Underwater Photography

Clam, color corrected

Technical: Canon G11, 1/60 sec, f4, focal length 6.1

Underwater photography is a work in progress for me. There is equipment and there is technique. And then there is light. As you go deeper the reds are lost first. Finally all is blue green. This is hardly appealing. I have tried to photograph while snorkeling.

Read more… For my efforts I fried an underwater Nikon film camera in Cancun, Mexico. After that I tried an underwater housing in Belize with a Nikon point and shoot digital. Ditto, I fried this one also. Luckily it had insurance that came with the housing. I was reimbursed for the cost of the camera. I tried whitewater rafting in Maine with a silicone housing for the same Nikon (replacement). It actually worked in the rapids. I didn’t go deep. When I learned that I would be diving during my visit to Saudi Arabia in December, I invested in an underwater camera that didn’t require a housing. It’s still nerve racking. There are warnings all over the instructions to avoid water leakage inside the camera. The choice was Canon or Panasonic. The Panasonic was the better (latest) choice. Canon has since upgraded its model and Nikon now has a spiffy camera on the market. However there is a drawback. None of these simple point and shoots is made to go deeper than about 30 feet (10 meters). So much for scuba, you go to 40 meters. Well actually you hang at around 20 meters. The next series are lessons learned and in progress. First I made another investment. I’m glad I did. At least so far things are working out. Nothing fried yet. My back up camera and sometimes favorite, the Canon G11, has been a mainstay for me since arriving in Saudi Arabia. It’s small enough to be unobtrusive. I have been doing a ton of street photography. I am largely ignored by the population as I shoot from the hip and catch local life around me. Of course the fish don’t mind me photographing. I got the Canon housing for the G11/G12. The instructions are daunting. Water and electronics (digital cameras) don’t mix. You need to use silicone grease to complete the water seal. The way it reads, one false step and “fried Canon G11.” I’m no stranger to fried, so I was suitably apprehensive. Well, the first dive went fabulously well. The waterproof housing held. And the second…. Yes!!! It did again. So on to technique… I tried auto white balance. Why not? The camera and computer are so smart. In two feet of water, it’s fine. Deeper than that the blue/green is the overwhelming color tint. Red is gone. You can’t really compensate for missing red in Photoshop. Conclusion: don’t use auto white balance. There is a setting in ‘scene’ for ‘underwater’ photography. So that was the next thing to try. It’s a little better. Photoshop was able to compensate somewhat. The color balance was still tilted to the blue/green shades. On the next try, I used the diffusion filter and the built-in flash. That little lithium battery has enough power to let me shoot for two hours underwater using the flash. It tended to overexpose the image. The other thing to notice is that the flash preserves reds. So things that have no particular ‘pop’ are suddenly rich with potential. You wonder what the fish see? Anyway rust colored coral was suddenly bright red… fire coral? And some fish are neon iridescent! I still may have to go to off camera flash. But that’s another investment.

4303 4303a

Technical: Canon G11, 1/400 sec, f2.8, focal length 6.1

Color correction will get you only so far. I know that the real color is orange red. So I color corrected in Photoshop. It’s a bit contrasty and oversaturated. By the way this pair of fish protect the coral in the background. They actually swim at you when you swim too close. On the technical side, I let the camera stay in auto mode for exposure and ISO. I also shot in wide angle. I held the camera in hand without using the viewfinder or LCD (street photography technique). You get a lot of misses. This is partly because there is a lag from the time you press the shutter and when the image is taken. It’s all in the timing. Composition is simply swimming as close to the fish as you can and fire before they swim off. Drifting into place with your hand out in front and camera turned toward the fish works most of the time. Everything, diver and fish, is moving simultaneously. So far my percentage of good shots is low.


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