Saturday, July 31, 2010

PADI Digital Underwater Photographer Course

Once I had completed the, let’s be honest, somewhat stressful Rescue Diver course, I could focus on my next goal – underwater digital photography! I had been looking forward to this course for a few months and had high hopes that it would be better than the photography adventure dive I did for my Advanced Open Water back in January at a different resort. That resort had let my friend Mark and me use our Olympus Tough cameras for the dive. The thing is, those cameras are only waterproof to 10 meters and, when diving, we routinely go to 20 or 30 meters. Mark’s LED screen malfunctioned after just a few pictures and I spent the whole dive more attuned to my depth gauge to make sure I didn’t go below 10 meters than I did to my photos. Never mind the fact that we didn’t even get any tips on how to take good underwater photos.

I’m pleased to say that the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer course at Two Fish was much, much better than my previous foray into underwater photography. First of all, I spent an entire afternoon studying the PADI manual where I learned about the usefulness of such things as histograms and manual white balance. The next day, after having gone over the knowledge reviews with my instructor, Abraham, I had a land lesson on how to use the resort’s camera, a Canon Digital IXUS 100 IS, in its underwater housing. Abraham gave me assignments around the resort to practice using the ISO and exposure settings, as well as the digital zoom to get close ups of macro subjects. After successfully taking pictures of my room key, ants on a log and various other things, I was ready to take the camera diving.

The course included two dives with just Abraham and me. He pointed out some interesting subjects and let me take my sweet time adjusting the camera settings and trying different angles. What a luxury to be a photographer alone with a guide! I made the most of my dives but I was hungry for more practice so I rented the camera for three more days of fun diving. After each day of diving, I sat down with Abraham so he could critique my photos and show me how by adjusting contrast, brightness, midtones and saturation with Microsoft Office Picture Manager, I could easily make an OK photo pretty decent (and not have to spend a fortune on Photoshop). But the biggest lesson I learned from him was to get close, fill the frame with an interesting subject and try to get the best picture you can from the camera so there’s less to fix later.

Here are some of my favorite shots:

Thank you Abraham for getting me started on my new hobby! I can’t wait to buy a camera and continue taking pictures of the magnificent world under the sea.

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