Getting Started with an underwater camera

By Specialist underwater cameraman Stuart Keasley

Nature is at her most flamboyant in the marine environment, her creatures display an incredible array of outfits decorated with outlandish colour combinations, even the most outrageous fashion designer would seem like a retiring wall flower in comparison. It's an ideal playground for the budding photographer, but until recently, underwater photography was considered a specialised area, requiring expensive equipment and a high proficiency in photography. However, with the introduction and growing popularity of the digital camera, this once elite hobby has now become accessible to the diving masses, so much so that the camera is now an accepted and almost essential addition to any self respecting diver's kit bag.

There's now a wide range of cameras and housings available, the settings the digital camera employs lend themselves particularly well to the underwater realm, and the ability to review your photograph as soon as you've taken it have reduced the historically long and laborious learning curve that the film camera operator had to endure to a fairly painless and relatively quick process.

But while it is quite easy to pick up a £400 digital camera and housing, jump in the water and fire off a few holiday snaps, getting pleasing results does still take some time and effort.

The first step in making that transition from underwater happy snapper to world class photographer is ensuring your diving ability is up to the task. 'Getting the Shot' often involves getting in to tight spaces and adopting awkward positions, so your buoyancy needs to be spot on, as does your spatial awareness, particularly when considering those long extensions on your feet and the big lump of metal on your back. Anything less then perfect and you may find yourself getting too close to the fragile marine environment, resulting in possible damage and injury to your subject, its home, and perhaps even you!

Managing your diving equipment and plan need to be second nature, any distraction from the task at hand is inevitably going to affect your photographic results. Equally as much, the necessary distraction the camera demands means that you will not be focused 100% on your diving. If an issue does occur, you need to be confident in your ability to respond quickly and correctly.