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New to UW Photography!

Discussion in 'Tips & Techniques' started by funkcanna, Dec 24, 2008.

  1. funkcanna

    funkcanna Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
    Hi all,

    I recently bought a Ikelite Housing for my Nikon D300 for a trip to the Maldives. I returned yesterday and eagerly transferred my images to PC - and what a disappointment :( Firstly, I did not have a strobe so alot of the images are dark (to be expected, and this is fine) but more importantly most of the images are slightly out of focus. Now ive been a land photographer for years and sell my images for stock etc, so technical quality is very high on my agenda - to see 80% of my first set of UW images to be out of focus is a kick in the teeth.

    Any tips on this? I used single-servo AF focusing and had to shoot on a large aperture due to lack of strobe. My thoughts are that due to the shallow DoF and using single-servo (i.e. locking focus only once) before shooting, the slight movement of the water changed my focus point.

    DOes this sound about right? Does anyone recommend using continuous-servo AF underwater and would this help?

    Also, looking through the viewfinder with a mask on and through the housing is a pain the ass - do I just get used to the reduced field of vision through the housing or is there a solution I dont know about?

    Thanks guys :)
  2. newmanl

    newmanl Contributor

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Port Coquitlam, BC
    Hi funkcanna,

    Just a few comments that might help. As you know, both single and continuous servo focus allow you to take a photo whether the subject is in focus or not - meaning the camera does not have to lock focus to shoot. That can be a problem because u/w both you and the subject are likely moving to some degree - motion of the ocean and all that. I tried the servo focus options, but went back to one shot and got more keepers in that focus mode. The other problem might have been low light combined with limited DOF because of the large aperatures. If shooting only available light, the best results are achieved in well-lit shallow water with the sun behind you (to get the max light on the subject). I've shot some available light stuff and my best shots are those where I shot in shutter priority (1/60th to 1/90th) and offered the camera as much light as possible so it could stop down to 5.6 to 8.0. Shooting upwards (not pointing the camera down) also helps with getting a smaller aperature - obviously.

    You may also want to check out Alex Mustard's "Magic Filter" (M A G I C - F I L T E R S). I used one in Kona this past April and really liked the results - as long as I followed the general guidelines on how it produces the best results.

    Taken with the filter and available light.


    "They" sell view finder attachments, but I don't have any experience with any at the moment, and I agree, it is a pain to get used to! Sorry.

    Anyway, I hope that helps. Good luck next time you get in the water!

  3. spt29970

    spt29970 Contributor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Santa Barbara, CA
    Are you sure that they are out of focus? One of the big problems with beginning UW photographers is motion blur. If your buoyancy skills are not spot on and you are rising, falling, or sculling, you probably didn't hold the housing very still. Combine this with slow shutter speeds dictated by low light and you have a recipe for blurry images.

    As far as using the viewfinder is concerned, it definitely takes some practice, but I LOVE the magnified viewfinder on my Aquatica. It cost a fortune, but was worth every penny. I would never go back to a standard viewfinder or a LCD screen again.
  4. funkcanna

    funkcanna Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
    Thanks for reply guys

    Im not sure its motion blur - here is an example, shot at 1/320 @ f3.5. I say the 1/320 should more than compensate for slight movement, but the image is still not sharp.

    Not the best photo I know, just an example from the 300+ shots I took!

    Attached Files:

  5. alcina

    alcina Missing Diva. ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Western Australia
    3.5 underwater? yikes, DOF is going to be an issue for sure. That's a tough ask of a lot of lenses and it's likely you simply (or rather your camera) hit focus, but just not exactly in the smidgen where you wanted it.

    On another note...you went on a big holiday
    a) without some way to review images so you could trouble shoot and improve while you were there?? Crazy, man :wink: Laptop or at the very least a small image viewer is essential on a trip, imho. Otherwise you're really missing out on one of the great benefits of shooting digital.

    There are some awesome baby laptops that are quite inexpensive (comparatively) and light weight...might not want to do a lot of editing on them, but they are perfect for this kind of review and critique while away from home.
    b) without a strobe with a dslr rig? That really does make things harder! I admire your effort!
  6. ScubaSeanMaui

    ScubaSeanMaui Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Maui
    You definitely need strobes... Lots of stuff is hiding in cracks and you'll never get any shots without strobes... Also a focus light would help... I wouldn't waste any money on Magic Filters... They are no substitute for strobes... I used mine on 2 dives, never to use again. Buy a strobe or two... Get 2 DS-160's... some UCLS arms... The D300 viewfinder is improved over the D200.. :) You will get used to it as you dive with it more... UW photography is challenging even with a DSLR.. You'll have MUCH better results with strobes...


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