Blackwater Diving can be challenging. Not only are you drifting a long in the dark looking for exciting things, but many of us like to bring our cameras to be able to capture the weirdness of the critters you can see on Blackwater Dives. Now if you don’t know what Blackwater Diving is, I recommend you check out our previous blogposts on the subject where we go through what it is and what you might need! In this post, we will be going over some photography tips and tricks to hopefully make your life a little bit easier on your next Blackwater adventure!
The first thing, we would recommend to anyone starting out with Blackwater photography, is get to know your camera. Whether you have a compact camera, a mirrorless setup or a DSLR, you need to be fully aware of your equipments capabilities. There are different advantages to different pieces of gear, so you don’t want to assume that most expensive equals the best result. Sometimes we have found ourselves in a position where we wish we had a GoPro on hand rather than the big DSLR as we couldn’t get the full subject in frame, because of lens limitations for example. Either way, whatever you choose to go for, practice first! Practice on land, during day dives and night dives to get the hang of your cameras settings and how it works together with your strobes. You want to be able to quickly change settings as subjects on Blackwater Dives might decide not to stay around for that long!
Talking about strobes and lighting, this is another important feature of your camera setup. We highly recommend that you use a focus light. This will help you greatly in focusing in on your subject, and help you track it through your viewfinder as it moves through the water column. Your focus light should be aimed so that its inner edge is barely touching the inside of your lens’s minimum focal distance. So even if the critter moves away from the lens it will still be lit, and you will be able to follow it. If you find during the dive that you are getting swarmed by plankton or that your subject is charging into your focus light, then simply cover it with your hand for a few seconds to get a better position.
For strobes, either a single strobe or a dual strobe setup works. The benefit you have with a dual strobe setup is that you can really get a well lit subject without much effort, although you might be trading this for more backscatter (which can be removed in postproduction, if you have Lightroom or Photoshop). Play around with your positioning, and find what works best for you. A good rule of thumb is to have your strobes as far away from your lens, as your lens is from the subject. And make sure you do not have your strobes angled into your lens! Backscatter is very hard to avoid, but sometimes you might find that it actually adds depth and dimension to your image.
When it comes to settings, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. One thing we would recommend however, is to think about your strobes recycle time. When shooting Blackwater subjects, once you have the subject in focus and in a good position you want to be able to take a lot of shots in quick succession. The more photos you take the better! If you set a higher ISO (320-600) you can use a lower strobe power, which in turn will allow the strobes to recycle faster. Normally we set our F-stop higher (around f/18-f/25), which will give you a good focal range and prevent you from over exposure. You will need to adjust settings through out the dive, especially if you encounter very shiny subjects. Things like a Juvenile African Pompano have very reflective scales, so lowering your strobe power or simply moving your strobes will help you not over expose your subject. A transparent Jellyfish however, will need very thorough lighting. You can try “sandwiching” the subject between your strobes to get it well lit.
The most important thing when it comes to any type of photography however, is practice. If you can not practice in the water (like many because of the current situation in the world) go out in your garden and practice on insects, or your own houseplants! All you need is your camera and some imagination. Hopefully these basic little tips will help you, and if you have any questions make sure to comment down below!
Why Dive with NAD-Lembeh Resort?
NAD-Lembeh Resort is a small, owner-operated, photography-oriented dive resort in the Lembeh Strait. We are situated in a private bay on Lembeh Island, away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. We guarantee a 2:1 guest to guide ratio as standard, which makes for a private dive experience and lots of time to take pictures.
ROOMS & BUNGALOWS
All our rooms (10 Beachfront Rooms, 5 Seaview Bungalows) offer ocean view, air conditioning, hot water, wifi, including full board. Our resort has only few steps, which makes our layout extremely convenient to get from your room to the restaurant, camera room, bar and floating jetty.
Our dive team consists of 15 full-time guides, with over 100 years of combined experience! Air as well as Nitrox and various cylinder sizes (both DIN and Yoke are available onsite).
BOATS & FLOATING JETTY
NAD-Lembeh has 4 large, purpose-built dive boats. Each at around 15m long, they offer lots of space and comfort for the divers. Boats feature onboard toilets, towels, drinks and snacks and first aid/ oxygen.
Our jetty allows our guests dignified and quick boat entries – all our dive boats can be moored simultaneously, so there is no wading through the shallows to get on the boat for the dive!
Our focus at NAD is to take your underwater photography to the next level. We offer 1:1 photo classes and our guides are all proficient with photography, using our rental equipment for fun dives when not diving with guests.
We shoot video up to 8K, along with Nikon/ Canon SLR and mirrorless setups. This gives us a rounded knowledge of all cameras. We are also the go-to location for natural history filming in the Straits.
Our newly renovated, huge camera room offers one work space for each and every guest. The spacious, individual benches with lots of power points were purposely built for underwater photographers. NAD’s dedicated camera room is also the perfect place to work on and edit your pictures.
Several rental cameras and strobes are available onsite. We have basic tools and spare parts in our gift shop in case of minor camera problems as well as a drying cabinet, and computer for you to work on and edit your photos.