CHAPTER 2: PHOTOGRAPHY
I’ve never known diving without cameras. My first dive trip was a bribe; go to Sulawesi with the cast and crew of The Digital Shootout and teach a few of the subtle nuances of Adobe Photoshop. Irresistible.
The trip was unfortunate in its timing; we left San Francisco on September 10th of 2001 and, by the time we landed in Singapore, the United States had become a very different country. It seemed callous to continue on with our vacation and not return home at once to brace ourselves for whatever was to happen next. But even if we wanted to come home, air travel (especially into and out of the U.S.) was halted. Our fate had been decided. Over the next 10 days, we dived in the morning and monitored CNN in the afternoon which further strengthened the bond underwater photographers have. Our unusual and unfortunate circumstances brought us even closer together. Despite the events at home, my interest in shooting underwater had been sparked.
On the plus side of timing choices, my interest came at almost the exact moment when the quality of digital photographs happened to coincide with reasonable sticker prices for the cameras that produced them. This is key because I’m not sure I would have lasted long as a film photographer underwater. Actually, let me rephrase that… I NEVER would have survived. Waiting a day (or so) to develop film and see if my instincts about shutter speed, aperture, and strobe power had all been calculated (or, at least, estimated) correctly? Having to somehow recall (or, God forbid, write down) shutter and aperture settings? No, sorry. Too much of a disconnect in my immediate-gratification world. 36 exposures? Wow. Takes me that many to aim a strobe. Still, I admire those that did shoot film (admittedly, they didn’t have a choice).
Both film and digital require grasping some tricky concepts. Some things - aperture for example - are the opposite of what logic would dictate - i.e. the bigger the number, the smaller the diameter? “The number indicates how many aperture openings would fit between the film plane and the iris itself.” Really? THAT’S what you came up with? Unfortunately, shutter speed seems to require a passion for fractions. Then, to comprehend how all of those settings interact with each other… That’s a tall order. Add strobe power, distance to subject, etc. and once you have (or think you have) some grasp on those, introduce a whole new array of variables and nuances by doing it underwater.
I’m reminded of John F. Kennedy’s speech about “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” At times, it really will seem as difficult as going to the moon. Underwater photography is not something most people choose to do. In fact, it is not something just anyone CAN do. It is a humbling process for those who have mastered some other undertaking; a chance to become a beginner again, and it is certainly not for the meek. Many bad shots will precede the good ones before it all “gels”. Considering also that you emerge from the water dripping wet with bad hair, a red “mask mark” on your face, and a blob of snot on your nose the size of a hamster, it is not for the vain.
Much like children, underwater photography gear is most easily and economically enjoyed when it belongs to someone else. For almost a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends willing to let me use some very pricey camera gear. Still, I knew someday I would want my own. While I wanted to “do it right”, aspiring to use the gear of the pros, I had that one limitation that can cripple the hopes and dreams of any newbie underwater photographer - a budget. When a single expensive hobby isn’t expensive enough, combine two (or more) of them. The result is only slightly cheaper than antique yacht racing. It was time to - if you’ll pardon the expression - dive in head-first.
It was time to choose a housing…
by Daniel Brown
Dome Port Diaries
The Adventures of a Newbie Housing Owner