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FAQs about Underwater Photography Techniques

Related Articles: Underwater Photography

FAQs on: UW Photography, UW Photography 2
FAQs on: Gear (will split up to cameras, housings, batteries, lenses... later), Selling, Photo Sites, Trips, UW Photography References,
Above-water Photography, Digital Photography, Aquatic Videography,


silicone grease and the reef tank   6/30/10
Hello crew,
<Hello Eric.>
I'm going to Grand Cayman in August and want to try out my new underwater camera beforehand. I'm recovering from a back injury and don't want to push my luck; therefore, no diving until the vacation. It's necessary to use silicone grease on the camera housing's "o-ring" to get a water tight seal.
<It is important to keep the o-rings from binding, twisting or pinching. I will pass on a little note that Bob has bestowed upon me. Do use the specific recommended lubricant your housing manufacturer recommends, it can make a difference and using the wrong lubricant can lead to o-ring failure.>
Would this cause any problems if I held the camera in my reef tank and took some pictures?
<Nothing long term. I do use these types of lubricants all the time with overflow installs on the bulkhead gaskets (it allows you to turn the bulkhead without binding up the gasket). All you will likely notice is your skimmer will not work optimally for a few hours afterwards from the residues on the housing and the grease. But it will not hurt anything.>
Thanks for your time,
<Welcome, want to take me along on the trip? I am willing to take that bullet for you! Have a great time, Scott V.>

Clownfish with eggs, pix   3/30/10
Came across a beautiful photo of a clownfish tending her eggs. Thought you might enjoy.
<Is a beauty. B>
Re: Clownfish with eggs  3/31/10
I'm betting the photo was not taken with a 200 dollar lens. Likely had some expensive glass on the camera.
<Mmm, you never know James... could be a very inexpensive rig... large file size... "fixed" post-production. B>

WWM Help... with slide id, scanning... > I need to bail from active duty on WWM mail to hunker down on vol. 2 of our next book. Bob has got a fantastic jump on the draft and I need to catch up. > <And... I've got's to stop sorting these slides (though it IS so much fun) and get on to finishing the first drafts> What's involved with the slides? Marina <Whoo whoo, ha ha, ho ho! Let's see... I do the first pass (after coming back with them) at tossing the bad (out of focus, poorly lit...) ones (am better than Bruce Lee at tossing two by two's... can stick them like shirkens into the drywall... besides he's dead), next sort by group (invert.s, fishes, above water...), next re-sort to family, genus, possibly species... Then, maybe scan some of the better ones for WWM/WWF (mainly landscapes, but a few verticals that might get sent out as cover submissions), save on HDs here, and place in hanging folder files by group... THEN, when someone calls, emails or we have a desire to re-do for book et al. use, go back through the group/files... and re-scan at whatever resolution... NOW, imagine friends of yours having a few tens of thousands of not-so identified stinging-celled animal slides... and a title in mind that IS the cnidarians... MANY slides "just" identified as "hard corals", "soft corals", gorgonians et al. in bulging folder files by geographic region... AND a need to identify to at least the genus... THAT's what's really involved... Now, how to do about the specific identification process? For the Cnid.s, get out Veron's three vol. effort (careful not to drop them on your toes!) and other recent pet-fish efforts, the whole bunch of slides (e.g. Montiporas, Pacific)... and try to id them a bit better... then, why not? re-scan them to your best ability... Sound easy? It is, sort of... but TIME CONSUMING YOU BETCHA! Bob, enjoying the first pass at the forty five rolls (times 36 exposures each) just back from the last trip>

Thank you (u/w photography, Goa trip, Hashing) I'm afraid if I show this to Suzy she's going to say, "Go ahead and do what he says. That way you don't have to upgrade in a year or two." (or something like that). And she's been sort of interested in a digital after watching other people use them at various Hashes. <Hmm, you wouldn't just happen to have her e-mail addy handy?> The digital thing sounds neat, and I remember the good times we had looking at all the stuff that (damn...can't remember his name) showed us each evening. Of course, that would mean a laptop, as well. I had planned on sticking with old-fashioned pictures that we can show family, and maybe stick on a wall, but I guess I can always get prints from digital if I really want one. <You can... and can view the pix, on the camera display while out in the field... and just plug the device into your desktop when home... or on the TV while out in the field...> I think your idea about talking with people is a good one. There are several divers in the White House H3, and they may have some good inputs. And of course the local dive shops know who has bought cameras from them, and could maybe give me some un-biased advice. And I suppose going through our back issues of diving magazines (of which we have about 50) would probably help, if I can ever force myself to do that. <This is what I do... when writing articles about, spiffing up to answer queries about, developing pitches on: underwater and above water photography> As for diving together, I think the trip to Goa interferes with the Scuba-Hash cruise this year, and from what we've seen of fares and schedules, going to the Maldives probably isn't going to work. Drat.  <Agreed. Due to cost and troubles there, we are opting out of Goa presently> We are booked into a resort on the east end of Grand Cayman for the week right after Thanksgiving, and have some flight coupons (from being bumped) that we need to use this year, so I'm sure we'll head someplace with warm water sometime during the summer. I can't remember if we filled you in on our trip to Antigua. Three two-tank dives, which were OK, but nothing to go back for And most of the negative things we read in Undercurrent were true. <I agree. We were in Antigua about two years back after a/the big storm... the bottom was a mess. The svc. at the Sandals was sub-par for their chain> See you sometime, and thanks again for the advice. Spinal (and Hasher Humper) <Anytime my friend. Be seeing you. Bob/Dog F>

incoming!! (Jason.C digital pix from last week, Cozumel) On the way to you via Priority Mail... a CDROM of the images, some 400 or so... everything that is actually in focus and the USB cable for the Olympus. <Thank you, but no rush... am not able to review, add for a week or so.> On the images... the only manipulation I've done is to orient/rotate the images, the rest is up to you. Sometime, about midweek, Lorenzo talked me into using the SHQ-JPEG mode which creates images at 2200-something by 1700-something. These images survive cropping very well as everyone of the four mega-pixels gets used. They can easily be converted to TIFF format if in fact they turn out well enough to go to print. <Again... you folks may know better... but the real world of editors want ORIGINAL TIFFs for print...> Otherwise, I'm sure there's a picture or two that would do just fine on the web... speaking of which, you/me/we should put up that Slippery Dick I sent you as the one image that is on that particular wrasse page certainly doesn't look like that. <No... may seem ridiculous... but have left out/off due to common name. Blue Nose Bob> Cheers, J --

Nikon housing I noticed you mentioned you have an N-90 in a housing you use as a standby rig. I also have an N-90... curious to know more about the underwater ramifications of that. <I REALLY like this Nikon model (have an -X foreign body as well, as a back up, dual rig... the same camera, but a different designation). Where to continue here... Unlike the F-5 (had a "F"... yes, no number... great action finder, autowinder... in a bicep-building Ocean Eye housing set-up for years...), which is a great camera body as well, the N-90 S/X fits in a carry-on case with a Nexus housing (http://www.marinecamera.com/nexmast.html) under ones seat, in the overhead bin on most aircraft... I prefer to keep my lenses, bodies, housings, strobes, cords, arms, batteries, chargers... altogether as such and within my reach (unfortunately, have had gear stolen while in process/enroute on planes...).  Possibly more to your point, the N-90 has almost all the features (wish the "night light" would just stay on till "turned off" purposely... and a few other requests sent to Nikon) I need/want/am looking for... Do shoot autofocus (and use "D" designated lenses, though the IR does not work u/w of course)... TTL very often (most of the time)... really use the change of exposure, auto-focus lock buttons a great deal and these are very "ergonomically placed... I don't use the "program modes" underwater at all... As with all Nikon analog cameras the interchangeability of lenses, strobes et al. is a tremendous asset. The fact that the cameras run on regular AA batteries (do get/use the rechargeable NiMH's) is a real plus... If you'd like we can chat re cameras.> Still looking for a learn-to-dive-somewhere-warm special. J -- <If you're not quite sure if you'll like diving... do consider a "resort course", perhaps somewhere in the Caribbean. Only a day or two, not much expense. If you're pretty sure you'll become a diver, do so, even come with us, learn while out for a week or so. Some trips very reasonable. Jack and I (Pete and Di et al. can't make it) are off to Taveuni (Fiji) 11/27-12/6, about 2k US total (air, accommodation, meals, seven days shore-based diving) from the west coast if you'd like to join us. Do "keep your health up", maybe have a physician give you a check-up for anything that might interfere with your being a scuba-type, and dreaming of warm, clear water. Ahh. Bob Fenner>

Re: A Thorny close-up, Acanthaster planci, yep, the same as the institute. (re a daily image sent) Incredible detail! What kind on lens are you using? <Hmm either just the Nikonos 35mm F3.5 with a (I'm guessing here) 1-3 or 4 extension tube/kit (very easy to use... pre-set focus, lighting... you just cock it and place over subject and shoot) or the housed N90 Nikon body, a 60mm F2.8 lens pretty close. In either case this is Velvia 50 ISO film... Bob Fenner> Todd Gabriel

U/W camera question Are you using a Nikonos V for your u/w shots?  Do you mind if I ask you some questions about it, especially on close-up shots?  Regards. Mike Kirda <Do use Nikonos for macro (the shot of Turbinaria r not m on Eric's new cover e.g.) and in my BC pocket for ballast and the occasional 400 ISO big animal, landscape (with a 15mm TTL (replaced by ins. co.), 20, or 28 mm lenses... Mike, I have to admit to being a Nikon/os junkie... have a very large collection (from the fifties Fr. Calypso... to I think two functional Orange V bodies, and one, two IVA's.... So, yes... have written about, given many pitches on the use of Nikonos, and do like them (as far as range finders go)... and will gladly engage you in discussion of same. Bob Fenner>
Re: U/W camera questions 
Well, Bob, what I'd like to ask is relatively simple...  <Ah, good>  I have only the 35mm lens, which seems to be much maligned on various newsgroups/websites. I have used it three ways:  <This is a fabulous achievement of engineering... and as you know, the most useful focal length, range of f-stops for above, u/w use...>  1) Normal extension tubes/framers at 1:2 and 1:1 combos.  2) With a Creata system, which is essentially a shorter extension tube, with a 1:3 framer or 1:2 framer/lens combo. Nice because you can change the framers underwater... <yes>  3) Borrowed Eric's Nikon close-up kit, which gets to about roughly 1:4 I think...
<Yes, and/but tough to get those animals to stay inside the framer ;)>  Using the 35mm lens, I do see the sharpness fall off- If you imagine a 4 x 6 inch print, place a coffee mug over it dead center. The edges protruding from the mug suffer from visible distortion...  <You have good vision, and yes, not sharp at the corners...>  I think that this is unavoidable, but I am curious if you think any of the options above (1,2,3) contribute to this distortion or might minimize it...  <Yes, all contribute... btw, took your advice and bought/read the 2d ed. "Photographic Principals... text cited last week from Amazon (55$!), and read over during the long weekend (my father in law passed on, so was visiting in NJ)... very worthwhile... a real wake-up call for things I thought I knew...>  I am thinking rather seriously of renting a 28mm lens from Helix and testing it out too. The Creata option will not work with it- it is designed for the 35mm only.
<Yes, and a good plan... to rent... look into used ones if you like it... or a 20 or even a 15mm... through KEH, Adorama (.com)... or your local photo-pawn shops... Or, better (really, and I swear I don't own  stocks in the companies involved), look into a housed 35 SLR... or skip past "old Bob" and go digital... Check out Marine Camera Distributors and Light and Motion's websites... and hold onto your checkbook!>  However, I would like to see how it compares with extension tubes and the Nikon close-up kit.  I am also curious which lens would have a greater depth of field...  Might you know?  <The smaller the focal length, the greater D of F... the fifteen focuses out... I think from a foot to infinity with planar (really) 94 degrees angle of coverage... Amazing!>  Depending on what I hear/find, I might just go out and buy the 28mm lens, if it will be better for me.  Thoughts? <Plenty...>  Mike Kirda <Be chatting, and hopefully photographing! Bob Fenner>

UW Photography Hi, I have just read your article on UW Photography on url http://www.wetwebmedia.com/uwfotography.htm  I have been diving for 9 years now and this year I bought Motomarine II Ex camera. Last weekend I was diving here in Adriatic Sea (13?C) and took my first pictures... BAD!!! <Don't be discouraged... This happens to almost everyone... for quite a few "trials"... persistence pays here as everywhere> Now I have decided to look on internet for some "how to"s. I found your article useful but it has no PICTURES beside ... those you write about in article. Could you PLEASE send me your article with sample pictures? Kind regards, Grega Verc Slovenia, EUROPE <Thank you for this... Just last night was giving a program to a hobby group in Southern California, and there was discussion of an upcoming Conference here in the U.S., the Western Marine, up in Monterey this year... and one of two talks I'm presenting is on... Photography! And yes, have been remiss in placing (I shudder here) thousands of images on the WWM site... But at your prompting, and because this talk is a mere ten weeks away (!), I will quickly get those images on... and include another article on "above water photography of fishes... WITH PHOTOS! Thanks again... Bob Fenner, who needs a little time, as he has (foolishly) upgraded to Windows 2000 and now is awaiting device drivers, install software for his slide scanner, printer...>strictly amateur, going to the islands in Feb. and just shopping for something to take some diving photos with. >> I see... well, though it would cost me a hundred such sales... I would encourage you to look into one of the new point and shoot cameras instead... and maybe Norbert Wu's latest book on underwater photography... These previously called "throw away" cameras actually take some nice pictures... Take a look at Ikelite's webpage... and others. http://www.ikelite.com/web_pages/1cat_index.html And feel free to contact me... am a "content provider" for the hobby, industry pub.s for the last three (yikes) decades... so do know a bunch about what not to do... unfortunately... not near enough on what to do! Be chatting, Bob Fenner

Looking for better pix On another note, we are currently developing a Web Site, actually it's virtually completed and paid for, but I want to get better images for our product gallery. At the moment I'm working on the corals. Do you have any images we could use? I can send a list of what we sell if you like, but I'm sure you can wing it. I'm also-so far unsuccessfully-trying to take photo's in our tanks here using my video 'Sunray HID' lights (metal halides). I've also tried shooting in the office aquariums (looked great through the lens, but shitty prints). The only lens I have available is a SMC Pentax-FA 28-200 Telephoto lens, and Konica 'Centuria' 100 film. I'll also try out a 'Sea & Sea Amphibious camera with a 35mm lens. My best results have been in one of the new fish cubes, with the lights immersed in the top of the tank-problem is, the corals look really pissed off because of the shift, and probably the copper, and I have to be so far back to get in focus.  Thanks Bob, all the best Tim.  >> Hey Tim! Great to hear from you.  And yes to having images of the corals and other animals you folks have available. The Camera you have might work... but not with the telephoto lens... these "all purpose" lenses are like street AND dirt motorcycles.... they're neither! Do use a warmer film (I mainly use Velvia (50) and Provia (100)... and get most all of it mail order from www.adorama.com). The housed 35mm (or even larger format! Yikes) and macro lenses (mostly a 60mm and 105) are the best for colony shots... IMO.  But can send you low resolution images to sort through or burn a CD or two of the better ones in CMYK mode for print and you can manipulate them through Photoshop... to RGBs for your site... Anyway, let me know how you want to proceed. Bob Fenner

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