art, friends, lighting, photography

Flashes underwater

Marie Davis casting her models 5 m under

Marie Davies casting her models 5 m under.

Although our conversation with Marie Davies took place on a dry terrace of a Dubai beachside bar, the topic we spoke of would not leave the deep-water, the Galapagos, the creatures and the strobes. Marie is an underwater cinematographer from Australia. Well actually, from UK, but one particular New Year’s Eve, she decided to see the Millennium in the land Down Under. She lived in Australia ever since. When Marie is not diving, she produces educational shows for children on ABC.

Taking photos under the sea is not only a physical challenge: buoyancy and currents, sea dwellers that refuse to stand still, time and tank capacity limitations. Lighting conditions, unpredictable visibility add to many a complexities. Backscatter — a reflection of particles caused by a flash or a strobe — could be a potential disaster for a beautiful shot.

Blairgowie (Jetty Dive, Victoria, Australia). Shot on Canon 100mm lens, Canon 5D Mark III f/18  1/80 ISO 100

Blairgowie (Jetty Dive, Victoria, Australia). Shot on Canon 100mm lens, Canon 5D Mark III f/18 1/80 ISO 100.

Marie tells us about how she always tries to focus on the eyes of her subjects, trying to light them up. The wee sea horse on the photo above as if amassed all the wisdom of the universe, and the scorpion fish below is clearly a politician, don’t you find?

Scorpion fish (Galapagos). Shot on Canon 100mm - Canon 5D Mark III f/18 1/80 ISO 100. Photo by Marie Davis.

Scorpion fish (Galapagos). Shot on Canon 100mm – Canon 5D Mark III f/18 1/80 ISO 100.

Peekaboo, false clownfish (Great Barrier Reef, Australia). Shot on Canon 50mm lens, EOS Canon 400D f/11  1/100 ISO 200. Photo by Marie Davis

Peekaboo, false clownfish (Great Barrier Reef, Australia). Shot on Canon 50mm lens, EOS Canon 400D f/11 1/100 ISO 200.

The sea world presents a diver with a perfect texture and colour, yet it takes an eye to concentrate on a subject and emphasise it. Manta rays are tricky to shoot. They are blank on top and white underneath, and the right exposure really defines a good photograph.

Manta Ray is a difficult type

Manta Ray is a difficult type

“I’m self taught, says Davies. I worked on a dive boat as a photo/video pro and had to teach underwater photography. When you dive 60 times per month shooting video and taking photographs you learn pretty quickly.”

P.S. All photos in this post are by Marie Davies, and Light Intelligence published them with her permission. Marie shared her settings for each shot, which you can see in the caption under the photo. The list of equipment used: 

Camera Canon 5D Mark iii with Nauticam housing, Canon lenses 17-40mm (W/A) and Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS USM macro. Strobes – 2 x INON z240

art, chemistry, lighting, stars of lighting design

Eight Rules of Light of Mario Nanni


Maestro Mario Nanni, artist of light and founder of Viabizzuno, legendary architectural lighting firm. He presented his eight rules of light in 2010 in Milan. They are only eight but they are eternal. We have been since keen on finding them in English, but in vain. Here is our endeavour to interpret them.

Rule 1. Absence of Presence

Presence of light, yet absence of a vehicle of light. Magic of emotion and no evidence of a source of light. Transcendence of an object as its surface is washed with the light from a hidden spring.

Rule 2. Light where needed

Chemistry of light: we see in an environment with little light, with almost no light. Just right amount of light allows us to catch expressions, sensations and attention. Light and the only light. Where needed.

Rule 3. The thickness of light

To have thickness is to have volume, to have volume is to create a shadow. The shadow brings out the light, the latter generates volume and defines the space. This light discovers and reads architecture. Light and materia accompany each other.

Rule 4. Light is a construction material

A project is not only a material, it is also a light. Architecture is a projection of light. Too often light is a corrective measure to hide or improve something that has already taken a shape. The light that is invisible yet sensible becomes a material, hence it is necessary to build with light.

Rule 5. Praise the shadow

The dimmer the light, the more powerful it is. Architectural form is born on the border between light and darkness. Positive and negative, the shade empties the light and fills it in. There is no need to use a lot of light to emphasise the object — the shadow will do it.

Rule 6. Moving light

Light follows the rhythm of the Sun, bringing up accents of architecture, its symbols and narrative of the city and its protagonists. The story unfolds. Like in case with Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Variable Image Lamp — VIL — projects blocks of light transforming the surface it hits, changing the boundaries and the depth of the façade itself.

Rule 7. The light creates colour

No object retains constant colour during the day. Darkness washes colours away, because colour is the light. Light gives all its tones, and therefore it is a necessary tool in a lighting designer’s box.

Rule 8. Emotion undescribed

The undescribed emotion of nothing is a powerful feeling, a pleasant sensation experienced in the moment when light wraps the space all around without manifesting itself. The meaning of things is evoked and subtle magic is done. No special effects are needed to light up the sculpture of Sleeping Hermaphroditus. Voluptuous forms need no accent; instead the light must follow a spectator’s glance.

Original text can be found on SpazioFMGperl’architettura. None of us speaks Italian, but we speak the language of light, so in part this translation of Mario Nanni’s Rules could be considered free. Should any of our readers find a proper English version, we would be happy to post on Light Intelligence. 

Photo of Borghese’ Sleeping Hermaphroditus credit: Marie-Lan Nguen