I Learn To Scuba/Fail At Underwater Photography
I spend most of my time in Charleston, SC and NYC. It was February and Charleston was uncomfortably cold and NYC was unbearably cold. I had some free time so I decided to fly down to Placencia, Belize and learn to scuba dive. As a photographer I wanted to get some cool photography as well. The trip ended up being the most memorable trip of my life but I broke 2 of my 3 underwater cameras on the first day and I didn’t get a single quality image under water.
So when I decided to go to Placencia I wanted to be prepared. I bought a Panasonic TS1 (tough point and shoot) a Canon SD940 IS (small point and shoot) and the Canon waterproof housing, and an underwater housing for my D700. The day I got there I decided to take my TS1 snorkeling and the camera leaked. The camera completely stopped working and so I opened up the “waterproof” doors and let it dry out. The camera kind of came back to life… The screen would flicker on and off but I could still take videos. Every clip out of water or in shallow water in this video was taken with the semi-broken TS1.
But this wasn’t a very big deal because I still had 2 more cameras left. On our first day of diving I brought the SD940 down 60ft and guess what happened? Surprisingly it didn’t leak at all and it worked great, but when I got out of the water I tried to turn the camera off while it was still in the housing and the lens gets stuck! “Lens error”; now I have one semi-broken TS1 and a completely broken SD940 and it hadn’t been 48 hours yet.
While I was on the dive boat I had the opportunity to speak with an underwater photographer with over 30 years of experience. He told me that without flash every shot I take will turn out to be that nasty blue color you’ve seen in all of my videos. He told me that I need to invest in at least 1 long strobe arm for my d300s housing and that I need to get below my subject and shoot upward so that you can see the sun rays from the surface in the background. Great advice but I never bought any underwater strobes. After hearing his story about his last Nikon DSLR housing flooding I decided not to take the risk since I knew I wouldn’t be able to get good shots without strobes.
So my D700 remained in my cabana hut all week and I never even turned it on. All of the deep underwater footage from this trip was taken on the first day of diving with the SD940 and we were training during all three of those dives so we didn’t see much wildlife. I had 6 more dives (after I was certified) over the next few days and I saw some amazing wildlife and I am so mad that I didn’t have a camera to shoot video of it. I was face to face with multiple sea turtles, I saw a couple of huge sharks, a couple of massive sting rays, and amazing coral and fish.
When I got back from the trip I took the SD940 back to Adorama and they gave me a brand new camera without any hassle. I really appreciated them being so understanding and willing to help. I got my TS1 from BH 2 months before and so I didn’t have as much luck with them. They directed me to Panasonic and they agreed to give me a refurbished model after I mailed my broken camera in. Now I just have to wait before I get this replacement back.
Quick note about the TS1: As a professional photographer the TS1 is the best point and shoot camera I have ever used (aside from it leaking). If you want the highest possible image quality then of course I would suggest a Canon G11 or something similar but I have my pro gear to take ultra high quality photos. The TS1 is small, it’s made of metal and is tough as hell, it has a great wide angle zoom lens, it shoots 720HD video and you can zoom while you record (most point and shoots can’t do this), but my favorite feature is that this camera has a constant LED light on it for video in the dark. When I go out with friends to bars I have the only camera that can capture valuable blackmail footage. I want my point and shoot to go places that my big Nikon gear can’t and the TS1 was a dream point and shoot until it leaked. The TS2 is out now and it is even tougher and more waterproof than before. When I get my refurbished TS1 back it will go up on eBay so that I can buy this upgrade.
So I want to learn more about underwater photography. If you know what you are doing why don’t you create a “how to” video for underwater photography and submit it to email@example.com. If it’s well made, we will feature it on Fstoppers.