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Why Underwater Photography is so much harder....
This image of a clown fish is a good example of why I get so frustrated shooting underwater....(Thank goodness we are digital, I cannot imagine what it would have been like to learn underwater with film!)
Why Underwater Photography is so much harder than surface shooting:
1. Water Particles. Sometimes its a condition of waves / wind / climate, sometimes its because you accidentally kicked it off the ocean floor or coral. Water clarity is everything in underwater photography, you cannot do much without it. Using a flash with high particulate matter makes things worse creating a "Back Scatter" effect.
2. Light follows different rules in water. Light moves slower, as well as it absorbs different colored wavelengths at different depths. You lose your reds after about 5-10 feet deep. The only way to get those colors back is to introduce light where you are, hence underwater strobes.
3. Deeper you go, less good light you have, obviously.
4. The Strobes are very limited and really only good for about 6-10 feet max.
5. There is a constant and often unpredictable motion of currents back and forth. Think about shooting on land and having someone constantly push you right as you are about to take the shot. This happens over and over.
6. Most of your subjects have absolutely no interest in co-operating with you, and can swim very quickly. With the limitation on distance of your strobe, it means you have to creep up on your subjects with excruciating patience. Move too quick and they are gone in an instant. Oh ya, that flash you use? It will spook 80% of them on the first shot, so if you don't get it right the first time, you wont get another opportunity.
7. Hard to focus- it depends on your housing, but you will probably have to focus with the cameras focusing systems. Without a fast focusing lens it can be very difficult to get your subject in focus. Be prepared to have many blurry shots.
8. Sometimes hard to change settings- be it because of the housing controls, or your ability to see the settings. I had one of my control contacts go out on me mid dive and wasn't able to change my exposure settings. I've also had flashes fail. When this happens, its not like you can pop the housing open and fix it…you are stuck with it for the rest of the dive and may not be able to use it all.
9. It requires a decent set of buoyancy control skills, namely, the amount you breathe controls your bouncy, and you have to find a happy rhythm where you can maintain your "altitude" when taking the shot.
10. All these variables add up. Its no longer about just exposure settings and composition, you have to worry about how much air you have, bouancy, when the next wave is coming, being patient with the shot, flash settings, backscatter, etc. Its a lot to think about and you can really consciously do it all until you have developed all a method to deal with everything as a reflex.
What I LOVE about shooting underwater photography:
1. First and foremost: the beautiful animal life! Its incredible!
2. I LOVE to find hidden creatures. Its like an easter egg hunt. I especially enjoy reading about new creatures and identifying them when I see them.
2. I also love that I am able to "fly" above my subjects and put myself into positions that are impossible on land. (Like shooting upside down for example).
3. I really like the challenge to learn a new type of photography.