Shooting Underwater

Today’s Post by Barry Staver

The title should include shooting from the water’s surface as well. Getting the best image on land is tough enough, right? A good photographer is always thinking about lighting, composition, lens choice, ISO, best camera angle, and then capturing the decisive moments.

Add to this mix the complexity of staying afloat while still positioning the camera if you’re on the water’s surface or maintaining buoyancy and balance while holding your breath if you’re snorkeling, taking shallow dives and shooting. Shooting while scuba diving is an entirely different ballgame and a topic for another post.

It goes without saying that you’ll need a waterproof housing for the camera or use an underwater camera. Since I live in Colorado and don’t regularly shoot at the water, I’m satisfied with a small waterproof camera – the Lumix TS5. It’s sealed, waterproof down to a depth of 43 feet, shoots stills and video. If I lived and worked near the ocean I’d consider a waterproof housing for my Lumix GH-5 or a dedicated underwater camera. Either way it’s important to practice first, get to know the camera. I practiced in the neighborhood recreation center pool.

Be aware that the light intensity and its color diminish rapidly the deeper you go underwater. The best wet photographs are captured while very close to the subject. Check out these differences between the “lobster on a stick” shot taken at close range just under the water’s surface vs the wider shot as Jack scans the ocean floor.

For this series of spearfishing photographs I made the initial camera settings during the dinghy ride to the location, strapped on a divers weight belt with light weights to help keep me submerged with less effort.

My favorite from this trip is the grab shot, taken as my friend Jack swims back to the dinghy with the fish held above the water. He does this to lessen the chance of large fish attacking and literally pulling the smaller one from his spear.