I am running a surf photography workshop in Morocco this October and will be posting a regular blogs leading up to the course on all things surf photography. Here’s the second entry with my Top Tips for shooting from the water:
My Top Tips For Shooting From The Water
Safety and security for yourself and your camera are ultra-important, so it’s crucial to be prepared before shooting in the water. By prepared, I mean make sure you understand your housing inside and out, you have the necessary clips and screws for back up and the housing is in good working order with no dents in it from smashing it on the reef previously! Make sure to have tested the housing in the bath or shower if it is your first time using it – be sure all seals are in working order and the fixings are properly done.
When traveling with your housing always make sure you put it in your back pack or camera bag as carry on, or pack it well protected in your hold luggage – or purchase a Pelican case for it and you can throw it around wherever you like. You can throw it at a flight attendant when she says it’s too heavy to go on and will cost you 100 bucks! It may hurt her but the camera will be AOK.
Set up the camera before placing it in the housing. I normally take a test shot in the direction of the water and prepare my settings as a base. Once in the housing minor adjustments are needed. You will start to get familiar with your camera settings and predict what you will need to put them on and tweak when you’re out in the water.
Before going out, make sure to lubricate the waterproof seal and ensure there will be enough suction for it to stay watertight. Triple check there are no sand particles or dust lying on the seal – this may let a leak in. Take a few test shots before you head out.
Make sure to have a good set of fins to swim with and a leash securing your camera to your body. Flex those muscles, get your walk down with those fins on and go! (And by the way, the best way to enter the water wearing swim fins is to walk backwards. You don’t want to trip over your fins, face plant and hit your face on your housing.) Swimming out in the ocean can be heavily endurance-based depending how big the swell is or the temperature of the water and also how long you stay out for. It is important to have a good general fitness and a good wetsuit if needed in colder climates. Having flexibility and mobility and feeling comfortable is really important.
You want to be focusing on your camera and the subject, not worrying about your body.
When shooting under the water you have to allow for the magnification of the water which will distort your focal distance. Things generally look closer than they really are. So if you are shooting on manual always make sure to allow for this when you set the focal distance on your lens. If you are shooting on automatic this will not be of concern in getting the shot in focus as long as your focal point is accurate whilst shooting.
Above the water is as normal. With half and half shots obviously the underwater frame will be distorted from the top. Just be aware of this. It’s always a good idea to keep your subject (person or fish) in line with the lens, so shooting up or down at the subject can create a strange perspective and distortion of hands and feet or fins and tail!. If shooting fisheye be careful not to have the subject too close as this will lead to distortion too. However too far back and the subject may become too small to see! It’s about good balance and framing.
If you are shooting surfing, or any action sports, there are many variations of shots you can work with, either surfers or just empty wave shots. Using a fisheye to get close up in the action is always a very powerful and fun shot to get – it gives a great dome effect and the shot is brought to life. Be careful not to get run over by the surfer though! Using a slightly pulled back lens – such as the 85mm – it is good to sit further back on the shoulder of the wave for a different look. Then there’s shooting in the channel or much further back, out of the impact zone, only possible in some breaks, where you can get a lovely shot with the lip of the wave and the surfer coming towards you. Then you can relax, kick your feet up and snap away until that set comes wide and messes you up!
For shooting wildlife or just general under water photography, be careful to be calm and gentle about this. Always approach with caution and try not to alarm the animal. It is always nice to shoot more with a diving housing and have some strobes for this as it will give you the extra lighting necessary and as we all know lighting is everything!”
That’s all for now folks.
Feel Free to share your thoughts in the comments bar below.