You don’t need to be an expert photographer or scuba diver to take underwater photographs or use a camcorder underwater You can take perfectly good photographs or video by putting your head just under the water; but to add a feeling of drama to a photograph, it is sometimes desirable to be on the same level as, or below, the subject. However, human eyes cannot focus underwater. In order to be able to see the camera viewfinder, it is necessary to place an air-space between the eyes and the water. You can obtain a good mask from any good diving equipment shop.
Likewise, any camera or video camera destined to be used underwater requires a housing, i.e., a sealed box or casing designed to prevent the water from getting in. The housing can either be part of the equipment, such as the casing of a waterproof camera; or it can be a separate item designed to enclose a piece of equipment which is not otherwise waterproof. There are two basic types of housing: flexible housings, and hard (or pressure-resistant) housings. Depending on whether you are going for the amateur snapper or the professional shooter approach, you may decide you need some lights to enhance your photography or video work. In reasonably clear water and moderate sunshine, video lights are of little use because natural sunlight provides all of the necessary illumination for most low-lux camcorders.
Video lights are useful for night diving and for bringing out natural colors and detail to close-up shots Speaking of close-ups, the best results in underwater photography and video are achieved when the zoom is set to full wide angle, because it allows a closer shooting distance with less water between the camera and the subject. As a general rule the closer you are to your subject, the better the image will be (better light, clarity and color)! Aside from periodically checking a viewfinder or getting a frame reference, continuous viewing through the rear port/viewfinder is difficult with most camcorders underwater and is an awkward position to shoot in. The more natural and preferred approach is to sight over the top of the housing in a “point and shoot” manner. This method provides for accurate framing and following of the subject, and allows you to view the scene ahead and anticipate where to shoot next. All these things take practice, and as always, we recommend that you take an accredited photography or videography course in order to achieve the best results.
There are custom-made cameras and video cameras on the market made specifically for underwater use. But the best idea for all but the most dedicated professionals is to use your existing camera equipment, or get hold of an all-purpose video or dv cam, and then you just need the waterproof housing and accessories. This will ensure that you get the most use from your equipment, and even if your love of scuba dies (unlikely!) you can use your equipment on dry land.
You’ll need something fairly rugged to withstand the knocks and pressures of scuba diving. Most housings have a depth-rating which give you an indication of how deep you can go to film. Cylindrical shapes provide greater strength under pressure than any other shape can provide. Single-seal designs are easier to use because they requires only one port seal – the rear port is permanently bonded and sealed. It’s best to buy a housing with the minimum of protrusions as hardware penetrations through the shell make them less reliable and watertight. If you’re canny, you’ll buy a universal design which will accommodate your future camcorder purchases, providing you with a lifetime of underwater video capability. If you aren’t sure about what controls you need, you can start with a Basic or Mechanical housing and later upgrade the controls according to your actual needs.
Camera housing tends to be much more tailored to the individual model. Again, housings will all be depth rated in feet, and often can be bought with extras such as close up lenses. It’s often cheaper to buy accessories as part of the overall housing package.
On your photography or video expeditions it’s wise to buy some sort of hard case for your equipment. You want something watertight, shock proof, and large enough to accommodate your housing, camcorder / camera and accessories.
UR/Pro U/W Color Correction Filters
UR/Pro filters are the choice of professionals around the world, and are the best way to restore the natural reds, oranges and yellows to your underwater images. They are specifically designed for underwater color correction and are most effective in depths between 15 and 80 feet.
You should have at least one x-ring seal on hand as a back-up as you never know when your seal might get lost or damaged.
Spare Front Port
The Front Port is a stand-alone part that can be inexpensively replaced if it gets severely scratched or damaged.
Simplified Video Housing Plans
If you’re against buying a special housing for your video or DV cam, it’s possible to make your own! But to avoid ruining your equipment, we recommend that you buy one of the plans that are on the market based on a proven design for home construction.
The PADI Underwater Photographer Specialty course is a good example of a programme that can help you learn how to take your first underwater photographs or fine tune your existing skills to produce photographs that will amaze your friends. In order to undertake the course PADI require that you already have a PADI Open Water Diver or Junior Open Water Diver certification (or qualifying certification from another organization). The course is open to anyone over 10 years of age.
You’ll learn the basics of underwater photography such as composition, film type and camera handling, with special emphasis on practical techniques. There will also be an emphasis on underwater photography dive planning, organization, procedures, techniques and potential problems. Camera care and maintenance is also a component of the syllabus. The course is made up of a number of sessions totaling 12 hours, followed by Open Water Training of a minimum of two dives over one day. To undertake the course you’ll need the PADI Photo-Pak, which includes amanual, video and log insert. The Adventures In Diving Underwater Photographer Adventure Dive may count as a Specialty course at instructor discretion. This Specialty also counts toward one of the five Specialties required for your Master Scuba Diver certification, should you choose to take your diving further.
Do you want to show the underwater world to your land-based friends? Take the PADI Underwater Videographer Specialty course and you’ll learn the skills necessary to shoot your own underwater footage. The course requires that you already have a PADI Open Water Diver or Junior Open Water Diver certification (or qualifying certification from another organization) The minimum age is 12 years old.
You’ll learn about selecting, maintaining and caring for your underwater video equipment as well as safe diving practices while on a videography dive. Also you’ll learn the fundamentals of videography, such as exposure, focus, shot types, moves, story line and shot sequencing. Then you’ll get to put your knowledge to actual use during your three open water dives. The course takes 24 course hours and is completed by minimum Open Water Training of three dives over one day. Your Adventures In Diving Underwater Videographer Adventure Dive may count towards your Underwater Videographer Specialty course at instructor discretion. This Specialty course also counts toward one of the five required Dives for the Master Scuba Diver Certification.