Underwater Photography

While in Qamea in Fiji, we took some underwater shots of the reef using our Panasonic Lumix DMC T53.

The Panasonic is actually underwater camera number 2. Our first, a Fuji died a horrible death at the hands of the operator – seems SOMEONE didn’t lock the water tight door well enough before going snorkeling in Soma Soma. The Admiral made sure that everyone knew who SOMEONE was. The Captain got just revenge when the Admiral fell into the pool when returning back to the boat at the Natadola resort with both the cell phone AND our Canon S95 in her purse – they both died as well. Of course SOMEONE didn’t make a big deal about it like SOME people did about the Fuji.  Actually, the Admiral has trashed two Canon S95’s and one cell phone compared to the Captain’s one cheapy Fuji (which probably had a defective seal) – but then who’s counting.  Anyway – back to the story.

I posted the original pictures in the post “Qamea 2”. I am inserting two of them here for reference purposes:

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I was never really happy with the quality. Really not the cameras fault. Underwater shots simply lose a lot of contrast and coloration – the unedited results simply don’t do the real thing justice.

This morning Steve Dashew sent me some of the same photos that Michael Jones was kind enough to pull from my blog and run thru Photoshop.

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The result really does the reef justice. It still wasn’t really lit up due to rain, wind and slightly murky water, but you can well imagine just how beautiful it was under optimal conditions.

Thank you Michael – I am hoping that you will divulge your secret Photoshop formula.

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4 Responses to Underwater Photography

  1. quoc says:

    Underwater photography usually needs a red filter, which may require an external scuba housing. Post processing the red filter with Photoshop is an alternative. If the water is not murky, you can fire the internal flash (again an external housing with a diffuser may be required) or better use an external flash gun with the internal flash slaved to it (but then the outfit becomes large). You will likely need to compensate the exposure so the flash does not overexpose.

  2. Uli Kallenbach says:

    As a passioned underwater photographer, may I give you some basic advice:
    If you want color, get as close as possible to the object as possible, and use a flash (as long as the water is not very shallow and the sun out). This is also true for the fanciest camera rig – just due to the physics of color absorption in water. Red color disappears after 3 meters. Even the most powerful flash will not work for red color when more distant than 1.5 meters from the object (light has to travel back to the lens, = 3 meters). Also, the closer you are, the less dispersed particles will be between you and the object, resulting in less backscatter. Simple compact cameras with bulit-in flashes can take amazing macro shots, without the need of any filter or external flash. But you have to be close! If you cannot touch it, the object won´t appear colorful. Zooming is done “with the fins”, always put your camera´s zoom to the widest angle possible. For wide angle shots, such as for a reef scene as seen in your pics, compact cameras are not so good – just because the lenses are not wide enough. The amazing pics you see in magazines etc are taken with extreme wide angle lenses, such as fisheye lenses, which are only available for (big) SLR cameras. Even then photographers get really close to the object, but due to the wide angle of the lens it doesn´t look like so close.
    Another trick for colorful pics is to get the white balance right. Many cameras (even compact) allow you to do that underwater, but this is a little tricky. Far easier to do as a step in post-processing. I do it with Aperture, but I´m sure you can find it in Photoshop also. Just define a spot in the pic which is white or grey (before balancing, appearing blueish), and white balance your picture there.
    And: always check the o-rings in the camera housing with care before getting into the water. If an o-ring is twisted, or has a grain of sand or salt or a hair on it, you will drown your camera. This is far more common than “not closing the housing right”. Even a few drops of salt water will kill it.
    If you are really interested in this topic, wetpixel.com is the place to find information of any kind (or contact me).

    Thanks for your great blog. Makes me dream about cruising and going to the many nice dive sites out there. Dashews seem to be great boats! Enjoy!
    Greetings from cold and foggy Switzerland, Uli

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