How to Catch These 5 Marine Animals on a Polaroid Camera Above 33 Feet
Do you dream of capturing amazing photos of manatees, stingrays, or sea turtles, but don’t want to invest in expensive scuba diving camera equipment? Good news: you don’t need professional dive cameras to take National Geographic-worthy photos on your next dive trip. Just keep your dives above 33 feet.
Shallow diving is key to great underwater amateur photography, no fancy strobe lights and expensive gear casings required. For starters, a shallow dive (above 33 feet) means that you’ll get to spend more time safely at your max depth. Shallow dives are correlated with a lower risk for decompression sickness. While decompression sickness is possible at any depth, the risk for it is much lower at 20 feet when compared with 100 feet. At shallower depths, you use less air, extending your bottom time so you can spend more time exploring spectacular corals and interacting with playful marine life. As an added bonus, those corals will look even more vivid at a shallower depth since less color is lost.
Why Do My Underwater Photos Look Better at Shallow Depths?
Ever wondered why your underwater photographs look completely blue? Here’s the scoop: the deeper you dive, the less light you have, meaning colors can look washed out. If you’ve played around with underwater photography before, you may already be familiar with the loss of red from your photos. Water absorbs different wavelengths of light, with the longest wavelengths being absorbed first. Red light, which has the longest wavelength of all colors, starts to disappear at 15 feet; orange is gone by 25 feet and yellow disappears between 35 and 45 feet. Horizontal distance also affects color loss. Let’s say you’re taking a photo of your dive partner who is five feet away from you and you’re both at a depth of 10 feet. By the time light reaches your camera, it’s actually traveled a distance of 15 feet, which means the red colors may be filtered out. This color loss is especially noticeable when photographing at depths of 50 feet, 75 feet or 100 feet. Not only is it a bit chilly down this low, but also your photos will be completely washed out without the addition of a secondary strobe light. For the average diver, that’s a lot of expensive underwater photography gear to invest in for a single dive trip!
Your solution: grab your blue Polaroid camera, an affordable Polaroid underwater case, strap on your tank, and get ready to take a giant stride towards beautiful underwater photos. These tips and tricks will help you take professional-quality photos of five famous marine animals on your Polaroid CUBE+ camera – no deep diving or fancy equipment required:
1. Stingrays in Grand Cayman
At Stingray City in Grand Cayman, you’ll have the unique experience of touching and even feeding “tame” stingrays in just three feet of water. Divers who suit up can comfortably sit on the shallow, sandy bottom along with more than two-dozen Atlantic Southern Stingrays. While the rays are wild, they’re used to frequent visits from divers and snorkelers. Consequently, they’re quite comfortable around humans and will swim close enough for you to gently pet the ray.
How to get the best shot: For Stingray City, you’ll definitely want to dive hands-free so you can interact with the rays. Use a body strap to secure your underwater camera to the front of your BCD and switch to video mode to record the entire encounter.
2. Sea Lions at Los Islotes
Los Islotes, situated on the tip of Isla Espiritu Santo in Baja California, are two large rock inlets that are famously home to a colony of over 200 California brown sea lions. The friendly, playful sea lions make this shallow dive an incredible experience for divers of all skill levels. Snorkelers can join in the fun too by swimming along the surface with these spirited creatures.
How to get the best shot: When photographing the sea lions underwater, keep in mind that light obscures how close underwater objects actually are to us. Underwater, objects can appear up to 25% closer than they actually are and 33% larger than they are. For this reason, you’ll want to swim up as close as you can to the sea lions without disturbing them. Otherwise, the sea lions may appear close and large to you when you’re under the water, but actually be much smaller in your photos.
3. Manatees in Crystal River, Florida
You don’t have to be scuba certified to swim with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida. The spring-fed river is true to its name, offering warm, crystal clear spring-fed waters that remain a constant 72 degrees year round. During the winter months, Crystal River boasts the largest Florida manatee population in the world. Suit up, grab a snorkel mask and camera, and get ready to swim with these gentle giants.
How to get the best shot: With shallow, crystal clear water, you’ll have plenty of natural light to use to your advantage. For optimally lit photos, position your camera underwater so you’re shooting up towards the surface, rather than downwards towards the bottom. Shooting upwards means your manatee photo will be naturally illuminated.
4. Sea Turtles in Kona Coast, Hawaii
Kona’s most famous dive site at Honauanau Bay is known as “Two Steps” because it’s just two steps down into the water, home to some of Hawaii’s most famous shallow-water coral reefs. The sunlit canyons are protected from the sea and offer a verdant seascape of marine life. Drift slowly through the vibrant corals and keep your eyes peeled for giant sea turtles, eels and octopuses blending in with their surrounding corals.
How to get the best shot: With so much amazing marine life to photograph, why limit yourself to camera mode? Shoot a video tour of your dive and then upload the video to your favorite social media sites post-dive using the cube’s Wi-Fi connection. You won’t even have to get up from the beach!
5. Long-armed Octopuses in West Palm Beach, Florida
Just north of the Palm Beach Airport lies Riviera Beach, home to Florida’s most famous shallow diving site, “Blue Heron Bridge”. The site maxes out at just over 20 feet during high tide. This is a shore dive, so time your dive to start approximate 30 minutes before peak high tide is scheduled occur. Depending on your air consumption and diving conditions, most divers can get at least 90 minutes of time exploring the wealth of marine life, including rarities like long-armed octopuses, stargazers, yellow garden eels, and striated frogfish.
How to get the best shot: Water clarity can have a big impact on photo quality, especially if you’re shooting hard-to-spot critters like octopuses, which like to blend in with their surroundings. Keep an eye out for how varying water clarity, varying depths and even passing clouds can cast shadows or alter your light. When you go back and review your photos, you may need to touch up a few with positive brightness compensation so your octopus stands out against the surrounding corals.