While land has a ton of photograph-able subjects, the ocean has subjects you would never even in your wildest dreams think about hanging out with. Imagine coming home one day saying, “Hey, I hung out with a white tip shark today and here's the evidence,” presenting a picture with you right next to the shark in the water. Underwater photography isn't too terribly difficult, but there are a few things you need to consider before whipping your credit card out and getting excited.
Get wet and wild with your photography
Myth: If you're an ace photographer on land, you'll be ace underwater
This holds true only to a certain extent. On land you need to play with factors like light, shadow and colour, and believe it or not, the biggest gift you have is gravity. When you're underwater, the biggest skill you need to have isn't framing or light manipulation, it's bouyancy. You need to be a certified scuba diver, or at the very least, be comfortable with scuba equipment. You also need to be able to control your ability to hover at the same level (usually done by controlling your breath. Note that it's not about holding your breath, but controlling it). Of course after you master your bouyancy, framing abilities kick in.
Hovering to get non-overhead shots needs bouyancy control – courtesy Tascha Eipe
The other big difference between shooting on land and shooting underwater is of course, the way light acts in water. On land, we are constantly surrounded by light, and usually we can get white light pretty easily. Underwater, however, works on VIBGYOR, albeit backwards. As you first start to descend, you start losing red light, then orange, then yellow and so on. At a depth of just 20m the majority of your shots are going to start appearing blue. The other thing about light in water is the principle of refraction. Objects appear 25% larger and closer in water, which makes a difference when you try to apply artificial light to your subjects underwater.
Light refracts in water, objects look 25% closer and bigger
Myth: You need to have an expensive, waterproof camera to shoot underwater
There's one word missing in that statement. You need to have an expensive, waterproof camera HOUSING to shoot underwater. When you dive recreationally, you're going to go to depths of at least 10 meters if not more. You can use your regular digital camera as long as you are able to find a decent housing for it. Housings are generally camera specific and when searching for one for your camera, make sure you specify your model number in the search. Typically, consumer level Canon, Nikon and Olympus digital cameras are pretty easy to find housing for that you can dive with. Kodak and other brands are a little trickier and sometimes impossible. Good websites to source housing for your camera are Backscatter and Underwater Photography (their website is a little cluttered, but they're pretty comprehensive) or if you have slightly higher end cameras, Seacam.
A typical Canon G9 housing
When you're buying housing for your camera, make sure that you buy housing that can be used up to 40 meters since as a recreational diver, you're usually only allowed to go as deep as 40 meters (although, when you're first starting out, your limit will be 18 meters). Housings do get expensive though, sometimes more expensive than the camera itself, for instance housing for the Nikon Coolpix L19 (which costs approx Rs. 7,450) can cost $260 (approx Rs. 11,800).
When using SLR cameras, you need to consider the movement of your lens as you shoot for when you buy your housings. Most housings for SLR will come with extension ring ports that you attach onto your housing that will facilitate lens movement as you zoom in and out.