Underwater photography requires more than your basic dive gear and cameras. Sometimes it’s the often overlooked accessories and customized set ups that help you safely and conveniently capture the shot in difficult or unexpected conditions. Some accessories simply make your life a little easier, while others help you avoid ditching your camera in an emergency.
Anticipated or unexpected currents can create conditions that are difficult to shoot in. Plan to bring a reef hook along in order to hook into a “dead” piece of rock and stabilize yourself in order to shoot the action. Some destinations have constant currents such as the Galapagos for example. Usually the best pelagic and schooling action is found in areas with fairly strong currents, so a reef hook can be the difference between capturing the shot and holding on for dear life. Reef hooks can be purchased at dive shops, or you can make your own with simple items available at any hardware store.
BC with D-rings
Be sure to use a BC with enough d-rings to support clipping multiple items to yourself. Clipping cameras, torches, slates or other items to your BC when not in use is the most convenient way to keep your hands free to shoot or to hang on when needed (or when you forget your reef hook!).
Clips & Carabiners
Double sided carabineers with quick release plastic clips can be invaluable, particularly for those who dive with more than one camera, or for use during stops or long swims. One side of the clip should be attached to a d-ring on your BC, while the other side is attached to the camera housing. When doing a deco or safety stop, your camera can be quickly and safely attached to your BC in a streamlined fashion, keeping your hands free for an added margin of safety and energy savings. Note: keep your camera and strobes on while clipped to your BC. The quick release clips can easily be unlocked when an interesting subject comes into view so that you can capture the shot.
Wireless air integrated computer
A wrist mounted, wireless, air integrated computer gives you all the information you need in one place. The most convenient part is that the computer is close by your camera, so taking your eyes away from your viewfinder and shifting a few degrees to look at all of your vital dive information can’t get easier. A small back up gauge is certainly recommended, although it is very rare that the wireless device will fail. Redundancy however is the best policy when it comes to life support systems. Stuff the back up gauge in your BC pocket to keep a streamlined profile.
Those who shoot with compact cameras have a slew of options for interchangeable lens accessories that can be swapped while underwater. This offers compact shooters the ability to take one camera underwater to shoot both macro and wide angle. SLR users do not have such an option. When shooting with an SLR, you must first decide on a macro or wide angle set up before getting wet. For macro shooting, the most common options are a 60mm or 105mm lens. Carrying an external diopter that fits over your lens port can effectively help to increase the versatility of what you are able to shoot with any given set up. There are just a few manufacturers that provide these external diopters, and they range from 20% magnification to +2 magnification. Some of the diopters are made to be mounted to the camera port while others are made with a soft skirt that fits snugly around the port. In the latter case, a neoprene pouch clipped to your camera housing or BC will come in handy to prevent loosing the diopter.
If you shoot with a compact camera, a must is a ‘lens caddy’ that mounts onto your flash arm and allows you to quickly change lenses without having to rummage around in BCD pockets for items. This same system can also be used for color corrective filters. These can also be placed into the caddy and removed and replaced as needed.
Does carrying your camera from your hotel room to the boat get a little uncomfortable at times? Do you get concerned when handing your housed SLR system from the water up to the boat staff at the end of the dive? Surgical tubing may provide the solution. The material is very durable and when doubled up and secured to your camera arms or handles, can make a great shoulder harness or handle for your camera system. You can buy surgical tubing in most well stocked dive shops and it usually comes in the standard latex color or in black.
Black skirt mask
Many photographers prefer to dive with masks that have a black skirt. This reduces the ambient light that enters the viewfinder and allows you to shoot more comfortably without straining your eyes in bright conditions. However, this can also be augmented by using color enhancing (preferable) or color correcting lenses on your mask. You will notice the difference that the color enhancing lenses have when scanning for macro critters or other scenarios that may otherwise lack contrast underwater. The only downside is having to answer all the questions on the dive boat about why your mask is pink.
This point will most likely meet with some criticism, and this is not meant in any way to condone harassing or abusing marine life. Many photographers find that bringing along a chopstick or other small stick (with rounded edges as to not harm any marine life) can come in handy when shooting macro among hydroids, swaying corals or seagrass, or to gently persuade shrimp or other creatures to come out from their hiding places. Apparently, a radio antenna with a red tip will provoke pistol shrimp to reach out or attack the red tip, allowing for a good image. When using a critter stick – always, always, always respect the marine life. This is not a tool to be used to harass or abuse the beautiful and delicate wildlife and should be used with the utmost of care. ...