Yes, after 27 years of being a photographer on terra firma, I have now descended into the deep blue sea.
Want to have your mind jolted? Here’s what to do down there.
I discovered immediately that my housing (the plastic bit that goes around the camera to keep it watertight) was blurry. Go Pro said that particular housing model for Hero 2 made a few years ago is not made anymore. They figured out it was not sharp. Well.
I calmly bought the Hero 3+ and am seeing splendid improvements. For one thing the lens can be changed to three different settings so if you don’t want ultra wide angle you can notch it down to regular wide. That’s how your eyes see the world.
I recommend ultra wide when swimming with wild dolphins.
My new friends were so close they were almost touching me and I had nothing to do with it. In Hawaii there’s a law you have to stay 100 feet away from wild dolphins but no local person worth their Himalayan pink salt would follow that one.
I’ve never touched a dolphin and will not. They are wild. Let them be untainted by human hands. We have been known to give them diseases.
You can use other cameras, I’ve seen photos from the Lumix underwater camera and it’s sharp. You just have to wait for pauses when shooting and I am not a fan of waiting. This way you lose valuable seconds. But the photos are clear and focused.
If you buy a housing for your existing camera make sure it’s guaranteed to be sharp, watertight, and clear. No inept substitutes are acceptable.
So now we are underwater with camera in hand. Mostly you don’t want to have to bring lights with you.
This is supposed to be fun.
I don’t want to swim with bulky gear like those surf photographers who get in the waves with their heavy cameras and don’t mind being tossed in 12-foot waves.
4 meters for those of us who are metric.
I clutch my camera in one hand and make sure the wrist strap is securely on my wrist then I start swimming.
Get ready. Turn it on. And soon you’ll be seeing wild dolphins. They come over to me and say hi. Be ready. The nuances of their expressions are priceless.
Hardest thing is to hold the camera still, when your heart is pounding with excitement.
I stop breathing until I get the shot.
Come to think of it, I hold my breath shooting on land too. Being underwater is the same strategy.
It takes practice to get good at underwater shooting. I don’t use the Go Pro backpack so I can’t see what I’m shooting. Pointing the camera at swimming dolphins takes practice and patience.
If you get one amazing shot from the shoot the whole thing was worth it. Keep going.
Wait until the dolphin is close, so you don’t have to crop later. And you have a better chance of capturing the expression in her eye.
Make sure your fingers aren’t touching the edge of the wide-angle lens. This is a common blunder.
Use only the recommended photo card that the camera company suggests. Lexar and Extreme Sandisk for the Go Pro. I used the one that the dive shop recommended and it was jittery for video. It was fine for photos but not for HD video. Don’t use the Sandisk Ultra, what a waste for $50.
Relax and enjoy being with the dolphins.
Now that I live here, I’m not taking my camera every time. Yes I miss some shots but it’s better to miss a few shots and enjoy being with the dolphins.
Don’t chase the dolphins like the crass guy this morning who was swimming rapidly holding out his camera to capture them.
It’s a little like being a wedding photographer. You can’t really be a guest when you are being paid to shoot it. Yes, you have to act like a guest but you can’t be giving toasts and rocking out in the center of the dance floor flirting with everyone. No.
Same thing with shooting dolphins. It’s a blast to shoot them but also be sure to get in the water and look carefully at what you see. This morning I saw yellow tangs eating and was amazed at how they swayed in the stellar light.
Dolphins like to interact and play catch with leaves.
But sea turtles are more aloof. You can swim with them but they will slide away if you get too close so be sly when you get that photo. And be quick.
If you shoot near the surface of the water with the sun just rising it will be at the most exquisite low angle to light up your photo underwater. Try to get both the dolphins lit up by the sun and also the sun behind the dolphins. It looks like the alternate universe that it is.
This is so much fun you won’t want to get out of the water. You can always come back tomorrow. Or move to Hawaii forever.
That’s why I’m here!
Join us on Kauai and the Big Island for my Photo Safari and Yoga Retreats in 2015 to recharge and invigorate your spirit