Emerald Sea Photography
Underwater Photography is one of those passions that started out with a simple rented underwater camera and grew into a quest for better images. My first pictures from a "point and shoot" Olympus camera, produced good images, but I longed for "crisp focus" and no shutter delay. This eventually lead me down the path of very expensive Nikon digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras and on to much better images (see the Galleries link to the left).
I continue to use a rather aged Nikon and have found that you can take good pictures with almost any decent camera as long as you work within the limits of that camera's capabilities. Some of my earliest, best selling images were actually shot with my old "point and shoot", which I was forced to go back to when my DSLR died. Salt water is hard on digital cameras!
The images that I am proudest of (that still make me go, "Wow") are those captured in very demanding, but beautiful environments. My favorite shots are those hard to get photos requiring extensive penetration of underwater cave systems or deep dives below the murky waters of the Pacific Northwest. Every once in a while, all that hard work pays off and I capture a truly stunning image that portrays some of Mother Natures spectacular underwater scenery.
One of the really nice things about digital underwater photography is the instant feedback you get when you take a picture. This helps to overcome a very steep learning curve in a remarkably quick time period.
My first experiences with my original camera were during a trip on a live aboard dive boat. The first few sets of photos were full of snow and backscatter, but the instant digital feedback allowed me to quickly adapt and learn. By the end of the week, I was getting a better handle on strobe placement, manual exposure and on operating the camera. I was also beginning to take, "keepers".
When I started taking pictures back home in Puget Sound, I found the conditions to be much more challenging! The poor visibility and darkness make focusing the camera difficult and strobe placement becomes critical. Trying to keep the backscatter out of the picture, when there is so much particulate matter in the water can drive you crazy, but if you get really, really close, and aim your strobes in from the sides (so that just the inside edge of the strobe pattern illuminates your subject), you can get some amazing shots.
The best advice I was ever given on Strobe placement for wide angle photos was to extend your strobe arms all the way out, and then turn the strobes so they are almost "toed out". You want to just brush the front of your subject with the inside edge of the strobe pattern, without lighting up any of the "backscatter" in between the lens and the subject. Also remember that your subjects appear to be much closer than they really are, so you need to aim your strobes "behind" the subject. Using these techniques allows you to get very close, and to take those crisp, clear pictures we all love to see, even in murky waters.
If you are looking for some great information on the techniques professional underwater photographers use to capture those amazing images you see in the dive magazines, I highly recommend purchasing The Underwater Photographer by Martin Edge. The book does not cover f-stops and exposures, but how to capture those "oh-wow" pictures.