Peter photographing a Triton’s
Trumpet locked in mortal combat
with a Crown of Thorns,
by Kendra Ignacio.
I’m often asked what shooting underwater is like. I often answer, “Come with me and find out!” to which my wife says, “Don’t! He’s really boring when he’s shooting underwater! He just sits there waiting for something to happen while you hover and start to freeze!”
Okay, okay, so I’m not the best dive buddy when I’m shooting, unless you’re a photographer yourself or don’t mind just tagging along. That’s why I don’t dive with a camera when I have to watch people or play divemaster.
Getting underwater photography right takes time and practice. A lot of the basics are the same, such as exposure and composition. The fact that you’re shooting in a medium that’s more dense than air and has it’s own natural magnification factor changes your choice of lenses and settings. The fact that water acts like a prism and you lose colors as you go deeper makes it necessary to have strobes if you want any color in your shots. Also, the presence of particulates (what we call backscatter) suspended in the water changes how you aim your strobes, or they’ll show up as “snow” in the shot.
I’m oversimplifying of course, but you get the idea. It’s not something for new divers — make sure you’ve got your breathing and buoyancy nailed before attempting it. If you already know something about photography in general, so much the better. It’ll come more naturally to you when you go down with the camera. Here’s a great book to get you started.