Technique/Tutorial

Underwater photo tutorials, techniques and tips for all types of underwater photo and video, including macro, supermacro, wide-angle, composition and best camera gear.
Tips for selecting underwater images that will stand out to judges and win photo contests
By Brook Peterson

How to Choose Award Winning Images

Brook Peterson
Tips for selecting underwater images that will stand out to judges and win photo contests

Competitions are a great way to find out how you measure up to all the great photography out there.  Competitions are also a good way to get you some recognition for your work by getting your name out there among other members of the underwater photography community. Having a good understanding of what makes a good image is critical to being a top notch photographer, but it is also important to remember that some aspects of the judging process are subjective.  The following guidelines will help you pick your best images for any competition.

 

Stand Out

First impressions are important, especially when hundreds or thousands of images have been submitted to the judges.  There is always a preliminary elimination where the competitions judges will go through the images and select those they think are worthy of a second look.  If your image stands out, and catches a judges eye, it is more likely to make it to the next round. When I prepare to choose my images, I put them all in the grid view of the Library module in Lightroom.  Any software that allows you to see several images at once will work.  Then I let my eyes wander around the images and I pay attention to which ones I look at several times. Of those I will pick five or six, and then use other techniques to eliminate from there.

 

 

Eliminate

Now let's say I chose these seven images, because they caught my eye the most:

 

 

Detach Yourself

Now it is time to eliminate further. Sometimes this part of the process is difficult because you have emotional attachments to some of the images even though they might not be winning material. For example, the hunting eel image was very exciting to me because I captured the thrill of the hunt.  However, the image has several issues.  It is too dark, part of the eel's body is cut off, and it isn't tack sharp.  So I will eliminate that one.  The same is true of the amphipod inside a tunicate.  This was a difficult shot and although that carries some weight, a judge might eliminate the image because part of the tunicate is cut off, or that little piece of algae in the top right is distracting. You see, you want to choose images that are as technically perfect as possible so that a judge has no reason to eliminate it.  I would also eliminate the wire coral shrimp because the wire coral does not go perfectly from corner to corner.  That leaves us with these four images:

 

 

Fine Tune

Each of these images is composed well, lit well, the focus is tack sharp, they are eye catching and they tell a story or give a sense of character.  The images are colorful and interesting.  Certainly the level of difficulty in making the image is a factor. At this point, any one of them could be a winning image.  The rules of many competitions might be specific to how much you can crop an image, or how much editing you can do.  I would have to eliminate the goby on the whip coral if global changes are all that is allowed, because I had to remove a distracting bit of coral from the image with the healing brush tool in Photoshop. (A local tool).  Now I will compare my image with its RAW counterpart and determine how much editing I have done.  The less editing the better.  If your image makes it to the semi-finals of a competition, the judges will often ask to see the RAW file for that very reason.  You will want to submit images that have the least amount of editing and are sound in every other way to give yourself the best chance for a winner.  Remember to be honest with yourself and try not to let your emotions override your judgement.  Most of all, remember that when the Judges have a large number of images that are perfect in every way, the final call will be subjective, so if you feel you should have won with your image, try entering it again in a different competition.  Maybe some other judge will choose it over the others.

 

This column originally published on Brook's blog, titled And the Winner Is...


A young sea lion barks at the camera. This image earned Brook the Best of Show award in the 2015 Socal Shootout.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brook Peterson is an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer who enjoys capturing the beauty of the under water environment throughout the world. She is an original member of the SEA&SEA Alpha program. Her work has been featured in both print and online magazines.  She is the owner of Waterdog Photography and authors a blog on underwater photography and techniques.  More of her work can be found at:

www.waterdogphotography.com  |  Facebook  |  instagram@waterdogphotography_brook.

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Underwater photo tips for capturing dramatic photos of fast-moving sharks paired with a crisp sunburst
By Mike Ellis

Shooting Tips: Sharks and Sunbursts

Mike Ellis
Underwater photo tips for capturing dramatic photos of fast-moving sharks paired with a crisp sunburst

A few years back I worked as boat crew during a shoot for the Animal Planet network.  Their main goal was to shoot nighttime shark sequences.  In keeping with my regular hours, my goal was to be up at sunrise. I carried through with my various boat duties and also made sure fresh bait was in the water to help keep the sharks around.  Early to rise also meant I was the only one up and therefore had the ocean all to myself.  The conditions could not have been better…a gentle east breeze, sunshine with the occasional passing cloud, clear blue water and yes, sharks.

Not long after sliding into the water, I noticed what I will say was a very lazy swagger to the sharks posture and demeanor.  It appeared this was going to be a very uneventful dive.  Especially since most of the larger sharks had left the shallow waters for the cooler waters found in the deep.  This left me with a bunch of Lemons… sharks that is.  I got my Nikon all warmed up with some of my normal type shots.  But then as I was standing in 18 feet of water just taking in my surroundings with sharks swimming over my head, I spread my strobes as far as they would go and just started composing and capturing that slow swagger in the rays of the sun.  I enjoy the results of that combination so much, it easily became something I strived to do with every dive. 

 

Shooting Tips

 

Dealing with a big bright ball

I have yet to see a digital camera work as good as a film with the same settings with the sun, so I try my best to block out the center mass of the sun with the subject or an object. I found that the camera and I could work with the sunrays a lot better using this technique.

 

Flash sync speed

My first DSLR was a Nikon D70s. It was a great camera with a flash sync speed of 1/500 sec.  Now it seems like the fastest sync speed you can get is 1/250 sec. But If you shoot in Manual without iTTL you can cheat by using a small piece of tape over the hot shoe pins that control sync.  Just leave the main pin untaped and try turning up your shutter speed till you start seeing a black line on the bottom of your photos, then back off untill it’s gone. I was able to get my D90 to go to 1/250 (normally the max is 1/200). That might not seem like a lot, but when shooting in the clear shallow waters with midday sun every little bit helps.

 

Calm is cool, but rougher water at golden hour is magic

If you can see the light rays you can grab them. On the way back to the swim step I looked west and saw lots of shark action that I did not see from below. Shooting horizontal in that special hour just under the surface, I waited and watched till the sharks and the golden sunrays came together for this shot. I had turned down my strobes to ¼ power so as not to drown out any of the magic.

 

A large part of the best sunburst / light ray photos I have captured have been in the winter or spring as the air column has less water in it. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Any day that has low humidity and wind under 15 knots can produce great underwater sunburst photos. With wind above 15 knots, I find the salt in the air just makes for a blinding whiteout underwater. 

As always with underwater photography, get close, trust your histogram over your display, compose so the majority of the sun is not in the frame and above all have fun trying and learning new techniques.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Ellis

Sharing bottom time with some of the smartest & friendliest in the ocean to some of the largest & most feared (by some), has given me unique opportunities to photograph the popular, playful Atlantic Spotted Dolphin, to the less popular, agile Tiger Shark & much more.  It has also strengthened my compassion towards them & the vital roll they play in the delicate balance of the oceans.  It is my hope to convey this thru my photography.  That people will look upon my images & share my concerns of acts of greed & inhumanness that bring many to their plight. And also to feel the heart n' souls of the ocean & how we all need each other.  "For the oceans!"

onaiaphoto.com   |   Instagram.com/onaiaphoto   |   Facebook.com/mike.ellis.9678067

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Secrets and guidelines to capturing great shots with Canon 5D Mark IV when shooting in less-that-ideal visibility.
By William Winram

Shooting Tips: Canon 5D Mark IV in Poor Vis

William Winram
Secrets and guidelines to capturing great shots with Canon 5D Mark IV when shooting in less-that-ideal visibility.

It had been more than 20 years since I had last dove in La Paz, Mexico and this was long before I ever thought about taking photos underwater.  Our time in La Paz was to be split between sessions with the whale sharks and sessions freediving on a line working on technique with our young ambassadors and instructors before heading out to sea with the Nautilus Explorer to tag scalloped hammerhead sharks in the Revillagigedo Archipelago.

 

Notes on Testing the 5D Mark IV

Prior to the trip, I procured myself a new Canon 5D Mark IV and did some tests in the pool back home to see that the extension ring for the Canon 16-35mm lens was optimal and allowed for clear images. With my previous camera (Canon 5D Mark II), I was never able to capture the same clarity in my photos as I could with the Sigma 15mm fisheye.  I later discovered that the issue was that the extension ring not properly sized for the lens.

And so I spent an hour in the pool playing with my new camera.  Not easy shooting in the pool since I only use natural light and the pool is not particularly well lit, but it was enough to know that the housing set up worked for both lenses.

 

 

 

Canon 5D Mk IV in La Paz

Day one in La Paz, Mexico was the first day in the sea with the Canon 5D Mark IV. We arrived to the dive site after a 10-minute ride in a panga.  Almost immediately there were whale sharks.  I jumped in, turned the camera on and took a look around, assessing that there was barely 2 meters of visibility as the water was filled with plankton!  I spun around, grabbed the edge of the boat and pulled myself up enough to place my camera back on the bench in the boat.  I was not at all excited at the limited photo opportunities possible with such poor visibility and actually thought that it was hopeless.  After all, earlier in the year I had been in the Maldives with visibility much better than this and even then it was challenging to capture an image that was not “foggy” with the plankton. 

I paused as I placed the housing on the bench and decided to persevere with the camera to at least get comfortable with the set up and controls of the new system.  This was, after all, a chance to work with the camera before heading out to the Revillagigedo Archipelago.

 

 

As I turned around and dropped back into the water a medium-sized whale shark swam into view, opening its mouth to feed.  I snapped the first photo and as I reviewed I was shocked!  I looked at the image in the camera, looked out into the murky bay, back at the image, back into the murk… how was it possible that the camera captured an image that even my eyes did not see!!!  

I was completely blown away by the camera and as I compared the images to those from buddies shooting with the 5D Mark II, it was clear that the Mark IV was on a completely different level.

I still needed to be mindful of the position of the sun relative to myself and my subject, or else even this camera was challenged by the poor visibility.  As the morning progressed and as the sun moved higher into the morning sky it became more challenging as the sun lit up the plankton.  The key, it seemed, was to be in the water early in the morning when there was sufficient light but before the sun was too high in the sky.

 

 

Out of five days we had two that were really good for both the lighting and the sharks - when the whale sharks showed up early in the day so the sun was low in the horizon but with still enough light to get some nice photos.  The other days it seemed the whale sharks decided to start their day later in the morning and with those overhead light conditions I found it much more difficult to get close to a clean shot.

I cannot complain about the number of sharks we encountered nor the conditions, but I left La Paz pining for a return trip during a season that had better visibility.  I am hoping to return later this year and to spend a bit more time in the area enjoying La Paz and the Baja Peninsula with the Canon 5D Mk IV.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

William is an ocean explorer, IUCN Oceans Ambassador,  founder of The Watermen Project NPO and Deepblu Brand Ambassador.  His images are taken during scientific and conservation related missions around the globe on a single breath of air and using only natural light. 

www.WilliamWinram.com   |   www.TheWatermen.org

 

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Comprehensive tutorial on producing sharp underwater photos, starting in camera and ending with detailed post-processing enhancements
By David Fleetham

Pro Tips for Achieving Sharp Focus

David Fleetham
Comprehensive tutorial on producing sharp underwater photos, starting in camera and ending with detailed post-processing enhancements

Focusing takes place twice for me: once in the camera when I capture an image and then a second time when I work on that file in Lightroom/Photoshop. We will look at both of these moments in this tutorial and how I personally deal with obtaining a sharp photograph.

Shortly after digital cameras became standard for underwater photography, most housing manufacturers added an ergonomic control to effortlessly access a button on the back of the camera that you can set through a custom function to engage focus. On my Canon 5D Mark 4 this is marked as the AF-ON button and is one of three buttons together on the upper right corner of the back of the body. It is my understanding that a similar control is available on Nikon. Through the custom menu, I also turn off the shutter release to autofocus and use the AF-ON button exclusively to activate the autofocus. It can be challenging to have the correct feel for the shutter through the housing control and this is only exaggerated in cold water with the addition of gloves. Using this back-button focus technique eliminates (accidentally) shooting a frame when you are trying to focus with the shutter.

Lastly, I select the AI SERVO mode for focusing and turn on all the focus points in the camera. While holding the housing underwater I can then focus with my thumb and at the same time pull the shutter release with my trigger finger.

 

 

This two-step process takes a little getting used to, but it is now second nature for me. In the case of a wide-angle moving subject, I will hold the AF-ON button/lever down, allowing the camera to constantly update the focus while I am able to shoot frame after frame at the time of my choosing. This is essential for sharks, sea lions or dolphins that will keep a distance and then abruptly come up to kiss your dome port.

For macro, the AF-ON button can be used to “lock” the focus, in that when you are not holding down the lever, the camera will not change the focus. Often I will focus, frame and shoot a subject and then release the AF-ON button and recompose the composition and at the same time move the camera in and out to alter that critical plane that is sharp. I’ll shoot several images of the same subject, playing with its placement within the frame. This helps to eliminate the tendency many photographers have of centering the subject in a composition.

 

Post-Production to Enhance Sharpness

Once back in front of my computer I will then do my standard adjustments of color, highlights and shadows and any other needed corrections in Lightroom. The only thing I do not adjust is sharpening. Next, open the RAW file in Photoshop through Lightroom's 'Edit Photo In' tool and create five identical layers of the file.

 

 

On the top layer I go to FILTER – OTHER – HIGH PASS.

 

 

You will immediately see your image turn into a strange-looking cloudy negative.

 

 

Don’t panic. You will also see the HIGH PASS dialog box with just one adjustment called RADIUS. I start with it set at 3.5 for a file from my 5D Mark 4. The size of the file you are working with and the image itself will determine what the best setting will be. This is often a matter of trial and error. Click OK and then go to the layers panel and pull down the blending mode menu that is on NORMAL as default. Move down the menu and select OVERLAY.

 

 

Your image will now return to something you are more used to seeing, only sharper. Zoom in, move around the image and click the eyeball icon to turn visibility of the layer off and back on. You should see a substantial difference with sharpness of your image.

If you are pleased with the amount of sharpening, go to the LAYERS menu and select MERGE DOWN (keyboard shortcut COMMAND – E on a MAC) near the bottom.

We are not done yet. Double click the top layer (the sharpened one) and rename it 3.5.

 

 

I do this to remember the setting at which I ran the HIGH PASS filter. Next, drag that layer down one level. Now you now have an original layer that has not been sharpened on the top.

 

 

Click the three eyeball icons on the lower layers to turn them off.

 

 

Next, select the ERASER TOOL (E). In the case of this scorpionfish, I only want to sharpen the fish itself. I find that if you sharpen areas that are not in focus you tend to just add noise and/or unwanted artifacts to these areas. This is particularly true of blue water or any negative space that is a color gradient. Turn the OPACITY to 100% and then erase what you want to have sharp. Use a large enough brush to have a reasonable feather at the outside of your subject.

 

 

In doing this, you now have a graduated border leading to the sharpened subject. Anything besides the subject that is also in focus I will erase, in this case the coral polyps across the lower middle of the frame.

 

 

Now turn all the layers back on and click the 3.5 layer off and on to see the extent of what you have done.

 

 

If this looks good, you can flatten the image and then save it as you wish. If this is not what you want, you can then throw away the 3.5 layer and repeat the whole process using a higher or lower RADIUS setting to increase or decrease the level of sharpening.

 

Other Sample Photos Using These Techniques:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Fleetham is one of the most published underwater photographers in the world.  He began diving and photographing underwater in 1976 and has been in Hawaii since 1986.  David's photographs have been published around the globe, with over two hundred magazine covers to date. In 1991 his photograph of a sandbar shark appeared on the cover of LIFE. It is the only underwater image to ever be published on the cover. His award winning work has been published by National Geographic (he has done several assignments for The NGS), The Cousteau Society, and every North American diving publication.

Website:  DavidFleetham.com

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Take your underwater photography to the next level with these tips and tricks for lighting, composition and more
By Brook Peterson

Picture Perfect: What Makes a Good Image Great

Brook Peterson
Take your underwater photography to the next level with these tips and tricks for lighting, composition and more

There are good images and there are great images.

When I was a new underwater photographer, I entered a contest online that had the theme, "Schooling Fish."  I had a few images of schools of fish, so I entered two that I thought were pretty good, and since the contest limit was three images, I threw in the only other image I had of schooling fish, which I didn't think was very good.  As it turns out, I won first place with that image.

Since it was an online contest, it was open to comments from the public, and someone wrote underneath the image, "No offense to the photographer, but I don't see what's so great about this image." Frankly, that person voiced my feelings exactly.  Luckily for me, another person posted a comment that explained exactly why the image was so great.  He said, "This image leads your eye from left to right and swirls around the school ending up where you started only to compel you to look again."

 

 

Composition and the Viewer's Eye

I learned a valuable lesson from this experience, and that was that I needed to learn what the elements of a good image are so that I could use them to my advantage in the future.  All too often I didn't understand why some images were better than others, and I thought that every photo I saw, that had something in it I had never seen before, was "great!"  So my first lesson in learning to make a good image was to look for elements that would lead the eye through the image.  Since western civilization reads from left to right, a good image will reflect that familiar direction.  We interpret this as "good composition."

There are a few composition guidelines that can help you achieve this.  The most familiar of these might be the "rule of thirds."  This is when you divide your image into thirds both horizontally and vertically and the important elements of the image, such as the eye of a fish, are placed on the intersecting lines (about a third up or down, and about a third from the left or right of the image.) The "S" curve is another device (anything that leads the eye in the shape of an "S"), The Fibonacci sequence has a fascinating array of spirals, patterns, and the "golden mean" which are shapes occurring in nature that "feel" good when our eyes see them.  For some people, the ability to discern these shapes is quite natural and we consider those people "gifted" or "talented" when they apply those abilities in art.  Post processing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop has these patterns associated with the crop tool so you can see what they look like.

 

Lighting

Good lighting is crucial to good image making.  There are lots of mistakes in underwater lighting that have become so common on social forums that our eyes are becoming accustomed to them. A common mistake is lighting the outsides of a subject, with a shadow in the middle.  This occurs when the strobes are turned too far out, or are blocked by the camera's housing and cast a shadow through the middle of the image, like this:

 

There are a lot of other lighting problems with this image too.  The strobe on the left is turned up too high, causing the light to be harsh.  The water is dark and ugly, and could have been corrected with a higher ISO or larger aperture.  The lighting in the image below is much better.

 

An image that is properly lit will have even lighting throughout the subject, without any highlights that appear white, and without any fall off of light through the middle. The viewer's eye should not be able to immediately tell whether a strobe was used, or whether the image is naturally lit.  When we are under water, everything we see has a blue cast, so we have to use strobes to bring the color back.  Our challenge as underwater photographers is to make images that don't have a blue cast, but that also don't have an obvious use of strobe.  The image below shows a large sponge that is properly lit from top to bottom, with a beautiful blue background.  The viewer must look closely to see that the ground around the sponge has a blue cast.

 

Provoking Thought

One last thought on making good images great.  The image below would have been a good photo of the USS Kittiwake without the diver, but it becomes a much better image with the diver standing next to the wreck.  This causes the viewer to react to the size of the ship relative to the man, and provokes a sense of awe and maybe even gives a sense of the mysterious.  Perhaps it causes the viewer to imagine the ship is haunted by the ghost of the man standing next to it.  In any case, that tiny added element provokes thought, and that makes the image GREAT.

 

With thousands of images flooding our social feeds, these few techniques are often overlooked when producing artistic and meaningful images.  If you can remember that you want to create an image that causes the viewer to pause and allow his eyes to wander about the image, you have created a GREAT image.  If you create an underwater image that lets the viewer forget that you had to use an artificial light source, then you have created a GREAT image.

 

This column originally published on Brook's blog, Waterdog Photography.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brook Peterson is an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer who enjoys capturing the beauty of the under water environment throughout the world. She is an original member of the SEA&SEA Alpha program. Her work has been featured in both print and online magazines.  She is the owner of Waterdog Photography and authors a blog on underwater photography and techniques.  More of her work can be found at:

www.waterdogphotography.com  |  Facebook  |  instagram@waterdogphotography_brook.

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The best photo and video settings for shooting the Canon G7 X Mark II underwater, including depth of field, shutter speed for strobes and more
By Brent Durand

Canon G7 X II Best Settings

Brent Durand
The best photo and video settings for shooting the Canon G7 X Mark II underwater, including depth of field, shutter speed for strobes and more

The Canon G7 X Mark II is a powerful compact camera capable of creating some exceptional underwater photo and video... with the right settings, of course.

It's one of our favorite compact cameras, built around a large 1" image sensor and a great lens. A fast processor enables lighting-quick autofocus for both photo and video shooting. The small size of the compact system is the perfect compromise between easy travel and excellent image quality.

This guide discusses the best settings for capturing traditional underwater imagery, and while these settings can bring home award-winning images, we also encourage you to experiment with new settings and adjustments.

If you haven't yet, be sure to read our complete Canon G7 X II Review for Underwater.

 

Jump to section:

Canon G7X Mk II Specs     |    Menu Setup

Best Photo Settings     |     Best Video Settings

Underwater Housings

 

Canon G7 X Mark II Specs

  • Bright f/1.8 (w) - f/2.8 (t), 4.2x (24-100mm equivalent) optical zoom lens with IS and 9-blade iris diaphram
  • 1-inch 20.1 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • New DIGIC 7 image processor
  • Multi-angle 3.0 inch capacitive touch panel display
  • 1080p Full HD video recording
  • In-camera RAW conversion/editing (customize and view edits prior to sharing from camera)
  • WiFi and NFC built-in
  • U.S.A. retail price: $699.99

 

Canon G7 X II Menu Setup

*Note: These are settings we suggest changing from the camera default as shipped. If we have not mentioned it, then the default setting is where it should be for basic underwater photo and video.



Shoot Menu

Note that advanced menu items are not visible in Auto mode.

TAB 1

  • Image Quality:  RAW. If you do not post-process your photos, then set this to JPEG with the L / smooth icon.

TAB 2

  • Face ID Settings -> Face ID:  Off. We haven't tested how well this works with marine life, so leave it off for now. Certainly turn it back in if tracking (human) subjects topside.

TAB 3

  • The default is single AF and 1-point AF, which I recommend as a general default. This means that the camera will find and lock focus and shoot each time you push the shutter. Alternatively, you can experiment with Continuous AF and ;-)+Tracking AF.

TAB 4

  • AF-assist Beam:  Off. Underwater, we use a focus light instead.

TAB 5

  • Flash Settings -> Red-Eye Lamp:  Off.

TAB 7

  • Movie rec. size:  For advanced video shooters only, you can change the default from 1080p30 to 1080p60 in order to open up the possibility of slow motion during post-processing.

  • Auto slow shutter:  For advanced video shooters only, turn A-SLOW to OFF. Because you are editing multiple clips together on one timeline, you do not want the camera to automatically slow down the framerate during some shots and not others. Beginners will enjoy leaving A-SLOW ON, as it will enable brighter video shooting in dark conditions.

 

Setup Menu

For most shooters, the setup menu does not need to be adjusted. All the settings accessed here are specific to individual shooter preferences or local region (i.e. NTSC vs. PAL). Tab 4 contains Wireless settings, which are very useful if you're syncing to your mobile device for faster online sharing of images/video. Copyright info is also useful, but I add all copyright info during import into Lightroom.

 

MyMenu

This green star menu allows you to move commonly used menu items into one single folder. When I shot Canon compacts and DSLRs underwater, I would put all my common settings here and then leave the camera on this menu when diving. Then, if you need to adjust a deep menu setting, you simply tap the menu button and everything is right there. Very fast, very efficient.

 

 

Best Underwater Photo Settings

There are many photo effects we can create through different settings combos, along with infinite room for experimentation. Changing settings to create an effect underwater can quickly become a daunting and even frustrating task (we're underwater, after all), so I always recommend that divers have a default settings combo to fall back on as starting point when things get confusing. These settings are a starting point for shooting with the Canon G7 X II, so write them on the back of your hand, tape them to the housing or simply memorize them.

We are also assuming use of one of two strobes. If you're shooting with a dive or video light, be sure to read our article on Underwater Constant Lighting.

 

Macro Settings

  • Mode:  Manual
  • ISO:  125
  • Aperture:  f/9
  • Shutter Speed:  1/250

These settings are a great starting point for shooting larger subjects like fish down to small subjects like nudibranchs. The small aperture (f/9) creates enough depth of field to ensure that most of the subject will be in focus, while the shutter speed blocks out all of the blue/green ambient light in favor of the powerful strobe light. The low ISO ensures best image quality with minimal noise (graininess).

Strobes:  Your strobe(s) should be positioned close to the housing, near the subject. Read more about underwater strobe positioning. If you are shooting strobes on manual power, try starting at 1/2 power and then adjust from there. You will find that lighter subjects will require less strobe power than darker subjects, and vice versa. If you are shooting your strobes through TTL (automatic) then you're already set.

Read our Easy Ways to Eliminate Backscatter.

Diopter:  Are you shooting with a macro diopter like the Bluewater +7 or Nauticam CMC? If so, use these same settings, except stop your aperture down to f/11. You may need to increase strobe power by 1/3 stop.

 

Wide-Angle Settings

  • Mode:  Manual
  • ISO:  200
  • Aperture:  f/5.6
  • Shutter Speed:  1/125

These settings are a solid starting point for shooting wide-angle underwater, including reefscapes, divers and big animals. The aperture creates the depth of field we need while creating a nice blue color in the water, while the shutter speed lets enough ambient light into the camera to properly expose the scene. The ISO is also slightly more sensitive than for macro in order to pick up more ambient light without introducing much visible noise.

Note that specialized settings combos are required for scenes like sunbursts, split-shots and fast action.

Strobes:  If shooting with a single strobe, position this at a diagonal above the housing, ensuring the front of the strobe is at least several centimeters behind the housing port. If shooting with two strobes, these should also be behind the port, but extended to the side of the housing. Manual shooters should start with their strobes on 1/2 power and adjust from there. If the subject is more than 2 meters away, then turn off your strobes to minimize risk of backscatter (since the strobe light won't travel that far anyways). Read more about strobe positioning.

Wet Lenses:  No need to adjust settings when shooting with a wet wide-angle lens.  If your housing/lens combo requires zooming in slightly to avoid vignetting, then always remember to do this when setting up these defaults.

 

Phew - that's a lot!  Join me on an underwater photo workshop to learn how to apply these settings, the photography concepts behind them, and how to react in changing shooting conditions. Great photos go beyond just the settings.

 

 

Best Settings for Underwater Video

The Canon G7X II allows you to start recording video at any moment. It's as simple as pushing the red button. That's it! I recommend this automatic video method for everyone except the very serious video shooters who really want to control the effect of each shot. If you fall into this latter camp, then the settings below are for you.

 

Macro Video

  • Mode:  Movie
  • Shutter Speed:  1/125 (*assuming 1080p60fps)
  • Aperture:  f/8
  • ISO:  200
  • Video Light(s):  Close to housing and subject.

 

Wide-Angle Video

  • Mode: Movie
  • Shutter Speed:  1/60
  • Aperture:  f/5
  • ISO:  400
  • Video Light(s):  Behind port, out to side of camera.

 

How to Set Manual White Balance

Manual white balance is an important setting for serious underwater video shooters. While the Canon G7 X Mk II doesn't have one-touch white balance, it is still a simple process to set a manual white balance. Practice this a few times and it will become second nature.

  1. Take a photo of a white or neutral gray subject that fills the frame: palm of hand, white sand, white coral, white balance card, dive slate, white fin, etc.
  2. Press Menu and navigate to: Shoot Menu tab 6.
  3. Click Custom WB and navigate to your white balance image.
  4. Click Set, then Ok.
  5. Exit the menu.
  6. In your camera settings, make sure you have changed the default Auto WB to Custom WB.
  7. Shoot away.

 

Great Accessories

These are some accessories that will take your Canon G7 X II photo and video to the next level.

 

Bluewater +7 Macro Diopter

 

 

Nauticam Compact Macro Converter (CMC-2)

 

 

 

Dyron Super Wide Angle Lens

 

 

 

I-Torch V10 Focus Light

 

 

 

Dual I-Torch Video 2000 Video Lights

 

 

 

 

Underwater G7 X II Housings

Interested in the best underwater housing options for the Canon G7 X Mk II?  Visit the Best Canon G7 X II Housings section of our in-depth camera review article.

 

 

 An ornate ghost pipefish poses for a portrait with the Canon G7 X II in Fantasea G7XII housing in the Lembeh Strait, Indonesia. ISO 125, f/8, 1/200. Shot with a single SeaLife Sea Dragon flash. Photo: Brent Durand

  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer and story teller from California.
BrentDurand.com   |  Facebook  |  Instagram

Brent is managing editor of the Underwater Photography Guide and shoots underwater any time he can borrow a camera system. He can be reached at brent@uwphotographyguide.com.

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Camera and menu settings for getting the best underwater video from your Panasonic LX100 camera, including sample 4K videos
By Basil Kiwan

Panasonic LX100 Settings for Underwater Video

Basil Kiwan
Camera and menu settings for getting the best underwater video from your Panasonic LX100 camera, including sample 4K videos

The Panasonic LX100 is a very capable camera for underwater photography and videography, as well as a small but advanced compact camera that is great to carry around.

The image sensor is a 16MP micro four-thirds sensor that Panasonic has used in a number of its interchangeable lens cameras. It is a multi-aspect design (see aspect ratios below) with an effective resolution of 12.8MP.

The lens, designed for Panasonic by Leica, is fast with a maximum aperture of F1.7 – 2.8 depending on the focal length, which is handy in low-light or when you want to isolate your subject with a shallower depth-of-field. The lens also has optical image stabilization, which is useful but not as powerful as the in-body image stabilization in Panasonic’s most recent cameras.

The color and image quality produced by the LX100 are really pleasing, and there is a lot of detail because of the larger sensor (for a compact camera) and the very high quality lens. The camera shoots 4K video, using the same software engine as the well-regarded Panasonic GH4, and the video quality is superb.

 

 

Key Video Features

Video Formats

 The LX100 records in 4K: UHD (3840x2160) at either 24p (cinema frame rate) or 30p (TV standard) recording at a bitrate of up to 100MBs.  It also records full HD at up to 60p.  Even if you only intend to view your video in HD, you should capture in 4K because the resulting HD video will be more detailed, and because recording in 4K gives you some great video editing options. The color and resolution really pop compared to regular HD footage shot in HD. The noise also gets compressed, resulting in cleaner footage.

 

Video File Formats

MPEG-4 or AVCHD (just choose MPEG-4)

 

Lens

The LX100 has a fixed lens, with maximum aperture of F1.7 – 2.8 over the zoom range.  The lens can close focus, particularly at the wide end, where the minimum focus distance is just 1.18 inches.  (very useful for close focus wide angle shots)

 

Autofocus

The side of the lens has a switch for manual focus (MF), autofocus (AF), and macro autofocus (AF with a flower) – for close focus situations.  I generally use autofocus with video, except when shooting macro shots, where I would try out manual focus.  I generally find manual focus underwater to be very challenging, particularly with current and surge.  That said, it is worth experimenting to see what works best for you in various shooting situations.

The LX100 has a contrast detect autofocus, using Panasonic’s proprietary DFD (depth-from-defocus) technology.  Single autofocus (AFS) is very quick and accurate, but the continuous autofocus (AFC) can sometimes focus hunt in low light situations.  

 

Other Features:

The camera offers focus peaking for manual focus, and/or magnified (Picture-in-Picture) view (also available in pinpoint autofocus, something I found useful).  The LX100 also has available zebra patterns to warn of over-exposure, although I don’t generally use them.

Key Physical Camera Settings

Although the LX100 is a very capable video camera, its body design is biased towards still photography, with a somewhat retro feel.  Despite its small size, the LX100 has several buttons (including 3 function buttons (Fn1, Fn2, Fn3) on the back of the camera) and dials as physical controls that make it easy to manipulate your exposure variables, setting them as you wish.

The camera menus are pretty clear and easy to navigate, and you can reconfigure most of the physical controls on the camera in myriad ways.  It is worth spending a bit of time before the dive to customize your settings, because it will enable a much faster response underwater to photo & video opportunities.

 

1.  Shutter Speed

The LX100 has a retro-style dial on the top, making it simple to set the shutter speed.  The general rule for video shutter speed is to double the frame rate in order to have a more natural motion cadence in your video. If you are shooting 4K at 30fps, then set your shutter speed to 1/60.  If you are shooting 4K at 24fps, then set your shutter speed to 1/50 (since there is no 1/48 shutter speed).  Keep in mind that those are relatively slow shutter speeds, so you will find that in many lighting situations (even underwater), that you need to close down your aperture and/or lower your ISO in order to keep your shot from being overexposed.

 

2.  Aperture

 The LX100 has a very bright lens for a compact camera, with a maximum aperture of F1.7 to F2.8 (depending upon the focal length).  A ring around the lens controls the aperture and is very intuitive to use.  Shooting at a wider aperture provides more light, allowing you to shoot clips at a lower ISO with less noise (grain) in your video. 

Aperture also controls depth-of-field, and the LX100 lens has a bright enough aperture to shoot a fairly shallow depth of field, particularly in close focus situations.  However, LX100 uses a micro four-thirds sensor, with a crop factor of 2.2x in comparison with a full-frame camera.  Shoot at F2 will give you a depth of field equal to about F4.5 on a full-frame camera.  The advantage of a crop sensor for shooting video is that the greater depth of field (relative to a full frame camera) is actually useful as it makes it easier to maintain focus and sharpness (particularly on moving subjects).  The LX100’s lens is exceptionally sharp throughout its focal range, even with the aperture wide open, so I never hesitate to shoot with a wide aperture, to keep my ISO low (for less noise), stopping to achieve my desired depth of field.

 

3.  ISO

The ISO button on the LX100 is the top control button on the back control dial.  Sometimes I set the ISO to Auto ISO, but underwater I generally pick an ISO manually and leave it there to help control noise.  The LX100 has a large sensor for a compact camera, but in comparison with a full frame camera the noise performance suffers. I generally don’t shoot beyond ISO 800 if I am shooting scenes with a lot of blue water in the background, and ISO 1600 if I am shooting scenes with a coral reef or rock in the background (however, I am a bit zealous when it comes to trying to control noise in my video). 

 

4.  Aspect Ratio

Panasonic has configured the sensor with a multi-aspect ratio sensor, with a switch at the top of the lens for setting the desired aspect ratio.  This arrangement gives more flexibility in terms of composition of your image at a small cost in maximum resolution (though this allowed Panasonic to design a more compact lens for LX100).  The camera can shoot images with a 4:3 ratio (using 12.8MP of the 16MP in the sensor), a 3:2 ratio (more common to SLRs, using 12.2MP of the 16MP), a 16:9 aspect ratio (wider ratio, common in video, using 11.3MP out of the 16MP in the sensor), or even 1:1 aspect ratio (for those Instagram photos, using 9.5MP out of 16MP).  It is ultimately a matter of preference, but I generally shoot still photos with the 4:3 ratio (for maximum resolution), and video with the 16:9 ratio (for the wide cinematic look).

 

5.  Custom White Balance

The white balance (WB) is set using the right button on the back control dial.  It is important to set a good custom white balance, particularly when shooting video in ambient light, and to adjust the setting at every 10-20 feet change in depth.  Fortunately, the LX100 can reliably set a custom white balance. I carry a white plastic card and was able to get a good white balance at pretty much any depth (at least down to 60 feet – I don’t tend to shoot video at depths beyond that as there too little light).  The camera can bank up to 4 custom white balance settings, which speeds up changing your white balance.  The ease with which you can change and adjust white balance is particularly helpful.

 

6.  Reconfiguring the Function Buttons

The Panasonic LX100 has 5 sets of menus that are accessed through the “menu/set” button on the back control dial.  These menus are:

a)  “Rec” – the small camera symbol

b)  “Motion Picture” – the video camera symbol

c)  “Custom” – the wrench with the “C” next to it

d)  “Setup” – the wrench symbol

e)  “Playback” – which has the (triangular) play button symbol next to it. 

Select the Custom Menu, which has 9 screens of options, and go to screen 7 to “Fn Button Set” where you can reassign options for the 3 function buttons.  I strongly recommend reassigning “Utilize Custom Set Feature” to one of the Fn buttons.

 

7.  Utilizing Custom Settings

The LX100 allows you to store 3 separate sets of custom camera profiles (C1, C2, C3).  Once you establish your desired settings on the camera, you can save them by going to the first page of the Custom Menu and then saving those settings as “C1”, “C2” or “C3”.  These can then be recalled at an instant as long as you have reassigned the “Utilize Custom Set Feature” to one of your function buttons. (You can also turn off the custom setting, effectively giving you a fourth custom profile.) 

I set my Fn1 button “Utilize Custom Set Feature” so that when I press it I see my custom profiles as follows:     

  • C1 settings for Still Photos
  • C2 settings for 4K Video
  • C3 for 4K photo (allows you to use the shutter button to shoot video)

 

Specific Custom Video Settings

These settings can be saved into one of your custom profiles (#7 above) as a quick starting or reference point when setting up the camera or reconfiguring for a different shot.

 

1.  Photo Style

Located on page 1 of the Motion Picture Menu.

The LX100 does not have a log profile or other flat video profile (like the Sony RX100 V).  The LX100 only has various “photo styles” which apply to both still images as well as video. The best you can do is to shoot with a “Natural” or “Standard” photo style, modified as follows to lower the contrast and flatten the picture:

  • -3 on Contrast
  • -5 on Sharpness
  • 0 (unchanged) on Noise Reduction
  • 0 (unchanged) on Saturation

You can experiment with the photo styles to see what yields the most pleasing results for your eye.

 

2.  I-Dynamic

Located on page 2 of the Motion Picture Menu.

I turn this off for shooting video because it introduces a bit more noise in the shadows, though the difference is probably marginal (so it’s worth experimenting).

 

3.  Using Contrast Curves

Located on page 2 of the Rec Menu.

In the Rec Menu, look for the “Highlight Shadow” setting.  There are different default options, plus 3 different custom settings that you can create (using the back control dial to scroll).  The LX100 does not have a log or flat profile, but you can compensate to a degree with a custom curve.  I recommend turning down the highlights (-5), but leaving the shadows unchanged, since raising the shadows can introduce more noise in the video. But with that said, you can experiment and revise your settings.

 

4.  Video Autofocus

Located on page 1 and page 2 of the Motion Picture Menu.

On page 1, under “AFS/AFF/AFC”, you might want to set this to AFF or AFC for continuous autofocus.  On page 2, set “continuous autofocus” to “on”.  The LX100, like other Panasonic cameras, uses a contrast detect autofocus system.  It uses Panasonic’s proprietary DFD technology, which is very snappy for single autofocus.  I usually used AFS, but found that my better video clips were when the camera was set to AFC.  However, like other contrast detect autofocus systems, it can hunt in low light.

 

5.  Live View vs. EVF

Located on page 9 of the Custom Menu.

I usually use the camera’s EVF, as the image is brighter and more detailed than the live view monitor on the back of the camera.  There is a small sensor next to the EVF that automatically moves the image display to the EVF when you hold the camera up to your eye.  In underwater situations, it is nearly impossible to use the EVF through the camera housing and my scuba mask; you must rely upon the live view monitor on the back, which is of decent quality.  To keep the camera set on live view, open the Custom Menu, go to the 9th page of options, select “Eye Sensor” and set the “LVF/Monitor Switch” to “MON”, to force the camera to stay on live view.  Otherwise the camera housing will usually trip the sensor, moving the display to the EVF.

 

6.  AF/AE Lock

Located on page 1 of the Custom Menu.

Set the AE/AF button to AF in order to enable back button autofocus. It is handy for both video and still photos.

 

7.  iA Button Switch (Intelligent Auto (iA)

Located on page 8 of the Custom menu.

The LX100 has an “intelligent auto” button on the top of the camera (marked “iA”), I would recommend taking manual control of your exposure variables.  Unfortunately, the iA button cannot be reprogrammed to a more useful function.  However, you can go into the custom menu and set the iA button to “press and hold” in order to invoke intelligent auto (as opposed to single press, which increases the likelihood of using it accidently).

 

Once you are done with the above settings, go ahead and save them as one of your Custom profiles.   

 

 

Sample Panasonic LX100 Underwater Video

Caribbean Blues Interlude by Basil Kiwan. Originally filmed at 4K in the Turks & Caicos. Be sure to increase the playback resolution by clicking the HD button.


Diving the Red Sea by Basil Kiwan. Originally filmed at 4K in the Red Sea. Be sure to increase the playback resolution by clicking the HD button.

 

 

Conclusion

The LX100 is a small but very capable compact camera, pairing a comparatively large sensor with a really nice Panasonic-Leica lens. The 4K video quality is excellent, with great color and resolution, and is a lot of fun to work with. The above settings will help you get started on shooting some incredible video.  As always, you can contact the team at Bluewater Photo for full details on shooting with Panasonic cameras.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Basil Kiwan has been hooked on diving since 1997, and is an enthusiast photographer on land and underwater.  He enjoys capturing the beauty of both the natural and human worlds, and when he gets a chance, he loves to work as volunteer photographer with his favorite hometown animal rescue.

More of his photographic work can be found online at: www.visualartsdc.com.

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Quick tips to ensure that you are picking your best and most creative photos when entering underwater photo competitions
By Martin Toole

How to Choose Photos for a Competition

Martin Toole
Quick tips to ensure that you are picking your best and most creative photos when entering underwater photo competitions

It's the end of the year, which means one thing in photography, finding your best shots and photos to enter in to a competition. In a few weeks, the underwater photography competition at In-Water Photographer of the Year will be closing its doors for entry. So now is the best time to have a look through this years photographs you have taken and to see whether any could be entered in to this in-water comp.

In this post, we'll have a look at how you can choose your best and most unique photos as well as looking at how you can improve the photos or the dive spots you frequent to get more out of your photograhy.

 

Something Unique

When taking underwater photos, you want to be looking for something unique, something that either hasn't been photographed before, or something that you've seen before, but with a fresh twist on it. A photo I love which was entered in the competition last year, is of a freediver swimming perpendicular to the shot and against the lines of this beautiul pool in France.

 

The few things I like about this photo and that make it stand out to me are as follows:

-It's a normal 25m swimming pool, nothing new going on here, but this time, it's empty, but for one freediver at the opposite end of the pool. It's very rare you ever get to see an empty pool when you're swimming or training, especially one which has a freediver in it. They add to the symmetry, they're literally swimming against the flow of the lines. But this is how it works, the pool markers and lanes take your eyes to the freediver who is sat in the middle of the shot. When you get there, your visual journey is complete, as the top half of the photo, because of it's symmetry, is also the same as the bottom with its stunning reflection.

What I love about this photograph is that the photographer, Alex Voyer has managed to get so much more out of a scene that is seen daily by hundreds of thousands of people. It's just a swimming pool, but it's been asked a few questions and out of it is a lovely artistic photograph.

 

Rare Interaction

Are there any rare spectacles in the surrounding waters? Even if you don't live near tropical waters, you can still find something rare and interesting. With this one it is important to ask around, local fisherman, spearo's, the local scuba diving club or a freediving club. Someone will know of some underwater spectacles, things you can get involved with and see for yourself. Here in Wales, we have a few things we can see from the shore and even more when we head out on a boat. Once a year there is the spider crab migration in to the shallows and in Pembrokeshire you can see hundreds, if not thousands in a few certain spots. If you time it right, and find the right shoreline, you could see something really special. 

There are also organised trips around the world to see particular fish, sealife, whales etc and here in the UK is no different, there are basking shark trips, blue shark and other shark species offshore trips, whale watching boats and one of our favourite is the seals at Farne Islands.

This was an organised trip, but it's still something quite rare to be able to play and hang about with these grey seals. We dive all year round, freediving and scuba and we have had many wild interactions with harbour and grey seals but have never some this close as we did at the Farne Islands. Above you can see a sea lion, they are playful animals and this photo depicts a rare interaction perfectly. A freediver swimming with the sea lion as they look at each other, both in shot and well framed showing the close proximity to each other.

 

Artistic Vision & Framing

Do you have any photos or ideas you are yet to take which involve a familiar seen, but would like to enhance? Or do you wish to mix up things that you are involved with in your daily life within your photography? There are many ways you can create a more visually appealing and artistic photograph. 

Last years winner and my personal favourite from the competition is of the Colombian U21 Underwater Hockey Team. There coach stands forefront in the shot whilst the players have all jumped in to the scene from outside of the pool. They've created another form of action, expressed this underwater sport in a unique way. The photographer, Camilo, could have taken a well framed action shot from the game, but he decided to tell a story instead, with a single photo. It's very powerful, you get drawn to the lone person at front but immediately taken away by what is going on around him. To me, it's very much like playing underwater hockey, you have to be focused (just like the front figure is) whilst there is splashing, bubbles, kicking, knocks, apnea, co2 increase and lack of oxygen all going on under the surface.

 

In-Water Photography

All the photos mentioned have minimal, if any post processing, most of the work was done before the photo was taken and then framed well. This sort of philosophy, mixed with water and a minimal of diving gear is what In-Water Photographer of the Year photography competition is trying to promote. If you take photos on one breath? Whilst our snorkeling, surfing, swimming with friends? In-Water Photographer of the Year is the perfect photo competition for you.

Click here to learn more about and enter the In-Water Photographer of the Year contest.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Toole:  I'm an avid freediver, scuba qualified and love spending most of my spare time in open water, lakes, rivers or the ocean.  There are new angles, new perspectives, sports being seen in a new light, all from the perspective of the ocean lover with fins on. I found a lot of the photos I wanted to take I could do without any scuba gear on, so now I take all my photos whilst freediving and snorkeling and there are plenty of other people doing this too. I created In-Water Photographer of the Year 2 years ago to celebrate all that is photography in-water, with a minimal of gear on.

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Improve your underwater wreck photography with these essential tools and tips for lighting, composing and shooting different scenes
By Brook Peterson

5 Tips for Creative Wreck Photos

Brook Peterson
Improve your underwater wreck photography with these essential tools and tips for lighting, composing and shooting different scenes

Every scuba dive brings a new adventure, and there is something about diving on a shipwreck that awakens the little kid in me.  Maybe it is the mystery of the ship's sinking, or maybe the fantasy that there will be a hidden treasure chest, or maybe it is even a sense of the wandering spirits who are forever trapped in their watery grave. Whatever I am feeling as I explore a shipwreck, I want to capture that moment in my photography.  But photographing shipwrecks can be challenging, and how do you convey your experience to others?  It all starts with having a good foundation of photographic tools to draw from.

 

 

One of the most apparent challenges of wreck photography is how to light the wreck.  Most shipwrecks are much bigger than our strobes can cover, so we are limited to either shooting with ambient light, (which we can leave natural or turn to black and white in post processing) or we can shoot just a portion of the wreck.

When we photograph a wreck using ambient light, we must adjust the camera settings to let in as much light as needed so that the background is a nice blue, and the wreck is properly exposed. I would suggest you test shoot several images to get the exposure right.  Start by using a shutter speed around 1/80 - 1/125 and adjust the aperture and ISO.  Remember that if you want good depth of field you will need a higher aperture, so ISO is the most likely adjustment you will make.  With today's newer digital cameras, you should be able to adjust the ISO to a fairly high number without too much noise. Look on the LCD to see if there is good detail in the wreck.  You will want to see a range of shadows and highlights.

 

It is also important to note which direction the natural light from the sun is coming from.  If the sun is behind you, you can expect more detail in the subject.  If the sun is behind the wreck, you can expect it to be in silhouette. In the image above, the sun is behind me.  This image also works well processed as a black and white photograph because of the detail and contrast in the image.

 

Another tool you can use to light a large wreck is a filter.  Magic Filters™ are developed for underwater photographers and help compensate for the lack of reds in the water.  They work best without strobes, with the sun at your back and your camera angled slightly down.  You will need to set your camera to manual white balance, so that the image is processed in camera with the correct colors.  The advantage to using filters is that you have good color throughout the image, including the blue water, which often looks washed out without them.

 

If you are using strobes, then it is important that you capture areas of the wreck that are identifying elements, and that they are small enough to be covered by the strobes.  Popular elements are propellers, ladders, winches and rudders.  The image below is of a locomotive that lies in 100 feet of water next to the Thistlegorm in the Red Sea.  You can see that only the very front of the car could be captured by the strobes.

 

The next image is of the steering quadrant on a ship called the SS Perseus which was sunk by the infamous vessel "The Wolf" during World War I.  This element of the ship is important because it helped to identify the ship as being from the WWI era, and ultimately identify which ship it was, as only two vessels from that time period are known to have sunk here.  Taking images of significant elements such as these is artistic because it illustrates the story.

 

Another tool that is always present in good underwater photography is a sense of depth.  We often take images of a fish, with a reef behind them, and perhaps a diver in the background to give a sense of depth.  On a wreck, it is important to give that same sense of depth.  But if you are photographing something inside, that can be a challenge.  A way to overcome this is to look for ways you can use ambient light in the background.  In the image below, you can see a cargo hold filled with stacks of Italian tile.  The ambient light in the background helps convey the vastness of the space.

 

Sometimes there is no possibility of bringing in ambient light, and you still want to convey a sense of depth. A tool you can use for this would be a remote strobe, or 'off camera' strobe. This is an additional strobe that is triggered remotely by the light from your strobes. You can place it wherever you want to create dimension to a closed space. This truck is in a closed portion of the cargo hold of the Thistlegorm in the Red Sea. There are several trucks in this space, so I put the remote strobe in the cab of the second truck giving depth to the area.

A remote strobe can also be used to light something in a room such as the boiler, or steering wheel, or some other interesting element. The image below shows a lot of dimension with the use of a remote strobe to light the back room, and blue water and fish in the background.

 

Light beams from the sun give moodiness to an image so if they are available, use them to create atmosphere.  Beams of light can be difficult to capture, especially in a dark space.  In this image I am using an ISO of 1250, f/5, 1/60.  There is enough particulate in the water that the sunbeams are captured by it, even with a slow shutter speed.

 

Using different lighting techniques goes a long way when you are trying to transfer your underwater experience to your audience.  Don't be afraid to experiment with your strobes as well as ambient light, filters, remote strobes, and sunbeams.  They are all tools that you can use to improve your underwater photography, and give value to your images.

 

This column originally published on Brook's blog, Waterdog Photography.

 

Be sure to read all of our Shipwreck Photo Tutorials.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brook Peterson is an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer who enjoys capturing the beauty of the under water environment throughout the world. She is an original member of the SEA&SEA Alpha program. Her work has been featured in both print and online magazines.  She is the owner of Waterdog Photography and authors a blog on underwater photography and techniques.  More of her work can be found at:

www.waterdogphotography.com  |  Facebook  |  instagram@waterdogphotography_brook.

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The best settings and menu selections for shooting pro-level video with the Panasonic GH4 mirrorless camera
By Bobby Arnold

Panasonic GH4 Underwater Video Settings

Bobby Arnold
The best settings and menu selections for shooting pro-level video with the Panasonic GH4 mirrorless camera

The Panasonic GH4 captures incredible 4K video quality and color, rivaling cameras costing many times more. Having shot underwater video with the GH4 since it was released in 2014, I want to share with you what I have learned to get the most of this camera to be able to produce the best possible underwater films.

 

GH4 Basic Video Settings

Format & Quality

The first setting to make in the GH4 menu is the recording format and quality. Either MP4 or MOV should be selected for the format, and 4K-100MB/30P should be selected for the record quality. This mode actually records 3840x2160 pixel Ultra High Definition (UHD), which is the format and resolution of nearly all 4K TVs sold today. The GH4 is also capable of shooting Cinema 4K (4096x2160 pixels) for those who have a specific requirement for shooting at this resolution. Note that if you shoot in Cinema 4K but play the footage on your home 4K TV or display, you will either need to crop the footage or have black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. The framerate of 30p allows for the best capture of motion of aquatic sea life.

Photo Style

The next setting is Photo Style. The GH4 has many preset Photo Styles, each geared toward a specific style of filming. With a very capable camera like the GH4, I try to get the best possible image in camera at the time that I am filming. For this I choose the Cinelike V Photo Style. While delivering a very useable clip, it also allows for making adjustments in post without deteriorating the quality of the footage.

Exposure Mode

The final basic setting is Exposure Mode. I choose to shoot video in the full manual (M) mode. This allows me to control all aspects of exposure, and match it for each shot. This also ensures that your exposure will not fluctuate as slight changes to ambient light occur. The one exception I have for shooting in this mode is when I’m trying to film a fast moving subject (like a sea lion). For that situation, where the background and ambient light is constantly changing the shutter priority (S) mode may be a better option.

 

Panasonic GH4 Focus Settings

After much experimenting with the focus modes on the GH4, I have settled on using manual focus much of the time. Two of the lenses I shoot with regularly, the Olympus 60mm macro and the Panasonic 7-14mm allow for manual zoom control. Whether I’m using these lenses or the Olympus 12-50mm lens (my go-to lens when I can’t make my mind up on shooting macro or W/A), I always start with using the camera’s autofocus to get me as close as possible, then make any fine manual adjustments needed using the manual focus knob or distance to the subject (for the 12-50mm lens), before finally framing my shot and recording. The focus peaking feature of the GH4 helps with this (more on that below).

One “trick” I’ve learned to get the most out of manual focus on the GH4 is utilizing back button focus. Most DLSR/M4/3 cameras allow for back button focus. This essentially turns off the autofocus that occurs when partially or fully pressing down on the shutter button. Instead, focus is assigned to another button on the back of the camera. To set up the GH4 for back button focus, follow these steps:

  1. Change the “Shutter AF” custom menu option to OFF. This stops the auto-focus from engaging when pressing the shutter button.
  2. Change the AF/AE Lock custom menu option to AF-ON. This causes the camera to auto-focus when the AF/AE LOCK button is pushed. The Nauticam NA-GH4 housing has a large thumb-controlled lever for pressing this button. My thumb rests on this lever most of the time I’m filming so that I can engage back-button focus as needed.

Now you have the ability to autofocus with the camera while in autofocus or manual focus modes. I shoot in manual mode when I want to lock focus for the entire shot. If I have a slow moving subject, or one that I can keep the camera centered on, I use autofocus mode, and hold down the AE/AF lock button to keep refocusing on the subject. When in autofocus mode, push the Fn3 (AE Mode) button to select either Pinpoint or 1-Area. The cursor for the focus can also be moved to anywhere on the screen depending on where you would like your subject to be framed. This also allows you to hold down the AE/AF LOCK button to track focus for you while you are shooting, with less of a chance of the camera hunting due to an ever-changing background.

 

Important GH4 Menu Settings/Tips

Three other menu settings are a MUST when shooting video with the GH4. The first is (focus) Peaking in the custom menu. Changing this setting to ON causes your display to highlight (using yellow, blue or green) the areas of the image that are in focus. Next is the Zebra pattern. This shows the areas of your frame that are likely to be overexposed. Two zebra patterns are available, and the sensitivity can be manually selected. Finally, the Histogram custom menu setting should be set to ON. This displays a histogram while filming.

While the GH4 does a great job at displaying the various icons for your current settings and exposure controls, sometimes all of that information can get in the way. Pressing the DISP (display) button cycles through various LCD display modes, including one that removes all icons/text, and only shows what the camera is capturing (plus any grid lines for composition, if you are using them).

 

GH4 Underwater Video

My hope is that these settings will improve your underwater video footage from the Panasonic GH4, and also challenge you to think of other settings that the GH4 offers that will help in your style of underwater videography.

 

2014-September-2 Day Northern Channel Islands with BlueWater Photo from ScubaBob on Vimeo.

 

Oil Rigs: Thriving Life from ScubaBob on Vimeo.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Arnold starting shooting underwater video in 2001. In 2004 he made the switch to HD using the first available consumer HD video camera. 8 years later he moved from traditional video cameras, to the mirrorless Micro 4/3 cameras, opting for the ability of full manual control in a compact package, with a large selection of lenses to match the needs of each dive location. Bobby lives in Orange County, Southern California and enjoys dives locally as much as possible.

 

Bobby's video productions can be viewed here:

https://vimeo.com/user786715

SUPPORT THE UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear

 

Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!

 


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips

 

Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.

 


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