (standard) diffusers mounted on it, it's very difficult to highlight a large surface in the foreground well and evenly.You can often see the 2 (flash) light sources in the picture very clearly, with sometimes an unexposed hole in the middle. Focusing the flashes to get it "right" is a precision handling and a very difficult task, especially with the fisheye lens. Another common frustration is that you usually see the flash on the sides of the picture, which causes unacceptable white spots and overexposure. Could these "magic spheres" solve these problems? Using (dome) diffusers is quit common in photography. During my work as a sound engineer at a TV station, I often saw my lighting technician colleagues using diffusers to get even light to highlight the present audience. Would this trick also work underwater? Of course, the "magic" spheres flash has an absorbent coating and, as a result, this will cost you some flashing power, but I was convinced. So, I ordered a set of balls at Aquacam. Some practice sessions with this new set in the comfort of my living room resulted in a beautiful shadow arm strike light in the pictures.

Peter Boots  • PEN E-PL2 • PT-EP05 • 8mm Fisheye • Sea&Sea YS-01 and YS-D2

My upcoming trip to Bali would be a nice test case to experiment with the balls in tropical waters. During the first test photos, I soon realized that I had to open my "volume crane" a lot further to get enough flashlight on my subject. The first results were promising!

Peter Boots  • PEN E-PL2 • PT-EP05 • 8mm Fisheye • Sea&Sea YS-01 and YS-D2

I could not wait to test “the balls” performing at the tricky split-level photos. Wow! This exceeded my most amazing dreams, underwater beautifully illuminated!

One day in the late afternoon we arrived back at the resort after two intensive dives. Together with the whole group we were outside in the restaurant and evaluated the two recent photo dives. My attention was distracted by the sound of a group of pounding and noisy children who were playing in the sea in front of the resort. I did not hesitate for a moment. I could not leave out this unique opportunity and left our group, leaving them amazed at the restaurant by the sea. Some told me I was crazy when I made my "expedition". During the run to my cottage to pick up my camera and snorkel gear, I imagined how I would be able to deal with this mission technically? I decided to choose a fixed (fast) shutter speed and thus allowed the diaphragm to calculate itself by Olympus.

Peter Boots  • PEN E-PL2 • PT-EP05 • 8mm Fisheye • Sea&Sea YS-01 and YS-D2

The bunch of adrenaline-filled kids quickly caught sight of me, saw my big class domeport on the camera and were very curious about what a glass ball I held in my hands. In sign language, I tried to make it clear to them what my purpose was. And they modeled in turn for the camera.

The pace was extremely high, and I had to turn myself into all sorts of turns to get well in position. Also, I had to switch quickly to keep my exposure on track. This was a very strenuous unique experience to never forget. Especially the interaction and the pleasure of these pure kids gave me a feeling of happiness again! You see that when opportunity knocks you should take advantage of this kind of extraordinary opportunity. I had to cancel The planned night dive of that evening t because I was exhausted and flared out in my room. But I was still enjoying this unique experience at this noon and the exceptional photos I had taken.

Peter Boots  • PEN E-PL2 • PT-EP05 • 8mm Fisheye • Sea&Sea YS-01 and YS-D2

Now after this tropical adventure, I'm really curious about how these bulbs will perform in the less clear waters of the Netherlands. But I can certainly say, "I got the balls for it!"

Author and photographer: Peter Boots


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