A short while back I was chatting to a friend about my under water photo's he asked a lot of questions about what equipment I use and how I manage to capture my shots, he said it would be nice to see and learn more of what I use so here goes.
First thing I will say is i'm not a professional photographer by any means but over time with a lot of trial and error i'm starting to find my way. There are a lot of options on the market for this kind of photo taking and the results you get are somewhat linked to the equipment you have available to you. I will take you through what I use and show some of the results, so what is needed to get shots like this?
Ok of course a camera I work on a budget and i'm not in the habit of buying the latest and greatest new items on the market and certainly can't afford them, nearly all my equipment is second hand, some good gear can be found in great condition and at a fraction of retail price. My camera is nearly 10 years old and still working fine, the housings I use to protect it from the water is model specific so new model camera means new housing all at great expense. I use a couple of different lenses a 60mm macro and a 10-17 fisheye.
Next we need a housing, this is a case that protects your precious camera and lens from water damage, they are pressure resistant to 60 meters or more depending on the manufacturer. This first one is a Ikelite housing made from thick polycarbonate plastic with various controls dotted around the outside. Shown here it is fitted with two strobes (flashes), these are a essential part of the set up as they replace light and colour which is filtered out the deeper you go. They can be manually adjusted to get different lighting, they are triggered via a sync cord which is connected to the camera which is not in the housing here.
Depending on the type of photos you are shooting the port on the front is interchangeable the one fitted here is macro flat fronted, if shooting wide angle you require a dome port as the angle of the lens will catch the port in the shot also the curve of the dome port counteracts the lens distortion, I hope that made sense. This set up is getting quite old and plastic fatigue is setting in so it's days are numbered.
As this unit is on it's last legs I recently purchased secondhand of course a replacement, it is compatible with my existing camera and attachments but a bit of a upgrade. I've gone from a Audi to a Rolls Royce, the new housing is made of aluminium and construction is far superior, shown here with a dome port to show you the difference.
Now you know whats needed you just have to get a diving license and get a lot of experience, we are fortunate with the digital age that trial and error has little cost, when I first started diving there was no such thing as digital, I would go on dive trips roll off tons of films worth of photos to get home and find most were useless. OK now the dirty bit, cost? This is no cheap hobby even though I buy second hand I have spent thousands of UK pounds on gear, a new camera, lenses, housing and strobes plus all the little extras you need would cost £5000/$6250 upwards hence why I always go for secondhand. That said there are much cheaper alternatives, we all know about goPro, small and easy to travel with they are OK for underwater but for similar money I would point you towards the Olympus TG compact, known as the tough cam they shoot high def-film, take great underwater photos with built in flash and their wild card is they shoot amazing macro, as a bonus and as the tough cam name suggests they are near bomb proof, waterproof to 18 meters I would invest in a housing which in this case is a cheap add on. Here's my slightly old TG4 model they now make the TG6 a seriously good bit of kit.
Olympus tough and housing.
I hope this has given you all a little insight to underwater photography equipment, just keep in mind that you don't need to spend a fortune to get perfectly good holiday snaps, I meet people all the time and they have the latest set ups costing thousands and take awful photos, expecting high end gear to do all the work for them with little understanding of how it all works, all the gear no idea as they say. Practice makes perfect and trust me i'm a long way from that, for every decent photo there are hundreds of bad ones that I have deleted, that's all for now folks i'll leave you with a couple of shots.
Everyone loves a turtle.
Nudibranch or sea slug, beautiful.