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Underwater Photography Tips & Resources from Carib Inn’s JC Blanco

Underwater Photography on Bonaire

 

Taking images underwater on BonaireToday we are sharing with you lots of tips, resources, and amazing sites about underwater photography. As you know, diving on Bonaire is much about self-exploration, experiencing habitats, and mastering skills, always taking into consideration that the solution for a single situation can change for each individual.  In other words, each individual may have different ways to overcome, succeed, or achieve in different circumstances.

Diver Safety When Photographing Underwater

For those who wish to excel in underwater photography, we recommend  that you read, read, and read about photography, filming, biographies, or even about incidents regarding diving and carrying photography or filming gear.  You might be surprised that people often make the big mistake of putting their images over their own safety.

The Divers Alert Network website will provide you with very important information about how to stay safe while enjoying your diving adventures.

Some great resources, which can be also purchased on Amazon, including:

  • Scuba Diving Safety by Dan Orr and Eric Douglas
  • Diver Down by Michael Ange

The First Steps in Underwater Photography

Jellies are underter denizonsAfter perusing this information, you will know the risk and understand that probably it is better to hire a professional to guide you through the first steps, or at least the first adventures. You need to know more about diving equipment and gear, underwater light refraction and composition, skills, and animal behavior. All of these components are important to getting fabulous underwater images, but diver safety always comes first before any of these components.

Equipment and Gear for Underwater Photography

Regarding gear only, one could spend a whole week or more reading on specifications of cameras, cases, lights, strobes, lenses, etc, and so my advice is to sit down, relax, and grab some snacks with your iPad or computer in a quiet place with a good WiFi connection. Start navigating and do some research BEFORE you enter a retail store, so you have more knowledge about what you will be looking at.

Here are some useful links:

Once you have figured out your initial gear (and notice I mention “initial” because based on my experience, I bet you will try different set ups until you find the appropriate one for you and the end product you want to obtain), I have to say, that for this specific reason, you should learn proper technique to maintain your photography gear if you want to get top dollar when you are ready to sell it.

Learning the Basics of Underwater Photography

Next, you will have to understand certain principles that affect or differ the way you take images underwater versus above water.  Two of these factors are composition and refraction.

Composition is an art, not a science. These rules and ideas for composition are meant to give assist you to creatively compose your shots; they shouldn’t lock you into rigid rules. The best composition for a subject will depend on your personal preferences. As your underwater photography progresses, good composition will become more natural and intuitive. However, even experienced photographers can benefit from trying new ideas in composition.

Understanding how light changes underwater is key to good photographyOther factors of taking images underwater include loss of color underwater, the color compensation that your brain does, understanding color temperature, and reflected light. Water absorbs different wavelengths of light to different degrees. The longest wavelengths, with the lowest energy, are absorbed first. Red is the first to be absorbed, followed by orange and yellow. The colors disappear underwater in the same order as they appear in the color spectrum. Even in water at a depth of 5 feet (1.5 meters), there will be a noticeable loss of red. For this reason, strobes are usually used to add color back to subjects underwater.

Carrying a Camera System Underwater

There is another consideration when you begin your underwater photoraphy:  You will quickly realize that you camera set up adds certain weight and drag on you buoyancy, as well as, of course, added distraction.  With a camera system in your hands, it is not just about being neutrally buoyant, spotting marine life, monitoring your air, and checking you bottom time and your buddy, now you need to check battery life, strobe lights set up, memory space, lenses, white balance, etc!  It is for these reasons that my recommendation is that you have as close-to-perfect buoyancy control by the time you start your endeavors in underwater photography, even if you elect to use a simple system, such as a Go Pro. I personally advise my divers to reach their advanced level and include on their adventure dives the peak performance buoyancy dive (or take the specialty for additional skills).

Another excellent adventure dive can be the Fish ID, so you can learn the best way to avoid harming delicate aquatic life, or damaging your gear or your own safety.  Once you know more about the animals you wish to photograph, and their specific behaviors, your images will become better!  Carib Inn offers many PADI continuing education dive courses.

Know Your Subject for Fantastic Underwater Images

Knowing the normal behavior of turtles helps get the right shot.And last, but not least, the animal behavior is simply knowing what are you looking at and how the animal will behave.  It is rather difficult to get a nice shot of marine life if you are not ready, or at least have an idea of what the animal will do, where you can find it, its feeding habits, or even if their represent any risk to you or you for them. After all, you wouldn’t like someone with blinding flashes taking pictures of you while you sleep, mate, eat, or give birth, right? It’s always important to understand that we are entering their world and, as good guest, we need to know the rules and customs of the underwater realm to avoid being known as an idiot abroad.

The best way to get this knowledge is to take the PADI Fish ID specialty course.  There are also numerous books as well as many downloadable apps for use with a smart phone.  The first step is to learn more about our under friends.

I hope you enjoy and learn from this tutorial.  If you have questions, or if there I can guide you further in your underwater photography, feel free to email me at JC@caribinn.com.

See you underwater!

JC


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Jean Carlos Blanco, from Panama, joined the Carib Inn staff in August 2015. He has been a PADI Open Water instructor since 2012. His favorite courses to teach are Deep, Night, Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Dive Master and Rescue. His special interests are ship wrecks, exploration dives and night diving.

 

 


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