Taking Great Photos Underwater
Copyright 2006 Rob Daniels
The Nikonos, manufactured by Nikon, was the first true underwater camera and to this day remains the industry standard. Nikon has discontinued their first-rate Nikonos line of underwater cameras and lenses, although you may still find the Nikonos on the used market or eBay.
Underwater photography is a great way to record your experience with non-divers of the wonderful world below the waves.
If you simply want an underwater camera for a day, you might want to consider either a Kodak or a Fuji single-use disposable camera. For those beginning in the field of underwater photography, an inexpensive waterproof disposable camera can be a good way to get started. Some of the disposable underwater cameras are equipped with an integrated flash unit.
One of the difficulties casual snorkelers and divers who are attempting underwater photography struggle with is the lack of visibility in the view finder on underwater cameras. Too many commercially built underwater cameras cases merely depend on lining up dots, which isn't sufficient for proper composition of underwater pictures. Very few underwater cameras have a finder large enough to be used accurately underwater.
Serious enthusiasts who want the advantages of a single-lens reflex auto-focus camera may prefer a land camera in an underwater housing. Some of the more advanced and specialized cameras have an underwater mode that change the features, operation, or interface of the camera for underwater use. Imagine having an underwater camera that takes 220 shots at 12 million pixels that you can see and delete underwater. When most people think about shooting digital pictures underwater, they think of large underwater camera housings, intricate flash strobes and a very large budget. But that is not always the case Canon is making an entire line of underwater housings for many of its digital point-and-shoot cameras in the PowerShot line. While serious underwater photography still requires higher-end equipment, these cameras and housings can produce some very good results. Digital cameras can also afford more shooting time underwater with a larger 1-gig compact flash card.
Another important item to consider before taking any underwater shots is the proper camera lens. The basic camera systems available for underwater photography have a thirty-five millimeter lens.
There are some real disadvantages to underwater photography. One particular challenge in underwater photography is the use of a flash. Flash photography underwater is limited in range to about 8 ft at the extreme, 4-6 ft commonly.
Browse through any collection of (good) underwater photography, and you will see that every image is either macro or wide-angle, without exception. For this reason alone, many divers new to underwater photography start by concentrating on macro subjects. Doing macro underwater shares many of the same concepts as shooting on dry land. The trick is to shoot close with a wide angle with an auto-focus camera because depth of field underwater is very unforgiving. If you're a new to underwater photography, four feet should be the maximum distance from which to photograph your subject. When you are estimating the camera-to-subject distance underwater you are estimating the apparent distance, the actual distance is 25 percent further away.
Remember Underwater Photography starts as skill development, then composition followed by technique and finely artistic realization. Many of the rules of land photography still apply underwater but they must be used with some thought. The irony of underwater photography is that for all its beauty, the biggest enemy is the water itself. Unlike taking photos topside, when reloading is a simple process, cameras cannot be reloaded underwater.
Even if you are not using it for underwater use, sand and sea air can damage the delicate mechanisms within the camera. To take effective pictures underwater you need to be able to concentrate on your subject and the operation of your camera equipment. Underwater photography is great fun, but getting good results is extremely tricky and the equipment is very expensive.