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Dabbled with digital, back to analogue!

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#1 scubababe



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Posted 04 June 2003 - 11:58 AM

I'm taking a rather strange approach to underwater photography....

Having dabbled with my boyfriend's digital cameras for a while, I decided that I wasn't content being the photographer's assistant anymore and have purchased/am purchasing my own set up. Just as many other photographers are moving towards digital, I've decided to go the traditional route and have purchased an F90x and am in the process of selecting lenses for the aquatica housing.

I guess what I'd like to know are the "top ten tips" from the more seasoned and experienced photographers... what mistakes did you make that you can share with me? and what are the quick ways of making my first films a success rather than a flop?

Any ideas and experiences would be gratefully received!


#2 bobjarman


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Posted 04 June 2003 - 12:31 PM

Welcome to the OldGeezer club! I think you will enjoy shooting film. (I shoot digi on land film underwater.)

I am not a pro, but I'll start: (and yes I have done most of these)


1: Forget to turn the camera on

2: Forget to Load film before getting wet

3: Shoot Aperture mode in dark settings. Assuming your camera is going to hold the shutter speed to as slow as it need to for ambient exposure.


1: Shoot Manual mode with TTL flash to start. Try to meter out to the open blue water for ambient settings. Let TTL determine flash for subject. (assuming a background as it looks)

2: Stop down to aperture to darken the ambient water color, step up to Lighten it.

3: I would start with macro, its the easiest to get right. A 60mm micro lens and a flat port will get a lot of cool shots!

4: Test your set up before putting the camera in for water tightness.

5: Remeber to use your Flash exposure compensation to reduce the flash output if you are shooting refelcetive fish.

6: Bracket whenever possible

And finally, bring a ton of film.....shoot shoot shoot have fun. I read a book, forgot the author, who reccommended to shoot 1/4-1 roll of film on one subject when you find one you like, different angles, settings, etc. I still do that. I personally am happy if I can get 2-3 good shots out of a roll of film. So if I limit my subjects no more than 4-5 per roll, I increase the odds of getting a keeper.

Best of luck to you!

#3 cmdasia


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Posted 04 June 2003 - 05:32 PM

I am definitely not seasoned but three I wish I had known are:

1) Allways take your first shot on the surface before entering the water - just to make sure everything is turned on and working fine.

2) Macro - set strobes to a "preffered" distance in front of the port (say 18 inch) and constantly remind your self that if the subject is not 18 inches in front then you HAVE to reset the strobe position.

3) Macro - depth of field - always try to shoot fish and subjects at 90 degrees to the port (ie from the side) so you stand a good chance of getting the DOF to cover the hold subject.

#4 JackConnick



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Posted 05 June 2003 - 12:14 AM

#1 rule of UW Photography:

Get close. Get really close. 4' away is good for CF/WA. 2' is better. 6' is as much as you can be away and you better have some good strobes.

#2 rule of UW Photography:

Shoot up. There's more light up there. Subjects are more dramatic.

Other things I've learned:

Be careful about task loading. Be very careful. I don't usually shoot the first dive or two on a vacation, just to get myself comfortable, weighting dealt with, etc. When I'm comfortable I can be creative. Remember that dive safety is the number one goal. Swimming a housing around with strobes is a lot to deal with. Watch out for current situations, etc. Remember that you are diving when you are shooting, it's easy to loose track and not check your air, etc. Consider an alternate air source (pony), as you will probably end up diving alone or separated from the crowd, as it's hard to shoot otherwise. Great that your husband is shooting also.

Try different emulsions out. Shoot at least a couple of roles in macro and WA, etc. to get a feel for them. Everyone is different. They all have something to offer. You might want to try neg film (maybe Kodak Gold 100 or Fuji Realia) to start with as it has much more latitude and you can be off and still get a usable image. Also great for deeper shots, esp if you have you own scanner and can push things a bit.

Then I'd move into slides. The latitude isn't as great, but better with the newer films. But the saturation is much better, grain, etc. They are much cheaper to process, easier to edit and store. Carefully catalogue your images. I number each roll/slide with my dive log# to keep track. I like Fuji Velvia for Macro and EkProVS, but there is a new emulsion everyone is raving about called EkProGX.

Get a good scanner with great s/w. Nikon and Polaroid are probably the best. Silverfast gets my nod as an outstanding scanning s/w.

Oh, one good trick is to get a soft cooler to carry and soak your camera housing in on a dive boat. They are padded and cheap. Another tip is to put your kit together and put in the tank and look for bubbles. Sometimes you can find a leak and not have it be a disaster. Consider flood insurance from DEEP or DAN.

Good luck and welcome to the film forum. This is one of the best resources I've seen on the net!


Jack Connick
Optical Ocean Sales.com

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#5 jimbo1946


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Posted 05 June 2003 - 05:37 AM

Howdy, scubababe! I have just returned from my first dive trip using a DSLR, but I shot an N90s in an Aquatica housing for several years. You'll love the set-up, and these folks have given you some great advice.

One of the obvious advantages of digital is the instant feedback that you don't get with film. Some of the places we went with the N90 didn't have film processing, so it was 1-2 weeks later before I saw my slides. If there is film processing where you are, I recommend getting your first 1-2 rolls processed there so you can make sure that everything is working correctly. It's probably going to cost more than it does back home, but it's worth it for the feedback, and so you can jump right onto the learning curve.

And I highly recommend slide film, even though there are fewer places that process E-6. ISO 100 is probably the best overall film speed for U/W photography. If you have a slide/film scanner, you can scan your slides and use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to crop your photos and do touch-up color and contrast adjustments. You can often turn a so-so photo into a winner.

Have fun! The N90 and an Aquatica housing is a great combo, and you should get some great photos.
Jim Chambers
Tucker, Georgia

Nikon D300 in Aquatica housing with housed SB800 flash.

#6 scorpio_fish



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Posted 05 June 2003 - 05:55 AM

I could write a pretty long artical on all the mistakes I have made, but I would have to use a fake name to protect what little credibility I have. This is not an all inclusive list, but....

1) Create the setup checklist for prepping your camera and housing.

2) Do all or most of your setup in your room before heading for the dive. Test fire your strobes in TTL before you head out. Cover the lens and fire. Your strobes should do a full dump. Shoot into a mirror.

3) Make sure film is loaded properly and advancing.

4) Make sure your lens is set to AF if that is what you want. Don't forget the limit switch if your lens has one. Make sure MSC switch is where you want it. Check all knobs, dials and gears are working properly and camera is closed properly.

5) Check metering mode and shooting mode to make sure they are set correctly. Changing them underwater is a pain.

6) This is my most important tip. Keep it simple. Then add variables. Start by turning your camera into a high quality point and shoot. Shooting macro with a 60mm lens, set to aperture priority, f/16 or f/22, strobe on TTL, then focus and blast away.

Now you have no camera adjustments and you can focus on shooting the subject rather than fiddling with your camera. Follow the techniques mentioned by others. Find your subject. Start with subjects that don't move. Decide how to approach to get the shot you want (angle of approach, subject angle, subject position in the frame, negative space-what do you want the non-subject area to look like, and is there a safe spot to place my fingers).

Once you are comfortable with the above, then add one complexity. Adjust your strobe aim. This takes practice. Unless you are using a ring flash, the flash is always coming at an angle. Every change in distance from camera to subject means the angle of light has changed. If I'm shooting a tiny subject right in front of the camera with the strobe aimed properly and I then try to shoot a larger fish, further away, the strobe is now aimed in front of the subject and perhaps below the subject. A slight adjustment takes care of the problem.

Again, eliminate task loading by keeping it simple. If anyone saw my first dive with a housed camera, they would be rolling on the floor laughing. Low vis, current, surge, trying to shoot manual while adjusting EV. None of the six shots I fired were very good. Don't mess with your camera on the boat. Start by shooting with a setup that requires no underwater adjustments.

I am a firm believer that improvement starts with the elimination of camera setting adjustments and concentrating on taking the picture.

And of course, shoot, shoot, shoot!!!! Look at the results. Figure out what worked and didn't work.
"Me, fail English?.........Unpossible!"

#7 robmcmahon



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Posted 07 June 2003 - 05:01 AM

Sorry Karen posted under my login !! the joys of co-habitation and a single PC

#8 scubababe



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Posted 07 June 2003 - 10:26 AM

Hey Guys,

Thanks loads for all the top tips and advice - I can't wait to get underwater and start shooting!! All I have to do now is plan the next dive trip - which I reckon is going to have to be Lembeh Strait and PNG - which will give me the perfect excuse for buying a 105mm lense!!

Thanks again

#9 HulaMike


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Posted 25 June 2003 - 02:06 PM


I just sent you an email...I think. Not familiar with the mechanics here yet. If you're still in the market for an Aquatica Pro 90 housing and ports, please visit my post below under "classifieds". I might be able to save you a bundle on 'good as new'.

Hula On!