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Scott's Underwater Photography Blog

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Full Article: Story behind the shot - Yawning Goby

Finding the Right Goby

I was diving in the Catalina Dive Park for the SoCal Shootout. There were hundreds of blue-banded gobies, and most don’t want you to get close. I was lucky to find one that wasn’t shy, he held his ground and did not instantly flee like the others. I had already seen it dart out and eat something, so maybe it thought it had a good feeding spot. When it ate something, that motion had caught my eye and made me decide to come in for a closer look.

Goby Underwater Photo

Becoming Friends

I took 35 shots of this particular goby. At one point it opened its mouth wide for a couple of seconds and I got 2 or 3 shots off before the mouth closed. My strobes were pointed slightly in. Photo was uncropped. I used the “creep in” approach, getting a little closer with every shot. I started without the diopter, and when I realized he wasn’t scared at all, I  flipped the diopter down. His yawn lasted just long enough for me to get 3 very quick shots off.

Goby Underwater Photo by Helen Brierley

Settings & Equipment

I used the Nikon D500 with the Nauticam D500 Housing, flash trigger, Nikon 105mm VR lens, two YS-D1 strobes and the Subsee +5 diopter. My settings were as follows - 1/200th, F18, ISO 200. That enabled me to have my flash reasonably low powered to recycle fast and F18 meant I could blur the background as I got in close, though it made the focus a bit more picky of course. Most of what I then altered as I moved in closer was the composition, focus and strobe position.

[Publisher's Note] Helen's photo ended up winning best of show in the the 7th annual SoCal Shootout. Congrats Helen!

Full Article: SoCal Shootout Winners Announced

Congrats to the winners of the 7th annual SoCal Shootout!

Winning images were taken all over Southern California, from the Northern Channel Islands all the way down to San Diego, and everywhere in between.

Over $20,000 worth of prizes were awarded! These included prizes from platinum sponsors:  Quino el GuardianAquaticaAiyanar Beach & Dive ResortsKraken SportsBluewater Travel

For the full list of winners and to see all of the winning images & videos, please check out the results page on Bluewater Photo

  

SoCal Shootout 2017 winning photos

This amazing uncropped photo of a Blue-banded Goby was taken with a wet diopter and Nikon 105mm macro lens. Stay tuned for a complete "story of the shot" going up on the UWPG site later today!

 

 

1st Place, Edited Video Category

 

 

View All Winning Photos & Video Here

The 8th Annual SoCal Shootout is September 14-16th, 2018!!

 

Full Article: Master Class Tutorial - Planning for a Great Shot

How to plan for great shots

 

When I started my underwater photography career, I wanted to photograph everything, everywhere. It was a blast. Over time, I got more selective – and now I realize I've entered a phase where I simply want to get a handful of amazing photos each trip, instead of 20 or 30 good ones. This takes a different approach, one that I've been honing for the last couple years and I wanted to share with you.

 

Last month I made a trip to Atmosphere Resort and dived Apo Island in Dumaguette, Philippines. This article is a summary of the approach I took on the trip. I should point out that the groupers and Lemon shark photos are from my July 2017 trip to French Polynesia.

 

This is the first in a series of master class underwater photography articles, and I hope you enjoy it! Look for more master class tutorials every week on the UWPG website.

 

Researching your chosen location is a must

 

It is of vital importance to research the location you are going to. Talk to photographers who have been there, google trip reports, and try to find images from that location. That will give you idea of what kind of subjects are seen, where they are seen, and how likely you are to see them.

 

If it is mandarin fish - which side of the reef are more of them seen? If it is a macro subject, what is the habitat? If it is a school of jacks, what depth are they usually at? Does their depth depend on the current?

 

In researching Apo Island, turtles, sea snakes and nice coral kept coming up. I also noticed that many people scheduled just 1 Apo Island trip during their stay, as it had a small additional cost and was marketed as a “special trip”. After arriving at the resort and diving at the island, I decided it was best to view Apo Island as a standard dive site that I dived every other day, if not every day – a different approach than others seem to have taken.

 


Schooling Jacks at Apo Island, Dumaguette. This is from my 3rd dive at the dive site with the jacks. Talking to the dive guide on the boat was essential for planning the photo - we discussed use of his dive light, fin position, and where he would look.

 

Give yourself enough of time

 

By diving Apo Island several times during my trip, it allowed me to get to know the dive sites, the subjects, and their behavior much better than if I only went for 1 trip. Knowing where on a dive site to spend most of your time can be very important – the dive guides are often moving you along, and some of my best photos were after I told the dive guides repeatedly “don't move from this location, we want to stay here during the dive”. Dive guides by nature often move around, particularly at wide-angle dive sites, so it is important to reinforce this point several times with a guide and get them to repeat it back to you, to ensure success.

 


Groupers in French Polynesia. My takeaway from this photo is, that if you see something truly amazing underwater, it is of vital importance that you assume you will never see it again. 

 

Talk to the dive guides

 

This should be obvious, but I think it is an important point to reinforce. When you arrive at a location, it is important to interview 2 or 3 dive guides, and ask them the following questions: Where is the best place to see my subject? What are the necessary conditions? What is the best time of day? How often is the subject seen? By asking these questions multiple times, I was able to determine which of two dive sites with schooling jacks would be better for a wide-angle photo, saving myself valuable dive time. I was also able to eliminate the dive site with the highest concentration of sea snakes from my dive list, after determining that it lacked the necessary background subjects for my photos – all without wasting precious dives.

 

Revisit the dive sites

 

Revisiting the dive sites multiple times was essential for getting great photos of the turtles, jacks and sea snakes. Conditions, animal behavior and opportunities varied tremendously from dive to dive. I suggest a minimum of 3 dives at key dive site if possible, to get the right opportunities and conditions.

 

Sea snake from my 1st sea snake dive. Although I was happy with the elements in this photo, the face was soft and I knew it was important to return to the dive site again at least twice and focus on getting a better shot (no pun intended!). F16, 1/200th, ISO 500

 

Focus on one subject

When a dive site frequently has a key subject such as a turtle, sea snake, or a school of jacks - it is important to focus on one subject and one type of shot throughout the dive. This means having a thorough discussion with the dive guide regarding what you want to accomplish on the dive site, and where you want to spend your time. It also means spending addition time with photo subjects, even after taking multiple photos, in case their behavior changes or they decide to eat something or mate with another animal. 

Spending prolonged time with the sea snakes, jacks and turtles paid off time after time. Interestingly, my encounters seemed to follow a "3 dive rules", one great encounter for every 3 dives I did at the dive site with the subjects. Of course your mileage may vary.

 

 

Preset your camera & strobes

 

 

When you enter the water, you should have one particular photo in mind for that dive. Arrange your settings and strobe positions when you start your dive, before you see the subject. Do a couple of tests shots, so when the subject appears you are all dialed in. For the sea snake, I knew I wanted an upward angle close-up shot of the snake, and there would be no time to change settings or strobes. So I guessed at the exact angle my shot, and prepared everything based on that angle.

 

The final result - a sea snake photo I was very happy with. This was a fast-moving snake and I actually had to "run" from the snake first to get enough of distance between us. F11, 1/250th, ISO 400. When I saw the fast-moving snake, I swam down-reef fast for about 10 seconds, then turned around. Luckily the snake was still coming towards me, and I had a couple of seconds to get into a low positon where I thought the snake would swim.

Run from the subject

 

If you aren't having luck getting close to your subject, try running away from it. I say this in jest, but with sea snakes and sometimes turtles, it is the best approach. Sea snakes move quickly, and I found that when I saw a snake swimming towards me, it always covered the distance to myself much too quickly. For my best snake shot (shown above), I actually had to immediately turn around and swim as fast as I could down the reef, and hope that the snake continued its path. So the next time you see someone running from a subject, they might not be crazy – they may be giving themselves an opportunity to get in front of the subject and compose properly.

 

Sea turtle from underneath. Doing multiple dives with turtles is essential to maximize good encounters, behavior sightings, and to get to know the dive site.

 

Equipment Used, Settings & the D850

Nikon D810, Tokina 10-17mm fishyeye lens at 15mm, dual Sea & Sea strobes, Zen 4-inch glass dome port, Sea & Sea Nikon D810 Housing, Beneath the Surface buoyancy floats, Light & Motion Sola 800 photo light.

 

Shots were taken at F11, ISO 200, shutter speeds from 1/125th to 1/250th unless otherwise stated. Focus mode was "AF-C", and "auto" focus mode was chosen because it uses a large focus area, which works well for large marine life that moves around like snakes, turtles, sharks and schooling fish - as opposed to spot focus or tracking modes.

 

I am now seriously considering the Nikon D850, here is my Nikon D850 pre-review.

 


Turtle face, taken on dive #3 at Turtle City, Apo Island. F16, 1/250th, ISO 640. We repeatedly dived this site to get maximum number of turtle encounters. It was only after around 20 turtle encounters that I was able to experience behavior such as this.

What's next? Next steps...

 

I hope you found some this advice useful. I realize none of it may be ground-breaking, but it helps to have it re-enforced and put into writing. If you plan on trying some of this advice, or just want to say hello, please send me a note at scott@bluewaterphotostore.com and let me know where you'll be diving next!

 

Full Article: Here Comes the Nikon D850

As seemingly more and more people are moving to the mirrorless cameras, the all too familiar "DSLR's are dead" shouts are more and more prevalent everyday. 

Enter the Nikon D850. A camera that, at least on paper, proves that DSLR's are very, very far from dead. 

 

Key Features:

The highlights that will be important to underwater shooters and differentiate the D850 from its predecessor the D810

  • 45.75 megapixel Full Frame BSI (Back-Side Illuminated) Sensor
  • The world's best autofocus system taken from the Nikon D5 (153 AF points, 99 cross type)
    • Can focus center spot down to -4EV
  • Improved low and high ISO performance over the D810/Improved Dynamic Range.
  • 7fps, 51 shot raw buffer
  • True full frame 4K video
  • Max flash sync speed 1/250s
  • XQD/SD card slots
  • $3296 (An incrediblely reasonable price for what should be an incredible camera)
-*That is not a comprehensive list of upgrades and features for the D850, those are the ones IMO that are notable upgrades from the D810

 

Nikon has already stated they're sold out and won't be able to fulfill the first run of this camera, that should really tell you how popular this camera is going to be. Several housing manufacturers including Nauticam, Ikelite, S&S, and Aquatica have all confirmed they'll be making housings (Get yours here when they become available! http://www.bluewaterphotostore.com/products/search/d850 )

For most underwater shooters, the D850 may well be the best DSLR ever made. In the past there has always been a compromise between speed and high resolution. No more. The D5 autofocus system + 7fps will be more than enough for just about every situation underwater. The dynamic range and ISO performance will be hugely appealing to wide angle shooters and the resolution to allow insane detail and ability to crop heavily will appeal to macro shooters. 

To get the most out of such a high resolution sensor, the best quality Nikon lenses will need to be used.

 

Lens Recommendations:

Macro:

  • Nikon 105mm 2.8G VR Macro
  • Nikon 60mm 2.8G Macro

Wide Angle Fisheye:

  • Nikon 8-15mm 3.5-4.5G Fisheye - Best fisheye overall for Nikon FF
  • Sigma 15mm 2.8 Fisheye - The budget option but focuses very close, is quite sharp and much cheaper than the other lenses listed.
  • Nikon 16mm 2.8 Fisheye - Sharper, more expensive than sigma, but does not focus as close

Wide Angle Rectilinear

  • Nikon 16-35mm 4.0 - The mose popular and versatile choice but requires a big dome port for acceptable image quality
  • Nikon 20mm 1.8G - Small, compact, sharp, doesn't NEED as big a dome as the 16-35

 

I did not order the D850 and if I were smart, I should probably never shoot with one or chances are I will want one. I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on the camera for underwater testing. Stay tuned to Underwater Photography Guide for a comprehensive review once housings are available!

Full Article: Photographing Guadalupe's Great Whites

I recently returned from Guadalupe Island off Mexico, considered one of the best places on earth for photographing the ocean's most famous predator. South Africa and South Australia may boast larger popluations, but nowhere are the conditions as conducive to photography as this rock in the Eastern Pacific.

Evolution achieved perfection when it created the Great White Shark. These animals are magnificent. And huge. Even the 'small' ones have a presence. I was asked frequently on the trip how I was going about photographing the animals and have been asked numerous times since I got back so I decided to do a quick write up explaining my approach.

 

 

An issue I quickly discovered on the first day was that my strobes seemed to be dying on me. They weren't putting out power like they should've been. Knowing that limitation, I switched up my approach and decided to aim to make natural light images while keeping my strobes on just in case I got a ridiculously close pass. I also am a fan of black and white big animal imagery. I think it brings a dramatic simplicity to the image. The best cases on my trip for such pictures were during high contrast situations.

 


When shooting natural light, shooting WITH the sun will give you color and detail (above), while shooting against the sun will give you a more silhouetted look, less detail, muted color, but crazy sun beams. In all honestly, the shot below was meant to be strobe lit and would look more dramatic if it had been, but again, dying strobes...

 

 

 

Time of day was definitely the most important factor in determining my approach in the water. During the morning, the water was quite blue but when the sun was low, the detail and contrast was muted. Late morning through early afternoon, the suns beams seem to radiate up from the deep (above), while during the golden hour of the late evening, the beams stream down from the surface (below). Those are the two times I would recommend being in the water. *Again, the image below would've been far more impressive had my strobes been functioning, but it gives an idea of what is possible and something to strive for when I go back.

 

 

The sharks seemed to be most active and make the most close passes during the last few hours of daylight. The Great White in the image below, whose name is Scarface, was the star of the show this trip. During the evening hours he became quite inquisitive and constantly cruised slowly past the cage time after time. Locking eyes with such an incredible predator is a feeling that is not easily replicated. 

 


I am eagerly (impatiently) awaiting my return to Guadalupe next month/year when I'll be leading photo workshops. Hopefully the sharks are obliging and I can improve my own images while helping my guests achieve their photographic goals of these magnificent animals. Please join me!

http://www.bluewaterdivetravel.com/guadalupe-trip-2018 

Full Article: ScubaPro First to Support Deepblu Connect

Deepblu Inc. has been known to be innovative with their Cosmiq dive computer, dive log & social media app, and online community for divers. Recently they have announced their new collaboration with one of the popular and well known companies for dive equipment, Scubapro.  

Scubapro's smart dive computers such as Aladin Sport (Matrix), Aladin H (Matrix) and Galileo 2 (Matrix) can now be synced with the Deepblu app.  Divers can now wirelessly upload their dive logs to the app which can include vital information such depth, water temperature and a quite a bit more.  The diver can even add photos and videos to the virtual log which produces a more detailed record of the dive. They can also share it among other divers within the Deepblu social community.

 

PRESS RELEASE

SCUBAPRO First to Support Deepblu Connect

New collaboration enables direct wireless synchronization between SCUBAPRO smart dive computers and the Deepblu online diving community.


TAIPEI & SAN DIEGO, August 1, 2017 – Since its launch in November 2016, Deepblu’s rapidly expanding online community has grown to include tens of thousands of divers and ocean enthusiasts. Today SCUBAPRO, the most iconic name in dive equipment, became the first to support the newly introduced Deepblu Connect, a feature that enables the Deepblu app to wirelessly interface directly with SCUBAPRO’s line of Bluetooth-enabled dive computers.

 

 

With the push of a button, information from the SCUBAPRO Aladin Sport (Matrix), Aladin H (Matrix) or the newly introduced Galileo 2 (G2) is wirelessly synchronized with the Deepblu app and stored in customizable, digital dive logs. This includes dive profiles, tank pressure levels, temperatures, depths and times. Divers then can enrich their logs with underwater photography and videography, store them in the cloud, and share them with their peers in the Deepblu community.

“We wanted to make dive logging on Deepblu accessible and easy for everyone, so we designed Deepblu Connect to be a convenient interface for Bluetooth-enabled dive computers to work with the app,” said Deepblu CEO James Tsuei. “We are excited to pilot the feature with SCUBAPRO, one of the most reputable and forward-looking companies in the dive industry.”

New for 2017, the SCUBAPRO G2 blends beauty and simplicity with technologically advanced computing and navigation. It sports a high-contrast, user-configurable color display, along with the intuitive menus and 3-button control system perfected in the original, award-winning SCUBAPRO Galileo. Along with Bluetooth and a long list of advanced features, the G2 incorporates SCUBAPRO’s patented Human Factor Diving™, which can monitor heart rate, skin temperature, breathing rate and water temperature to generate extremely reliable no-stop and decompression-stop calculations. The G2 stores up to 1,000 hours of dive profiles and its rechargeable battery lasts up to 50 dives.

“For more than 50 years, divers around the world have looked to SCUBAPRO for the most innovative, advanced and intuitive products in the industry,” said Joe Stella, Group Vice President at SCUBAPRO. “Divers are connected by a passion for what lies below the water’s surface and our support of Deepblu Connect will help those who put their trust in SCUBAPRO’s dive computers to capture and share their experiences with the global community.”

Once dive logs are uploaded, recent updates to the Deepblu user interface make finding and tagging dive spots easier than ever. Divers can even leave ratings and reviews to help other divers, while gear enthusiasts can now complete their logs with information about nearly every piece of equipment they own.

 

 

Starting in August, Deepblu will hold a monthly dive-logging competition, allowing divers to earn badges they can showcase on their logs. The August winners will receive exciting prizes from SCUBAPRO, including a G2 dive computer and other industry-leading SCUBAPRO dive gear. To win, divers must accumulate praise for their logs from the Deepblu community and climb through the ranks from Dive Log of the Day to Dive Log of the Week and, ultimately, Dive Log of the Month. Details are available at https://events.deepblu.com/2017aug_logofthemonth/.

 

About SCUBAPRO: SCUBAPRO is the iconic mark of the world’s most accomplished SCUBA divers, the preferred and recommended choice of elite diving professionals around the globe. Originators and innovators of exceptional dive gear, we build flawless diving equipment for the lifestyle and sport of those whose passion is found below the surface. Created by divers for divers, we’ve built a strong legacy of innovation and intuitive diver-centric design for more than 50 years. We believe that exacting commitment to performance, usability, safety, and design sophistication brings out the best in every underwater adventure. For more information, visit www.scubapro.com.

About the Deepblu Platform: Deepblu is the fastest-growing online community for divers and ocean enthusiasts. It was released in November 2016 at the DEMA show in Las Vegas and has since brought tens of thousands of divers together at deepblu.com

About Deepblu, Inc.: Deepblu, Inc. is the company behind the COSMIQ Dive Computer and the Deepblu community. Deepblu, Inc. is a team of divers and technology enthusiasts whose goal is to use technology and the power of the internet to revolutionize the diving community and lifestyle. For more information, visit https://about.deepblu.com/

Contact:
Deepblu:
SCUBAPRO:

 

 

 

Full Article: The Unforgettable Red Sea

*This article was originally published on Brook's personal site, http://www.waterdogphotography.com/*

For Europeans, the Red Sea is as common a dive destination as the Caribbean is to US Citizens. Although the Red Sea is less frequented by US divers, it is one of the world’s gems when it comes to diving. The crystal blue waters, abundant sea life, beautiful coral gardens and shipwrecks loaded with precious cargo make this one of the world’s best dive destinations.

 

 

Sha’ab Abu Nahas reef is famous for hosting several shipwrecks. The reef lies just north of Hurgada. Perhaps the reef’s most famous wreck is the Giannis D, a cargo ship which ran aground in 1983.

 

 

However, the Chrisoula K, which sunk in 1981 is full of Italian floor tile and has very interesting structure which is easily penetrated.

 

 

The Kimon M which sunk in 1978 is an exciting wreck which lies on its starboard side at the bottom of the reef and the Carnatic is a skeleton of a wreck that sunk in 1869 and offers wonderful photo opportunities.

 

 

If these wrecks don’t satisfy your appetite for wreck diving, then the SS Thistlegorm should do the trick.

 

 

A world class wreck, the Thistlegorm is full of World War II cargo, including trucks, motorcycles, a tank, two locomotives and lots of army boots, ammunition, and more. The holds are easily penetrated and offer a fascinating glimpse into another time.

 

 

 

Further north is the marine protected area, Ras Mohammed National Park. Just 30 km south of Sharm El Sheikh, the park has beautiful terraced coral reefs covered in fishes and other marine life.

 

 

The best dive sites in the park are Shark and Yolanda reefs. Shark reef has steep walls with soft corals and at certain times of the year, great schools of fish.

 

 

Its next door neighbor, Yolanda, is strewn with a cargo of bathroom fixtures from the ship wreck for which the reef was named. 

 

 

Within swimming distance of Shark Reef is Anemone City, a reef covered in anemones and anemone fish.

 

 

Ras Umm Sid reef offers snorkeling as well as diving, with a large shallow shelf of hard corals and a unique dive site called Temple. 

 

 

The Red Sea is diveable year round with the warmest months being June- August, and the coldest, January-February. The average water temperature is 74 degrees (23C). Direct flights from London to Hurgada are available, where many live aboard operations are docked. Divers can also fly in to Sharm El Sheikh and dive from live aboard, or the resorts based there.

Full Article: Swimming with Dinosaurs in Mexico

You’ve done it all and seen it all underwater, right?  Challenge!  How about 12’ crocs up close and personal?  If you are struggling with ‘just another pretty reef’ diving – and are willing to suffer a bit of rough and ready – then a trip to Chinchorro Bank has to be the remedy for you.  The bank is a shallow expanse of reefs, mangroves and a bit of dry land, 30 miles off the southernmost Caribbean coast of Mexico, just north of the border with Belize.

The ‘getting there’ is not too bad – a flight to Cancun and a five-hour drive to Xcalak (which if you have heard of, you are the only one).  The way to do this trip is with a day or so in Xcalak at the beginning and end, with a few days in between out at Chinchorro Bank, with the crocs.  The diving from Xcalak is fairly run of the mill Caribbean diving, other than the chance of seeing a manatee (we did) and the virtual certainty of seeing a massive school of tarpon – numbering in the hundreds and with some fish over two meters in size.

 

 

The reason for this trip, however, is not Xcalak itself but rather the time out at the bank.  The crossing is the usual – a pleasant hour and-a-half or an unpleasant two and-a-half (it’s called ‘weather’).  One arrives at the bank in a relatively sheltered area, with about a dozen stilted fishermen’s huts.  To call these ‘basic’ would quite frankly be kind.  If you need five-star, wi-fi, TV, thrice-daily showers, a bed, etc – then this is not the trip for you.  Life is very communal in the small hut, with hammocks strung pretty much wherever one can string a hammock.  Food is fine – it comes when it comes, but there is no pretending this is a culinary tour.

 

 

So why do it?  There are about five-hundred reasons – and they live in the murky water in the middle of the mangroves.  No one knows exactly how American crocodiles first got to Chinchorro, but it is quite unlikely they are leaving anytime soon.  The fishermen’s huts are in the clear, open-water on the leeward side of the island.  When the fishermen come in from their daily excursions, they clean their catch and give the scraps to the crocs.  This long-standing routine has made the crocs rather reliable in coming out of the swampy back-water (not all of them, but at least a few), from late-morning through the end of the day.

One scuba dives on the healthy nearby reefs in the morning – to see the reefs, but more importantly to spear the lionfish which are used to wrangle the crocs in for a closer look.  The whole area is a marine park, so it is only the invasive lionfish that visitors are allowed to take (while the fishermen have broader, grand-fathered fishing rights).  It is then back to the ‘chalet’ for an afternoon of croc encounters.  This is done in the chest-deep water just next to the hut, because that is where they expect to be fed as usual.

 

 

Seeing a croc from in the water for the first time is a heart racing experience.  Over a few days, one gets more comfortable at enjoying and filming these incredible creatures in what feels like a very natural setting.  It would be tough to say that one ever feels completely safe, but the in-water guide makes it feel manageable as time goes on.  If you are the type of person who listens to the instructions of experienced guides, you should be alright – if not, you might want to practice writing with your other hand before you go.

 

 

The bottom line is that this is an incredible experience that few will ever see – so a ‘must do’ for anyone who can cope with a bit of inconvenience for a truly unique interaction with these awesome, evolution-be-damned creatures.

 

 

Full Article: Best Underwater Settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Camera

Navigation:

Olympus has long been a forerunner in high quality mirrorless cameras, with models that not only work well topside, but also work wonderfully underwater. The OM-D E-M1 further pushed the quality of these cameras with more professional body style and functionality. Now, with the release of the E-M1 Mark II camera, Olympus continues to improve on these great mirrorless cameras.

Learn about the E-M1 Mark II in our full Review.

The OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers 4K video recording, improved autofocus, a megapixel increase from 16 to 20 MP with improved image processing, improved battery life, and faster sequential shooting, among many other upgrades. The only downside is that the high shutter sync speed of 1/320th on the E-M1 was reduced back down to 1/250th with the Mark II.

Below I've compiled several good starting camera settings for different shooting situations. Folling that is a list of the most important, or required settings that are crucial to change on your E-M1 Mark II when shooting underwater. Last, we'll take an indepth look at the menu system of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II so you can fine tune your camera for the best underwater shooting experience.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Shooting Settings

Settings for Macro with the 45mm or 60mm Lens:

  • Manual mode, F16-22, 1/2500th, ISO 200

  • Auto white balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL

    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed

    • For manual power set the on camera flash to manual to save battery life (see below for instructions)

  • TIP: Shoot at lower F stops like F5.6 or F2.8 to try to get some better bokeh and a blurred background

  • TIP: You'll need to open up your aperture to around F8 when shooting fish; at F22, your strobes won't "reach" very far and the photo will look black.

  • ** These settings are also useful with the 12-50mm lens in Macro Mode **

Settings for Macro using a standard zoom lens (14-42mm / 12-50mm) with a wet diopter:

  • Manual mode, F16-22, 1/250th, ISO 200

  • Auto White Balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL

    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed

    • For manual power set the on camera flash to manual to save battery life (see below for instructions)

  • Zoom all the way in

  • Shoot at lower F stops like F8-F11 to try to get some better bokeh and a blurred background, you can open up to F2.8, but will have a very small depth of field

  • Remember working distance is limited when using a wet diopter, move carefully to avoid spooking your subject and get very close.

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Settings for Wide Angle with 8mm Fisheye or 9-18mm lens:

  • Manual mode, F8, 1/125th, ISO 200 

  • Auto White Balance, camera flash on "fill in flash", Strobe on TTL

    • Or set the strobe to manual power and adjust power as needed

    • For manual power set the camera flash to manual to save battery life (see below for instructions)

  • Important: use the shutter speed to control your ambient light (background exposure). A slower shutter speed (e.g. - 1/60th will let in light when shooting in darker waters, a faster shutter speed will allow less light in when shooting in bright conditions).

  • TIP - when the sun is in the photo, set the shutter as fast as possible (1/250th), and you'll need to stop down your aperture to F16 or F22 to avoid blowing out the highlights

  • TIP - for ambient light photography, you may need to open your aperture to F5.6 or F4 and increase the ISO to ISO 400, 800 or 1600 to let in more light.

Note: These settings also are great for starting points for shooting with a kit lens (14-42mm), and for fish portraits with the 60mm macro lens.

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Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Set Up for Underwater Use

The E-M1 Mark II works well straight out of the box, and some of the features that needed to be changed in previous models are now set default, making it an even easier transition to underwater.

1) Live View Boost - this is very important due to the way we shoot underwater. Many shots, macro specifically, are taken with very little ambient light coming into the camera. If left off the LCD on the camera would appear black, making it impossible to compose your image. The E-M1 Mark II offers the ability to set the Live View Boost depending on your shooting mode. Here are our recommendations:

  • Manual Mode - ON1 - this is the default and means your LCD will not display the exposure settings, but rather will show a bright screen for the best viewing. Note - this is actually the camera default.
  • Bulb Time / Live Composite - you can skip for underwater
  • Others - ON1 - this is for any other setting (P / A / S and Art Modes). Since these are auto settings, which should adjust other settings automatically you should always be able to compose based on the LCD, but to be safe turn ON the Live View Boost to always have a bright easy to see screen image.

2) EVF Auto Switch - the E-M1 Mark II offers an electronic viewfinder and the camera is set up to automatically switch between the LCD and the EVF when you put your eye up to it. This is problematic underwater, as the rear housing door will trip the sensor and the view will always be on the EVF. Follow these steps to disable the Auto Switch.

Custom Menu -> I: EVF -> EVF Auto Switch -> OFF.

3) The Flash - if you are shooting with an underwater strobe, do not forget to attach the accessory flash to the camera. All uw strobes fire via fiber optic and require the flash to fire from the camera.

4) Flash Modes - if you are using a strobe with TTL you will use the single lightning bolt "Fill in Flash" mode on the camera however, if you are planning to use the strobe in manual mode* you can save battery life by changing the flash mode to "Manual Value" through the quick menu. This is also beneficial because using the internal camera flash at a lower power means less recycle time and helps eliminate any delay on being able to take a picture.

OK -> scroll to flash icon -> scroll over to select "Manual Value Flash" -> Press Info to change flash power -> scroll to 1/64th power -> OK to confirm

*Remember - if you change the flash mode on the camera, you are also changing the pre-flash. When shooting manual flash on the camera, make sure you are using a no pre-flash mode on your strobe.

5) Rear Control Buttons - the default setting on the E-M1 rear arrow key buttons controls only the focus point, limiting the functionality of those buttons. You can customize two of the buttons instead to gain quick, one-touch access to important features.

Custom Menu -> B: Button/ Dial/Lever -> Button Function -> Key Function (option with the four arrow key icon) -> Direct Function -> OK

Now you have access to change the right and down arrow key controls on the back of the camera. (Up gives control of Aperture / Shutter Speed without the dials and Left gives control over the focus point, these are NOT customizable). You have the same options for both customizable buttons, I suggest reviewing each and picking the ones that best suit your needs. For example, I left my camera at the default to have direct access to the flash mode via the right arrow key and direct access to the sequential shot/ timer mode for the down key. (The sequential shot is not something used much underwater but I find i use it alot topside, so it was important to have direct access for me.)

6) Rec View - this sets the length of time an image review is displayed after taking the picture. Default is 0.5 seconds. For underwater use, 2 seconds is usually recommended so you have a chance to quickly gauge that exposure and focus look good before taking another picture. If 2 seconds is too long, set it to what you desire, or simply press the shutter halfway down to cancel the review after taking a photo.

 Set Up Menu (wrench icon) -> Rec View

7) Picture Mode - the default is natural, but jpeg shooters may prefer Vivid

NOTE: this does not affect RAW files

Accessible through the SCP / Quick Menu or Shooting Menu 1

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OM-D E-M1 Mark II Button & Auto Focus Set Up:

The auto focus set up on the E-M1 Mark II is very similar to the E-M1. The camera will work smoothly right out of the box, for for more control, you can set up an advanced autofocus system to aid in your underwater photography.

Set Up for Nauticam Housings

The Nauticam Housing is designed much like their DSLR housings with built in handles and a leverl style shutter release. They reposition buttons to make a more streamlined user experience and help you have the right controls within easy reach. Here are our recommendations to take full use of the AEL / AFL button and advanced focus options.

Button Functions (Custom Menu -> B: Button / Dial / Lever -> Button Function)

Previously you had to assign, or reassign some buttons to create an advanced autofocus system, now that is no longer needed. Scroll through the options in the setting to choose special functions you'd like control over. For example Fn1 is well placed on the Nauticam housing to act as your "One Touch White Balance" control... Here are the options I selected:

  • Fn1 - One Touch White Balance (useful for video and ambient light shooting)
  • Fn2 - MF - this allows you to quickly switch between Manual Focus and your current focus mode (S-AF or C-AF). This comes into play when using the AEL / AFL focus lock feature.
  • REC - I leave this as record, for quick movie capture.
  • AEL / AFL - I leave this as is so you can have access to the focus lock function
  • All other customizable buttons - I have not changed any of those, you can view the options and decide what works best for your shooting style.

Focus Settings for the Nauticam Housing - use this advanced set up to allow you to split out the focus from the shutter release. This can be extremely useful for macro shooting.

  • AEL / AFL - set the Auto Focus Lock settings to separate focus from the shutter based on the focus mode on the camera.
    • S-AF - Mode 1 - this is the default, standard focus on a camera. Press the shutter half way to focus, all the way to take a photo. I leave S-AF as default for topside and underwater wide angle shooting, when I don't want to miss a focus, and am often needing to refocus between shots.
    • C-AF - Mode 3 - this separates the shutter release from the auto focus so you can refocus the camera from the AEL/AFL button and not risk taking a photo. I use C-AF primarily for video, so it is helpful to be able to refocus mid clip and not risk having the clip split by taking a photo.
    • MF - Mode 3 - same as C-AF, this separates the shutter release from the auto focus so you can lock focus and then take as many exposures as you like without refocusing the camera. When using this mode on Manual Focus you get the ability to both manually focus the camera with a focus gear in the housing, or use the AEL/AFL for auto focus. It is a perfect set up for shooting macro.

Now that you have set up these modes, you can shoot a picture "normally" (half shutter to focus) when in S-AF mode. Simply press Fn2 to swith from S-AF to MF focus mode and now when you press the shutter release halfway nothing happens. Focusing is done through the AEL/AFL button, or manually with a focus gear on the lens. This is perfect for macro shooting when a macro lens, like the 60mm, may hunt some and not lock exactly where you want. A minor adjustment towards or away from the subject brings your focus in line much easier than trying to refocus the lens. In addition, by using Fn2 to switch between focus modes, you have both a wide set up (or topside) and a macro set up ready to go at the touch of a button. You will not have to dig through the menu to fix focus options again.

Using the 1:2 Lever on the Camera - the 1:2 lever is a nice addition to the Olympus Cameras, allowing quick change of controls without many button presses. You can ignore this feature or assign it however you like, here are the functions to set this up.

  • Custom Menu -> Fn Lever Settings -> Fn Lever Function
    • I chose to leave this on Mode1 which means when you flip the lever it changes the function of the two primary control dials on the camera. Mode 3 may also be useful if you switch between video and photo shooting and want more than the quick record option or clicking the mode dial around to the dedicate movie mode.
    • Switch Function - OFF - I do not use the HDR / AF button on the left of the camera when underwater, so I don't have the 1:2 affect the modes of that button.
  • Fn Lever / Power Lever - If you want to be able to have single hand control, you can move the ON/OFF function from the dedicate power lever to the 1:2 lever switch. I don't need this, so just leave that option at Fn for function control.
  • Dial Function - here is where you can select which specific function each dial controls based on the position of the 1:2 lever. This is broken down all the way to specific shooting mode, giving you a lot of control on the set up of the camera. My primary shooting mode underwater is Manual, so scroll down to the M option and click OK. I don't change the 1 position function (Shutter and Aperture.. but you can flip them if you prefer aperture on your rear dial). Then press INFO to get to the function options when the lever is in the 2 position. I choose WB (white balance) and ISO. Click OK to save.
    • Now that this is set up, you can test it. In manual mode, with the lever in position 1 the shutter speed and aperture number will be green, or active. If you rotate the dials you'll see those change. Now flip the lever to position 2 and you'll notice that the ISO and WB icons are now green. If you rotate the front dial ISO changes. Click OK to save. If you rotate the rear dial, you can select a White Balance mode. OK to save. To get back to shutter and aperture, just flip the lever to position 1.
    • You can set it up as you like for all other shooting modes (P / A / S / Menu / Playback)

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Set Up for Olympus Housings (PT-EP14)

Improvements have been made on the Olympus housing, making it a nice option for those on a budget. However, unlike Nauticam, Olympus does not move controls around much on the housing, so some compromises have to be made regarding set up.

You can set up an advanced auto focus system by splitting out the focus function from the shutter, but as the AEL / AFL button is not repositioned, it is somewhat harder to reach and not recommended for use in this scenario. Instead, reassign the Fn1 button to control AEL / AFL, then follow the mode set up below.

In addition, with the change of the accessory flash, you no longer have to use Olympus' dedicated underwater mode to get the flash to fire. This means you do not have to assign that function to a button, and gives you more custom control over how your system is set up.

Preparing the Camera for the UW Housing - follow these steps to ensure the camera is ready to be installed in the housing.

  • Remove the camera strap and any filters from the lens.
  • Remove the Eye Cup from the Electronic Viewfinder

If you leave those items attached you may not be able to install the camera (strap for example). Others, like a filter or the eye cup, can put pressure on the housing and lead to a flood.

Focus Settings for the Olympus Housing - use this advanced set up to allow you to split out the focus from the shutter release using the Fn1 button for focus. This can be extremely useful for macro shooting.

  • Button Function -
    • Fn1 - AEL / AFL - because the Fn1 button is better positioned to use for focusing.
    • Fn2 - MF - this allows you to quickly switch between Manual Focus and your current focus mode (S-AF or C-AF). This comes into play when using the AEL / AFL focus lock feature.
    • REC - I leave this as record, for quick movie capture.
    • AEL / AFL - you can ignore or assign for one touch White Balance.
    • All other customizable buttons - I have not changed any of those, you can view the options and decide what works best for your shooting style.
  • AEL / AFL - set the Auto Focus Lock settings to separate focus from the shutter based on the focus mode on the camera.
    • S-AF - Mode 1 - this is the default, standard focus on a camera. Press the shutter half way to focus, all the way to take a photo. I leave S-AF as default for topside and underwater wide angle shooting, when I don't want to miss a focus, and am often needing to refocus between shots.
    • C-AF - Mode 3 - this separates the shutter release from the auto focus so you can refocus the camera from the Fn1 button and not risk taking a photo. I use C-AF primarily for video, so it is helpful to be able to refocus mid clip and not risk having the clip split by taking a photo.
    • MF - Mode 3 - same as C-AF, this separates the shutter release from the auto focus so you can lock focus and then take as many exposures as you like without refocusing the camera. When using this mode on Manual Focus you get the ability to both manually focus the camera with a focus gear in the housing, or use the Fn1 for auto focus. It is a perfect set up for shooting macro.

Now that you have set up these modes, you can shoot a picture "normally" (half shutter to focus) when in S-AF mode. Simply press Fn2 to swith from S-AF to MF focus mode and now when you press the shutter release halfway nothing happens. Focusing is done through the Fn1 button, or manually with a focus gear on the lens. This is perfect for macro shooting when a macro lens, like the 60mm, may hunt some and not lock focus exactly where you want. A minor adjustment towards or away from the subject brings your focus in line much easier than trying to refocus the lens. In addition, by using Fn2 to switch between focus modes, you have both a wide set up (or topside) and a macro set up ready to go at the touch of a button. You will not have to dig through the menu to fix focus options again.

Using the 1:2 Lever on the Camera - the 1:2 lever is a nice addition to the Olympus Cameras, allowing quick change of controls without many button presses. You can ignore this feature or assign it however you like, here are the functions to set this up.

  • Custom Menu -> Fn Lever Settings -> Fn Lever Function
    • I chose to leave this on Mode1 which means when you flip the lever it changes the function of the two primary control dials on the camera. Mode 3 may also be useful if you switch between video and photo shooting and want more than the quick record option or clicking the mode dial around to the dedicate movie mode.
    • Switch Function - OFF - I do not use the HDR / AF button on the left of the camera when underwater, so I don't have the 1:2 affect the modes of that button.
  • Fn Lever / Power Lever - If you want to be able to have single hand control, you can move the ON/OFF function from the dedicate power lever to the 1:2 lever switch. I don't need this, so just leave that option at Fn for function control.
  • Dial Function - here is where you can select which specific function each dial controls based on the position of the 1:2 lever. This is broken down all the way to specific shooting mode, giving you a lot of control on the set up of the camera. My primary shooting mode underwater is Manual, so scroll down to the M option and click OK. I don't change the 1 position function (Shutter and Aperture.. but you can flip them if you prefer aperture on your rear dial). Then press INFO to get to the function options when the lever is in the 2 position. I choose WB (white balance) and ISO. Click OK to save.
    • Now that this is set up, you can test it. In manual mode, with the lever in position 1 the shutter speed and aperture number will be green, or active. If you rotate the dials you'll see those change. Now flip the lever to position 2 and you'll notice that the ISO and WB icons are now green. If you rotate the front dial ISO changes. Click OK to save. If you rotate the rear dial, you can select a White Balance mode. OK to save. To get back to shutter and aperture, just flip the lever to position 1.
    • You can set it up as you like for all other shooting modes (P / A / S / Menu / Playback)

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Olympus OM-D E-M1 Specific Menu Settings

The Olympus E-M1 Mark II has an extensive menu system, with the ability to control, customize or select many options to create the perfect camera for your shooting style. The menu layout is essentially the same as the E-M1, though the color / style has changed, and there are now more options available. We will get a detailed list of these options up shortly, but for now just refer to the settings above for specifcs, or the E-M1 article for a review of what each menu option controls and if it is important for underwater photography.

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Full Article: Canon 6D Mark II Camera Review

Celebrating the National Camera day, Canon USA Inc., has timely announced their new full-frame camera, EOS 6D Mark II.  The camera has been designed for the advanced-amateur photographers. It has been 5 years already since its predecessor, 6D, has been released and both topside and underwater photographers are thrilled with this announcement.

The camera is packed with great features such as 26.2 MP CMOS sensor, the dual pixel AF similar to the the 5D Mark IV, DIGIC7 Processor, touchscreen, wifi/gps and a lot more. 

This is a promising full-frame camera and we are expecting to produce great results underwater. 

Status: To be released end of August 2017

MSRP: $1,999.00

 

Jump to section:

6D Mark I| Specs    |    Full Frame or Crop Sensor    |     Best Lenses    |    Underwater Housings

 

 

Canon 6D Mark II Specifications:

  • 26.2 MP Full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC 7 Image Processor
  • High-speed Continuous Shooting at up to 6.5 fps
  • Optical Viewfinder with a 45-point All Cross-type AF System
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase-detection 
  • Full HD 60p Video
  • ISO 100-40000
  • 3.0-inch Vari-angle Touch Screen LCD
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • NFC3
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS technology
  • Dust- & Water-resistant

 

Do you Buy a Full Frame or Crop Sensor?

Full frame cameras are becoming more and more popular among underwater photographers.  Many photographers are upgrading systems to full frame and many brand new photographers are purchasing full frame as their first camera system.  But even with the popularity of large sensors, the crop sensor has a strong place in the mirrorless and DSLR market, and actually excels in many areas of undewater photo and video.

So which is the right camera for you?  Here's a quick breakdown:

 

Pros of a Full Frame Sensor

  • Larger sensor is more sensitive to light.

  • Better performance at high ISOs, specifically with electronic noise and color.

  • Less depth of field at the same apertures results in smoother bokeh.

 

Pros of a Crop Sensor

  • Cheaper than full frame camera body.

  • The standard 1.6 crop factor (1.5 on Nikon DX) essentially magnifies the image, bringing you closer to that shark swimming in the distance or to filling the frame with a small nudibranch.

  • You can use a lower aperture to achieve the same depth of field as a higher aperture on a full frame sensor. This is beneficial for three reasons:

1.  Most lenses deliver their best image quality in mid-range apertures.
2.  Higher apertures become prone to diffraction.
3.  Lower apertures allow more light to hit the sensor, which helps bring more vibrant color from video lights (when shooting video), while maintaining necessary depth of field for the shot.

 

Have more questions?  Contact the experts at Bluewater Photo, who can guide you to the perfect camera setup for your shooting style and budget.

 

Best Lenses for the 6D Mark II

The Canon 6D Mark II uses a full frame sensor, making it compatibly with Canon's EF lenses plus compatible 3rd party lenses. Underwater photography generally falls into two categories: wide-angle and macro. The lenses below are best for shooting in these styles with the Canon 6D Mark II (and all Canon full frame DSLR bodies).

 

Macro

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

This smooth and fast lens should be in every experienced (Canon) underwater photographer's bag. It provides the magnification needed for shooting small macro subjects and the tiniest subjects when combined with a diopter on the outside of the housing port. View some photos shot with the Canon 100mm Macro lens on full frame bodies.

 

Wide-Angle Fisheye

Canon 8-15mm Circular Fisheye

This is one of several fisheye choices for 6D Mark II shooters. A sharp fisheye at 15mm, you can also shoot this lens at 8mm without a dome port shade in order to produce circular fisheye images. Check out some examples in Wide-Angle in Bunaken or read or full Canon 8-18mm Lens Review.

 

Alternative Fisheye Lenses

Other great fisheye lens choices for the Canon 6D Mark II will be the Sigma 15mm and the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens (between 15-17mm since this is an APS-C lens). The Sigma will likely deliver better image quality, however the Tokina is very convenient if you already have it in the camera bag.

 

Rectilinear Wide-Angle

Canon 16-35 f/2.8 III Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens

It's safe to say that this is the best choice for those who are buying their first wide-angle lens and don't have a strict budget. Most underwater shooters use rectilinear wide-angle lenses for shooting subjects that don't come close enough to fill the frame with a wide fisheye lens: sharks, whales, sea lions, dolphins, etc.

 

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II Wide-Angle Lens

The most popular rectilinear wide-angle lens for Canon full frame DSLRs has been the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 Mark II. This lens sat at the top of the selection for the last few years in terms of corner sharpness, speed, and price... although that will change as more new shooters purchase the version III.

 

Canon 11-24mm f/4L Ultra Wide-Angle Lens

Want the widest lens you can buy? The Canon 11-24mm offers a much wider field of view than 16mm. This perspective is great for reefscapes, massive wrecks and very wide shots where you do not want the distortion of a fisheye lens. The downside is that this lens is larger, heavier and more expensive than the other wide-angle lens choices.

 

Alternative Rectilinear Wide-Angle Lenses 

Underwater photo and video shooters on a budget will be looking towards the Canon 16-35mm f/4L or the Canon 17-40 f/4L USM wide-angle lenses. And unless you're a pixel-peeper with critical details in the corners of your images, it will be hard to tell the difference in IQ between these lenses and the popular 16-35mm f/2.8L II (we haven't tested images with the new 16-35 III yet). The quality of the dome port you are shooting through will make a much more significant difference. These lenses are also much lighter and sport 77mm filter threads instead of 82mm - which is significant for topside filter use.

 

Underwater Housings

There is still no announcement from manufacturers yet but we are expecting housings these companies.

 

Nauticam

 

Aquatica

 

Sea & Sea

 

Ikelite

 

AquaTech

 


View all the cameras, lights and accessories at Bluewater Photo.