Doing it by the Book

Colin Doeg evaluates a handbook for both still and video photography.

Most books on underwater photography are designed to help the photographer once he or she has decided to take the plunge, bought the necessary equipment and begun to take pictures. This book is different. It is intended to be read before you make the big decision to go into still or video photography, and it discusses the pros and cons of these alternatives before helping you to decide which route to take.

But that is only the beginning of the book, which is intended to get the reader into the water and taking pictures as quickly as possible. It then deals separately with still and video, providing so much helpful information that the book will remain an invaluable guide for many years to come.

The authors, Annemarie and Danja Köhler, are a South African mother-and-daughter team. They take into account the latest technological advances in both still and video equipment, which have made underwater photography so much easier and more rewarding. The pair write lucidly about even the complicated technicalities of photography, which is a refreshing change from some of the mind-numbing explanations in some other titles.

In discussing still photography, Annemarie and Danja give impartial advice on choosing between viewfinder cameras, like the Nikonos, and the alternative of housing more sophisticated land cameras with their superior electronics.

If you are debating whether to buy a still outfit or a video camera, their advice is to choose the latter because it is easier to produce good results. Thankfully, they go on to give excellent advice on shooting techniques, which should result in interesting and absorbing footage, rather than the dreadful pictures so many camcorder owners inflict on their friends and family. They stress the need to allow the action to happen across the frame, and to avoid excessive zooming, before moving on to the equally important need to shoot for editing, and how to build sequences which are interesting to watch.

The need to carefully maintain your photographic equipment is stressed, as is the necessity of being a thoroughly proficient diver with good buoyancy control before taking up underwater photography – a sentiment with which I heartily agree.

The book ends with a chapter on the art of photography, especially composition and aesthetics. This is essential reading. Few books ever deal effectively with this topic, yet this aspect of picture-taking is vital to the production of interesting and saleable shots.

This book is set to become one of the few classic titles about underwater photography. It is packed with good advice and is an excellent source of reference, not only for the aspiring photographer but also for those with extensive experience.

Buy the Book

You can buy this book and many others, online, from a variety of outlets at Atlantis Mall, the world's first underwater shopping mall!

Did you know?

  • To capture sun-rays in the water you must use a fast shutter speed.
  • Contrary to popular belief, cloudy weather is wonderful for video. The clouds diffuse sunlight into a more flattering glow, and remove the contrast problems that video handles so badly. But don’t go deeper than 20m.
  • The focusing scales on the Nikonos 35mm and 80mm lenses are calibrated in air distances, whereas the 15mm, 20mm and 28mm lenses are calibrated in underwater distances.
  • Decorator crabs are so perfectly camouflaged it is difficult to spot them; watch for their claws – they are usually undecorated and moving, making the crab easier to spot.
  • The Nikonos V’s TTL exposure metering is both centre-weighted and bottom-weighted, this might explain why some shots near the surface are over-exposed.
  • A common error with wide-angle shots is too much space between the subject and the edges of the photo. In order to get the balance right, you can follow this general rule: if the composed scene looks about right to your naked eye, you need to at least halve the camera-to-subject distance before you compose in the viewfinder and release the shutter.
  • If you have a full-range auto-focus macro lens on your video camera, it will focus from infinity to 2.5cm. Alternatively, if you have a standard lens on your video camera, with macro mode, you can only focus between 1.2m and 2.5cm by depressing and locking the macro mode button with a cable tie. This means you are committed to that focus range for the entire dive.


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