Underwater Photography For the last few years people have been asking me about the images I take underwater, and they often ask about the gear I use. In fact, when I go diving people often comment “Nice camera”, to which I sometimes reply “Actually the camera and lens are very average, but the housing is pretty good”. And a few people also comment that if they had an underwater camera, they’d be able to take good photos too. What most people don’t realise is that underwater photography is hard. And I mean really hard. Harder than normal photography. I’ve been taking photos on land for 40 years now, but I started with the underwater stuff only about eight years ago. And I found out pretty quickly that many things I take for granted when photographing on land can be really challenging to overcome in the water. Things I never even thought about, like focusing on the subject, or even seeing the subject in the viewfinder. Or breathing. When I’ve told friends about these challenges they’ve seemed interested, generally because it’s things they’ve not considered, so I thought I’d share my experiences here in case it’s of interest to ZooChatters who might be contemplating venturing below the waterline with their cameras. Firstly, a couple of caveats: · I am not a professional photographer. Just an enthusiastic amateur. · I photograph underwater wildlife, not scenic expanses of underwater landscapes (in other words, I use a macro lens, not a wide angle). · I pretty much only do underwater photography in the tropics (around coral reefs). · I use a DSLR with a 100mm macro lens in an underwater housing. I also have a pocket-type underwater camera and three Go-Pros, but I won’t be talking about them too much. However, a lot of what I say applies to them as well, from one degree to another. My ‘Rig’ I use a Canon EOS 550D camera with a Canon 100mm Macro lens in a Nauticam underwater housing. The camera and lens cost less than $1,000 each but the housing cost $3600. That’s because it is custom built for that specific camera body; when placed in the housing the camera is locked into place so it can’t move at all and that way the levers and knobs on the outside of the housing line up precisely with the buttons and dials on the camera body inside. And, of course, it keeps the water out. Nauticam make their housings out of dense, solid plastic and stainless steel which adds to the expense, but it has taken a beating on occasion without any issues. The back has a glass panel to enable you to view the screen on the back of the camera, and has a viewport that lines up with the camera’s viewfinder. A large curved lever on the side activates the shutter button. The front of the housing that encompasses the lens is called the port, and the port is detachable. They come in a few sizes depending on how big your lens is, as you want the end of the lens to be right up against the glass of the port (or very close to it). As I said, I use a 100mm lens which is the longest lens they make ports for (or it was when I bought the housing 6 years ago). All the other ports are for standard or wide-angle lenses (wide-angle and fish-eye are the most popular lenses for underwater photography). The reason I use the 100mm Macro is because I want to photograph the wildlife, not the scenery, and the 100mm is best for that, especially the smaller things like gobies, shrimps and nudibranchs. It also means I can get a good shot of a large fish 10 metres away from me, but a large fish closer than that and I won’t be able to fit it all in the frame. I usually also carry a Canon Powershot D20 underwater pocket camera, but it’s only waterproof to around 20 metres. It will go deeper – I’ve taken it down to 40 metres - without any problems, apart from the fact it won’t work any deeper than 20 metres. Canon Powershot D20 – you can see it’s taken a beating but it still works well. On the rare occasion when I want a wide shot of an underwater scene, or a photo of a large fish that won’t fit in the frame of the DSLR, then the D20 comes in handy. It also has good video capabilities, and sometimes I film something I want recorded, like a group of fish feeding, or a circling shark (the DSLR I have doesn’t have movie capabilities). I actually started off my underwater photography with its predecessor, the D10, and used it for a couple of years before getting the Nauticam. It has a 5x optical zoom but goes up to 20x digitally, but I only ever zoom in the optical range. If I had to zoom to 20x, it would have to be out of water and under very good conditions, and even then I’m not sure about the quality of the images. Underwater seen taken with the Canon D20 This footage of a circling Silky Shark was recorded by the Canon D20 I also have three GoPros, but I don’t use them as much as I did some years ago. I find they are good for recording the entire dive, but on my chest or on my head the view gets impeded by my DSLR a lot. Having said that, there is something I do with my GoPro I can’t do with the other cameras. I have a weight I carry that has a GoPro mount cable-tied to it. On a dive I can remove the weight, attach the GoPro, and set the whole lot on a rock or piece of dead coral, pointed at a location I know fish will pass by, and then I can swim away and return later to see what went past. The weight is necessary because water currents and curious fish may knock the GoPro over (as I learnt on my first few attempts). GoPro pointed at Pink Anemonefish. The Orange-lined Triggerfish ‘owns’ the dead table coral I put the camera on and was very curious about it, and kept getting in my way while setting it up.