My First Time Underwater
In 2005 I witnessed a photographer shooting underwater for my first time. I was on vacation with my family in the Dominican Republic and we were going snorkelling for the day. I came prepared with a waterproof disposable film camera I was sure would perfectly capture the colours and movements of ocean life*. The woman next to me on the boat, however, had something I didn’t even know existed. My 11-year-old mind was blown by what I remember describing as a HUGE underwater digital camera. I wanted one. One day, I told myself, I would have one.
Fast-forward 10 years and I’m sitting in my professor’s office explaining to her the water theme of my final portfolio. You can imagine my excitement when she agreed to order an underwater housing for a Nikon D800. I didn’t even care that I was primarily a Canon shooter and had never even touched a D800. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that underwater housing.
It was a long semester of waiting for the housing to finally arrive and be ready for use, but you can rest assured I was the first student to learn how to use it and toss that sucker in a pool.
I contacted a friend of mine who swims on the University of Ottawa’s varsity team to model for me. It wasn’t the ocean, but we were able to get the pool to ourselves for a half hour and what turned out to be the most fun I have ever had with a camera. To the right are some of the images we produced. Friends and fellow photographers Alicia Riddle and Rob Lloyd came along to capture some video footage I put together for you above.
The IkeLite housing was surprisingly simple to use, and even though the camera itself was new to me, it didn’t take long to get used to its controls. The school also has an IkeLite strobe from an older Nikonos kit that was just as simple to set up. It was nerve-wracking submerging such an expensive piece of electronics into water for the first time, but once I confirmed that nothing was leaking, we were off to the races. The main issue I had was the constant hunting by the lens for something to focus on. The slower autofocus time was frustrating at first but I’m sure with a little more practice I’ll adjust to the camera’s limitations within the housing.
* The 2005 disposable camera did not in fact accurately capture what I saw in the ocean that day and my heart was crushed when I picked my prints up from the grocery store to find muddy fish-like shapes floating in a grey abyss. I will continue to dream of the day when I get to shoot a professional camera in an ocean.