Photography is a great way to capture the majesty of the underwater world and share it with others. I have been shooting UW for several years and have taken some photos that are great. Lot’s have hit the trash bin too, but that’s all part of the game.
Unfortunately, a lot of photographers have a bad name UW and are “to be avoided” as a dive buddy. I’d like to think I’m not one of those photographers, as I try to maintain a courteous approach when I’m shooting. I’m lucky that I get to dive so much, so I’d rather ensure all my travelers see the Seahorse before I hunker down to shoot the perfect shot. But not all photographers are like that, and many are completely oblivious to everything around them. I have seen dive professionals kick coral heads, destroy sponges and more in the name of getting a shot. It’s embarrassing to me as a person in the industry that these people aren’t more careful. People: It’s called situational awareness. Look into it!
Anyway, there are lots of things to consider, and here are a few of the important ones. I’m off to Curacao in a couple weeks and will watch our UW photo enthusiasts and report back on how we do…an unbiased perspective.
• Don’t grab on to coral. You will damage the environment, and damaged reefs = no more photography subjects! If you must, put a finger in the sand or pinch a dead piece of rock, but the full palm grab is unnecessary. If the subject is in a bad spot, pass on the shot. If your buoyancy isn’t good enough to stay still, consider leaving the camera on the boat and work on buoyancy for a few more dives, and then try again. The major part of great UW photography is good buoyancy, so with that in control, your photos will be much better.
• Don’t ever damage a reef just to get a shot.
• Be extremely careful when shooting around sea fans, like shooting a pygmy sea horse, so as to not damage the sea fan. It’s someone’s home!
• If you are drifting too close to the coral, gently push away with one finger on the area with the least amount of growth, preferable a dead zone.
• Don’t silt up an area before or after taking a photograph. Often photographers “flutter kick away” after taking a shot, ruining the subject or a shot for others. They usually don’t realize they are doing this. Learn how to frog kick, and do it slowly. Backing away from a shot is trickier but possible with practice.
• When waiting for another photographer, give them some distance; make sure you wait down current so silt is not carried to the photo subject. Photographers will often change position while taking a shot, sometimes stretching their legs back. This is why you must stay back further than you may think.
• If other photographers are waiting, take turns photographing the subject. Everyone’s time is valuable; discuss hand signals with your buddy ahead of time if you want to “work” a subject for a while that you found, make sure you let the other person get some shot’s first.
• When diving with others, you should always discuss dive etiquette rules ahead of time. Agree on how long each photographer will spend with a subject.
• Regarding buoyancy – most people don’t realize when they have bad buoyancy, or the tendency to silt up the area. If you see your buddy doing this, think of a way to politely mention it to them, and ask them to tell you if they see you doing the same thing.
Always show your friends and other divers interesting subjects that you find. They will really appreciate it.