Quick Preparation tips for Underwater Photography

We have talked a lot in other posts about preparation to take photographs underwater.  During this post we want to spend a little more time explaining why certain elements of preparation are so important.

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Familiarity with your equipment

When you are underwater, there are a lot of things that you will be juggling.  This is true whether you are snorkeling, scuba diving or just in your backyard pool.  For snorkelers, you will need to pay attention to tides, your snorkel gear, or even other people around you.  Scuba divers need to stay aware of their depths, oxygen levels, dangers in the ocean, etc.  The point is that there is a lot of commotion around you when you are underwater.

For this reason it is highly recommend that you spend some good time getting to know your camera equipment before taking it underwater.  Take time to familiarize yourself with the menus, features, controls, etc.  Learn how to adjust your flash and light settings without too much effort.  You will also want to ensure that you are familiar with how to change and reset your white balance.  This is particularly important for scuba divers who may be taking photographs at different depths in the water.  At each major depth change you will want to recalibrate your white balance settings.

Knowledge of the area you will be in

It is very easy to get lost and turned around under water.  For scuba divers this might mean making sure that you know your entry points and can navigate effectively with a compass.  For snorkelers, this means that you are familiar with the tides in your area as well as any dangerous rock areas.  Be particularly cautious of areas that may pull or push you into different pools of water.

After you are doing taking photos, you may want to jot down notes about the location.  if you have the ability to return to the same spot you may be able to remember a particularly friendly area that contained a lot of wildlife or stay clear of areas that were dangerous or hard to navigate in.

Fresh supplies

Having a fresh battery and fresh memory card is a very helpful tip.  In some ways it is a bit more important for scuba divers then for snorkelers.  As a scuba diver, imagine how frustrated you will be if you dive underwater, swim for a few mins and have your camera shut off due to batteries.  You may even have a few fresh batteries in your pack above the water.  However you can’t change them out until the dive is over and you have resurfaced.  It would have been so much easier to simply ensure that you had a freshly charged battery in the camera before entering the water.

The same goes for snorkelers, although in the case of snorkelers it may be a tad bit easier to return to your pack, change the battery and return to your location.  Sometimes however this may not be possible, or you may be on a time limit and can’t waste the time to return to the boat or shore to change the batteries.  It’s much easier to just remember to always use a freshly charged battery.

Although not as common, the same rule often applies for your memory card.  Ensure that you have plenty of space on your card before entering the water.  Did you properly download and remove the photos from your previous shoot?  If not you might want to do that before entering the water.  Devices such as a Jump Drive can be very handy to backup photos to a more permanent location when access to your normal computer may not be available.

Keep a goal in mind

Don’t take this one as a black and white rule you have to follow.  Sometimes you can get great results by going out and capturing whatever you encounter.  Other times it might be more fulfilling to go out with a purpose and work towards a goal.

Here is a little advice though on setting up some goals on what to capture.  While it is nice to set goals like, “I want to photograph a turtle or a manta ray”, don’t expect those to come true just because you set a goal.  Sometimes you have to adjust to what your surroundings provide.  Instead try setting goals like, “Today I am going to work on improving my lighting techniques” or “Today I want to work on getting close up shots”.  Those are goals that can be achieved and give your dive or experience a sense of purpose and direction.

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