Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Diving With a Camera

Ah, to capture all the wonderful underwater scenes to share with everyone! It is the dream that many divers who are just starting out seem to have. We rush out and buy a camera and underwater housing and strobes and arms and all the gadgets that can be found. Once we have all the equipment we are ready! Or are we?

The first and most important aspect of underwater photography has nothing to do with f-stops, focus, subject or lighting, the most important aspect is proper buoyancy control. Buoyancy control is the difference between photographing that delicate coral frond and smacking into it and breaking it, it is the difference between floating gently to a stop at depth and smashing into the bottom stirring up silt and destroying visibility. We must have proper control of ourselves before we can hope to take that perfect shot.

In order to have control underwater you must be properly weighted to maintain proper trim in the water. Proper trim is usually horizontal with the head slightly up and feet slightly down, not more than a 5-10 degree up angle. Having A feet up posture or a too-vertical heads up posture (the “Marching Through Georgia” posture I call it) results in too much effort, too large an air consumption rate and lack of proper depth control. Flailing arms, bicycling feet, bouncing like a yo-yo are all signs that you aren’t in control underwater.

So, first, if you have no clue as too how to get control, take a buoyancy control class and take control of yourself underwater.

The next thing that is critical is learning to take the time to smell the anemones …well... anyway look real close at them. If you are rushing underwater you will never take good photos. Find a dive buddy that doesn’t mind spending an entire dive on one coral head and relax and enjoy it.

Finally, take a long time to learn good technique. I took pictures on land for years before I took my first underwater pictures, yet I learn more each time I take a camera underwater. Learn good composition and it will help your underwater shots.

Once you take good photos on land then you can take good photos underwater, know your equipment.

I began with a manual Nikonos IV film camera. Knowing that I had a maximum of 24 or 36 shots forced me to be sure that a picture was the picture I wanted before I took it. I admit, now, using a digital camera, I tend to shotgun my shots, taking many more than I should in the hope that one will turn out, usually because I am rushed and can’t (or won’t) take the time to frame a good shot. Just because you can take 200 photos in a single dive doesn’t mean you should, if you want that many shots, shoot video.

Be careful, be courteous, be the type of diver you want to dive with. If you are meant to get the picture you will get it whether you push your way in to others shots or in on their view of that which you what you want to take a picture. Everyone hates the camera toting moron that thinks just because they have a camera they have an intrinsic right to barge all over the reef, latch onto delicate coral to anchor themselves for what usually turns out to be a mediocre shot at best. Be patient, take your time, if you wait, have good buoyancy and don’t disturb the water, guess what?...most shots will come back. Don’t chase shots, believe me all underwater life that is mobile can easily out run you.

Ok, so you got the shot (you hope) you put it on the computer, open the file and…wait!...it’s all blue! I am afraid that the human mind is a great fooler, it fills in color it “knows” is in there, unfortunately cameras do not. Unless you shoot with special filters and lights your shots will end up with more blue than you would like due to the absorbing of light frequencies like red, orange and yellow at depths of 20 FSW and greater. However, don’t despair, this can be fixed, you will need a program such as Photoshop. You use the color correction option to add in a bit of red (actually, what it does is increase the value for the red pixels already in the picture for digital shots) and turn down the green and blue values. Adjust them just until it reflects what you saw, resist trying to make it better. In some cases a picture may appear to be completely useless, however, try adjusting the levels to bring out the background details.

If you can get your buoyancy under control, be polite and patient and learn a bit of basic photography techniques your underwater photography work should be enjoyable, both for you and the people you dive with.

(For a PDF versions with pictures go to: http://www.authorsden.com/ArticlesUpload/24113.pdf)