The July meeting was called to order by our president, T.O. Galloway. Our librarian, Brenda Schillaci, advised that there is a current list of books, etc., on our website that are available for members to borrow. There is also still a need for people to volunteer to bring refreshments to the meetings as well as volunteers to do slide show presentations.
Our guest speakers today were Paul Lenharr II and Ryan DeGruy who spoke to us about Underwater Photography Basics. Paul is the owner of Southern Maryland Divers, LLC, a business he started 4 years ago. He has been diving since 2004 and now has over 800 dives. He is a mostly self-taught photographer. Ryan is a Southern Maryland native who has been diving and doing photography since 2010.
First of all, underwater photography is a very equipment intense activity. There are several different options when it comes to equipment.
1. Compact point and shoot cameras (like a Go-Pro) - Compact camera advantages include:
They are easy to travel with and lighter to carry around, have less drag underwater, cost less, and you can change lenses underwater – with “wet” lenses you can shoot macro, wide-angle, and video all in one dive.
Disadvantages include: They have a smaller sensor which means more noise, smaller dynamic range, increased shutter delay, and focus delay optics are a lesser quality. There are also fewer choices in good quality lenses. Only a couple models can shoot in RAW format or use a true fisheye lens. There is also less control over depth of field.
2. D/SLR (Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony, Fuji) - Waterproof housing is available for most cameras. Advantages of D/SLR cameras include: the ability to shoot in RAW format, as well as the availability of more camera features including aperture settings, shutter speed settings, and depth of field.
Disadvantages include: the need for two handed operation for accessing most camera features which makes it more difficult to use underwater. Housing and lighting set up is very bulky which adds to drag, making it difficult to capture fleeting moments.
3. Underwater “Ready” Cameras - systems with underwater housing made specifically for underwater photography. Advantages of this type of camera include the availability of full manual mode, good quality underwater housing, availability of “wet” lenses for macro, wide angle, and fisheye, and the ability to shoot in RAW format. They also have a longer battery life, low shutter lag, good auto focus capability, ability to fire strobes via a sync cord, and ease of adjustment of the aperture and shutter speeds. There are several underwater camera choices depending on how deep you will be diving as well as how much you are willing to spend. Prices range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
Lighting is another issue when shooting underwater. Water absorbs light and so light levels drop at lower depths. Also, the color red is absorbed faster than blue causing loss of color, especially at lower depths. In addition, water reduces contrast and sharpness making it necessary to get close to subjects. There are four sources for light:
- Strobes are best and bring color back in. Dual strobes give you more options with angles of the light and avoiding shadows on your subject.
- Dive lights work well for video.
- Focus lights, which are used more for macro photography
- Sunlight, which works on a bright day in the top 25 feet
Light penetration also depends on surface conditions. Choppy water reflects more light. Sunlight from the horizon reflects more than sunlight from above. The brightest conditions are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a sunny day. Early morning and later afternoon light has a soft, diffused quality. Other things to consider are the color and the direction of the light.
Another issue when shooting underwater is backscatter caused by strobes or internal flash lighting up particles in the water. To avoid backscatter point strobes away from your subject, take photos away from other divers in areas where the water is not stirred up, and use proper fins and frog-kick to achieve perfect buoyancy in order to avoid stirring up particles any more than necessary. Shooting macro where you are only inches away from your subject also reduces the amount of backscatter in your photo. For a better composition, find an interesting background such as the reef, rather than shooting against a background of open water.
There are additional challenges when it comes to “deep” diving. Deep dives involve more equipment, both scuba and photographic. Equipment with a greater depth rating is also more costly. Safety must be a priority when deep diving and so there are greater training requirements. Site access may be an issue and the deeper you go the more need there is for additional lighting equipment.
Using a rebreather has advantages over using a tank. With a rebreather there are no bubbles to scare the underwater life and you also have longer bottom times, thus more time for photography! This is especially important when deep diving, since it takes additional time to get both to and from the site. The disadvantages of using a rebreather are that it is both equipment intensive and training intensive.
A slide presentation was given by Sharon Shifflett.
Submissions for the July photo assignment were submitted by Sandy Carr, Jim Rogers, Brenda Schillaci, and Rick MacQuade.
The photo assignment for August is: H2O.
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