Nikonos

Underwater Photography

Back when I started diving… 50+ years ago, my primary interest other than exploring the undersea world was hunting. Spearfishing, lobster, abalone and scallop hunting were my main focus. As years went by I had visions of becoming a great underwater photographer. I’ve won a few awards for underwater photography over the years but back then it was a very difficult skill to master, which I never really did. I started with a Kodak Instamatic camera in a plastic box before moving up to a Nikonos camera and then 35 mm SLR cameras with large bulky housings. Strobe lights attached to the cameras made using them difficult to do sometimes and a complete underwater camera setup was an expensive investment.

There are many photos on this website taken a long time ago so the technology did work but nowadays it’s much easier for a diver to bring back great photos of the underwater world. In the old days you’d load your camera with 36 exposure Kodachrome film and hope a few of the shots came out well enough to blow up. A vacation to the tropics required lots of film, a lead lined pouch to protect the film while going through airport X-Ray machines and expensive processing when you got home in hopes of having good pictures to share.

These days it’s different… much different. I now use an Olympus Tough Series (TG-6) camera with an Olympus housing made specifically for the camera. The camera is O-ring sealed so you can take it into the water without a housing to a shallow depth but I never do. I consider the O-ring sealed feature an insurance policy. I place a small moisture absorption packet in the housing with the camera. The housing is good to a depth of 150’ so if it were to leak the camera would still be protected… at least I hope! Digital cameras let you see if you got the shot or take several shots at different exposures. You can then download to your computer and check out what you got… keeping or deleting as you like.

The use of these ‘modern cameras’ is so much easier. This particular camera has five underwater presets… snapshot, wide, macro, microscope and underwater HDR. In the old days when you wanted to use a Nikonos for macro shots you would have a lens extender, metal framer and a strobe. This would allow you to take a picture of a small creature 1:1… but because of the closeness of the camera to the subject, a diver might spend an entire dive waiting for a small uncooperative subject to show himself. On top of that, the camera could only be set for macro… if that big hammerhead shark came by you couldn’t get a photo. Now, to take a macro photo, you don’t have to be right on top of your subject. You can take several shots rapidly… and change settings while still underwater.

Plus, now you can make your own underwater movies with the same camera. I use a couple of small high intensity LED movie lights which can be used for movies or to bring light down to your photo subjects. You can film your underwater adventures or take still photos and change all the setting while still underwater.

Catalina Island’s diving museum, Avalon Diving History Exhibit, has some of my old photography gear on display… it’s the best place in the world for it now! I’m quite content with the new technology!

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