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Creating underwater photographs using ordinary pocket camera
I had always wanted to take underwater photographs of coral reefs and marine fish in the tropical islands around the Dorey bay and the northern coast of Manokwari regency when I bought a waterproof case for my digital camera Sony Cybershot last month. On 6 October 2010, I went to Mansinam island for a snorkeling trip with some Dutch tourists. We went there in the morning when the tide was high. I was anxious actually because I did not know whether this waterproof case really watertight and safe for the camera. The boat driver took us to the south of the island. After wearing my snorkeling mask and inserting the camera inside the case I walked to the water, swam a little and started to take pictures of the corals and the ornamental fish. Mansinam is the largest tropical island in the Dorey bay of Manokwari city - the capital of West Papua province in the "Republic of Indonesia." It is still covered with rainforest with coconut trees stand in rows a long the beautiful white sandy beach. I really like to be there that day.
Taking underwater photographs for the first time
When I had already been in the water, I immediately turned on my digital camera that was now protected by the waterproof case. Through the snorkeling mask, I tried to locate nice corals and ornamental sea fish that play around me. The LCD screen of the camera was not clear enough underwater. So, I only aim my camera to the fish. The fish were scared of me if I made too much movements in the water or when the camera was too close to them. As this was my first experience taking photographs of fish underwater, I felt that I could not distinguish whether I had already pressed the shutter button of the camera half way down to focus the object that I wanted to shoot. The waterproof case was a little thick I think. But I realized that the plastic sheet material had to be that thick to protect the gadget from water pressure.
So, I just pressed the shutter buttons every time I saw and aimed my camera to beautiful zebra fish, blue fish and ornamental fish that were passing in front of me. I felt happy that after waiting for nearly one year, I could now realize my dream of taking underwater photographs of coral reef with higher quality results.
Viewing the underwater photographs after first dive
My first attempt of shooting underwater pictures lasted about 15 minutes. I took around 30 to 50 pictures. I thought they were enough for the time being. I decided to stop photographing and left for the beach which was only around 50 meters away from the corals. I swam back to the beach and then walked when the waters were just 1 meters deep very shallow for me to continue swimming. I walked to a place where I put my bag under the shadow of a beach tree and began to take my camera out of the waterproof case. Before that I dried the outer surface of the case with a small towel. I found out that the camera was still dry. I turned it on again and began to press the play button. I continued viewing the results of my underwater photographs with some Dutch girls standing around me giving comments about the pictures. They said that the photographs were good. They are interested in borrowing my waterproof camera case too. They had two cameras with with but only one that was fit with the case. It was a digital camera, a Cybershot that was manufactured by Sony. It was a newer version with higher resolution. So, I lent the case to her and she brought her camera to the sea. Also see: Underwater photographs of coral reef
Underwater World of Tropical Islands around Manokwari city
While waiting for the Dutch tourists swimming, snorkeling and taking pictures of the underwater world of the Mansinam island, I took a chance of interviewing the boat driver. His name was Darwin. I ask him, "how often do you bring tourists to this island?" He answered, "every week." So, in my opinion, Mansinam is quite famous among foreign tourists. Perhaps, this is the most popular island in the Dorey bay of Manokwari. As a matter of fact, there are still two other smaller islands in the bay, and another one island in the northern coast of Manokwari particularly near Nuni village. All these islands have beautiful underwater world of coral reef and ornamental fish. I personally have visited all these islands. The island whose coral reefs are still in their best condition can be found off the coast of Nuni village. Although it is considered as the best island in terms of its coral reef environment, it is the most dangerous place to snorkel or dive. The water current there is very strong. I saw more coral fish and marine animals there with corals that are more colorful.
Comparing the underwater photographs taken from different cameras
Nearly half an hour later, the girl who borrowed the waterproof case got out of the water. She walked to me and took out the camera from the case and started to see the results of her work. I had to admit that the pictures which she took were better then mine. Perhaps it was caused by the changing weather. Or I think the resolution of her camera is higher than mine. In addition, she might have chosen the best setting in the camera that was more suitable for taking pictures underwater. Well, I was happy to see that the waterproof case was really useful both for me and for the tourists.
Underwater digital camera
In recent years, digital camera manufacturers have seen that the demand for a special photography equipment that is used underwater is high. So, they manufacture digital cameras that can directly be used underwater without the need for a waterproof case. The one that I saw while snorkeling with Dutch tourists was used by Menno Schepers. It was a compact digital camera that can be used for taking pictures of marine life up to 3 meters depth. I think it is a good product for those who do not want to get busy with inserting camera inside the case and sealing it well with a protective cover to ensure that the equipment works well while the photographer is swimming or snorkeling. The latest product from Canon has the capability of producing high quality pictures up to 10 meters below the sea level.
Waterproof camera case versus underwater camera
Waterproof camera case is a case that has been specially manufactured for protecting conventional digital camera in wet environment. So, waterproof case helps the camera owner to modify or expand the function of his or her camera into an environment that the camera actually has not been designed for. Waterproof case is the cheapest solution for those who like to go to the beach and have some fun with some nice photo shots while they are playing at the beach or in the water. Waterproof case also protects a camera from small dirt particles such as sands and tiny gravels. My waterproof case was manufactured by Dicapac and was able to be used in the water up to 10 meters depth. Read: Underwater Camera Case
Dicapac waterproof camera case
Being an underwater photographer
I am writing this hub to share my experience while taking underwater photographs for the first time. Honestly I am not a professional photographer. I just want to have some fun with my digital camera when I am in the water enjoying the beautiful scenery of coral reef and marine animals. I believe that someone who wants to be an underwater photographer needs more practice due to very different environment that he or she has to face. As voluntary guidance, when we go into the water for taking photographs of the corals and the ornamental fish, we have to practice or apply neutral buoyancy principle. In other words, we have to remain "flying" above the corals. If we land our feet on the corals and step on them, we have definitely destroyed one of the most beautiful but the most fragile animals in the world. Animals? Yes, coral reef is not rock. It is a huge community of tiny animals that cooperate in mutual symbiosis with algae to perform photosynthesis, absorb CO2 gases that we emit every day and provide food for the fish and various marine creatures.
The ability of coral reef to absorbs CO2 gases makes it the "tropical rainforest of the ocean." We have known that tropical rainforest help us in reducing global warming. Coral reef accounts for less than 0.4 percent of the ocean's waters. I am sad to see that both the coral reef and the tropical rainforest around the world are being irresponsibly exploited and destroyed. The photographs of the coral reef and the fish that you see in this page should be a remainder to all of us to respect and preserve our environment for future generations.
Besides respecting the corals and the marine environment, an underwater photographer needs to know the right time he can go to the sea. Every day the sea experience low tide and high tide. When the tide is in its maximum or minimum level, there is no current. But several hours later it slowly moves to the other levels creating sea current that is not comfortable for a photographer to take pictures. I hope this short hub is informative enough for all of you who are interested in taking pictures underwater.