Whether you’re a new photographer just learning how to dive, or an experienced saltwater explorer just learning how to shoot, here are some insights for you. (Text and photos by Stephen Frink)
In-water skills are important for productive interactions with often elusive marine life. Here are a few tips that may accelerate the learning curve.
The mask is probably the most significant piece of personal gear because it’s important to both see your subject clearly and have an unobstructed view through your camera housing’s viewfinder.an underwater photographer will likely prefer a low-volume mask with a black skirt. The low volume gets the eye closer to the viewfinder so the frame can be viewed at a single glance, preferably edge to edge, and the black skirt blocks extraneous light. A clear silicone mask lets in so much light that the contrast in the viewfinder glass is diminished, and detail is more difficult to discern. (Masks with side windows to enhance peripheral vision have the same problem.) A mask that doesn’t leak is crucial as well.
Ease of breathing is important, of course, but a regulator that exhausts completely to the side prevents bubbles from percolating in front of the housing and interfering with vision. I prefer a
regulator with a knob to adjust breathing resistance according to the task. Exhaust bubbles can ruin the shot if I am shooting an overhead subject, so the ability to inhale softly without the regulator trickling gas is important. For that task I’d increase breathing resistance.
A buoyancy compensator (BC) with the wings in the back minimises the volume along the front of the torso, which is useful when getting through tight places on the reef or on wrecks. Because underwater photography often requires travel, I try to find a lighter BC that still offers reasonable lift and durability. I prefer fewer hoses, so I like an inflator/regulator that eliminates the traditional spare second stage from my kit and allows me to breathe from it in an emergency while sharing my primary with another diver. The integrated inflator concept is de rigueur for a photographer whose hands are otherwise occupied with camera gear.