Whale icon  WIDE-ANGLE FUNDAMENTALS



We often hear "it is difficult with wide-angle photography underwater!"
But nothing is diffcult when you know how to do it.

 
Salstraumen Norway © Magnus Lundgren Photography

 

→ What is wide-angle photography? In the "non-underwater" photography world a lens less than the equivalent of 35 mm is considered a wide angle lens. Underwater we tend use the widest possible lenses we can afford, because it allows us to get very close to a subject while still including large subjects in the frame.

→ Big stuff and big scenes! Wide-angle photography is about photographing whales, sharks, dolphins, big fish, schools of fish, coral reefs, environments, wrecks, action and much more. This is what we all dream of, it is exciting photography and wide-angle images are interesting for a big audience. Use the right equipment, learn the basics and your are flying!

→ Difficult or easy? Wide-angle is often considered more difficult compared to macro photography. But in reality nothing is difficult if you have the knowledge. There are many photographers trying hard to do wide angle shots with "non-wide-angle" lenses. This is impossible. You need a real "wide-angle" lens and some basic knowledge. That's all.

 

Aperture GUIDE TO BETTER WIDE ANGLE PHOTOGRAPHY



1 → The wide-angle lens

Manta rays Hanifaru Maldives Wide-angle photography can be shot with any camera (also compacts and even your phone). To get a quality wide-angle shot you need to put on a real wide lens on your UW housing. There is no way around this.

Compact camera: A wet wide-angle lens increase the image angle of the built-in lens on your camera. The wet wide lenses fits onto your UW housing and are mounted with a thread or a twist on a bayonet mount. There are available solutions to fit a wide lens on basically all UW housings. With a compact camera you even have the option to switching back and forth from wide-angle to macro while underwater. This is fantastic.

Mirrorless & DSLR: The tradittional way is to mount a wide lens on your camera in combination with a dome port mounted on your UW housing. The wider the lens is and the closer the lens can focus the sharper the image will become. Today there are also a wide range of "wet wide" lenses that can be used as an option. These wide wet lenses are often mounted straight on a flat port.

Contact us and we will help you to find the wide setup suitable for your UW housing.



2 →  Rectilinear (straight) or fisheye wide angle lens?

Wide angle Sea&Sea for compactSigma 15 mm Fisheye  Nikkor 16-35 mm

 

Fisheye or a rectilinear lens?
Well in the perfect world you would like to have one fisheye and one rectilinear lens and most enthusiasts have both as they are making the image look and feel so different. We are happy to advise you what is the best option/s for your camera. Contact us if you like to have support.

A wide rectilinear lens is a straight lens that is not bending the corners. Note! Even straight wide angle lenses are a little bit bent on the widest setting. These type of wide angle lenses is giving the image a classic feel. For compact users most wet wide angle lenses are "straight" lenses. For Mirrorless and DSLR users you should use the lens that fit your sensor size. For example a 16-35mm lens for full frame sensor, equals a 10-24mm lens for a cropped sensor camera and so on.

The fisheye lens is very popular among underwater photographers. Fisheye lenses allowing for an extreme wide field of view, and bend the image in the corners. An example is that a rectinear lens, 10-24 mm lens, has a 110 degree cover angle at 10 mm, while a 10,5 mm Fisheye has a 180 degree image angle. Fisheye lenses have a very good closest focus distance and great corner sharpness. There are Fisheye lenses for all types of cameras today.

Contact us for updated info on wide lenses, ports and wet lens option.


 

3 → Zoom or fixed lens?

Canon 8-15 mm Fisheye zoomTokina 10-17 mm Fisheye zoom NH


Wide angle → It is popular to use zoom lenses when shooting wide underwater. Most modern wide zoom lenses are sharp and brilliant with fast auto focus. They give you the advantage to zooming underwater. Many brands even make Fisheye zoom lenses that is widely used among underwater photographers.

Macro → On the macro side it is still most common with a fixed focal length lens. Full frame and cropped sensor users often use 60mm up to 100mm/105mm lenses. The Micro 4/3 users use 30mm and 60mm macro lenses.

Important →
We can help you to find the right lens that are suitable for your intended underwater use and which ports that is compatible with these lenses. This is important. A suitable lens with the correct port makes a big difference. Feel free to contact us.


 

4 → Dome ports & wet wide lenses

Shooting with a wide angle lens underwater requires the use of a dome port. The dome port is a spheric port made out of acrylic or glass material that your wide lens is looking out at the underwater world through. This is a vital piece of equipment that acts together with your lens.
 

Dome port acrylicMirrorless and DSLR cameras. A general rule of thumb is that the bigger dome the better optical caracteristics. Smaller domes have other advantages such as easy to travel with and they allow you to go closer to the subject without shading the strobe light with the port. Please ask us for what your options are here. UW photography professionals often use two domes in different sizes.

Compact cameras normally use wet wide lenses instead of domes. But there are also a few domes on the market for compact cameras as well as for GoPro and phones. These mini-domes keep the original lens width underwater.

Our support on ports will enhance your equipments performance and save you money and effort. Contact us.


 

5 → Go close to the subject

To go close is a fundamental rule in underwater photography. It minimizes the amount of water between your camera and the subject. Even if most people know this it is still the number one mistake. As a rule of thumb - "the closer, the better", which quite often means 30 to 50 cm from the subject in wide-angle photography. 

Regardless of the equipment you use, the principles and techniques for wide angle photography are universal. One of you mantras while out doing underweater photography is to go close!

 

Wonderpus photography - Exposure Expeditions

 


 

6 → Enjoying the sun (photographing without strobes)

 

Sun lightUsing the sun as your light source is a great and easy way to develop as an underwater photographer. You only need an UW-housing and a wide angle lens. Easy and simple. Modern cameras are performing better and better at high ISO settings as well. So give it a go. When you shoot with ambient light then we suggest you stay in the shallow waters with good light conditions.

You learn how to expose the scenes to your liking and composing will be the essential soul of these images. Without the strobes you can shoot strong silhouettes, play with the sun ball in the shot or even shoot close to the bottom allowing sunlight to paint the scene. It is possible to accomplish very interesting UW photography without strobes with good examples such as wreck photography, all type of shots close to surface, big animals and schools of animals and split shots linking the underwater world with the topside.


 

7 → Strobe light & wide-angle

 

Adding strobe light to your wide-angle shots enhance the images giving them a fresh and crispy feel. Again it is important to go close to the subject enabling light from your strobes to reach all the way up to the subject. You will enjoy sharp and vivid foregrounds but moderation in strobe output is the key here!

Most common problem is too much strobe light. Way to much! Make sure you start off with a good background exposure and then you can easily add and balance the strobe light for the subject. Find easy and stationary subjects in calm conditions to practise and get an understanding for how the light fall over the subject. A wide scene may need a wide even lighting, while shooting a diver looking at a clown fish, or an approaching shark you might need strobes at much weaker power just filling in small amount of light.

The strobes positions are important.
As a general rule the strobes should be placed behind the camera's sensor plane, at some distance out from the housing.Your strobes position will vary a lot depending on what you are shooting.


 

8 → The art of balancing ambient and strobe light

Your strobes are used to paint quality light over your subjects, at the same time as an overall exposure ensures a well lit background. Your goal should be to balance your light in such a way that both the strobe-lit subject and background get a natural feel.

One easy method is to make some exposures with the strobes turned off. When you are pleased with the overall exposure, then you turn the strobes on and add a pleasing amount of strobe light on the subject. You can of course vary your strobe power settings and positioning to properly exposure the subject. Strobe power and positioning make the difference in outstanding imagery so you have to practise on non-moving subjects.

Eagle ray - Galapagos - Exposure Expeditions 


 

9 → Arms and bouyancy

You need an arm system to carry the strobes attached to your UW housing. In that way the UW housing and strobes become one unit and become much easier to use underwater. We recommend most users to attach your strobes with one arm on each side. Each arm should be two arm segments and three clamps.

Depending on the configration UW housings vary in real weight underwater. By adding arm floats, or using thicker bouyancy arms, it is easy to balance the bouyancy of your underwater camera. The camera becomes easier to handle and your photography becomes more creative. We are happy to support you with suggestions on where to start. Contact us.


 

10 → Diving skills
 

DiverTo be an good wide angle photographer you need to practise and develop good diving skills.

Great photographers move around slowly, avoiding to stir up the bottom. When the environment allows it, like a sandy bottom, you may carefully lie steady and still. Be a responsible UW photographer and take care of the delicate environment around you. Right number of lead weights and their positioning, bouyancy control, swimming backward skills, awareness of your surrounding are all important factors.