Patience is Virtue
Taking pictures underwater is equal measure fun and frustration.
So i’m going to share with you a few tips and some example shot’s where my patience has paid off, hopefully to inspire you to persevere and not get too downhearted when things don’t progress quite as quickly as you’d like.
You’ve no doubt been on the receiving end of the phrase practice makes perfect ? and felt like giving the person delivering those sage words of advice both barrels as it’s usually being dealt at the exact moment in time when you really don’t need reminding because you already damn well know!
Well anyway they were probably right but the timing was off.
Proper planning etc etc……
Try and keep these words in mind, but make your life easier by preparing properly beforehand.
What do I mean by this?
Discuss and plan your dive with your buddy beforehand, if you’re both photographers then decide upon some goals, it needn’t be too detailed and will no doubt be informed by the dive site and potential subject matter.
If there’s something that may take a bit of time that is on the cards let them know your intentions.
If you’d like them to model have a series of signals agreed upon that work for you both re positioning and placement in the water, torch on or off, look at the lens, that sort of thing.
Above all though underwrite your photo intentions by making sure you’ve got the safety issues boxed off.
Particularly if it’s a new or unfamiliar buddy, I’d even go so far as to say if it’s your first time diving together maybe leave the camera behind, so you can get the measure of each other without any added stress.
Base your plan on the least experienced and capable of the pair of you, and try and leave ego’s behind.
Factor in things like Nitrox, might sound crazy but i’ve seen pairings where a very selfish diver on Nitrox, has partnered up with a much less experienced buddy on plain old air, and left the novice buddy to clock up many minutes of deco, all I can say to that is see you next Tuesday !
Stick to your plan. And have a plan B and a C ready to go if things down below don’t work out for whatever reason.
Positive Mental Attitude
You're only taking pictures underwater, if the dive doesn’t deliver up the competition winner you were dreaming of, it really doesn’t matter.
Global warming matters, third world debt matters, but underwater photography is for most of us a hobby that is cool and fun, often spent in beautiful parts of the globe being waited on hand and foot getting pampered, so please don’t sulk and stomp about like a spoilt brat if your other half happened to get the shots and you didn’t.
It never helps and will just make your own life harder to get the results you want, as you’ll be in the wrong frame of mind.
If you are the sort that takes this thing we do super seriously, then maybe get your solo ticket, it’s an absolute boon, will give you skills and confidence, and in those parts of the world that allow it for photographers, it will afford you great freedoms, just remember to make sure you let everyone know that matters, your dive plan.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and take what comes.
The best shots aren’t necessarily planned beforehand, but there’s usually an element of persistence, particularly where marine life is concerned.
So especially if you’re shooting macro you may have everything else lined up, you’ve got your background exposure sorted, and if you’re using fancy pants kit like snoots, you’ve got your strobe and snoot in zen like alignment, but the damn shrimp, or goby or nudibranch isn’t playing ball and isn’t posing like you’d want.
So what do you do?
My buddy Phil has written a couple of articles about getting black backgrounds and snooting. Please check them out.
You wait is what you do, you don’t give that Frogfish a little nudge, or let the guide ‘encourage’ the Whip Goby into position, or hound the poor Octopus until everybody in the group get’s exactly the same picture.
What’s the point of that? It stresses the marine life, gives non photo divers a reason to moan about us. And where is the achievement?
If you’ve got a shot in mind but the creatures aren’t playing ball, waiting is often all it takes, and that might mean 5, 10 or 20 mins or maybe even longer.
The big reward of all this though is that whilst you may well get a pay off with the shot you want, the real benefit is watching the natural world play out in front of you live, unedited, and all just for you to witness and appreciate.
Use it or Lose It
I encounter lot’s of underwater photographers that only ever take pictures on their dives, but as manual photography is one of those pesky skills we need to learn, and even in these days of incredible automation, there’s still a bit of a learning curve to taking pictures underwater, half the fun in my eyes in all honesty.
So it really pays to keep those skills fresh by shooting on land too.
Take the camera out and about with you, shoot some landscapes, shoot some flower and insect pictures in full manual in your garden.
Use some day time off camera flash for a bit of portraiture, it’s all useful skill building and experiences that can translate to underwater upon your next dive, and you’ll have removed another layer of unnecessary task loading.
Improving your hit rate by leaps and bounds.
It might have annoyed you a bit for me to try and dictate whether or not you should take your underwater photography seriously or not, how dare I eh ?
If you are annoyed, why not take that irritation and be patient and turn it into passion and perfection, it’ll pay off in the end, and please don’t speak that last sentence aloud or you’ll spray your keyboard with spit.
If you want more specific advice or have a suggestion for a blog subject feel free to get in touch, details on how to do this are on our contact page. Do the same if you'd like a quote for equipment or to book on one of our courses or workshops (dates are on our Events page). Anyone with an interest in photography is welcome to join the Alphamarine Photography Q and A