Just Add Water

I rarely get excited about buying photographic equipment. Photography equipment is about having a tool to do a job. And because of this, I rarely purchase equipment just for the sake of it. It has to have a specific purpose, such as a tilt-shift lens for architectural work.

There are the odd exceptions though, like the brand spanking new SPL water housing I picked up from the post office yesterday.

Hot dog! I haven’t felt that excited about a piece of photographic equipment…ever.

Today I took it out twice. First to test it without a camera in it. I’ve drowned a camera before sea kayaking and I didn’t want to replicate that experience with my new housing. It passed with flying colours, so I loaded it with my SLR and lens and went to a place I call ‘Weekend Beach’, about 15-minutes by moped from my place.

Using a water housing is quite a different experience to using just a camera. Though I’m still a toddler splashing in the shallow end of the swimming pool when it comes to underwater photography, I did learn a few things today. In no particular order:

1. A camera inside a water housing is a bit like picking up your camera with thick woollen mitts for the first time. Everything feels a bit awkward. It was because of this, I didn’t swim straight out into the bone crunching waves coming in on the reef edge. Instead I got used to the weight, feel and controls of the housing. Baby steps…

2. You have to protect the lens port. Colleague and friend – Dave Collyer – gave me a great piece of advice in this regard. Always flip the port up towards the surface, when not shooting and swimming over rocks and reefs. I can see how in the blink of an eye you could bang the front port and damage it.

3. Though you can look through the viewfinder, it is a bit of a clunky experience (and definitely not something you will be doing while photographing waves while in the ocean). This means I need to learn how to frame my photo without looking through the viewfinder. Today I learnt that I point the lens a little too high.

4. Good light underwater is like good light above water. Wait for the clouds to clear from over the sun, to get the best looking light and colours beneath the surface.

5. I’m using a 12-24mm lens set at 12mm, so it is pretty wide. Like shooting on land, this means you have to get close to whatever it is you are photographing.

This one sort of goes without saying, but shooting in warm crystal clear waters (yeah I know, rub it in), with a water housing IS a lot of fun. I think I walked around all afternoon with a huge smile after that session.

Can’t wait to photograph some water based ideas I’ve had since arriving in Rarotonga. Having a water housing has definitely opened up an ocean world of creative opportunities. (I just couldn’t say it).

A couple of photos from today’s test shoot.

Self portrait. Rarotonga, Cook Islands. © www.thomaspickard.com
Water surface, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Water surface, Rarotonga, Cook Islands. © www.thomaspickard.com
Fish, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
Fish, Rarotonga, Cook Islands. © www.thomaspickard.com

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