Doing Scuba Diving Photos & Video Puerto Vallarta Silent World Divers
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When diving, you always dive with a “buddy”. A holiday dive center will ask you and your buddy to dive within a group of buddy-pairs led by a Dive Guide. Group diving is a nuisance as the other divers and their exhalation bubbles will get in your way; just one bubble on your lens will render any footage unusable. Some of the divers may be photographers with camera mounted flashguns. The blinding flashes of light will ruin your footage and may scare off many of the larger creatures. You therefore need to be on your own, with of course your long-suffering buddy who knows by now when to stop being in your way.
Puerto Vallarta – Riviera Nayarit Most Popular Scuba Diving Sites, Silent World Divers
So start now on your quest to become “very experienced”. An alternative possibility to group is to hire your own dive guide. Special trips for groups of videographers would be ideal, perhaps because there are relatively few underwater videographers.
Under water, the environment and the creatures that you wish to video will control your possibilities in a variety ways. Different creatures may live only at specific depths, so that is where you must dive to see them. You have to understand the environment, learn to use it to your advantage, and take steps to overcome the obstacles it presents.
The sea is very rarely still. If you and your subject are moving together in a surge, the subject will stay central in your video. If you must video in a surge you must use a tripod and select subjects that do not move. Remember to dry and grease your tripod after use, they corrode very rapidly in sea water.
But best of all is to choose sites where the current is weak and staying still is not a problem.
The other most noticeable effects of the environment are on depth of visibility and the surrounding color. On the surface on a clear day we can see the horizon 20 miles away. On a good day in the summer-fall Puerto Vallarta we can see 20 meters. On a bad afternoon in the winter-spring Puerto Vallarta the density of the plankton in the water may prevent us from seeing beyond 5 meters. The plankton will of course appear as a myriad of particles in your picture.
Red coral at 12 meters, when aided by filters. Water absorbs light quite rapidly and does this according to the color of the light. At a depth of only 3 meters most of the red light has been absorbed and a red object will appear dark brown. At 10 meters most of the colors have been absorbed and the level of light has fallen drastically. At 30 meters only residual blue light remains. It is possible to account for these color changes down to a ‘depth plus camera-to-subject’ distance of about 10 meters by means of colored (orange/red) filters and adjustment of the camera’s white balance.
Once set for any combination of depth plus C>S distance, any positive or negative variation in depth or distance from the subject implies either a bluish or reddish tinge to the picture. At depths greater than 15 meters, the picture starts to adopt an uncorrectable bluish tinge. At depths greater than 20 meters, it is frequently necessary to reduce the number of filters used in order to allow for the reduction in overall level of available light; this will increase the bluish tinge. It is sometimes possible to use video lights, but the ones that can be afforded by amateurs are really only suitable for subjects that are very close to the lens. Remember to ask your buddy to carry a sheet of white plastic so that you can white balance your camera; alternatively wear white fins.
You can video anything that is down there, but if you don’t want color tinges, it should be within 3 meters of your lens. You will need a wide-angle lens to video large creatures e.g. sharks, divers and shoals of fishes. Close ups of these creatures can be shot with a standard lens. Small creatures, say 2 cm long, can be shot with a standard lens but you must place the lens only a few centimeters from the subject. Very small creatures, e.g. pygmy sea horse require special lenses and the camera mounted on a tripod. The whole scene should usually have a shallow depth of field. This requirement results from the fact that if the depth of field is large then the surround to the subject will appear blue, OK if the background is water, but not if it is coral.
Shooting Underwater Videos
You must keep your camera dry. Keeping the camera away from the seawater is relatively simple – you put it in a waterproof housing and close the door. Closing the door is not that simple as it shuts onto a gasket of rubber called an O ring. You must ensure that the O ring seal is absolutely clean. A single hair or speck of dirt will result in the housing flooding, and you having to buy a new camera. Insurance is essential.
Some housings have just a single lens while others may accept supplementary “wet lenses” i.e. you can add them while under water, or may offer a range of primary lenses. Wide-angle primary lenses are amazingly expensive. Close-up lenses are less expensive but you may be able to fit a standard C/U lens onto your camera lens and still fit it into the housing. Underwater, refraction at the lens’s surface makes objects appear to be larger and closer than they really are. A 35mm lens underwater is equivalent to a 50mm lens above water. Lenses are frequently defined by their angle of view (across a diagonal). 84°and 90° lenses are considered to be Wide Angle.
The temperature of the water may limit your dive time and affect the operation of your camera. At most tropical locations the surface air will be warm and moist, the water will be warm. But even in warm waters, sudden drops in water temperature can occur at “thermoclines”. The reduction in temperature cools not only the diver but also the air in the housing. If the housing is filled with warm, moist air, which is then suddenly cooled, the moisture will condense inside the housing; possibly on the lens, possibly on the inside of the camera! This problem can be avoided by filling the housing with cold, dry air (from the air conditioning system) before the start of the dive and additionally by placing a sachet of silica gel desiccant inside the housing just before closing the door. The main limitation of this approach is that the camera must be kept cool for the whole holiday, as a sudden exposure of the cool camera to the warm, moist air outside your air-conditioned cabin will also cause condensation within the camera.
Detailed planning is rarely possible, but you will know the “theme” of the site – big pelagic fishes or minute invertebrates – and will have worked out the type of shots you would like. For large creatures, place yourself at a certain depth and wait there for the whole dive to see and video what comes by to investigate you. Chasing large creatures is rarely successful; they can always swim much faster than you can!
Videoing small creatures can be easier as they often stay at a relatively fixed location but you may need your buddy to coax them into facing you rather than swimming away. You must be able to see their eyes! Of course the creatures will not do what you would like them to do, so simply video them for several minutes from all angles whilst they go through their complete repertoire of actions and then edit to get the seconds that you require. Patience is essential. Whilst videoing you must remember that many small, highly venomous, creatures are so well camouflaged as to be almost invisible. You must not come into contact with any of them!
Many small creatures are almost totally immobile and thus make good subjects for still photographers but not for videographers. Understandable and specific action by the subject is highly desirable. And as you already know, your video will always be better if it includes wide angle, mid angle and close up of many of the subjects.
Assuming that you will be using a non-linear, computer based, editing system, you can build up a library of standard shots to be used somewhere in your video or perhaps in a number of videos. Examples are: a diver pointing, a diver holding an anchor line while doing a safety stop, bubbles rising. Providing you have continuity regarding wet suit color and to some extent, water color, you can incorporate any of these into a number of videos.
Similarly some coral or rock formations, especially archways and tunnels, will appear to be particularly photogenic. If it looks good, then video it and then do it again and again. The repetition is necessary because a small, unnoticed fish will almost invariably swim into the shot of what you were hoping to be clear, unobstructed water. This need for repetition also applies to your shots of divers undertaking specific actions. Starting trip through archway. Part way through the archway. Almost through the archway.
Before you go on a dive trip, watch silent World Divers videos. Analyze them and decide just what it was that impressed you so much. Keep this in mind, just in case that very special opportunity presents itself to you.
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