Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Make A Splash

When I teach photo workshops, one of the most common questions is, "How can I improve my images?"
Text & Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Make A Splash

Underwater Shooting Techniques

Once you have your underwater housing for your camera, you're ready to get wet. This is where your creativity kicks in and any patch of water will work. Try your local pool, a lake or even a kiddie pool in your front yard. Here are some shooting techniques to get you started.

1. Make sure the housing is sealed tightly.

The worst thing you can hear from your snorkeling partner when shooting in the water is, "I see water splashing around in your housing." Try out your housing close to shore to make sure it's sealed tightly. Once in the water, check the housing regularly to make sure it's still sealed, especially if you're working in waves or a surf zone. Use lubricant on the O-rings (the rubber gaskets that seal the openings) to ensure they work properly.

2. Use a high-capacity flash card.

When I used to shoot film underwater, I dreaded frame number 30. I knew I only had a few shots left before I had to return to shore and change film. Inevitably, I would encounter a sea turtle right at the end of my roll of film. Those days are gone. Now I can put a 16 GB flash card in my camera and shoot all day.

3. Shoot in the middle of the day.

Photographers normally seek out warm dawn and dusk light, but underwater shooting requires all the light you can get, and this means midday bright sun. Overhead sun penetrates the water and illuminates the scene more evenly. Bottom surfaces that are light-colored, like sand, will reflect overhead sun and improve exposures. Avoid stirring up the water to ensure clear photos.


4. Photograph near the surface.

Many of my favorite underwater images are shot right at the surface. I often shoot with the lens partially underwater, creating an over/under image. Wide-angle lenses, especially fisheye lenses, let you capture the subject above water, as well as the scene below water. Try shooting underwater shots just a few feet underwater. The light is better, and coral formations can be spectacular just below the surface.

5. Use underwater flash.

As you become more comfortable in the water, you can snorkel deeper and explore coral and fish well below the surface. Since the red spectrum of light will be largely filtered out, try using a flash to improve your images. To avoid backscatter, try using your flash off-camera. Practice with your flash in shallow water to make sure your setup and exposures are working. Then try diving a little deeper to capture that orange clown fish resting in an anemone.

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