Underwater Photography Inspiring Innovations

I am often surprised and amazed at the inspiring innovations utilizing underwater photography and videography all around the world. For scientists, marine biologists and environmentalists, they use the technology to discover and explore and report their findings. They use the data collected to preserve, promote and protect underwater life we land dwellers can only visit.

Here are some of my newly discovered uses of underwater photography and videography.

A custom made underwater camera worn by a dolphin to find out more about their habitat and day to day lives.

Discovering mini creatures through a new underwater photography trend called “blackwater photography.” Underwater photographers, many of which are marine biologists with a knack for photography, go out in open ocean at night and take pictures of larval fish and invertebrates migrating to to the surface.

The results are stunning and also important as many of the pictures are of creatures never before seen and recording information about the mysterious “diurnal vertical migration” which takes place all around the world.

I continue to be amazed by the Deep-Sea Challenger and underwater photography and videography it provides. This link, via the National Geographic Resource Library is designed for students in grades 6 – 8 and provides a three hour activity with subject matter focusing on “Arts and Music, Earth Science, Astronomy, Oceanography, Engineering, Geography.”

National Geographic has endless information on their websites about underwater worlds, with outstanding images taken by some of the very best underwater photographers worldwide.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/activity/deep-sea-decisions/

This National Geographic link is about a deep ocean Drop Cam which provides, amongst other things, real time data for monitoring the ocean’s biodiversity.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/labs

I just came across this great piece from Mosaik Underwater Cameras blog. While I usually just go on their website to drool over the newest underwater photographic technology, I do read there blog as well. I found this an interesting read and thought I would share it with any future marine biologists out there.

Go to “Why Marine Biologists should take Better Underwater Photographs” by Morgan Bennett-Smith. It was posted April 29th, 2021 on the following website.

http://www.housingcamera.com

Please note the images were taken in Thailand, 2011 while I was taking my PADI open water scuba certificate. I so hope to return one day!

PADI and Scuba

Who is PADI and what exactly is scuba?

PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors and they are the worlds leading scuba diving training organization. www.padi.com/about/who-we-are

Scuba/scuba diving is swimming underwater using scuba gear.

On their website PADI explains scuba equipment. “A mask lets you see clearly. A scuba regulator and tank provides the air you need. Fins allow you to swim efficiently, and a wetsuit helps you stay warm.”

Scuba is a chance to swim and be underwater for a length of time without having to come up to the surface for air. You take the air with you and forget about land for awhile.

Scuba equipment was invented over the past two hundred years. Like other inventions, many people have made important changes and improvements to make it what it is today (this will be detailed in a later post because it’s pretty amazing!)

Want to learn how to scuba?

PADI offers up the bubble maker course for kids aged eight and up. Kids get to experience breathing underwater (in less than 6 feet of water) blow bubbles underwater, learn about kids scuba gear, and swim around. More information can be read at https://www.padi.com/courses/bubblemaker

PADI also offers up the Youth Scuba diving PADI seal team 2-part course. Kids eight and older complete Aquamissions and have fun in the pool learning basic scuba skills. They can also learn how to take digital photos and other specialized skills such as wreck diving, environmental awareness and more. https://www.padi.com/courses/seal-team

Read about the next generation of scuba divers hoping to explore and protect the oceans at https://blog.padi.com/2020/07/20/the-next-generation-of-padi-torchbearers/?_ga=2.258148813.674758820.1614540064-1246979187.1613937916

The PADI blog also regularly adds posts about Scuba Careers. From jobs as a diving instructor to marine biologists to open water modelling and underwater archaeology, it is fascinating to read about different scuba careers available throughout the world.

This one was particularly inspiring to me because Doctor Erika Sullivan is from Toronto, Canada like me! https://blog.padi.com/2016/07/10/padi-women-in-diving-dr-erika-sullivan/

Be sure to check out and follow this awesome, six year old scuba diver named Sasa! https://www.instagram.com/sasa.cats/

The scuba shots of D. and I were taken off the shores of Koh Tao, Thailand with my Ikelite underwater housing and Sony F-150 camera. We were certified as open water divers and took a specialized course in underwater photography.

Underwater Photography = Family Fun

Underwater photography is fun for the whole family!

A waterproof phone, kids action cam or a point and shoot underwater camera is all you need to try underwater photography.

Together you can combine swimming, technology and active, quality family time while connecting to the natural world.

Here are Miss T’s thoughts about trying out underwater photography for the first time with her brother Superman C.

“I loved having my pictures taken underwater, it was so cool and fun! My brother and I had to go underwater and do a bunch of poses.”

“The camera was so big and heavy when I held it taking a picture of my brother.”

“After I had my pictures taken, I got interested in underwater photography.”

“I have a Kiddie Zoom Action Cam that comes with a plastic underwater case. I can’t wait to do underwater photography again!”
– Miss T. aged 11

This is the website with more information specifically on Miss T’s VTech kids action cam https://www.vtechkids.ca/en/brands/brand_page/kidizoom_action_cam

Clean and Clear – Neat and Tidy

As a photographer, you always take good care of your camera equipment. Regular maintenance will keep your camera and accessories at its best. It might not be as fun as taking pictures but it still has to be done.

Caring for your equipment includes everything you use for underwater photography including cameras, cases, camera housings, any tripods, connecting wires and flash mounts.

Always take your time, focus on one piece of equipment at a time and avoid harsh chemicals. I use Q-tips, paper towel, Henry’s lens cleaner (something similar will be fine) and a microfibre cleaning cloth.

To keep it fun, listen to music while you clean. I love Shakira and usually play La La La, Waka Waka, La Bicicleta and She-Wolf.

Pay careful attention when cleaning to get every single one of the knobs, dials and buttons, both inside and outside the camera housing. I lightly spray each Q-Tip and rub lightly to remove build-up of what I call CRUD.

The lens port and the dome inside and outside the housing can also be sprayed with the cleanser. The microfibre cloth makes it clean and clear.

Lubricate the O-Ring as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Ikelite advises to use only a small pea sized amount of their silicone lubricant on an O-Ring. They sell four for $4. / product #5020 directly from their website.

Wipe away all of the water spots inside the camera housing to make it clear again.

The arms and the handle (where you hold the camera housing) can be cleaned with paper towel instead of Q-Tips.

When the housing and camera are spotless and dry, whether you’re packing it away for a day or a month, keep your camera equipment neat and tidy. Do not cram it into a cupboard but use camera bags and zippered pouches to keep everything organized and safe.

You want your charging cables and connecting wires to look like this.

Not like this.

Remember, if you are taking underwater photographs in salt water be sure to rinse your camera and housing afterwards in fresh water right away to avoid rust and corrosion.

Happy Cleaning!

Underwater Photographers who Inspire and Amaze

There are so many inspiring photographers in the world!

For underwater photography specifically and in no particular order, here are some photographers who continuously inspire and amaze me!

In no particular order …

https://www.barbaracole.com

For ethereal beauty and a certain timeless quality please search up Barbara Cole’s website. She is a Canadian underwater photographer.

https://www.mullerphoto.com/#/

For sharks plus so much more have a peek at Michael Muller’s website. No words to describe what he has achieved. He is an American underwater photographer and photographer.

https://zenaholloway.com

For fashion and fine art, take a look at Zena Holloway’s website. She is a British underwater photographer.

http://www.sethcasteel.com/#!/home

For looking at dogs in a way you may have never seen them before, click on Seth Casteel’s website. He is an American underwater photographer.

https://www.zaknoyle.com

Crashing waves and surfing action at its best can be seen on Zak Noyle’s website. He is a Hawaiian underwater photographer.

https://www.greglecoeur.com

For wildlife underwater get familiar with Greg Le Coueur’s website. He is a French underwater photographer.

https://www.yzinkim.com

With a style all her own, check out Y. Zin. She is a Korean underwater photographer.

There are many, many more underwater photographers in the world who inspire me so expect this list to be expanded upon!

Remember not to compare your photography to others. Appreciate their talent, lose yourself in their images and be inspired to create your own art.

Artists support artists.

Sink and Swim

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One question I often get asked is how do you know where to be in the pool to take the picture!

It’s an easy answer—because I sink and swim!

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I’m constantly sinking down and swimming up—practising over and over to figure out each shot.

I will use the example of when I want to take a picture of someone jumping in from the side of a pool.

I usually have in my mind an idea of the photo I initially want to take. Let’s say I imagine a person giving me a thumbs up while surrounded by large and small bubbles with a big smile on their face.

First, I take a breath, go underwater and aim the camera at where I think would be a good spot, as determined by the depth of the pool and where the sun is in the sky. If possible, I like the sun to be streaming through the water sideways so it lights up the shot naturally.

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I show the person where I want them to stand at the edge of the pool, a place where I think they’ll be able to jump into the spot I need them to. I ask the person to count down from five after I go underwater and then jump in. For beginners you can start by counting down from a higher number until you find the length of time which suits you.

Please note, I used to ask them to count down from three, but it was a bit too quick for me to get into position and be ready for them.

While the person is counting down from five, I quickly submerge to my position, ready my camera and wait with my finger on the button. Usually I see the shadow of their body in the air just before they hit the water. I start taking pictures then.

On my camera, I have a setting which takes up to eight shots at a time depending on how long I hold down the trigger button. This is not a necessary but it does help capture the best shot.

I check the pictures I’ve taken (you can’t do this with a disposable film camera) and then ask them to do it again and again until I get the shot I had first imagined.

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You should notice a theme of clear communication in this blog post. Clear communication is not just important but necessary when you’re an underwater photographer.

When you are first starting out in underwater photography it can be tricky to explain to people what you want them to do, but practice and repetition make it easier and easier to direct people in the water.

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Celebrate the Best & Don’t Worry About the Rest

Sometimes the picture you’re trying to take does not come out as planned and that’s okay! Miss T. (age 8) had a few misses but didn’t give up, learned a lot, and had fun.

In her words, here were her two biggest challenges and how she overcame them.

“The camera was heavy!! I tried to hang on with two hands.”

“My sister was moving and I was moving!! I asked her to freeze and tried to stay still too.”

These next ones are a great example of photographing someone who isn’t quite ready to put their head underwater but gets quite excited by photos of her toes.

 

Taking underwater pictures is challenging. So celebrate the best and don’t worry about the rest!

Snorkel Science

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People have always wanted to stay underwater as long as they possibly can which is why the snorkel was invented 5000 years ago in Greece where divers used hollow reeds as tubes for fishing.

Other early methods for staying underwater longer include animal skins sewn into a sort of air pouch and used to breathe from when they needed air instead of surfacing. Diving bells were also used. They are containers only open at the bottom to more air than the pouches.

Then in the 1500’s, DaVinci came up with a version of early scuba gear. A leather diving suit and a bag-like mask went over the diver’s head. Attached to this mask around the nose were two cane tubes that led up to the surface where a cork diving bell was floating on the surface.

Although these devices were originally made for fishing, as time went on the snorkel itself quickly became a recreational tool which was agile, affordable, and easier for an everyday person to use, allowing people around the world to visit the underwater world in a way they had never been able to before.

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Snorkels need to provide the user with adequate airflow and minimal resistance which is why kid’s snorkels differ from adult snorkels. The youth ones are shorter and have a smaller diameter because kids have smaller lungs and muscles that are still developing.

Human lungs cannot handle the pressure of traveling more than two feet below the surface without a pressurized unit (scuba equipment and breathing apparatus) because the pressure from the water increases as you descend into the water. The weight and pressure of the water acts on all parts of you, including the airspace inside your body. You can’t go too deep because your lungs cannot inflate in the high pressure even with a snorkel. Because of this, the tube on a snorkel is never longer than one foot in length.

With the same idea in mind, the diameter of the tube (the round inside part of the snorkel) is approximately .75 inches though this can vary slightly.

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Snorkels come in a variety of styles and colours, made from plastic, silicone, or PVC. The top may be open or with a built in valve to prevent water coming down into the tube from the top. Underwater hockey and underwater rugby players use snorkels too.

The tube is an L or J shape with a mouthpiece attached at the end. The mouthpiece has two lugs to grip with your teeth. Remember not to grip too hard with your teeth as this will cause your jaw to ache.

Be sure to use one that fits just right and test the snorkel in the shallow end first.

Let’s get snorkeling!

Editing with an Artist’s Eye

To edit, or not to edit. To crop, or not to crop.

The answer to these questions are your decisions to make. For you are “the creator” or, as I like to call myself, “the capturer.”

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How do you decide which photos to adjust and which ones to leave alone?

Well, the best way is to trust your own eyes. To learn to do that, you have to try editing, to try cropping and to try making adjustments. It’s okay to try things, not like them, and revert back to the original. Just keep trying until you get the feeling you’re happy with it or as happy as you’re going to get.

Always have the original separate from the version you are working on, just in case you change your mind later. I tend to back up my files first and then choose which images I want to keep as “best” and then edit those ones specifically.

Here is one such image – a smiling, happy swimmer wearing a blue and white pair of goggles and a bright bathing suit.

And here it is three different ways.

Cropped.

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Adjusted here by slightly changing the exposure, shadows, contrast and sharpness.

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Now here is it with a temperature adjustment.

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Is this necessary? No. Do I use all of these options on every photograph? No.

I try to take the best shot I possibly can in the moment and adjust only when I feel it’s absolutely necessary (this does not include fun filters which I will chat about in a future blog post!)

Scroll up and down and decide which version of this smiling, happy swimmer you like best.

Try it with your own photographs. Learn to develop your artist’s eye by doing and don’t be afraid to make it wild, just for fun, but remember to have your original backed up in a separate folder or device.

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I know which version I like best and although it may be different than yours, I trust my artist’s eye and save it under my favourites. I add the year is was taken, so I would name this one something like – happy swimmer with blue and white goggles, 2019.

These pictures are all edited using the basic toolkit in Apple preview however there are many editing programs and Apps available to choose from and many websites online offering tutorials on how best to use them.

Look into PhotoFunia, Photo Editor Pro or Lightroom depending on the computer system you use or SnapSeed, Lens Distortion or Instagram for iPhones.

Have fun when and if you choose to edit. It is often the final step before printing or sharing your art.

Remember, you are the artist, the capturer, and get the final say so on each and every photograph you take. In no time at all, you will be confident to edit your photographs with your Artist’s Eye.

 

 

What does Water mean to You?

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What does water mean to you?

Our life is so connected to water it’s hard to answer this question but luckily, there’s no wrong answer.

For me, I think about how much of our bodies are made up water – at birth we register about 70-75 percent of water!

And it always blows my mind the Earth’s surface is covered by roughly 70 percent of water.

I think about the fun games of Marco Polo with my cousins and when I finally won the  “who can make the biggest splash” contest with my friends.

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I remember jumping off the dock with family and floating on my back looking up at the clouds and sun.

I remember learning to dive in and dive under.

I remember getting super dizzy trying to do as many somersaults in a row as I could.

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I love listening to the sound of falling rain and I love how water reflects the sky, whether it’s a puddle or a lake.

IMG_6407I love watching the ripples of water twinkle in the sun on a hot summer’s afternoon and I love how water can be so many different colours including the bluest of blues.

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If you were taking photographs of how much you love water and what water means to you, what type of photographs would you take?

I’d love to see them!