The beauty of marine imagery is something to behold. From swaying marine plants, schools of playful fishes to abandoned shipwrecks, there are endless wonders for us to explore in the world of underwater photography.
Like any other specialised field of photography, there are many considerations to bear in mind. Sadly, most people take pictures during their dives as they would on land. Even experienced divers are clueless at times about the cameras and accessories to use, or how specific scenarios that only occur underwater should be handled. To help you make the best of your aquatic endeavour, here are some answers to common questions which I get asked whenever I lead a group of divers fortnightly.
- What are some of the key challenges associated with underwater photography?
To me, it would be air consumption and buoyancy. The amount of photography gear you carry can affect your buoyancy and dive just as any additional piece of scuba gear does. With poor buoyancy, you will tend to use more air to adjust your assisted device and your dive time will be much shorter. So, if you are going to practise your diving skills like buoyancy control, my advice is to practise using your camera gear in a pool setting before heading to open sea.
EOS 7D | ISO 160 | f/4.5 | t1/80s
- Why does my photographs look blurry?
Many divers tend to forget about the minimum focus distance needed to create a well-focused photo. It is a common problem associated with compact cameras, which novices often use. Keep in mind also that photographing big and small subjects require specific type of lenses. If you are using a DSLR with a wide-angle lens, chances are you would only be able to shoot bigger subjects unless you resurface and manually change the lens. The problem lies with trying to shoot a particular subject with the wrong type of lens. For example, using a wide-angle lens to snap a close-up of a coral.
EOS 7D | ISO 160 | f/4 | t1/160s
- What kind of camera should I get?
Before you select a camera, you need to grasp the four fundamentals of underwater photography: focus, exposure, composition and subject. DSLRs offer you the flexibility of adjusting your camera settings manually to achieve a desired shot in this context. These settings could include ISO control, underwater mode, shutter speed, zoom capability, or in-built flash, among others. However without sufficient experience, things could turn disastrous so you might just be better off with a point-and-shoot camera which offers pre-set auto mode.
PowerShot G10| ISO 400 | f/2.8 | t1/30s
- How much do I need to invest in this hobby?
There are various types of cameras that can fit your budget. Below is a list of cameras that include Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) underwater housing, with their estimated basic investment required:
- Compact cameras such as an IXUS camera with OEM underwater housing will range from $600 to $700
- Advanced cameras from the Powershot G series range with OEM underwater housing will cost about $900 to $1,100
- A professional EOS DSLR camera with underwater housing and a wide-angle and micro lens will cost around $10,000 to $12,000
For those of you who are new to underwater photography, underwater housing is a pressure-proof and waterproof container that protects your camera. When selecting a housing, you will want to make sure it has an operational depth that meets or exceeds the depths you plan to dive to. Also keep in mind that some housings offer limited access to the camera’s controls. On a secondary note, there are also other costs that you should cater for like accessories such as strobe.
EOS 7D & EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM | ISO 125 | f/2.8 | t1/125s
- What do I need to maintain?
Your underwater housing is probably the most crucial piece of equipment that you need to preserve in tiptop condition. For one, it keeps your camera dry and prevents any form of water-induced trauma. No matter how tedious it may be, always ensure that that the O-rings are properly greased and the casing is soaked in freshwater to clean off all salt before it crystallises. This is to prevent corrosion in the long run.
Finally, taking excellent underwater shots is not just a matter of acquiring the best and most expensive equipment. What will make your images better is practice.
I hope the pointers raised in this article are sufficient to help you attempt underwater photography. If you have anything to add or thoughts about what I’ve written, punch in your comments below and I will keep a lookout to reply you.