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Underwater Photography - the extra challenges

Discussion in 'Animal Photography' started by Hix, 31 Mar 2018.

  1. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands 15+ year member Premium Member

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    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’

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]
    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.

    [​IMG]
    Underwater seen taken with 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).

     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
  2. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands 15+ year member Premium Member

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    Snorkelling vs Scuba Diving

    Although many of the challenges I will describe apply to both snorkelling and scuba diving, each discipline also has its own unique obstacles. Personally, I prefer diving over snorkelling for both photographic and non-photographic reasons but I still enjoy snorkelling when I can’t go for a dive. I will mention issues related to snorkelling, but most of my focus will be on diving.

    For the rest of this discussion I’ll use the word ‘diving’ to refer to scuba diving, and the term ‘duck-diving’ to refer to a snorkeler who takes a deep breath of air and then swims downwards for a few metres.


    Breathing

    Let’s get this one out of the way first, as for most people it’s likely to be the most obvious issue, at least for snorkelers.

    When floating on the surface with a snorkel, breathing should not be a problem at all unless the water is particularly rough. However, in most cases everything you are looking at will be below you. And that’s fine if you’re not taking photos. But if you are taking pictures, floating on the surface is OK if you’re photographing a starfish, or a sea cucumber, or a clam. But if you want to get an image of a fish, then you’ll most likely be looking down on their backs, which don’t make for good pictures. As most fish are laterally compressed a view from above is of a rather thin creature.

    [​IMG]
    This view of a wrasse from above tells you little about the fish.
    The way around this is to duck-dive down a couple of metres to see the fish at their depth, then get a nice profile shot of it swimming past. Of course, it’s never that simple. If you duck-dive down from directly above the fish, it will take fright and bolt, usually into a hole in the coral or the rocks and you won’t see it again. I usually swim a few metres away, swim down a few metres and then swim towards the fish. It might still bolt when I get close, but I have a better chance of getting a photo. But there are problems with this as well: duck-diving involves a lot of movement and creates turbulence in the water which might panic other fish, and that panic may spread to your subject. Also, when diving down you have to put your head down and take your eyes of the fish, and when you get to your desired depth and look again the fish may have lazily swum behind a rock and you can’t find it (this happens quite frequently, more than 50% of the time for fast moving fish like wrasses).

    And even if it doesn’t swim away and you can get right up to it, the fish might not be in an ideal position – it might have it’s back to you (frequently), be sitting behind another fish, or behind a piece of coral. And this is where breathing becomes an issue because the fish might take a minute or more before it’s in the right position. Once you return to the surface for air you have to start the whole process all over again.

    Obviously, scuba diving doesn’t have that problem – you’re already at depth and you have a plentiful supply of air so you can approach your subject slowly so as not to scare it, wait as long as necessary to get the shot you want, and even slowly follow your subject if it moves away.

    Some smaller fish and invertebrates – like shrimp and gobies – will be spooked by a fast moving snorkeler but will allow a very slow-moving diver to get quite close. However, the bubbles when a diver exhales and the associated noise may also frighten your subject. Also, depending on the angle, the bubbles may flow up in front of the lens making it difficult to see your subject and focus. So, for these two reasons I often find myself holding my breath when trying to take a photo, something you are emphatically taught in diving school not to do (and is not something I recommend or endorse).
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
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  3. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands 15+ year member Premium Member

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    Light

    One of the obvious advantages of scuba diving is being able to easily descend and remain for longer periods at a greater depth then a snorkeler usually would. On a coral reef and in the ocean there are many creatures that prefer living at depths of 20 metres or more and avoid the surface. Creatures that snorkelers rarely ever see.

    But the deeper you go the less light there is, and at depth the light you see is missing colours.

    In the first few metres there isn’t much colour loss; however red has usually disappeared by five metres, yellow by about 13 metres, and green at around 20 metres. After that it’s all just shades of blue-grey and black until 200 metres, after which the light is almost gone completely and then it rapidly gets blacker the deeper you go. Additionally, the water absorbs colours travelling horizontally through the water the same way. Which is why, in the photo below, the corals in the foreground are in colour but those further away are in shades of blue.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    At 30 metres there is very little colour, except blue and grey.

    Up until about 30 metres our brains are able to compensate somewhat to see colours, but the camera can’t which can be annoying. And the colours your eyes see are often not as brilliant as what the colours actually are.

    [​IMG]
    This lionfish was seen at around 10 metres depth, and the ambient light gives the sand and coral a blue/greenish colour.

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    When photographed with a strobe the proper colours of the sand and coral are displayed.

    Snorkelers don’t really need to worry about colour loss that much as they rarely go below 5 metres, and in full sun the colourful coral reef fishes just pop with colour. Some are so brilliant they look like they have lights inside them. However, if you are facing into the sun then your photos will not be as good, as the sun in the water can wash out the picture. And on shallow reefs close to the surface the sun can create hotpots as it passes through surface waves, also detracting from your image (like taking a photograph that is half in sun and half in shade).

    [​IMG]
    Like normal photography, you should always avoid shooting into the sun, as it creates shadows and areas of over- and under-exposure. Underwater shooting into the sun can wash out a photo (and this is a mild case).

    [​IMG]
    The sun passing through ripples on the surface creates hotspots on both the fish and the reef, which is very distracting.

    For scuba divers wanting to take photos at greater depths you need an external light source to get a true representation of colour. A strobe or two is usually attached to the camera housing, although the distance the light from the strobe travels is effectively only a few metres. Compact cameras usually have a built in flash but again, only subjects within a couple of metres of the camera will benefit from the flash, so you really need to be close to your subject. The idea of the flash/strobe is to replace the ambient light with the strobe’s bright light (which is similar to sunlight) to correctly record the colours, so the closer you are to the subject the more effective it will be. On overcast days, in deeper water, and at night, the light will obviously travel further and have a greater effect. But being as close to the subject as possible will result in better images colourwise.

    [​IMG]
    You might just be able to discern some red on this Freckled Hawkfish, photographed in 15 metres with ambient light.

    Below is the same fish photographed with a strobe.

    [​IMG]

    The downside to getting really close, especially to something sitting on white sand, is that the strobe/flash may result in an image that is overexposed if you don’t change your settings. And changing your settings takes time, during which your subject may vanish. However, I’ve found that my RAW photos can often be corrected easily in Lightroom (and I would assume Photoshop can do the same) later on so I often don’t worry too much about overexposure unless I know it’s going to be excessive.

    At the other end of the scale, because I have a 100mm lens, for larger fish I need to photograph them from a distance to get the whole fish in, and some species are naturally shy and won’t come within 20 metres of you; with these you have no choice but to use the available light.

    With a DSLR increasing the ISO will mean light from further away can be detected, so it has the effect of increasing the range of your flash, but also the added issues of ‘noise’. Opening up the iris will also achieve this, but will also let in more ambient light. See the next section on Depth of Field for other considerations regarding f-stops.

    One benefit of a compact underwater camera like my D20 is that they have a setting for underwater use which compensates for the red colour loss. However, If you’re snorkelling and taking pictures in less than three metres you need to reset the camera for normal use or the image will have a strong red tint. And if you are at 15 metres and are trying to photograph something where the light is not good and you need to use the flash (like under a rock overhang or in the entrance to a cave), you again need to reset the settings or the picture will be again have a red tint.

    [​IMG]
    This Longtom should be a silvery-blue, but looks red because the pocket camera is still set in underwater mode.

    One other issue with flashes and strobes is that if there are particles in the water (and your eyes might not perceive them) the flash will reflect off every particle, creating small, opaque, white circles and gives the image a speckled appearance. Divers can minimise this by having the strobe held off to the side, but pocket underwater cameras have the flash next to the lens so it’s difficult to avoid the speckles.

    There’s also a similar effect I call sunspots (there’s probably a technical term but I’m not familiar with it). It occurs when a small bubble of air gets stuck on the lens, but you don’t know about it until later when viewing the photo on your computer and you see a misty-white, semi-translucent circle caused as the light passes through the air bubble. Sometimes they can be cropped out, other times they are in a key part of the photo and there’s nothing you can do. This effect rarely occurs on the DSLR, but is more frequent on the smaller pocket underwater unit, especially in shallower waters.

    [​IMG]
    This photo of a Big-eye has suffered from four sunspots. In this case it isn’t the actual sunlight, but reflection of the flash, that has caused this effect.

    [​IMG]
    This photo has been ruined by multiple sunspots. I had just jumped into the water and the splash caused a myriad of small bubbles, many of which attached to the lens of the D20.

    Lastly – the strobe/flash will probably scare your subject when it goes off, so try to make the first shot count as you may not get another chance.
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
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  4. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands 15+ year member Premium Member

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    Depth of Field

    When photographing things on land, particularly wildlife or in low light situations, you achieve a faster shutter speed by opening up the iris (or having a low f-stop). But in the water when using a flash/strobe, you want to keep out any ambient light and the best way of doing this is to have a smaller aperture (or a higher f-stop). Also the ocean will appear as different shades of blue at different f-stops, so it helps to take some test pictures to see which shade of blue you like best. I have my camera manually set to take images at 1/125th or 1/250th of a second at f8.

    [​IMG]
    I like this shade of blue.

    However, if I’m taking pictures at 20 metres, on a reef wall that’s in shadow and the subject is a few metres away beyond the range of the strobe, I have to reset the camera to an automatic setting otherwise I’ll just end up with a black picture.


    The Water Quality

    It might not be something you think about immediately, but water quality can severely affect photography. In the shallows near a sandy beach the sand is often churned up by the water (or people, or even fish) and small particles cloud the water giving it a misty appearance. This isn’t ideal for photography at all. And using a flash here can ruin a photo because the light from the flash will bounce off all the little particulates and you get an image with white speckles everywhere. Away from the sand on coral reefs, or near limestone cliffs, or on a reef wall, the water can be very clear, but coral atolls after rains you sometimes get fresh water percolating through the limestone and into the ocean. The cold freshwater doesn’t mix with the saltwater very well at first and it makes everything look very blurry.

    [​IMG]
    This triggerfish is less than 2 metres from the camera, but in shallower, sandy water which has had a lot of silt stirred up, creating this misty yellow effect.
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
  5. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    Wicksteed is not a zoo
    Your images aren't loading for me
     
  6. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands 15+ year member Premium Member

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    The Subject

    My usual subjects are fish, but I like photographing the invertebrates too. Some slow moving inverts like sea cucumbers, starfish, urchins and nudibranchs are relatively easy to photograph as they usually just sit there and do nothing (and if they do actually do something, they do it very slowly). Some fish, like gobies, morays, some groupers (the rockcods) and hawkfish will also sit in one position and will often let you approach closely for a photo. But most fish will be busy swimming and can be a real challenge. And, like terrestrial animals, as soon as they see a camera they will turn their back on you.

    [​IMG]
    The back-end of a fish is even less interesting than the rear view of a mammal, bird, or reptile.

    Most species of fish don’t like you getting too close. If they think you are targeting them (particularly if they swim away and you follow) they will disappear into a hole in the reef and you won’t see them again. Some fish don’t care and will continue to feed while you are waiting for them to turn and give you that perfect profile shot. Some will be upside-down, or positioning themselves in a way that just doesn’t make for a good photo. Some fish, like damsels in the genus Stegastes (commonly known as Gregorys) are territorial and confrontational, and they will swim right up to your face (or your camera) and stare at you, moving a little from side to side but maintaining the frontal visual assault. Again, this doesn’t make for a good image.

    [​IMG]
    This little clownfish (a damsel) was trying to stare me down.

    But the problem with most fish is they are fast, and just following them with the camera is hard enough, let alone trying to focus or wait for them to be in a good position. Most of the smaller wrasses are like that, constantly on the move, and some like the Birdnose Wrasse, or those in the genus Thalassoma are moving so fast it’s like they’re late for an appointment. And they don’t move in a straight line either – they zigzag erratically!

    Fish also seem to have an innate ability to know when you are trying to focus – they will be sitting quietly on a rock or lazily swimming past and as soon as you depress the shutter halfway to focus, the fish suddenly panics, flicks its tail and is gone before you can get the photo. Maybe they can hear the lens motor as it starts to focus, I’m not sure, but it happens too frequently to be a coincidence (in my opinion). Of course, not all fish do this, but a good proportion of them do!

    Pocket underwater cameras tend to use an invisible laser or beam of light to assist focusing, and the fish may be able to see, or feel the laser, because they frequently bolt or disappear when you try to focus with those cameras too.

    One other thing with DSLRs – because of the way they focus (on areas of high contrast), the camera has trouble focusing on subjects that are a uniform black or dark grey. Many’s a time I’ve tried to photograph a Black Triggerfish, or a Whitecheeked Surgeonfish, only to have the camera constantly hunting for focus until the fish swims away.

    [​IMG]
    One of the commonest fishes on Christmas Island, found in the hundreds, is the Black Triggerfish. This is one of only three or four photos I have of this species because the DSLR can’t focus on the black body.


    Framing the subject

    Being able to frame the subject in the viewfinder is something we generally take for granted. On land it’s fairly straightforward to stick your eye on the viewfinder and see the whole frame – essentially what the camera sees. But underwater it’s a bit different.

    Firstly, because the camera is in the underwater housing there is a gap between the back of the camera and the viewfinder, however the manufacturers of the housing have compensated for that by having a magnified viewport aligned with the viewfinder. Secondly, when underwater, you’re wearing a face mask which you have to press up against the viewing port, and sometimes your snorkel, hair, or strobe cable gets in the way. Thirdly, when you have your mask against the viewport, your eyes are not right up against the glass of your mask – they’re probably a centimetre from the facemask glass. So you end up with your eye a little over a centimetre from a magnified viewport that gives you a view of about 80% of the frame. You have to move your head around a bit to see the whole frame, which is time consuming when dealing with fish or other moving objects. My solution is to just look at the centre of the image and make sure what I want is framed in the part I can see. If the subject extends a little out of my field of view then I just have to hope that they are still within the cameras field of view.

    [​IMG]
    This image of two different phases of the Half-spotted Hawkfish suffered because the lower fish is not fully within the frame, a result of not being able to see the frame fully.

    There have been times when I’ve had something framed, depressed the shutter lever to focus, and found that I’m not looking at the centre of the frame but slightly off to one side (I determine this easily as I use the centre focus point as the only active focusing point; with underwater scenes it’s not always easy to see the where the centre point is and I have often mistaken another focus point for the centre point, and the real one lights up when focusing; I have to shift the camera and refocus and hope for the best as moving my head around to the best position takes too long).

    A question you may be asking is – ‘if using the viewfinder is complicated, why not use the Live-View function which displays the image on the cameras screen?’ Well, you can do that but the only problem is when you depress the shutter button it takes about half a second for the image to be recorded and in that time, your subject may have gone. For wide-angle scenic shots it would be OK, I guess, but not for wildlife.

    One other difference to photographing normally on land – when looking at a bird or a mammal with one eye on the viewfinder, I often open the other eye to see what’s going on around the subject outside the camera’s view. If I’m photographing an individual bird that is part of a flock it helps to be able to see if other parts of the flock are about to fly through the frame when I’m taking the photo, so I can wait until my subject is clear. Or if my subject is a juvenile elephant my open eye watches the adults to make sure they aren’t approaching me (I don’t know if anybody else does this).

    But I can’t do this underwater as the housing is so large it blocks my view. As a result I often have my subject perfectly framed and in focus and when I depress the shutter a fish swims in front of the subject ruining the image. And this is a frequent and annoying occurrence. Also, it means I only see what’s in the viewfinder and I miss everything else going on around me unless my buddies can get my attention. I’ve missed seeing sharks and manta rays in this way.

    But while the problems associated with something as simple as framing the subject are annoying, they pale in comparison to the constant frustrations posed by the next challenge.
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
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  7. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands 15+ year member Premium Member

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    Focusing and Keeping the Camera Steady

    If your subject is not in focus, or the cameras moves, you will end up with the same result – a fuzzy picture – so getting sharp focus and keeping the camera immobile will help to ensure a good image. These are two of the most fundamental basics of photography whether you’re photographing on land, underwater, or in outer space. To eliminate movement many photographers use a tripod, or if handheld they might brace themselves against a fixed object, or use a fast shutter speed. If you’re using a strobe underwater then you can set your shutter speed to 1/125 or 1/200th of a second, or any other speed depending on the strobe unit. On land these two fundamentals – focus and immobility - are usually not a problem (except for beginners to photography), but underwater they are my biggest challenge for pretty much every picture I take, and for one reason – water movement.

    Along a vertical reef wall you almost always find a current, sometimes strong and sometimes gentle, that will be pushing you along. Stopping to photograph something means I have to kick in the opposite direction to remain relatively stationary in the water. What is sometimes easier is to grab a rock with my left hand and just hang on and trying to brace the camera against my left arm or a piece of rock to steady it because the current will be pushing it too.

    But when there is no current, or in more sheltered areas, there are tidal movements, a gentle wash towards the shoreline, followed by a gentle push away from shore. Often so gentle you don’t even notice it. In shallower waters near the shore the wash is usually stronger. Even if the water surface is completely flat, underwater there is almost always some gentle back-and-forth movement. And when the water moves, so does a diver and his camera.

    When taking a photo normally you have your finger on the shutter button, depress the button halfway to focus – about a millimetre – and then all the way to take the photo – another millimetre. The last step takes a fraction of a second. On my underwater setup a trigger-shaped lever is pulled by my finger toward me about a centimetre to focus, and then a further centimetre to take the image. That last step of taking the image takes up to a quarter of a second, not just because of the distance my finger has to move the trigger but also because of the density of the water. I could move my finger faster when pulling the lever but that would jar the camera slightly ruining the picture. Even though a quarter of a second is not a long time, the water movement may be pulling me away from the subject while I’m focusing, so even when focus is achieved I may already be moving away from the subject and know that the subject will be out of focus by the time the image is taken. (This wouldn’t be so much of a problem for someone using a wide-angled lens, but using a macro which has a narrow depth of field, it’s a major issue). What’s worse is when I’m pushed towards the subject, as there’s the added risk of scaring the subject, and in some cases I’ve been pushed so far the subject is behind me. A similar annoyance is buoyancy - instead of being pushed closer or further from the subject, while focusing you feel yourself floating upwards and away from the subject.

    To overcome this, I often vent the air in my vest to become negatively buoyant (or heavier) so I can lie on the bottom or on a rock. This resolves the buoyancy issue and the gentle wash is usually not an issue although stronger ones can sometimes move me a bit. This technique works well with small creatures sitting on the sand, or on a rock, or on coral in front of me. However, with small creatures, as I mentioned in a previous post in this thread, I sometimes hold my breath so as not to scare the subject, and holding your breath makes you slightly buoyant, so the front half of your body may start to float upwards a foot or so until you exhale. Many creatures, I’ve found, are more tolerant of a diver that is horizontal on the ground, but will swim for cover if you suddenly rise upwards to a more vertical position – and therefore appearing larger and more threatening. Both buoyancy and currents can do this. Trying to prevent the movement by waving arms or legs just shifts your centre of balance and you can end up slowly spinning or rotating out of position and having to swim away and come back and start again. Swearing loudly through your mouthpiece makes absolutely no difference whatsoever, and doesn’t even make you feel better.

    I should mention that lying on the substrate has inherent risks and I always check before I position myself. Rocks and coral are sharp – the latter particularly so – and I usually have a few cuts and scrapes on my legs after every dive. On night dives the risk of injury is much greater and worse – sea urchins. They’re nocturnal and come out in large numbers on both rocks and sand so I have to be careful when near any part of the reef. Small urchins are harder to see but just as painful when you get impaled.

    Two other focusing challenges – small fishes or invertebrates that are fast moving and you can’t get close to are a nightmare as getting the single active focus point on them is hard. And because cameras focus on areas of high contrast, some fish – like completely black fish – the camera cannot focus on and the lens just hunts continuously. I’m not even going to mention translucent shrimp.
     
    Last edited: 31 Mar 2018
  8. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    Wicksteed is not a zoo
    That's the only image that has loaded so far.
     
  9. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands 15+ year member Premium Member

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    Pros and Cons of my different cameras
    For anyone wanting to get into underwater photography, to summarise the pros and cons of the different cameras I have, here are my opinions on the cameras I have.

    DSLR in an underwater housing (Canon 550D, Canon 100mm Macro, Nauticam 550D housing, Inon Z240 strobe)
    The best option for getting good images, but takes a bit of getting used to, and a lot of money. And upgrades also are very expensive (i.e new camera body means you need a new housing specifically designed for that body). The entire rig is bulky, heavy, and a bit more labour intensive than the other cameras below. But for a diver it is still the best option.

    Pocket Underwater Camera (Canon Powershot D20)
    Good for people wanting to get into underwater photography, or see how hard it is. However, the units don’t function below 20 metres (there might now be some models that can go to 30 metres). Underwater setting to compensate for loss of light. Built in flash. Wide-angle lens but also has a zoom, which can be helpful. I usually use this camera for large things like big schools of fish, whales, sharks, or scenic images. Also has video function to record .mov files.


    GoPro (versions 1, 2 and 3)
    I didn’t speak much about GoPro because I don’t use mine that much anymore. It has a fixed wide angle lens, can go very deep, can take photos or shoot movies, but has no colour compensation. No flash or movie light, although there are units made by third parties designed to attach to the unit. GoPro is also wearable, and can be attached to your chest, wrist, or head, as well as being carried in the traditional way. (I should also point out that GoPro are now up to version 6, and that later models might have added functionality - they also have a setup to shoot in 3D).

    As mentioned in my first post in this thread, there is one thing I have done in the past with the GoPro which I can’t do with the others cameras. I have a spare weight for my weightbelt to which I have cable-tied a GoPro mount. On occasion I have removed the weight from my pocket, attached the GoPro, and set it down on a piece of the reef pointing at a hole in the rock, or an anemone, then swam away and returned 10 or 15 minutes later to collect it. I can then watch the video later to see what I missed. (Note: the weight is to keep the camera relatively still – water movements, ocean currents and some inquisitive fish may knock the camera over if not weighted down).

    [​IMG]


    In summary
    Underwater photography is a challenging hobby, with colourful and exciting subjects you don’t generally see on land. I wrote this mainly as an opportunity to vent (because those currents really annoy the crap out of me) but hopefully it will also have been of interest to some of our ZooChatters with cameras, and maybe some will even take up the challenge of photography below the surface.
     
  10. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands 15+ year member Premium Member

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    Yeah, sorry about that. Hopefully they're working now?

    :p

    Hix
     
    littleRedPanda likes this.
  11. Welsh Zootographer

    Welsh Zootographer Well-Known Member

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    Wales/Cymru
    An excellent introduction to underwater photography. I did a bit of it back in 2002/3, using an Olympus 2040 in underwater housing the first season and moving up to an Olympus 5050 in underwater housing the second. Buoyancy whilst using the camera was always my problem as not using my legs my arms were required for that so really could have done with four to use the camera as well.

    Though I did have some success, I managed to gain the 1 Star Nature Division award from the Photographic Society of America (at least 6 different images accepted in to at least 18 international photography exhibitions recognised by the PSA) using only underwater photographs. :)
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member 15+ year member

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    I do that quite often when photographing wild animals.

    I liked this thread, even though I have no intention of ever going diving. Even for Coelacanths.
     
  13. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    England
    Great article on something that honestly doesn't come up very often at all! Really great to read about the challenges and ways you've found to overcome or deal with them and to also get a look in at an area of photography that, even in the digital age, is still very niche!

    The aspects relating to colour are particularly interesting as its something I'd not even considered and yet it turns its out its actually a complex situation!