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SHIPWRECK DIVING  Shipwreck Photography
The complete Diver's guide to the skills, and techniques of shipwreck photography.
       

 

 

 

   Capt. Dan Berg's Wreck Valley Collection   

 

SHIPWRECK PHOTOGRAPHY
By Jozef Koppelman


Taking photographs underwater has fascinated divers for years. With a little luck and a lot of skill, a diver can bring home the beauty of the undersea world for all to enjoy. Wreck photography is just a little more demanding than but a lot more rewarding than fish or reef photos. Picture a diver cruising down a darkened corridor, with only small rays of ambient light penetrating through corroded holes in the ceiling above him. On the silt covered floor, he finds a china dish with a lobster sitting next to it. He snaps three pictures before catching the lobster and picking up the dish. These photographs will be outstanding, that is if they come out. A problem involved in photography in and around shipwrecks is that the diver must be able to operate all of his wreck diving equipment and camera gear while not kicking up any sediment. He also has to contend with the darkness inside a wreck.

One recommendation is that you do not start photographing too early in your dive career. You should be able to hover effortlessly and check your air, time, depth and anchor location as second nature first.  If you are new to wreck diving, you should also enjoy a period of exploration and familiarization. Once you commit to the task of making underwater images, you are really taking on an underwater job, but the satisfaction of producing a fine picture quickly diminishes the memory of all the challenges that preceded its making. This includes dollars spent, equipment failure, bad visibility, throwaway rolls and the one great shot that got away. Before diving into a wreck with a camera in hand, streamline yourself even more than normal. You may want to leave your tools and bug bag on the boat since it's hard to do it all. In regard to air supply for deep wrecks, many feel the twin tank independent regulator rig is the ultimate in safety. Photographers, however, often opt for doubles with a single regulator and pony. Given the complexity of underwater photography, this set up eliminates the need to switch air sources while underwater.

Assuming that those wishing to photograph shipwrecks will find proper instruction for basic underwater photography, we will then start with some standard equipment and techniques. Camera systems vary in design, function and price. One of the most popular used today is the Nikonos body. For most photography on shipwrecks, the diver will choose a wide angle lenses, either a 15mm or the more economical20mm. This is not saying that macro photos are never taken on shipwrecks. Many worthwhile subjects are found living on wrecks, but, for the most part, taking macro photographs on a reef is exactly the same as taking macro photos on a wreck. We want wide angle lenses, so we can capture as much wreckage as possible while being as close to the subject as possible. A powerful, wide angle strobe is also essential. One with a modeling light is also very useful. Wreck photography is usually a battle against the lack of light. To deal with the darkness inside a wreck and to avoid fumbling around with a light in one hand and a camera in the other, many serious photographers mount a dive light to their camera system. Others wear a head or helmet mounted dive light or mount a small modeling light onto the strobe. Dealing with the always present silt and sediment inside shipwrecks can be solved with speed. The wreck photographer doesn't have the luxury of spending five minutes setting up for the shot or making a camera adjustment to bracket each shot. He has to shoot the picture before any silt gets disturbed. If he is too slow, the suspended particles will ruin his photo opportunity. Since time is of the essence, wreck divers have learned to bracket their photographs by  taking a series of shoots as they approach a subject. This is done without changing any camera or strobe settings. Another method is to have the strobe hand held off the camera. This lets the photographer bracket the exposure by moving the strobe closer or further from the subject while positioning the strobe to reduce back scatter, the incidental illumination of suspended particles in the water.

Film must be tailored to your purposes and to the anticipated conditions. For casual viewing, color negative, print film is very exposure tolerant. If, however, you pursue photography seriously, transparency slide film should be your preference, especially if you hope to have your work published. Tropical sunny weather and shallow water allow for a medium speed film. Kodachrome, Fuji or Ectkachrome100 will do fine. The latter two films employ E-6 processing which allows for quick processing and is even available on many live aboard dive boats. E-6processing also allows for pushing or increasing of film speed in processing, at a small sacrifice to grain and contrast. On deeper wrecks or in less than ideal conditions, faster films like K200, E400 or Fugi 400 can be employed. Even with recent technological improvements, ultra fast films are more grainy and are more effective in depicting atmospheric shots. The photographer should take light readings and then set the aperture accordingly.

Using a model will add visual interest to many wreck photographs. The model can be used in two ways: as a secondary element for scale and to add visual interest. Secondly, the diver can be brought closer to become the more dominant feature in the image. Try not to have the model over-pose but instead rely on their curiosity in exploring the wreck. One trick is to have your model use a light. It adds immeasurably to the interest and can also highlight a particular object. Another recommended technique is to shoot when the model is exhaling. The finished image will be much more dynamic if bubbles are shown rising to the surface.

You will note the absence of any composition guidelines. This is because it is our belief that everyone has an individual vision. Once diving and photographic techniques have been honed, your own artistic view will be your most valuable asset in expressing your own visions of the sea.


Shipwrecks offer the underwater photographer an endless amount of photo opportunities. Whether you're photographing a porthole, fish, lobster or any of the other majestic photo opportunities shipwrecks offer, divers will almost certainly never run out of things to photograph.
 
The Shipwreck Diving E-Book  Instant Downloadable E-Book 

Shipwreck Diving, by Capt. Dan Berg is a complete how to book about the sport of wreck diving. This book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs.

 
 

   
 
 
 
 

Shipwreck Diving ebook
The complete diver's guide to mastering the skills of shipwreck diving.

Buy Now   only $9.95
6 MB instant download, printable  PDF file


Shipwreck Diving is a complete how to ebook about the sport of wreck diving. This downloadable PDF e-book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs. Daniel Berg, a noted wreck diver, instructor and author of ten shipwrecks related books, describes all the basics of wreck diving. Topics include everything from equipment modifications, communication, and wreck penetration to artifact preservation. Dan also tells how to navigate on a wreck and be able to return to the anchor line after the dive. Why some divers find more artifacts and explains how to catch lobsters. Shipwreck Diving also covers such diverse topics as shipwreck research, photography, spear fishing and how to use an underwater metal detector. This exciting book tells all the tricks of the trade that until now have only been learned through years of experience. Shipwreck divers of all caliber will find Shipwreck Diving informative, rewarding and entertaining

Check out Capt. Dan's other shipwreck and Diving eBooks

 

 

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All photographs, sketches, images and text

Copyright Capt. Dan Berg / Aqua Explorers Inc

2745 Cheshire Dr
Baldwin NY 11510
E-Mail Wreckvalle@aol.com

 
 
 
 
 
   


 
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