What UW Photographers Do When Put in Dry Dock

As countries around the world have placed populations in quarantine with stay-at-home orders in an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many underwater photographers have found themselves stuck inside with no option to travel or go diving.

use your time to recreate one of your own underwater photos from your image archives, using found objects at home, or what you can shoot looking outside your window

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Take the X-Ray Mag Photo Challenge

While observing stay-at-home quarantine orders during the pandemic, why not use your time to recreate one of your own underwater photos from your image archives, using found objects at home, or what you can shoot looking outside your window? The five best shots will be shared on our website. Here are some tips:

Match the colors. Find objects at home that have similar colors as your underwater image and arrange them in a similar way as they are composed in your underwater image.

Match the shapes and lines. Arrange objects from home to mimic the lines and shapes found in your underwater image.

Think outside the box. Try an abstract rather than literal representation. Go macro and get close in on a subject. Try using unsual elements. There may be old, unused dry goods in your pantry that may come in handy. Who knows? Your composition might be edible after the photo shoot.

Take a look at the lighting. Use creative lighting techniques, homemade snoots, and other lighting fixtures and filters found in your home to recreate the lighting found in your underwater image.

Mix it up. Do several and pick the best one. The more attempts, the better chance for a great image.

Photography tips. Use your camera, smartphone or flatbed scanner to capture the image. If you do not have a tripod, steady your shot with a homemade tripod made out of objects found in your home. If you are in the shot, you can use a remote shutter release device, the timer on your camera or have a household member take the shot. Try taking different exposures and angles of the same composition.

Share it with the world. Post both your original underwater shot and your new homemade shot on Twitter or Instagram at: #xraymagphotochallenge. Or send them through our Facebook page: @XRayMagazine.

Captions. Tell us briefly the story behind your images, where they were shot and what objects you used in your homemade image.

Please keep your images family-friendly and mind the social media’s policies for posting. Most of all, have fun!

Two of X-Ray Mag’s regular contributors are based in New York City, a current epicenter of the pandemic. They share their images of the transformed “Big Apple,” normally bustling with people and traffic, in intriguing side-by-side comparisons with underwater images from their archives, and offer some ideas and tips on how underwater photographers can keep their skills sharp and minds active and creative during their time at home.


Most underwater image-makers start out as surface photographers. Once they get their scuba certification, it is a natural progression to begin capturing images underwater. However, while on dive trips, most underwater shooters will also take shots above the waterline. So, what happens when we underwater photographers are not permitted to dive and cannot travel?

During the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, many of us cannot even leave our homes but still want to be creative. Here are some ideas:

  • While being grounded, we can still capture still-life images and portraits at home.
  • There is also the Getty Museum Challenge This is a fun project that involves picking a work of art and recreating it, using what you have in the house. All of these at-home projects will improve your studio-lighting skills, which will improve your understanding of light, and thus improve your underwater imaging. (Learn more at:
  • Taking an online editing software class is also a good use of time. There are also many tutorials on the Internet that will improve your postproduction skills.
  • The time stuck at home can also be used to organize your digital files and update your website.
  • Some photographers, who are lucky enough to have a great view out their window, can create images with a telephoto lens.

In the United States, we are encouraged to stay home unless we have to go out for essential errands or to get to work, but our movements are not restricted at the time of this writing. We thought this was a good time to treat our hometown as a travel location. Major cities, including New York City, now have empty streets. So, on our limited outings, we took our cameras with us to photograph sites that are normally very crowded. It is important to document this surreal time in history and show the new normal.

Of course, we need to wear a mask, gloves and stay far away from any other people that might be on the street. In New York, state and city parks are still open. Besides getting fresh air and exercise during the pandemic, the parks are a good location for landscape and wildlife images, especially birds.

As image-producers, we need to use this time to stay active and creative. This is a time for learning new skills and looking at life from a different point of view. Working on improving our above-water photo skills will improve our underwater imaging techniques and help us create unique images above and below the waves. ■

Larry Cohen and Olga Torrey are well-traveled and published underwater photographers based in New York City, USA. They offer underwater photography courses and presentations to dive shops, clubs and events. For more information, please visit: and