Entering a WHOLE NEW WORLD
Commercial brand manager ROSS ARNOLD had never contemplated taking a camera underwater, but after being ‘volunteered’, he soon became bitten by the bug
With over 500 dives under my belt, I wouldn’t really consider myself a rookie, but that all changed when I was tasked with taking underwater photos. I was a complete newbie when it came to shooting pictures - I’d not touched a camera since the days of Polaroids, other than the one on my iphone and even then, that wasn’t very often. I much prefer to live for the moment and, to this point, had always tried to avoid staring at the world through a four-inch screen.
All that changed when Editor Mark Evans decided I should come on the Bahamas Bash reader trip and take part in Stuart Philpott’s photo workshops. I needed a good, solid camera to begin with, and opted for the Canon Powershot G9X with a Fantasea housing and wide-angle lens. As a starter camera, it was very easy to use and offered basic automatic functions for a total beginner, which I could gradually turn to manual as I became more confident with the camera. The housing offered large buttons which made it easy to navigate the settings even with gloves. I also had a Sea & Sea YS-03 strobe, although by the end of the week, I was really regretting not having two of these great little strobes.
For the first couple of dives, I just took the camera in the water with me and played around with the settings. Everything was coming up blue or red, which was no great surprise as I’d not had a chance to speak with Stuart. It did allow me to get a sense of just being with the camera and working on my buoyancy and spatial awareness, which completely went out of the window once I started to focus on getting ‘the shot’. After a few dives, I was more comfortable with the camera - and my abilities not to run out of air, or damage the reef in any lasting way! Now it was time to sit down and get some advice on what to do next.
At this point, I should mention I get incredibly seasick, so being on a boat isn’t the best place to learn, especially when focusing on a small object tends to make me turn green. In any case, I soldiered on learning about composition and the difference between aperture, shutter speed and the ISO, which I’m told all play a crucial part in getting that perfect shot. Of course, this mainly went in one ear and out the other, and as I sat there with a confused look on my face trying not to throw up, I was hoping some of it would sink in. We ended the workshop with the agreement that I would run with the camera on shutter priority, and I would manually control the aperture and exposure myself.
Back in the water and this time Stuart was with me on modelling duty. We were the first into the water and quickly fined away from the group to find some coral or sponge as a focal point. We dropped down the side of the wall to a nice sponge sticking out into the blue. Stu dropped down behind it and patiently waited while I maneuvered into position. I fired off a couple of shots, but they didn’t look that great so I went back to the settings and whacked the aperture up to F11. I fired another couple of shots, and now it was looking better, but was still not quite there. By this time Stuart was looking to move on, but I signalled for him to hold for one more go. I’m racking my brain for what we discussed in the workshop and I remembered something about exposure, so I knocked this down to -1 so it was slightly underexposed. I fired another shot and this time we were spot on the money with a bright blue background and a reasonable shot of a diver with a sponge - not bad for someone that had only taken a couple of dozen shots.
After more dives, I was starting to take a few credible shots, which we would share with the group as we came out of the water. It was great being on a boat with like-minded people of all experience as it really helped me develop my skills and I could continue learning from others. Although this was a photography week, the G9X also offers a great video mode, and I got a cracking video of the big finale shark feed we did with Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas on the day before we left.
Ross stalks a lionfish
Ross’ modelling session with Stuart
Shooting Stuart on the plane wreck