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    Underwater Photo Tips By Linda Gettmann

    Anyone can take snapshots under water, but with a few simple tips, you'll lose those "blues" shots and zero in on colorful, well-composed photos.

    What is Your Subject?
    Make your subject obvious. Choose subjects that fill the picture area of your lens. To photograph a small fish or tiny plume worm, use a lens that covers a picture area slightly larger than your subject (a 50mm lens or higher). Get as close as possible. You may have to photograph shy fish from a few feet away, so use a narrow lens (such as a 35mm or 28mm lens) with a relatively small picture area. Wider lenses make your fish look too small. If you photograph a small fish from four or five feet away, no one will even know there is a fish in your picture.
    With large subjects, such as divers, clusters of sponges, or schooling fish, your problem is not filling the frame but rather shooting without having to be too far away. As you get farther from your subject you lose color, contrast, and sharpness. Water absorbs the red light from sunlight and from your strobe or flash, and scatters the remaining light so that your subject gets bluer and less distinct as you get farther away. Use a wide lens, such as a 15mm or 20mm, to photograph large subjects. Shoot within two to four feet of your subject so it won't blend into the blue background.

    Simple Background
    If you want your subject to stand out, don't let it blend or compete with the background. Look at your scene through the viewfinder and study everything that is included in your picture area, especially the background. What seems to be far away to you will appear right next to your subject on film. Move around your subject, looking again through the viewfinder, until you find the best view. Try getting low without touching the reef and use an upward camera angle to get a clear blue background without distractions.

    Use Verticals
    You can make your vertical subjects more obvious simply by turning your camera vertically. This will give you more room on the film to get closer, and you will have less area to the sides of the subject to distract the focus viewfinder.

    Bright Attracts Attention
    Color and bright areas in the photo attract attention, so use a strobe or flash to brighten your main subject. If there are many subjects in the picture and all are equally bright, or if everything is equally lost in the blue distance, (as these blue tangs), nothing will appear obvious. Your main point of interest should usually be the sharpest, brightest, most colorful part of the photograph. If the sun is in the picture, such as with a wide angle upward scene, try to put it near or behind your main point of interest. Don't place it on the edge of your picture where it draws your eye out of the picture and away from the subject.

    Hold Steady
    You may have a great photo opportunity in front of you, but if you can't hold still, you won't get the composition you want. Practice buoyancy control and hovering motionlessly in the water by adjusting your breathing and balance. When weighted correctly, you can float without kicking to compose shots or you can use one finger to brace yourself against a bare area of reef to stabilize yourself when working closely with small creatures.

    Know the Limitations
    You can see much more with your eyes than you can record on film. We see more color and detail than film can record. A reef scene may look sensational as we swim over it, but on film it looks flat, drab blue and boring. Since we can't show the entire reef, you must look for small parts of it that will look wonderful on film.
    Try your hand at underwater photography on your next dive trip. Most resorts, dive shops, and live-aboard's will rent camera equipment by the dive or by the day. Remember, film is cheap, so shoot away!