Underwater Photography

Underwater photography is the process of taking pictures while being under the water. It is a very interesting activity that can be done while scuba diving or snorkeling. Taking pictures underwater requires specialized equipment and skills as a scuba diver or snorkeler.

While getting ready to get photographs underwater can be a bit a daunting task the rewards are well worth it. You can imagine yourself exploring a coral reef along the Punta Cana coast and capture the normally hidden wild life that lies under the sea. Pictures of ancient shipwrecks and other natural wonders like underwater caves are just a sample of what you can get if you decide to take on an adventure.

Photography vocabulary - terms to understand

In underwater photography there are certain technical words used to describe a procedure or piece of equipment that you must know in order to familiarize yourself with this amazing activity.

  • One easy to understand term is ambient light. This word refers to the natural light of the surroundings or sunlight that gets into the water.
  • An underwater casing or housing is a device where you can put a camera in and take it in the water; with it you can handle the camera without any risk of getting damaged.
  • Macro lens refer to specific lens that can be adhered to a camera or the housing which permits any photographer to get great photos at a very close distance from small targets.
  • O rings are a must to have as well. They are basically rings made of rubber that are used to make a seal so the water can’t get inside the equipment such as the underwater casing.
  • Underwater photography also requires the use of a strobe or flash. The strobe or flash is the artificial full spectrum light source that you should carry at all times when taking pictures underwater.
  • Wide-angle lens are necessary to take a good photo of a large target that is at close distance.
  • White balance is basically a camera setting that helps in the interpretation of the pixels while taking a picture.
  • Backscatter is simply spots that may appear in underwater photos as a result of light being reflected off particles.
  • TTL (through the lens) is a feature that some modern cameras have which allows the intensity of the strobe light to be corrected automatically.

Things you need to know before taking photos underwater

1- As you get underwater color and sharpness is greatly reduced so any picture that you wish to take has to be in a close proximity (1 meter or less preferably); in other words you have to get really close for a real good one.

2- Water absorbs certain colors like red, yellow and orange; without an artificial light or strobe you are likely to get blue pictures only.

3- Some camera models come with an internal flash; that is an excellent feature that can enhance the quality of your underwater photography.

4- When taking a photo try to do it at the same level that you are and not from above.

5- Before you even consider taking pictures under water you have to develop your diving and buoyancy skills to an appropriate level first.

6- Do not forget to activate the camera white balance feature whenever you are using a strobe or an internal flash.

7- Macro mode is your friend, keep in mind that you need it on if you are anywhere from approximately 2 inches to 2 feet from your target. If you get closer than that you won’t see a thing and if you are too far is better to set the macro off.

8- Zoom out as much as possible that way you will be able to use the macro mode more effectively; if you zoom in you won’t get much clarity in the picture.

9- If you are taking an underwater photography from more than 3 feet away is better to turn off the flash and use underwater mode. This is very useful when you want to keep a certain distance from your target.

10- Be sure to use “forced flash” for close distance photos to improve the color.

11- Underwater housings in cameras may come with a flash diffuser if yours has one use it.

12- Try your settings before heading into the water; the strobe, camera and housing should be tested with anticipation to correct any problems that might appear.

13- Whenever you are taking photos with only ambient light; try to do it in less than 21 feet of depth with the light coming from behind you.

14- When using an external strobe for underwater photography is important to keep it away from the camera housing as much as possible to avoid backscattering.

Getting the ideal Picture

First you have to choose a target for your photos; it can be coral, algae, a cat fish, a shark or even an octopus if you prefer. Do not forget to take the surroundings into consideration as they are going an important part of the picture as well. The possibilities are endless so think about what you really like before doing anything.

Second - pick a specific location where you would enjoy underwater photography. Keep in mind that depending on the chosen area, the time and how deep you plan to go some creatures might or might not be available for your pictures. The reef near Punta Cana for example is an excellent spot to watch nurse sharks and stingrays.

Once you have your target you have to pick the correct moment. That moment should be when your objective is looking in the best way possible. A common example could be a shark when is about to feed or when a jellyfish is moving its tentacles around. Watching your target for a while can give you an idea of the moment you have been waiting for.

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