For the second day of the Nature Photo Challenge, I am sharing one of my first shoot underwater in Kimbe Bay, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. I took a PADI underwater photography specialty class with instructor Tammy Peluso, the resident photographer at Walindi Plantation Resort at the time. The pristine reefs were alive with the most spectacular marine creatures. It was the first time I truly enjoyed the colors in the depths of the sea. Why? In simple terms, the seawater and the planktons absorb red, orange, and yellow wavelengths of light quickly and reflect the shorter wavelength blues and violets. Not only you see the ocean as blue above water, but you also see bluish green world underwater in ambient light with your naked eye. To take good pictures underwater, you will need a strobe light (basically a flash) that emits light close to sunlight. Since you are now close to the subject, less light is lost and the true colors reveal themselves. The strobe light made a world of difference. Now you know why your pictures and videos taken with your iPhone, GoPro, and point-and-shoot cameras while snorkeling have the blue-green tint. (I have seen some relatively inexpensive, portable lights which may help solve the problem. I will write a review later when I get my hands on them.)
This picture above was taken with a film camera, the de facto Nikonos V. It was a mechanical camera that had proper waterproof seals, such that the camera did not require an external housing, which is the usual solution to our digital cameras these days. In the old days, photographers faced two major problems: the limitation of 24/36 frames and the type (speed, color, brand, etc) of film loaded, and no way to tell what the shot looked like until the film was developed. That meant the photographers had better known what they were doing in terms of exposure and composition and had to count on their luck that no fantastic creatures were to show up when they were out of film. LOL. Actually, there was even a time when flash was disposable, one-time use only. Imagine someone with a big bag of flash bulbs that needed to be changed every frame...yikes!
You may ask: why don't you just ascend and change film? Scuba divers have to follow a dive table to manage nitrogen consumption and ensure safety. Basically, it's not like you can just ride an elevator up and down from your parking to your apartment should you forget something. Professional photographers have assistants to bring multiple camera set-ups to overcome the limit on number on frames as well as the lens, wide-angle vs. macro, etc. Another problem is that opening the camera to change film is a meticulous process; the photographer needs to make sure that nothing, not even a grain of sand or a strand of hair gets trapped in the seal, or that's how water leaks into the camera. It's not a task you'd like to rush. This still applies to any modern-day underwater housing, and photographers still need to change lens, batteries, and memory cards. Just remember, water and electronics don't get along. You'd better do your best in preparing your housing for use underwater.
Underwater photography is as much an art as a science. I just love watching marine life in peace and quiet. Traveling underwater is definitely out of the elements for human, but thanks to all the technologies available, it is now a very popular pastime, and underwater photography has become simpler. Please remember, we are visitors. Take nothing but memories and pictures, and respect marine life. Take care of your own safety.
For scuba diving certification, you may consider: