I knew I wanted to do some snorkeling in Hawaii and try my hand at getting some underwater pictures. So, I bought a used Canon S100 compact camera and a Canon WP-DC43 underwater housing. I went the camera and housing route because there just isn't an underwater compact camera on the market that has raw capability and processing a raw file is so much better than a jpeg in post as you know.
It was fun indeed, but a lot of the shots I got were worthless. I did get a few OK ones, but I think I need to practice a bit more. Too bad there aren't nice warm and clear tide-pools here in Central Texas! :-) Anyway, I did snorkel twice.. Well, really three times, but one time I can't really count because the water was too rough and I got all of my gear knocked off at one point. That's a funny story in itself and I might talk about it one day. Until then, I thought I'd post a few of the decent shots I got as well as a few things I learned while shooting with it...
1. Even though the camera is in a housing and you have a mask on, it's still pretty hard to see the view screen on the camera. It's OK, but not as good as when you are on dry land taking a snap. You have to use your judgement a little more when composing and hope you get the shot. If you can adjust the brightness, do so, but be aware that will also drain your battery faster.
2. Fish don't normally sit and pose for a shot. Imagine that? Silly fish.. So, you have to have a little luck and rely on your instinct as to where the fish might go and when. Have your camera ready to go when you are close to the composure you want so you don't miss the shot.
3. Turn off your camera when you know you won't be using it in the water. Leaving it on all the time underwater is very tempting, but it can drain your battery before you know it. Nothing more of a PITA than to have to get out of the water, take your camera out of it's housing, exchange batteries, then put it all back together while hoping you don't get one grain of sand in the housing's seal and possibly ruining your camera.
4. It seems to take a bit longer for the camera to focus when underwater versus on land so you'll need to compensate for that. If you can set a manual focus for aperture f4 say, you might have better luck. Plus, with the camera in the housing, Canon's housing anyway, it's very difficult to press the shutter halfway to get the camera to focus. You kind of have to play with that a bit because it doesn't have that same feel.
5. Snorkel in the midday sun. This way it will be as bright as possible underwater and your camera will hopefully be able to focus faster and have shorter exposure times.
6. Lastly, if you want really professional-quality underwater shots, prepare to use at least a camera with an APS-C size or above sensor and then get an underwater housing for it along with a good fisheye lens and some strobes. Also get ready to pay thousands of dollars for a rig like that. In other words, don't use what I did. As you can see, the shots below are nice, but they are lacking detail and sharpness. I really enjoyed taking them and I enjoy looking at them, but after that, they aren't good for much. All of that being said, I still had lots of fun and would like to try it some more. Maybe with some practice these shots will get better. It would be interesting to see what Nikon's new 1 AW1 camera can do as well. It's not APS-C size, but looks like it might be good...
About the shots...
Below: This is a school of convict tang fish that I took near the Beach House Restaurant in Poipu, Kauai.
Below: Here is the unofficial fish of the state of Hawaii. It's called a Humuhumunukunukuapua'a or reef triggerfish for short. The long Hawaiian name means "triggerfish with a snout like a pig." It's not a great shot, but I just had to prove that I actually saw one, especially since I have a t-shirt with this fish on it! I took this one near the Beach House Restaurant in Poipu, Kauai.
Below: This is a moorish idol fish that I took in the tide-pools near our rental on the big island.
Below: This is an orange-spine unicornfish that I took in the tide-pools near our rental on the big island.
Below: This is a raccoon butterflyfish that I took near the Beach House Restaurant in Poipu, Kauai.
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