SHOOTING IN THE WATER
Before I start writing about tips and tricks for underwater shooting, I want to make you aware that natural waters are ecosystems, only use natural and reef-friendly sunscreen and remember that you are a guest in the underwater world. Be careful and respectful towards nature.
The first thing which comes to mind for most people when thinking about water photography or filmmaking is probably the gear. Since you can't bring your camera into the water, at least not unprotected. There are a lot of options out there for underwater cameras and housings. Most popular underwater cameras are probably GoPros. There are heaps of different brands for action cameras and underwater housings out there.
What gear to start with?
I started with an action cam myself, but after some time, it was not enough for me anymore, I wanted to be able to have more control over the settings and esthetic of my photos and videos. So I started looking into underwater housings. Since most housings have a quite high price, it is worth researching and thinking about it a bit longer.
Most models only fit certain cameras, so I decided on a soft housing which fits a variety of cameras and is way cheaper than hard housings. I decided on one like that for my first one, because I was not sure how much I would like to take photos in the water and because I was planning on investing in a new camera set up in the next months or year. All these reasons brought me to buy a soft plastic dicapac housing. This made it possible for me to control my camera underwater. I could control the back buttons through the clear plastic back of the housing, and the top dials through a finger hole on the top right side. I used it for a couple of surf and underwater shootings and was pretty happy with it. It is necessary to make sure before every shoot that it is not damaged, leaking could ruin your camera, which is quite obvious. After about a year with the dicapac housing, I got a new camera and bought myself a hard plastic one from sea frogs.
What to think about when shooting in the water?
The top four reasons why your footage is not turning out as you want it to:
Shaky footage due to movement of the water
Fogging inside the camera housing
Light and color problems underwater
Water-drops on the lens
Getting smooth images in the water is one of the hardest things to solve in my opinion. It is not really a problem when taking photos, but when taking videos it is rather difficult.
Shooting on the surface: Make sure you have a good grip on your camera, try to float as calm as possible. If your camera is very light, try to add weights and handles in order to make it more stable. For shooting underwater, try also to hold the camera stable, if possible dive with equipment so you can stay longer underwater and you will not float to the surface too quickly. Make sure not to move the camera too much just because there are so many things you want to film at the same time. Stay on one subject at least 20 seconds, don’t get distracted by everything happing around you.
Fogging is one of the most annoying things which can happen on a shoot. I have seen two different ways to solve the problem, some of my fellow water photographers use silica gel bags and others use cotton inside their housings to absorb moisture.
Light and color problems
This issue really wrecked my nerves when I was diving at the great barrier reef. I forgot my light and red filter at home, so all my footage turned out green and blue, and all the beautiful colors you expect to see stayed hidden from me. After a depth of around three meters, you should use colored filters. Magenta for green water and red for blue water. Also, you will need to use one or more lights, the deeper you go. Don’t use the filters for snorkeling though, since it will have a colored tint over 3m. I would not recommend filming when snorkeling, cause the footage will be quite shaky.
Water-drops on lens
It is one of the most annoying things, to come home after hours of shooting in the water, thinking to have some legendary shots and then seeing that water drops ruined all your photographs.
I know how annoying this is because it happened to me. Luckily there is an easy and cheap resolution to the problem.
There are some different techniques to solve the problem. The one that I found that works pretty good for me, is candle wax on dry ports and human saliva on dome ports. I use a flat port, so I use the wax technique. You probably have everything you need at home already, because all you need is a non-scented non-colored plain candle like a tea light and a clean dedicated lens cloth.
Apply a small amount of candle wax on your lens in a grid form and then rub that in, in a circular motion till you buff the wax of. The wax leaves a thin film of wax residue on the lens, so water drops will not stay on the glass. It is also not harmful to your lens. To keep the wax on your lens for as long as possible try to keep your glass above the surface as much as possible.