Take it your­self

Getaway (South Africa) - - PHOTOGRAPHY -

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.


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.

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