My professional camera housing is made
of aluminum and will survive to 300
feet ( 90 meters), keeping my professional
DSLR fully functional.
Here then, is the first consideration.
These cameras are delicate, and housings
can leak (usually through user error, in
my experience). Such a setback could
very well ruin your day, vacation, or even
career, so accept that this lies well within
the realm of possibility and purchase some
The second consideration is the
housing/water interface. Most compact
camera housings have a glass or acrylic
window, usually flat, through which the
lens receives the image. Larger cameras
with wide-angle lenses often have domes
of glass or acrylic to let the light in.
None of these ports are optically stunning,
and the distorting effect of the air/glass/
water boundary will degrade the image,
especially at the edges.
We should also consider the water itself,
for two reasons. First, water absorbs light
differentially, with the red part of the
spectrum disappearing within the top
few meters, rendering everything you see
blueish and washed out. Our brains tend
to compensate and “add” a little red,
meaning our cameras, capturing the real
colors, can produce what we think of as
Perhaps more important, water can hold
an awful lot of particulate matter that will
get between you and the subject. Not only
does this make images a little blurry, but
if you use a flash, the tiny pieces in the
water get lit up, resulting in a snowstorm
of “backscatter.” To put it simply, taking
photographs underwater is easy, but to do
it well is hard!
Artificial lighting is needed for many of
these pictures to make them work. In a lot
of my best-composed shots, two powerful
flash guns are held away from the camera
on arms. This not only helps create a more
even spread of light, but it also prevents
particulates from being illuminated to the
same extent, and their light doesn’t reflect
straight back into the lens. This is a common
problem with compact cameras when using
their built-in flash, and it is hard to avoid.
So my first kit recommendation is to buy
a flash, also called a strobe in underwater
photography circles. A strobe is the single
best investment you can make to improve
your photos. Even a modest compact camera
can capture a decent image with a strobe, or
even better, a pair of strobes, attached.
Strobes add color to a scene and can also
freeze movement. With some models, their
built-in modeling lights can even act as
focus lights and torches. They aren’t always
cheap, though, and some units can easily
cost more than your camera.
Being aware of these factors is the first
step to dealing with them. The kit you
use, the water you’re in, your subject, and
how you plan to light it are all going to
determine how you handle water’s particular
challenges. The following is a look at some
of my favorite subjects, how I went about
photographing them, and why I like each
one so much.
68 www.tfhmagazine.com Nov/Dec 2017
The author’s rig, a professional DSLR in an aluminum housing. Two powerful flash guns (strobes) illuminate the subject evenly, and floats on the
arms make the rig neutrally buoyant underwater. With a small action camera mounted to shoot video if needed, he can take hundreds of
high-resolution images and video in a single dive.