Anyone who has ever been snorkeling or scuba diving can tell you that there is a whole other world under the surface of the water. It is colorful, vibrant, dangerous, and full of life. Whether you are exploring the organisms in your local pond or reef dwellers in the tropics, it is astonishing just how much life resides in the water. To take advantage of this and encourage people to explore this part of the world, many organizations hold underwater photography contests. Some are local and have many rules while others are online competitions with no rules at all.
One of the best known is the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. It began in 2005 and is open to any photographer that makes less than 20% of their income by taking pictures. Categories include macro, wide angle, fish or marine animal portrait, and student work. This year they received over 700 entries this year. The overall winner came from the portrait category and was submitted by Kyle McBurnie. It features a seal in a kelp bed.
With the many advances in underwater photography many amateurs take beautiful pictures while out scuba diving and snorkeling while on vacation. In order to get a good picture while underwater, you need to be comfortable underwater. You need to be a good swimmer that can keep up. It can be easier to take pictures while diving as opposed to snorkeling simply because you can maneuver better and stay in different positions longer so that animals will approach. However, light is often better at the surface and there are many great species such as sharks and whales closer to the surface of the water.
Understanding the animals you are trying to photograph is also helpful. You need to keep safety in mind and be able to interpret the body language of the animal. The best shark photo in the world is useless if the shark eats you and the camera. In terms of equipment, you can use basic point-and-shoot cameras if you are simply looking to take some nice pictures while on vacation. Most professional will use a DSLR camera with its own strobe light. This can be expensive and heavy to lug around and is generally not your first choice while on vacation.
If you are heading on vacation and hope to be able to take some good pictures of the underwater lifestyle while snorkeling or diving, try practising in your own pool at first. The water is calmer, allowing you to get comfortable with what you are doing. To mimic fast moving fish, have the kids swim around you and practise taking pictures of them.
Underwater photography can shed light on an amazingly diverse world that many have never encountered. It can also be used to interest others in marine conservation and efforts to save reefs from overfishing and other detrimental activities. Enjoy your vacation and, afterwards, take a few moments to consider the wonderful experience you had and how sad it would be if others didn’t get to see it too one day.