5 Tips for Photographing Deep Sea Animals

As may be expected, photographing deep sea animals is not something that is available to the average photographer. A combination of physical characteristics including pressure, light, temperature and the availability of oxygen are the main barriers to obtaining photographs of deep sea creatures without the use of specialized diving equipment.

Following are some tips for those photographers willing to travel to out-of-the-way places and endure extremely cold temperatures to obtain that special shot.

1. Proper Thermal Protection

New dry suit technology for working in cold water is available, and although heavier than lightweight suits for the tropics, is well worth it. Compensating for more weight at depth will require some practice. A compromise in the choice of gloves may be required. Thicker gloves may be warmer, but are also harder to operate a camera with.

2. Color Adjustments

Cold water has a different color temperature to warmer, tropical water. Fortunately, many digital cameras enjoy a wide range of settings to compensate for these differences. Colder temperatures are at the red or yellow end of the spectrum, while the blue or green end is for warmer temperatures. A rough guide for setting the correct temperature setting in degrees Kelvin for digital cameras is:

  • 3500 for early morning/late afternoon sun
  • 4200 for fluorescent
  • 5000 for flash and daylight
  • 6000 for a cloudy day
  • 8000 for the shade

A tip for colder water is to adjust the color temperature a little lower than for tropical water. If shooting RAW images, the white balance may be corrected while manipulating the image. Shooting with film may require special film or filters to correct the color shift. Cold water may be clear, but may also be clouded with micro organisms and pollution.

3. Lighting

Lower light levels and the angle of the light can be an issue. Anything suspended in the water may also affect the light. Using slow shutter speeds will allow more background light especially for wide-angle shots. Slowing the shutter to 1/30th second or lower may lighten the background, but won't affect any artificially lit foreground subject.

4. Sharper Focus

Poor lighting can wreak havoc with a camera's auto-focus system. Artificial lighting from a modeling light to built in external LED lights on housings (from specialist underwater photographic suppliers) can assist in achieving the correct focus. In many instances, auto-focus just won't work. Serious photographers may have to employ manual focusing techniques. Advanced housings allow for either manual or auto focusing, but the lenses used may need to have focus gears.

5. Close Ups

A macro lens is useful for the myriad of smaller creatures encountered in the deep, while a telephoto lens may be required for larger and more active creatures. Close up photographs make better use of light, reduce the number of particles in the shot and allows better resolution.

Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: