Digital technology makes it possible for anyone to get into underwater photography
Digital technology has been nothing short of miraculous when it comes to underwater photography. Sure, high-end shooters will still lay down hard-earned money for an advanced SLR in a housing, but now relative novices can get their feet wet, so to speak, with sophisticated, high-resolution compact cameras that are fitted with excellent lenses in an inexpensive but sturdy housing. The Olympus C-7070, for example, has a housing available for $199 (www.olympusamerica.com). The outfit is easily transported and makes a powerful travel companion for a tropical vacation. You can come back with images that friends and family will gasp at seeing.
The undersea environment is a foreign environment, and likewise, photography underwater brings you face to face with a range of new challenges. Thanks to the instant feedback of a digital camera, you can quickly traverse the learning curve, but it's much easier and faster when you have a good teacher. PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, has recently modified its underwater photography specialty to a new Digital Underwater Photography course (www.padi.com). If you're thinking that you don't really want to learn how to scuba dive just to be able to learn underwater photography, don't worry; the class is open to snorkelers and scuba divers alike.
Even if you're an accomplished photographer on land, we highly recommend the Digital Underwater Photography class. There are a number of tricks and tips you'll learn to get you making sharp, colorful photographs right from your first dive. And you'll also learn how to care for your gear properly and avoid any unfortunate accidents such as a flooded housing.
Nothing makes you a better photographer like practice. In the film era, practice underwater was essentially impossible. Any time you went into the water with a camera, you were confined to 36 frames at most, and reloading wasn't really practical because you'd have to get to a clean, dry area to disassemble the housing each time you wanted to put in a fresh roll of film. And, of course, you never really knew if you got any decent images until hours later when the film was processed. There's nothing as frustrating as looking through a stack of prints and seeing that you had a slight underexposure that can't be fixed.