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  • UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY

    UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY



    The fundamentals of photography remain the same wherever you are taking pictures, but when the medium that light travels through is water - not air - special techniques and equipment are needed in order to capture good images.
    If the difficulties encountered in shooting underwater had to be summed up in one word, perhaps the best word would be “limitations.” Communication and travel below the surface are limited. Natural light and visibility are limited. Equipment selection is limited. Even time is limited, since we are air-breathing creatures and must at some point come to the surface.
    The secret to successful underwater photography occurs in how well we overcome these limitations.

    IMPORTANT ADVICE

    The most important advice you can receive, however, has little to do with photography per se, and everything to do with your safety. A watery environment can be a dangerous environment, even if it is a back yard pool. No photograph is worth any risk to your life and safety. Depending on the type of underwater photography you wish to pursue, you must first acquire appropriate specialized knowledge and training, and receive certification from qualified instructors. This applies to every aspect of underwater activity, from basic swimming skills to advanced deep-sea diving techniques. You must rigorously train yourself to keep techniques of survival uppermost in your mind when taking underwater pictures, since it is possible to become so engrossed that you may tend to overlook basic safety procedures. Learn and apply all safeguards all the time, and if you have any uncertainty about whether what you are doing or thinking of doing may be risky, then consider it risky and don’t do it.


    A FASCINATING ENVIRONMENT

    The rewards of underwater photography can be great. Since it is a specialized area that relatively few photographers attempt, the opportunities for new and different images are many. People who have little interest in your vacation pictures will usually look forward with eagerness to seeing your underwater pictures, since there is a novelty aspect to them and because we are all fascinated by images from places we seldom see in person.

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    AMATEUR UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY



    Which camera should I get? Should I also get a strobe, and/or a wide angle lens (a/k/a “WAL”), and/or a close-up lens? In the interest of keeping the article concise I chose not to insert photos. Pictures of the various cameras and/or housings are readily available on the web. Before buying an underwater camera you should first ask yourself if you are you ready for the additional task loading of one rather than how much fun you can have with it.

    Here are just a few questions for you to answer:
    1. Have you mastered your buoyancy skills so as not to be kicking or lying on the coral or other marine life while taking a photo?
    2. Can you handle yourself in strong current and other adverse diving conditions with the addition of camera gear?
    3. Can you operate an underwater camera with numerous functions and still pay attention to your safety as well as that of your dive buddy? No one person can tell you which camera is best to purchase unless they have compared them all, and that is highly unlikely. Most opinions are based on that person’s use of a specific camera/housing. My experiences are the results of using Olympus cameras and housings. I bought my first Olympus C2040Z, 2.1 megapixel digital camera and Olympus PT-010 underwater housing in March 2002. In October 2003 I upgraded to an Olympus C4000Z, 4 megapixel camera that fit in the same housing. I wanted the higher megapixel camera for better quality on photos that I cropped. I added an external strobe in December 2003 and a Wide Angle Lens in February 2004. I completed my setup with a close-up lens purchase in Sept. 2004. In all honesty I would not have invested in an external strobe if I did not dive several times a week. The wide angle lens can be used in many situations without a strobe. There is a learning curve that goes beyond the literature that comes with a camera/housing. It is practice and the best practice translates to dives. You simply don't just jump in the water and start taking good photos. Keep this in mind when deciding how much money to spend on camera equipment versus how often you will use it. I have the luxury of being both retired and living in Maui, Hawaii where I can, and do, dive frequently. The learning curve is compounded with the additional task loading of additional lenses and/or an external strobe. The strobe also has settings that one needs to experiment with. External strobes can, and often do, cost more than the camera/housing. That was the case with my Inon strobe versus my Olympus camera and housing. Again, ask yourself how often will I dive versus the investment? Good photos are possible without an external strobe. The additional lenses should also include some type of lens dock and leash mounted to a handle/tray to prevent losing them. If you are new to photography in general it is much easier to start out with only the camera using its built in strobe. Once you somewhat master using the camera you can then decide whether to make the investment in an external strobe and/or wide angle lens. In hindsight I think the lens should come first. Good external strobes cost upwards of $500. and wide angle lenses in the $300. range. Add the cost of a handle/tray/arm.


    Some of the reasons to choose a digital camera over a film camera:
    1. No film costs or processing fees.
    2. No expense for numerous wasted rolls of film and processing while learning.
    3. See the results immediately underwater so as to take another photo if necessary.
    4. Low cost prints are obtainable commercially.
    5. Ability to take more than 36 photos on a single dive.
    6. No cost for taking several shots of the same subject at different camera settings.
    7. Good quality digital cameras and housings are low in price. 8. Ease of compatibility with a computer (no need to purchase a scanner or specific film/slide scanner).

    If I buy a digital camera can I make my own prints? The answer is yes, if you have a quality color printer and purchase photo paper. But why bother? Printing photos uses extensive amounts of ink and that can be costly. There are numerous stores and online services that will make quality prints from digital cameras at low cost. For example, Costco stores make a 4” X 6” print for less than twenty cents and it is processed on the same professional equipment used for the 35mm print. You can take in the camera memory card or your own burned CD ROM. Burning the photos on a CD ROM allows for cropping and/or adjusting the photo to your liking before obtaining the print. You cannot match the quality with a home printer. Besides, how many of your “amateur underwater photos” will you want to make prints from? Camera/Housing Type

    Choices:
    1. Cameras with the separate but same brand housings such as Olympus, Canon, Sony, Fuji, etc.
    2. Waterproof cameras such as Sea&Sea, Bonica, and Reefmaster.
    3. Higher end camera specific housings such as Ikelite and Gates. Ikelite makes housings for some of the prosumer (point-and-shoot) cameras for under $300. Price Range: The most expensive way to go is to purchase a camera and one of the higher end housings. This is likely to be in the area of $1000. depending on the camera cost. The less expensive choices are waterproof cameras and same brand cameras/housings. Keep in mind that cameras are outdated within a few months and sometimes off the market in a year or so. If you decide on a high-end housing and the camera quits over time, you will be left with a “camera specific” $1000.00 (or more) housing. This is even more painful if it was a relatively inexpensive camera that was in that expensive housing. Of course this is not an issue if cost is not a concern. Since cost is an issue with me, coupled with being, and remaining, an “amateur underwater photographer”, I favor the prosumer level brand cameras and their respective housings. (“prosumer” - a consumer who is an amateur but who is knowledgeable enough to require equipment that has some professional features). At the time I wrote this article prosumer level digital cameras were in the 5 megapixel range. More expensive 8 megapixel cameras by Olympus and Nikon are already on the market. Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are also available and are higher end cameras. One of the things I like about digital photography is the ability to see the picture in the monitor before taking it. DSLR cameras use the viewfinder to take the photo and the camera’s monitor to view the photo after it has been taken. Keep this in mind if you decide on DSLR as well as the costs involved. DSLR can run over $3000. for only the camera and housing. It is not practical to buy a camera that is less than 3 megapixel. The higher the megapixels the more re-sizing and cropping you can do to a photo without loss of picture quality, as well as the making of a larger size print. However, if you are seriously considering a camera in the 8 megapixel range do some extensive research and comparisons.

    Some things to look for when choosing a camera/housing: Whether a waterproof camera or camera/housing combination, decide on the camera functions you want. Some examples are:
    1. White Balance setting choices (pre-set ones as well as a manual setting). In my opinion Manual White Balance capability is a must for underwater photos taken without a strobe. View some non-strobe photos on my website at:
    2. Auto as well as Manual Settings for lens F-stops and shutter speeds
    3. Optical Zoom features (digital zoom is not efficient underwater).
    4. Macro feature. What is the focal range?
    5. Super-Macro feature. Most of the point-and-shoot cameras disable the internal strobe in this mode as the lens is too close to the strobe.
    6. RAW capability, if that is important to you.
    7. Compare the F stop ranges of the different brand/model cameras as well as shutter speed ranges.
    8. Does the macro feature have zoom capability? Many of the newer point-and-shoot cameras do not. That means you have to move the entire camera to and from the subject. Is that a factor for you?
    9. Strength of the internal strobe (this matters if you will not purchase an external strobe for some time, especially if not at all).
    10. Does the camera have a “hot shoe” so as to be able to attach an external strobe to it or the ability to connect a hard wired strobe to it through the housing known as true TTL (through the lens). Do you need that feature? This also requires you to purchase a housing that has a hard wire connection. Those housings are usually the more expensive type.
    11. Does the camera/housing have a flash diffuser to reduce/eliminate “backscatter” from the internal strobe? (“backscatter” - light from a strobe reflecting back into the camera lens off of small particles in the water between the subject and the lens).
    12. Are all the cameras features accessible via the housings controls? Some brands do not allow for turning on/off the camera’s monitor after locking it in the housing. Should you buy a re-furbished or new camera? “Re-furbished” can simply mean a store return that was inspected and re-packaged by the manufacturer. This is something to consider when comparing the cost and flood risk factor of the camera versus the cost invested in the housing. Both my Olympus cameras were re-furbished.
    13. How deep do you expect to dive with the camera/housing? The prosumer level waterproof cameras or housings are usually rated to 30 or 40 meters (98 or 131 feet). If you are going to be diving deeper on a regular basis then a higher end housing is required. Ikelite is making housings for some of the prosumer cameras for under $300. This is a sturdy housing and may be worth a slight price difference versus the camera brand housing.
    14. Is the housing lens port threaded to accept add-on lenses? If not, an adaptor will be required or you may not be able to use them at all. While the above features may seem overwhelming at this point in time, they allow for better quality pictures. Do some research on camera features and then decide on what suits your needs. I strongly advise against buying what is often referred to as a “starter camera” then upgrading later to a better setup. I consider this practice to be a waste of money and an exercise in frustration. The same is true of external strobes. A starter camera often translates to one with low quality and few features. The resulting photos are usually just as disappointing. Good quality prosumer level waterproof cameras or cameras/housings can be purchased in the $500.00 price range. They will often be 4 or 5 megapixel cameras with all the features I mentioned above and will take great pictures with some practice. Remember practice equals: dive, shoot, delete, dive, shoot, delete, etc.

    Color correction filter: The question often arises as whether or not to use a color correction filter when not using a strobe. I personally don’t think you need one. Using manual white balance seems to be sufficient.

    Computer Software: You will need a decent computer software program to adjust your photos. No, they do not come out of the camera perfect every time. Practically every photo can use some adjustment. Adjusting things like Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Color balance, Hue/Saturation, and more are not uncommon in digital photography. The software that is included with most camera purchases is not adequate enough to do the job. Programs such as Photoshop are on the expensive side and likely an over-kill for amateur photography. On the much less expensive side there are programs such as Photoshop Elements and Paint Shop Pro as well as others.

    Flooding: Far too much emphasis is put on housings that flood versus divers who flood their housings. The vast majority of times it is “user error”. Some will admit it and some will blame it on the housing. Develop a routine for preparing your housing, for both before and after diving, and stick with it. Follow the manufacturers instructions. A clean and lightly greased main O-ring is the most important factor when it comes to preventing flooding. I prefer to remove the main O-ring after every dive day, store it in a plastic baggy, re-grease it and install it each time. Purchase an extra main O-ring or two to have handy for when the need arises.

    Test Dive: Most, if not all, housing manufacturers will tell you to test dive the housing without a camera inside to be certain it does not leak. You should NEVER take a new, or used housing diving without testing it first without the camera in it. Place a soft weight inside the housing in a small towel or other soft cloth. Some dive shops have a pressure test tank and may do this for you. That would be an ideal situation as respects depth equivalency. It is also a major convenience if you do not have easy access diving. Know you camera/housing I cannot emphasize enough the need to know you camera/housing features before you take that expensive dive vacation. Your dive trip is not the time to experiment with your camera. It is the time to take those “good photos” you were looking forward to. Even if you do not have the luxury of being able to dive frequently in your home area, at least be completely familiar with your camera/housing. Know how to operate every feature on it and what that feature does. Be able to toggle from feature to feature with a minimum amount of time and/or confusion.
    For example:
    1. You are taking a photo of a fish from approximately 2 feet away with: Internal Strobe “On”, Manual Mode settings of F7 and 1/100 seconds, Macro Mode “On”, and “Auto” White Balance.
    2. Suddenly you spot a large Manta Ray. It is too far away for the internal strobe but close enough to capture in a photo. Switch to: internal strobe “Off”, Manual Mode settings of F 5.6, 1/60, Macro Mode “Off”, and “Manual” White Balance (that you calibrated off your dive slate after first descending). In summation I think it’s more about getting the most out of the camera/housing you purchased, not getting the most expensive camera/housing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on underwater camera gear to get good pictures. A good prosumer digital camera with same-brand housing will produce great results in the $500. price range. Just remember to use the cameras
    built in strobe for shots under 3 feet and manual white balance for the rest without the strobe. That coupled with a good software program is all you need for the basics. Safe diving and good picture taking.
    Jim Spears Website: http://kayakdiver.com/ E Mail: [email protected]

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    The Over/Under—Tools and Techniques
    One of underwater photography's most sought-after and difficult shots, explained and demystified.
    by Stephen Frink
    http://www.stephenfrink.com/sf-tips/overunder/


    The technique of combining the underwater view with a glimpse of the topside world, all in a single frame, is known as a "split" or an "over/under." While this is one of the more powerful tools in the photojournalistic arsenal, it takes special equipment, skills and environmental conditions to make it happen.

    As every diver knows, light changes once it hits seawater. In a medium approximately 800 times more dense than air, light is refracted, absorbed and selectively filtered as a function of depth.

    Shoot at Midday—Reason #1
    Even under optimal conditions of midday light and clear water, there will be a half- to a full-stop decrease in light level under water compared to topside. Early morning and late afternoon bring sunlight that strikes the ocean surface at an oblique angle and is therefore reflected and absorbed, making as much as a three f-stop difference. For most over/under applications, shoot when the sun is high in the sky, from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Shoot at Midday—Reason #2
    Waves of light travel in straight lines as they pass through air, but when they strike a medium with a greater refractive index (the refractive index of air is 1 and that of water is 1.33), light rays can bend and magnify. This is why things appear to be one-third larger under water. If the light waves strike the water at right angles (when the sun is directly overhead), they are not deflected nearly so much as when they hit at an angle. This is yet another reason to shoot over/unders at midday.

    Cameras: Nikonos Out, Housed SLR In
    Nikonos lenses are water contact formulations. Even though the 15mm lens for the Nikonos V or the 13mm lens for the RS are wide enough, and excellent for the underwater part of the over/under, they can't focus above water. A housed SLR camera with a dome port is required for over/under shots.

    Photo by Stephen Frink/WaterHouse
    For an over/under to be effective, there needs to be some underwater component very near the surface, plus something of interest topside. In this image, the corals and gorgonians found just beneath the surface at Captain Tom's Wreck in Key Largo contrast with the blue sky and puffy white clouds typical of a summer day in the Keys. Taken with a 16mm wide-angle lens and a nine-inch dome port.

    Lens: Full-Frame Fisheye
    The easiest way to shoot over-unders is with a full-frame fisheye (16mm for Nikon, 15mm for Canon shooters). The depth of field with these lenses is extraordinary; an aperture of f-8 or smaller is usually sufficient to hold focus on both the topside and the underwater scene. I usually focus on the underwater portion of the scene, usually the most compositionally important part of the image, and let the topside part go a little soft if necessary. Also, with the fisheye lens, you have the choice of vertical or horizontal compositions since there is no filter to contend with. The water/air interface can be anywhere in the frame. In fact, I often compose with two-thirds of the frame devoted to the underwater portion. Finally, the fisheye is more forgiving of surface chop or swell.

    Fisheye: The Downside
    Fisheye lenses are prone to excessive distortion, so subjects too near the lens can look unnatural. Also, there is no correction for the light difference between the topside and underwater subjects. If the underwater subject is a shallow reef with lots of reflecting sand, the f-stop difference may be very slight, in which case you would expose for the highlights (topside) and let the underwater portion record slightly dark. In other situations, you can use strobes to bring up the exposure value of the underwater scene to more closely match topside.

    Split Diopter: Balance the Light
    The split diopter is a special filter that balances the light between the topside and underwater view, while at the same time allowing the underwater portion to focus on the virtual image. This is accomplished with a neutral density piece of glass on the top (to hold back the sunlight and make it more closely approximate the light on the underwater scene) and a diopter (usually in the range of a +3 or +4) to balance the focus. The problem is that if the wide-angle lens is focused on the virtual image for the underwater portion of the frame (e.g., 16 inches for an eight-inch dome), anything beyond about a couple of feet away topside would be out of focus. The solution is to allow the lens to focus nearly on infinity above water, but use the strength of the magnifying lens on the bottom half to pull focus back to the virtual image.

    Split Diopter: The Downside
    The filter cannot be rotated under water, so the photographer must decide whether the roll will be devoted to verticals or horizontals. Also, because of the way the filter is ground and glued into the filter ring, the split between topside and underwater must be exactly symmetrical, with one-half exactly above and below. If the seas are not slick calm, this can be extremely challenging. An optician can design a split diopter for you, or you can do it the easy way and order one through any Subal dealer. Check www.subal.com for details.

    Photo by Stephen Frink/WaterHouse
    This is an example of an over/under taken in controlled conditions in a swimming pool with a 16mm full-frame fisheye in a Seacam housing. Note the curving horizon, typical of a fisheye. However, many scenes do not have straight lines along the horizon, and therefore make any distortion transparent.

    Dome Size Does Matter
    The size of the dome is a significant factor in effective over/unders. Aside from the location of the virtual image, larger domes are more forgiving of water surface imperfections. Surface chop is spread over a larger area, making a nine-inch dome far more manageable than a six-inch dome.

    Glass versus Plexiglas
    For the ultimate over/under tool, insist on a mineral glass dome port. Besides the obvious optical purity, glass allows the water to sheet off the topside portion of the dome far more quickly than Plexiglas, thereby minimizing annoying water droplets.

    The Virtual Image
    The optics required for an over/under must be housed in a dome port. When a dome port is used under water (in this case half the dome is under water), the dome creates a mysterious image known as a "virtual image." Usually this image is located at a distance of about twice the diameter of the dome from the film plane: a six-inch dome will have a virtual image 12 inches from the film plane; a nine-inch dome at about 18 inches, etc. If a lens cannot focus near enough under water to render the virtual image, it can't focus at all. This is the reason some zoom lenses lacking near-focus capability can't be used behind a dome port without adding a close-up lens.

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    STROBE LIGHTING TECHNIQUES FOR WRECKS
    by Kevin Davidson


    How many of you have gone wreck diving and tried to take a few pictures only to be amazed at how much silt and sediment is in your photo?

    Wreck diving and penetration are indeed advanced diving skills. Going inside these hulls to take photos requires even more advanced diving technics. The key word is bouyancy. Proper bouyancy and controlled breathing will be a key factor in determining how clear your pictures will be. The interiors of wrecks, wooden walls, and other building materials decay and settle to the bottom mixing with sand to create a fine silt that takes a long time to settle once stirred up. Unfortunatley the best way to get a good interior shot is to be first inside and we know that is not always possible. However, even with a moderate amount of silt in the water, proper strobe placement will still give you a very clear picture.

    Photographers have a tendancy to point stobes directly at the subject. This will cause more particulate matter to be lit in your pictures. Strobes put out an arc of light, not a shaft of light. By pointing your strobe outward or slightly away from the subject your photo will be hilighted more by the edge of the stobes arc of light and will light up less reflective matter in front of the lens. A good illustration of this can be found in Jim Church's Nikonos V Handbook.

    When working with wreck interiors, there are two ways two ways to show the erie feeling of the inside of these great hulks beneath the ocean. They are of course strobe lit or natural light. Make sure with a strobe lit shot that you are not trying to cover to much area with your strobe, don't try to light up an entire room. True...somtimes you can accomplish this if the room is small enough, but otherwise just choose portions of the interior, know the limits of your own strobe or strobes. Using two dosen't neccesarily constitute a better picture. If you know the limits of your own personal camera set up, it will keep you from taking pictures you know won't come out clearly anyway.

    If the interior shot has any kind of ambient or natural light coming in through windows, port holes, sky lights, or just deteriorated openings in the ship itself then it's better to use no strobe. After countless picture taking and slide shows, more people seem to agree that the natrual light picture gives more of a feeling of being inside the wreck because more area can be seen with natural light, with your strobe turned off you have more shutter speeds to work with. You can then concentrate on just balancing the natural light of your picture. When using a strobe along with natural light in a picture, divers tend to come up with dark backgrounds and backscatter lit fore grounds.

    With strobe turned off point your camera out towards the subject (pilot houses and structures on deck work very well with this since there are usually more openings allowing in more light). With the camera set on auto, check the view finder for a shutter speed value, if it shows that you need more light open your f-stop to allow maximum light even with shutter speeds slower than 30/sec you can still hold your camera still long enough to snap the shutter. Something I have done numerous times is to brace the camera against something or on the wreck itself, to avoid shake. It's better than using a tripod. If you can see the streams of light penetrating inside you can usually capture it on film with a little patience. Another trick for natural light is to raise the film speed or asa dial. By increasing your ASA dial on the camera your photo will show more detail even though the picture might appear to be under exposed. Example: when using 100 ASA increase it to 150 and 200 thereby achieving different type of lighting from the same subject. Outside on deck you can use combinations more succesfully depending on the clarity of the water.

    In general, any film will work for the picture but I've grown fond of Ektachrome 100x or 64x and of course, Kodachrome. They tend to show more of the natural look found inside wrecks. On the outside, where the marine life is more abundant and more colorful, my personal favorite is Fujichrome.

    Most wreck shots work best with a wide angle lens. I say this because most divers wish to get a nice shot of a wreck and to take in such a scene a wide angle lens is the choice. The camera set up I use most often is a Nikonos V and two SB103 strobes. Wide angle lenses allow you to shoot the scenic overall picture of a wreck at the same time you can get very close to single artifacts that might be laying about on the ship.

    Whether if you have a housing or Nikonos, the lens of choice is wide angle. Choose the lens accordingly to your budget, but also know the limits of your camera, lens and strobe. Don't bite off more than you can chew with your photographs.

    The last thing to stress is to keep in mind that this magnificent wreck is now home to a large host of marine life and referring back to proper bouyancy will help you treat the wreck with respect. It is in fact a living reef now and we want to be able to return to these sites and continue to photograph all the beautiful marine life found here.

    To sum up:

    Practice your bouyncy before picking up a camera. When taking a camera down with you it becomes part of your weighting, so adjust accordingly

    Point your strobes outward to avoid back scatter.

    Decide ahead of time if the shot is going to be natural or strobe lit. Determe if there is enough ambient light or if the area is to large to cover with strobes. In the case of a strobe lit picture, know the limits of the lens and strobe of your own system. Other photography teachers can offer advice from there own experience but now one knows your camera rig better than yourself

    The lens dejour is wide angle. It's the best way to capture the scene of a wreck. Buy what you can afford and learn the limits of that lens...don't shoot more than the lens can see. Closer is always better with underwater photography and when getting close to wrecks wide angle is better.

    Finally, treat the wrecks with respect, they are now are home to new inhabitants. Hopefully with growing concern for reef ecology we will carry this over when wreck diving, they are also living reefs too.
    ?nsanlar dikkatli bir gözlemci ve vicdanl? bir koruyucu olsa kimbilir do?a daha bize neler sunacak
    Ozan HO?KEN (1971) Gaziemir/ ?ZM?R
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