Not Everything Has to Be Topside July 7, 2015 – Posted in: Photography – Tags: , ,

I have a photographer friend who just left for Hawaii for a well-deserved vacation. He was talking to me about the gear in his bag and the types of photos he hoped to capture.

“Do you like to swim?” I asked.

“Yeah, I like the water,” he said.

“Then I would definitely pack a rugged camera too,” I said. “Underwater shots are terrific.”

So much of our time as photographers is land based. We’re shooting scenics, sunsets, portraits, buildings, and more often than we care to admit, our lunches. These are all good opportunities. But when we have the chance to do something really different, such as take a helicopter ride, gain access to an observation deck, or snorkel in clear water with tropical fish, then the possibilities get really interesting.

Derrick Snorkeling

Derrick Snorkeling

When it comes to snorkeling, the first consideration is always safety. Research locations that are suitable for your skill level as a swimmer. I like protected coves where the water is calm. Being relaxed really improves your shooting.

Next, think about your gear. You don’t need much. You can rent the mask, fins, and snorkel on location. I pack my own, but it’s certainly not necessary. Then you get to the fun stuff: the camera.

I carry an Olympus Tough TG-4 in my board shorts pocket. There’s a wide selection of these types of cameras made by Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Ricoh, and others. They’re great for candid shots with the family, such as an evening luau, as well as snorkeling and light diving.

My tropical routine starts relatively early in the morning while the water is calm. I grab my snorkeling gear, camera, and towel and hit the beach by 7 a.m. Usually, one of our boys will join me. After about 45 minutes of swimming and photography, we rinse off and join the rest of crew for breakfast.

Photo by Derrick Story

Photo by Derrick Story

The great thing about this is that I’ve already captured lots of fun shots — both topside and below — before my first cup of coffee. Now I can enjoy my time with others and know that I’ll be coming home with interesting photographs. It all just falls in to place.

If you want to get inspired, I suggest you take a look at Underwater Photography by Tobias Friedrich. He goes well beyond the casual morning swim that I’m talking about. But I’ve learned much from experienced divers, and have applied their tips to my work.

As for my friend in Hawaii, I haven’t heard from him yet. But my guess is that his eyes will be opened to a new world of imagery. Mountains and clouds are great. But in tropical locations, not everything has to be topside.

Derrick Story is the photography evangelist for Rocky Nook Publishing.