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Thread: First Underwater Photo's

  1. #1
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    First Underwater Photo's

    I just started in U/W photography, so I thought I might start a thread on some of my experiences as I go. Although not a complete beginner in photography, I am as far as the U/W side of it is.

    I became interested in Photography when I was a teenager. I had a friend who had his own darkroom setup and I still remember the first time I developed my own pictures... I was hooked!

    After taking two semesters of Photography in high school and a stint as the chief photographer for my high school paper and yearbook, I joined the US Navy. I was a US Navy Photographer for almost 10 years. After leaving the Navy, I went to college for a couple of years, then went to work for the photographic services contractor at Cape Canaveral. I worked on the space program from 1988-1998. We did still photography, video, high-speed motion picture and photo-optical tracking. After that I was a photolab manager for almost two years.

    My job now is completely unrelated to photography and the last five years I've really only been doing personal stuff. Most of it would probably fall into the category of Travel Photography, since I've been doing a lot of travelling. I'm presently 20 semester hours away from completing my BA in Photography (gotta get around to finishing that some day :-)) So that's my background in photography.

    I became interesed in scuba diving when I was a kid. I grew up watching "Sea Hunt" re-run's on TV. I was a big reader when I was a kid and I came across a book called "The Silent World" written by Jacques Cousteau. I also remember watching his TV specials when I was a kid and he was a hero of mine when I was young.

    In 1977 the first year I was in the Navy, I took my first scuba course while I was in Virginia. I didn't do much diving until I got stationed in Florida in 1980. By the time I left Florida in 1983, I had logged probably over 50 dives. Hard to remember because it was so long ago, and in the process of moving several times over the years, my old logbooks were lost. I did dive a few times but didn't really start diving again on a regular basis until I came back to Florida in 1986. I got my AOW later that same year and did my Cavern Specialty the following year. Was doing all the diving I could squeeze in. Beach diving, boat diving, Cavern diving, West Palm Beach, Florida Keys.... Then I got married and before I knew it, it just seemed other things had taken priority over diving. One day I realized that I hadn't been diving in a while. My wife (now ex) talked me into selling my equipment. I did and just like that, it seems I wasn't a diver anymore :-(

    Fast forward 14 years later. I'm in Puerto Galera, Philippines on vacation and decide to go diving. By the time I left, I was asking myself why I had ever stopped! :-)) I came home to Japan (where I live now), ordered equipment on the internet, and joined a local dive club.

    Of course I'm thinking that I want to take pictures underwater. I already had a digital point and shoot. A Canon Powershot A630. Great little camera and it's 8.0 megapixels so I can make enlargements with no problems and they look essentially the same as film.

    First I did some research on the internet about underwater photography. After that I shopped for a housing for my camera. Initially I was going to buy a Canon housing, but instead opted for an Ikelite housing. My main reasoning was the reputation of the company and the fact that their housings were good to a greater depth (200ft vs 130ft). Nothing wrong with having a little extra safety margin built in! I don't dive deep very often, but then again Bikin Atoll with it's deep wrecks is on my list of places that I want to dive ;-)

    I knew that a strobe would make a big difference in the quality of my pictures, due to the unique conditions of UW photography vs photography on land. I had it in my mind just because of my background, that I would certainly want to move up at some point. I decided to go ahead and get a proffessional level strobe right off the bat. After checking out what was available, I went with the Ikelite DS125 Substrobe. When I upgrade, I like the TTL function and with the EV controller I can utilize it with my point and shoot. I liked it's 90 degree coverage angle and the fact that it had a built in modeling light. I like night diving and I foresaw that this would be a very nice feature to have.

    Once I received my housing and strobe, I read the instruction manuals, put everything together and took some test shots. After that it was a matter of getting in the water and testing it out!

    On August 13th my buddies (Nathan and Pete) and I got together and went to Hayama for a night dive. When we got there the tide was in. It was actually the highest water I had seen since I started diving there a month ago.

    After gearing up we walked down the street about 50 yards to the stairs leading down to the water. We walked down the steps to the edge of the water and stepped into water that was waist deep. We waded about 10 yards to a sand bar that comes almost up to the sea wall and then walked out another 75 yards. From there we waded out until the water was deep enough to snorkel and then put on our fins. We snorkeled out about another 100 yards and then stopped to catch our breath and review our dive plan before submerging.

    As I'm sure everyone knows, the islands of Japan are volcanic in nature. This makes for some very interesting underwater scenery. Deep crevasses with walls so close together that you have to swim single file to go through. Lot's of side channels filled with lobster. The water is cold much of the year so we have kelp to deal with (a first for me when I started diving in Japan).

    The modeling light on the Ikelite strobe worked great as an underwater light. Almost immediately after submerging we saw a stone fish, but before I could get in position he swam away. I knew from previous dives that there were lobster and wanted to get some pictures. I had told Nathan who was leading the dive and had the most experience diving the area. He's also currently working on his Divemaster qualification.

    We found a nice size lobster almost immediately. Now came the fun part... trying maintain buoyancy, aim the camera and get it to focus on a lobster that was moving around and was very suspicious of this bright light pointed in it's direction! I might add that it had backed into a crevasse that only one of us could get into and that the walls had plenty of black sea urchins. I could also add that there was a small surge moving back and forth, making for a few very interesting moments trying to avoid getting stuck! The end result was some not so sharp pictures :-(

    As I was swimming I looked down and noticed that one of the algae encrusted "rocks" appeared to be moving! Closer inspection revealed that the rock was actually a large shell, the algae causing it to blend in very well with the bottom with a hermit crab inside.

    As we continued our dive, Nathan found an octopus. I did manage to hover over the octopus and get a shot as it tried match the color of the rocks around it. Before I could get another shot, it made a break and was gone! I guess it was just shy about having it's picture taken.

    As we continued the dive, we saw a ball of striped eels back in a narrow cave. As I tried to maneuver for a shot, they dissapeared into the darkness.

    I then found a baby lobster. Unlike the adult, it was just trying to blend in and I got a shot of it.

    As we headed back we came across a puffer fish. Pete lent a helping hand in the picture and I had another "keeper".

    I found a striped damselfish and was trying to get a shot of it. All of a sudden the water was filled with jellyfish! The kind that have four long tentacles trailing out. Not large, maybe 18 inches was the biggest. I felt a sting on my face where my hood and mask didn't cover. At this point I lost interest in photography and began thinking about vacating the area :-))

    Right at the end of the dive Nathan and Peter who were in front of me saw a stingray, but I missed it :-( I've seen stingrays before, but it would have been nice to have tried and gotten a picture. Of course we saw plenty of other fish, just not ones that we could try and get close to :-)

    I can already see the limitations for where I want to go in underwater photography. Lag time and difficulty focusing seemed to be the two main problems, along with the difficulty of trying to balance everything while trying to take a picture :-)). I was on a night dive so the other big problem was exposure, since all light was coming from my strobe. I was setting the exposure with the manual controller for my Ikelite DS125. Some of the problems will only be fixed with other equipment. Some will get better with more practice.

    I was happy to come up with three "acceptable" pictures out of over two dozen that I shot. No where near where I would like to be :-) I'm sure as I get more practice things will get better.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill22 View Post
    I was happy to come up with three "acceptable" pictures out of over two dozen that I shot. No where near where I would like to be :-) I'm sure as I get more practice things will get better.
    Don't beat yourself up too much. I remember my first blue-water trip, I bought a Sealife Sportdiver 35mm. I shot about 6 rolls of film ($3/roll), didn't know what I was getting, and paid about $7/roll to process and put on disc. Over 150 shots...and only about 40 turned out...and only about 10 of those were really worth showing anybody else. Before wasting more money on film and processing, I went digital.

    I would suggest practicing more in day conditions...practice on reef shots that aren't going to swim away if you get close. And as they always say, get close. With your background in photography, I'm sure it will come easy with practice. I wish I had all the knowledge you have going in.

    By the way, the picture in my avatar was one of those film shots from that first time. It was one of the 10 keepers, and although it certainly could have been better quality, I still love it as a reminder of my first time.

  3. #3
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    [QUOTE=torrey;25679]
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill22 View Post
    I would suggest practicing more in day conditions...practice on reef shots that aren't going to swim away if you get close. And as they always say, get close. With your background in photography, I'm sure it will come easy with practice. I wish I had all the knowledge you have going in.

    By the way, the picture in my avatar was one of those film shots from that first time. It was one of the 10 keepers, and although it certainly could have been better quality, I still love it as a reminder of my first time.
    Thanks! :-) Actually the same thing I was thinking. I'm hoping get a couple of dives in this weekend. Saturday morning we're hoping to dive a WW II Japanese mini-sub sunk in Tokyo Bay near the Yokosuka Navy Base. We'll see how much some surface light coming in to fill helps. I suspect a lot! ;-)

    I do like night diving and as it turns out so do many members of the club. By the time they get off work during the week, go and pick up gear, and drive to the dive site.... you're making a night dive :-) I'm sure I will have ample opportunity to practice those skills as well.

    This dive was the first opportunity that I had to get pictures after getting my equipment together, so of course I took it :-) I knew I would struggle with exposure a little, but that will get better as I become more experienced utilizing the manual controller. The last five years I've been taking mostly "snapshots". With my underwater photograpy, I'm falling back into that "artistic" mode where I'm attempting to create. It actually feels pretty good :-)

    And by the way the picture in your avatar is a "classic" shot. Don't beat yourself up to much either ;-) Thanks for the tips and the encouragement :-)
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  4. #4
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    Ah grasshopper, welcome to the dark side........They are very nice for the diffcult conditions you describe. I'm sure I would have just given up and tried to maintain to banging into anything....

  5. #5
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    You have a photos that look like what you saw, and that's all that counts, even if they aren't going to get into National GEO. That's what photoshop is for. I haven't gotten into UW photography yet; still working on my land skills. For every 50 pitcures I take, maybe only 1 is worthy of blowing up and framing. Thank goodness for digital

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheddarchick View Post
    Ah grasshopper, welcome to the dark side........They are very nice for the diffcult conditions you describe. I'm sure I would have just given up and tried to maintain to banging into anything....
    Thanks! :-).... actually I did pretty much give up towards the end of the dive. I folded the strobe arm in close to the camera and forgot about pictures using it only as a dive light (did I mention the DS125 makes a very good dive light?). I was shining the light up in front of my face to make sure I saw any jellyfish before I swam into them :-))
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by thor View Post
    You have a photos that look like what you saw, and that's all that counts, even if they aren't going to get into National GEO. That's what photoshop is for. I haven't gotten into UW photography yet; still working on my land skills. For every 50 pitcures I take, maybe only 1 is worthy of blowing up and framing. Thank goodness for digital
    Thanks! The shots of the baby lobster and the puffer fish I'm going to mat and frame as mementos of my first underwater photography. I'm looking forward to the what I can get this weekend.

    I'm still trying to fine tune my buoyancy. I think I've mentioned elsewhere, that I just started diving again after a long layoff. I'm in all new gear. New wetsuit, new BC, etc... All the books and article I've read talk about the importance of buoyancy in U/W photography and they're right. It was one of the issues I was dealing with. The surge and tight quarters didn't help :-))

    I also agree with you about digital. I was very slow to convert to digital. Only after cameras that would produce enlargements comparable to film at a reasonable cost did I finally convert. I guess I tend to be old school somewhat. The first camera I used and trained on as a Navy photographer was a Speed Graphic. These are the old style press cameras that use 4X5 sheet film. I literally would pull a dark slide, take the picture, re-insert the dark slide, flip the holder around, pull the dark slide, take the second picture, re-insert the dark slide, pull the film holder, insert new film holder, pull dark slide, take third picture...... All totally manual... Like I said "old school" :-))

    Today... digital is the only way to go ;-)
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill22 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by thor View Post
    You have a photos that look like what you saw, and that's all that counts, even if they aren't going to get into National GEO. That's what photoshop is for. I haven't gotten into UW photography yet; still working on my land skills. For every 50 pitcures I take, maybe only 1 is worthy of blowing up and framing. Thank goodness for digital


    I also agree with you about digital. I was very slow to convert to digital. Only after cameras that would produce enlargements comparable to film at a reasonable cost did I finally convert. I guess I tend to be old school somewhat. The first camera I used and trained on as a Navy photographer was a Speed Graphic. These are the old style press cameras that use 4X5 sheet film. I literally would pull a dark slide, take the picture, re-insert the dark slide, flip the holder around, pull the dark slide, take the second picture, re-insert the dark slide, pull the film holder, insert new film holder, pull dark slide, take third picture...... All totally manual... Like I said "old school" :-))

    Today... digital is the only way to go ;-)


    I too was a late convert to digital. I still have about 200 rolls of Velvia slide film sitting at the bottom of my fridge. I used to do a lot of B&W and spent hours in the darkroom. I do miss being in the darkroom. There was something cool about seeing that picture magically develop while you were soaking it.

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    Those look pretty good to me I tend to do something silly, like move the camera, or put my thumb in the window, or other idiotic things.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by thor View Post
    I too was a late convert to digital. I still have about 200 rolls of Velvia slide film sitting at the bottom of my fridge. I used to do a lot of B&W and spent hours in the darkroom. I do miss being in the darkroom. There was something cool about seeing that picture magically develop while you were soaking it.
    ahh yes... I also remember those days.... that is a memory that I will always have. Developing my first picture in my buddies "darkroom" that was set up in his bathroom. When I saw the image appear out of a blank piece of photo paper... I remember thinking "magic". I use to shoot a lot of black and white also. I had a bulk loader and use to load my own cassettes. I still have books of Ektachrome and Kodachrome slides. I need to get those all converted to digital some day :-))
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

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