Beating Low Visibility - Underwater Photography with Mathieu Meur
Text and Images by Mathieu Meur
Underwater conditions are not always ideal for underwater photography. This doesn't mean that you should leave your camera behind when faced with the prospects of low visibility. Some techniques can prove very efficient in such conditions.
Know the area
Being familiar with the dive site helps you understand which
subjects to look out for, and where to look for them.
Go slow and open your eyes
Make sure to dive at a deliberately slow pace, so as not to miss any opportunities. Also, there's less chance that you'll scare your subjects this way.
Angle your strobe(s) inward, aiming slightly behind your subject for
macro. Move them back behind the housing and aim slightly outward for
wide angle. This minimises backscatter.
Strobe placement and lens selection
Select lenses that focus close to the port, to reduce the amount of
water between you and the subjects.
This is oft repeated under any conditions, but is vital when
shooting in low visibility: get close!
Use large aperture, slow shutter speeds and high ISO
If shooting in manual mode, set a large aperture. This reduces the
amount of strobe power required to light up your subject, which means
less backscatter. Selecting a higher ISO also achieves the same result.
Make use of the vertical water column
Vertical visibility is better than sideways visibility. Shooting up will make the water appear clearer than it actually is, as more light comes through.
Use Natural light and filters
Instead of using strobe(s), take natural light or filter shots
instead. No backscatter guaranteed!
Photoshop to the rescue
Should the worst happen, it is relatively easy to remove some
obvious spots of backscatter in Photoshop using the Healing Brush Tool.
The Levels or Curves tools can also help balance foreground and
background in case of problems due to poor conditions.