Underwater Photography

Given how much I enjoy photography in general, it was only a matter of time before I had to snap some photos underwater.

I started out slow, with an inexpensive Ikelite housing that took cheap film cameras. That system lasted all of one trip to Cozumel before I managed to flood the housing. I'm still not real sure what I did, but the camera was toast. No matter, the guts that go inside the housing only cost $20 for a new camera on eBay! You can see some of the pictures I took in Cozumel:

Cozumel photos: Glassy Sweepers in the Barge Near Presidente, Taken While Snorkeling...

The next step was a slick little Aquapix camera I got for Christmas. This camera appealed to me after having flooded my first camera because it is a digital camera built from the start for underwater use. As such, there isn't really a housing. The camera has a couple of ports that open, one for batteries, and one to install memory card or connect a USB cable for download. It has a lot of other nifty features such as a red filter, really nice integrated flash (plus you can run a stronger strobe on an arm), interchangeable underwater wide angle, and a cool yellow fitted pelican case. I highly recommend this type of camera to anyone starting out with underwater photography. It's biggest disadvantage is that it's relatively slow, so it's easy to get motion blurred photos. On my first trip with it, I was in Cozumel, and only took it out snorkeling where there is a lot of motion, so not too many great pictures:

Cozumel Photos 2: Aquapix...

After Cozumel, I took it to Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac where I had a ball with it:

Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, 2004...

I cut my teeth processing the Aquapix photos in Photoshop. At this stage, I really relied on that red filter as a crutch, because I wasn't very good at correcting color balance to remove the blue cast.

Unfortunately, my Nikon Coolpix 5700 came home from Grand Cayman broken. I still don't know what went wrong, but suspect it was handled a little too roughly by the baggage people. At this point, my appetite was thoroughly wetted, and I wanted more resolution and faster speed in my underwater camera, so when I started thinking about what to replace the Nikon with, I was sure I'd want to buy a housing for it. I started out looking at Digital SLR's. My Nikon had been a great "prosumer" camera, but I wanted to try a step up there as well. Unfortunately, the costs involved really slowed me down. The Canon was the one to buy, but I could buy any of the prosumers plus an Ikelite housing for what the basic Canon cost--forget extra lenses or an underwater housing which would multiply those costs much further. After much soul searching about whether to proceed anyway and just keep shooting with the Aquapix (reasoning I would buy a housing the following year), I ultimately decided I just couldn't pass up an upgrade to both my underwater and above water shooting rigs. I bought an Olympus C8080 with an Ikelite housing and strobe, and the whole rig cost about $1200. Not bad!

My first trip with the new setup was Kona, Hawaii, one of my favorite dive destinations. This trip was also my wife's first chance to dive as a certified diver, so it was fun in general. The quality of the pictures with the new camera was just amazing:

March 2005 Kona Photos...

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All material 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.