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One of my photographic passions other than creating planets and panoramas is underwater photography. Unfortunately it’s a pricey game – underwater camera gear is very expensive, as are flights and dive trips to tropical destinations where all the good fish hang out. At the moment I use my trusty Canon G7 in an Ikelite housing, with Inon wide angle and macros lenses, and an Inon z240 strobe. This kit has served me very well so far and I’ve been pleased enough with the results to get a few shots printed on canvas. The setup does have its limitations though. The Ikelite housing is robust but it’s certainly not particularly ergonomic – it is essentially an expensive perspex box. And while the G7 is a great camera in bright conditions, like most compacts with small sensors, noise becomes a problem in the depths where light struggles to reach. Shutter delay is a problem too, as it is for all types of nature photography. Compacts do have their advantages underwater though – in particular, wet lenses that you can swap on or off mid-dive. The G7 also has a great macro capability which you can enhance further with an Inon macro lens. In the future I hope to purchase a housing for my Nikon D90, with an Aquatica or Hugyfot looking like good (although eye-wateringly expensive) options. Here are a few of my favourite shots from my recent trip to the Similan islands. You can see the rest of them on Flickr.

Unfortunately the conditions in the Similan islands weren’t great for taking panoramics or planets. Above land, photographers always talk of the need to rotate the camera around the nodal point in order to minimise parallax errors. Underwater in a strong current this can be a real challenge! Ok true, parallax errors are less of a problem here where there are rarely straight lines about, but if you end up 5 or 6 meters away from where you took the first shot of a pano, the end result might not be so good. That’s what happened here but luckily a bit of clone tool on the coral saved the day (click for a bigger version).

In addition to light currents, to make a good pano underwater you need a combination of a shallow dive with attractive topology, and good natural light. Unfortunately this combination was somewhat elusive so the colours in the pano above weren’t great, even though I shot RAW and fixed the white balance afterwards. The colours in these panos from Sipadan off the coast of Malaysian Borneo I took a few years ago came out much better (click for big).

The one above is taken as Barracuda point, the one below was on the West ridge. Both are about 6 photos. With an SLR and fisheye with a dome port I could probably have done them in 3.

Last year I went on a liveaboard trip around the southern Red sea. We were mostly diving around offshore reefs, looking for sharks, so we were quite deep in strong currents and there wasn’t much coral. So again, not great conditions for panos. One of the islands we dived around looking for hammerheads, Big Brother island, did have a lighthouse which provided a great backdrop for this rather desolate planet.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice shots. Get first an expensive (strobe) rather than a housing. I still have an Ikelite 400 (no longer produced) that I enjoyed a lot coupled with a Nikonos V (sadly also out of production, and mine has had a flooding too many). And I also have an Ikelite 125, which is great stuff for current digital cameras.

    For the panos, try the philopod principle: a rope with a small weight. Then keep that rope tense and possibly perpendicular to the place on the ground where the weight rests. Make sure the weight rests on a sand patch or already dead coral.

  2. Thanks Yuv.

    I agree about strobes; I went for the wide angle option first, but if I did it all again I’d get a strobe first then wide angle lens. Problem is, if I house my D90 I will need to get another strobe to light fisheye/dome port shots… $$$


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