Learning to shoot underwater

September 13, 2008 - Filed under Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography

As some of you know, before we left Canada, I purchased a brand new, and very expensive toy to allow me to take, what I hope will one day be some great underwater shots.

I started by testing my new toy in the pool. I wasn’t quite ready for that big blue ocean, and decided that somewhere safer, like the resort pool, would be a better first step. Plus this way if I flooded it on the first try, at least it wouldn’t be in salt water.

With Mike as my test subject I cautiously stepped into the pool and slowly submerged my expensive camera. When I was confident there were no leaks I splashed around a bit and took a few shots. It’s heavier than I expected and took a bit of getting used to, but once I’m deep in the ocean the weight wont really be an issue. 

First time in the ocean

After a successful test dive in the pool it was time to take this baby into the ocean.  I back-rolled off the boat and the captain passed me my beast of a camera, and down we went. I had lucked out that this dive happened to be just me and a divemaster, which meant we could go at my speed and I could get used to diving with my camera. And boy did I need to get used to it.

I felt like I was learning to dive all over again. This time with twice as much to think about. Not only did I have to remember to think about my buoyancy, my depth, my breathing, and my air, I also had to think about all the things that go along with photography like shutter speed, aperture and strobe sync, all without crashing into any coral.  It’s a lot to think about, and as a result my shots are less than successful.

Normally I don’t post photos that I’m not 100% happy with, but since this is a learning process I decided I’d make an exception.

Lesson #1

One of the things I had been told over and over, before I started, was to ‘get close’. When you are learning to dive you realize that the deeper you go, the more colors disappear. Starting with red, and working it’s way through the ROYGBIV spectrum.

Having a strobe light can help you get back some of those colors, but much like your flash on land, that strobe only goes so far, so getting close is key. Of course thats easier said than done.

Fish, and in this case turtles, unlike your family and friends, don’t exactly sit still and say cheese.   Luckily I came across another turtle and was able to try again. This time I was able to get closer, but my strobe wasn’t aimed quite right, and my angle was totally off. It can be difficult to position yourself underwater when you have nothing to hold on to.

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts the turtle had had enough of me and off he swam.

Finding the right subject

One thing I’ve quickly learned is that some fish make better subject than others. Anemone Fish, are one of those fish. Anemone fish like to stay close to home, and while they may dart in and out, the don’t venture very far from their anemone.

Now that i’d found a better subject, it was time to play around with the strobe power. Unlike your on camera flash, my underwater strobe has a choice of output power. Meaning that depending on how much light I need, I can set the strobe to Full, 1/2, or 1/4 power, to let out the appropriate amount of light. However figuring out the appropriate amount, while remembering all the other things I’m suppose to be thinking about can be a little difficult.

As the dive went on I continued to shoot, and slowly my shots started to improve. They are a long way from being good, but luckily I’ve got lots of time to practice. Over the next couple of months I hope to get in as much diving as I can, and eventually have a couple of shots that are worthy of framing.

For now, I have a lot of learning to do.

Sea Horse

Porcupine Fish


Lionfish Swimming

Posted by: Kelly

3 Comments so far

  1. svea Dimmick September 13, 2008 9:31 pm

    nice shots kel. love the lion fish.

  2. Catherine September 21, 2008 6:27 am

    Not bad at all for a first attempt! The anemone shot is gorgeous.

    Love the blog by the way, sounds like you’re having a cracking time already!

  3. Mikey Jumpman May 3, 2009 3:31 am

    Very very cool! Lovin the pics….


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