In the year 1926, the hogfish taking its daily swim through the azure waters off the Florida Keys in the Gulf of Mexico, would never have imagined that it would be captured on camera and would also be framed in the first underwater color photograph ever available. Dr. William Longley and Charles Martin (National Geographic staff photographer) used their cameras encased in waterproof materials to start a phenomenon, they could never have imagined.
Underwater photography is about unveiling a world that exists beneath the deep seas. To master this art, one would need to be an excellent swimmer and know the latest deep-sea diving techniques. It requires the use of special photography equipment and also an eye for detail. It offers numerous challenges and provides a whole new world of opportunities to the photographer. Apart from being highly skilled in swimming, an underwater photographer must also be mentally prepared to face all the challenges he/she faces in the deep waters. Unavoidable natural circumstances may occur wherein the photographer may have to rely on his instinct and attitude to squirm out of a tricky situation.
For this kind of photography, one must always remember that the medium the light travels through is not air, but water. The main thing to watch out for by an underwater photographer is to maintain the balance of color and contrast. The subjects available can vary from the marine life to coral reefs, underwater caves, and shipwrecks. Every plunge in the roaring waves will reveal new subjects and landscapes to capture.
You would also require the latest equipment. The cameras should primarily have the sea mode, land mode, and also an external flash mode. This is essential to obtain better quality pictures even in the most adverse conditions. One of the most difficult aspects of this type of photography remains the use of the flash. The photographer has to achieve the right balance between natural light and the use of flash. Modern cameras have tried to implement new techniques to simplify this process, as natural light and visibility are often limited.
Underwater digital cameras also have built in features for color correction filters and flash diffusers and they are also equipped with complete storage and image editing software. This adds to the sophistication of the camera and also makes them easy to manipulate as per the situation.
The ones available today are completely high tech and are used not only for personal reasons but also for exploring, monitoring swim areas, and fishing and also for documenting shipwrecks. Today, we also have offshore trolling cameras. These have been designed specially for the videographers and fishermen.
Underwater photography has its own limitations in terms of the conditions the photographer has to face. But the true skill of the photographer solely remains in his/her ability to overcome these problems and shoot his/her best frame ever.
Basic Tips and Ideas
When you dive into the ocean, ensure you do it sans your camera. Diving with your camera will easily flood the camera with water. Therefore always procure or pass the equipment (once you are in the water) to another person on the boat.
Do not drag your equipment once you are in the deep waters. This may cause damage to the marine life.
Use an upward angle of the camera to obtain dramatic results.
Be constantly aware of all the dive gear that may float before your lens.
Ensure you use the empty space for text or graphics that can be added on, later.
The best time to take the plunge is around midday. The sun being overhead would illuminate the subjects underwater.
The underwater world changes often at the very blink of an eye. Perhaps this is what fascinates people all over and they overlook the risk factors and dive into the depth of the oceans. The vivid colors, the dangers lurking around the corner, the peace and the tranquility, all add to the mystery and aura of the underwater life. No prizes for guessing why this remains to be one of the most popular forms of photography even today