Using my Tokina 10–17mm Fisheye lens

An over-under shot of some children in VanuatuIt was Jul/Aug 2007 when I read Dr. Alex Mustard's review on the Tokina 10-17mm in the Underwater Photography web magazine. The words still ring in my ears/eyes "I struggle to think of any compelling reasons to have this lens on land, but by the same token I cannot think of a more useful focal range for wide angle photography underwater. In fact this lens could have been designed specifically for us."

At that time I had only just booked a trip to Vanuatu to dive the President Coolidge ... and I thought: "That's it! I need that lens for the Vanuatu trip!"

In the same article Alex also spoke of the 10.5mm Nikon lens ... so long story short, I thought "get both". So I was very excited when both lenses arrived ... together with the new Nikon D200.Swim-through at Tatuba Point, Vanuatu

We finally arrive in Vanuatu. Weeks of continuous torrential rain had seen much run off from the land into the sea and therefore the visibility was very poor and the Tokina 10-17mm lens was relieved of any major duty. I did manage to get some under/over photos of Ni-Vanuatu children at play as we surfaced from the President Coolidge safety stop.

We also did a number of reef dives, the best of these being just off Tatuba Point where the
visibility was much better and possibly verging up to 20 mtrs or so. This gave me the chance to
put the Tokina to the test with a number of trench
and swim through shots.

Back at home, Gold Coast Australia, I regularly dive Julian Rocks at Byron Bay. Conditions through the summer had been terrible with viz constantly around 5 : 8 mtrs, so it was only the 105mm macro lens that went diving.

School of Yellow-tail, Julian Rocks, Byron Bay, AustraliaThen it happened. The second week of March and some strong currents swept all that dirty water away and cleaned up the bay. I rang the dive shop on the Thursday afternoon to see what the conditions were for the next day. Happily, they reported conditions of 25 mtrs+ viz. Out comes the Tokina 10-17 mm lens and the 8" dome port ... and it's off to Byron Bay for another Friday.

Well : what a day! As we backward rolled off the sides of the inflatable hulls it was soon apparent the viz was 30 mtrs+ producing the best conditions that I had ever seen in 5 years and some 500 odd dives at Julian Rocks.

Marbled Ray, Julian Rocks, Byron Bay, AustraliaThe water temperature was approx 24 deg so there was a real possibility of seeing manta rays. You only ever see manta rays at Julian Rocks in the very late summer conditions and early autumn. We hovered at around 10 to 15 mtrs in the blue water just off the edge and to the east side of the Cod Hole at Julian Rocks.

The diving was awesome with schools of silver trevally, big-eye jacks and 6 : 7 leopard sharks sitting high up in the water column. It was easy to get close to the schools of fish and the leopard sharks to get some decent photos with the 10 : 17mm fish eye lens.

There were also quite a number of white-spotted eagle rays about, albeit that they were too shy to allow us to get close. It was then that one of the eagle rays started looping around directly in front of us ... and then ... without hesitation, he started heading straight for me. He just kept coming and I kept shooting, right up to the point where the eagle ray skimmed the top of my housing. This gave the eagle ray a hell of a fright and then he quickly took off.

White-spotted Eagle Ray, Julian Rocks, Byron Bay, AustraliaWhite-spotted Eagle Ray, Julian Rocks, Byron Bay, Australia

A healthy looking Black Coral tree, Julian Rocks, Byron Bay, AustraliaI turned around to my buddy to see him pumping his fist in the water column in excitement, acknowledging this fabulous spectacle and awesome opportunity to capture this rare moment on camera.

I couldn't believe my luck! I had metered the camera to shoot manually at around the 10 mtrs and the strobes were set on 1/4 power only to provide a little fill lighting as I was relying mainly on natural light. The result ... quite spectacular, producing some of the best photos I have taken to date.

We then left the Cod Hole heading around to Hugo's Trench where the photo opportunities continued as we came across schools of sweet-lip, large bull rays and several green turtles.

Green Turtle cruising, Julian Rocks, Byron Bay, AustraliaThe Tokina 10-17 mm lens produced some awesome quality photos. Sharp focus with very little-to-no distortion commonly associated with fish-eye lenses out of water.

I've got to say, I love my Tokina 10-17 mm lens and can only highly recommend it to anyone who has been considering the purchase of a fish-eye lens. By the way, the Nikon 10.5mm has never been on the camera yet!