Take it yourself
Photographing out of your element means being prepared for what you’ll encounter
DSLR Apart from an underwater housing for your camera, you’ll need a wide-angle or fish-eye lens (these find focus a lot faster than other lenses) and a couple of underwater strobes. Water eliminates reds and yellows, and everything becomes very blue as you go deeper – adding flash brings out the beautiful colours of the fish and reef.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Get to know your camera, strobe and housing – this will make it easier to troubleshoot while underwater. Practise with your kit, preferably in a pool. Check everything before getting in the water. Don’t let your camera get too hot before jumping in as this will cause the housing to fog up.
Your aperture and distance from the subject determine how brightly it will be lit with flash. Your shutter speed determines the brightness of the rest of the scene. ISO influences both. Start with a wide aperture and a faster shutter speed (1/125 or 1/250 sec) at about 400 to 800 ISO, depending on visibility and depth, then vary your settings. The relationship between flash and aperture is vital (see Know your stuff on the next page).
Get as close as possible. The less water between you and your subject the better. Angle your shot at eye level or from below your subject – you will get open water in the background, giving more light to the scene and creating depth and separation.
Avoid shooting down into the reef as the image will look very busy.
Use an underwater torch on deeper dives. Your camera will find focus easier in better-lit situations.
Find a line of contrasting colours to latch your focus on. A fish’s eye always works well.
STARTER TIP Safety first – shoot in shallower reefs with good visibility to learn how to deal with currents.
AMATEUR TIP Chasing after fish won’t yield great results. Be patient, find a good spot on the reef and wait for your subject to swim past.
PRO TIP Experiment with focal length. Using macro underwater provides new challenges and beautiful details.