Here in Lembeh we have no shortage of underwater photographers producing some fantastic content but what is more important than the quality of photos is how to be a responsible underwater photographer.
It is important to remember that every time we go diving we are stepping into a foreign world and we are mere tourists. As with all visits to a foreign land you must respect the locals and the world they live in. That is especially true if you are an underwater photographer as some people feel they are entitled to anything with a camera in hand.
The most important factor of being a good and responsible underwater photographer is buoyancy. You MUST have good buoyancy for two reasons. Not only is it important for the sake of the wildlife but it is also impossible to take a good photo with poor buoyancy. Take your time and practice good buoyancy skills before you try to take a camera underwater with you. That way you can reduce your physical contact on the surrounding environment. Ideally you should be able to keep totally off the bottom and without stirring up any sediment or colliding with coral or fellow divers.
Step 2 is to minimize your impact on the environment and this covers a variety of aspects. Firstly, as mentioned above, your buoyancy. A lot of times divers can have impeccable buoyancy skills until they are behind a camera and then they forget everything and all spatial awareness is gone. Remember to check your surroundings, keep off the bottom, avoid kicking people/coral behind you and once finished taking your photos then leave the area without disturbing the area. Another aspect of respecting your photography subject is to keep your photos to a minimum. Remember, under the sea light is quickly absorbed so these animals aren’t used to bright lights. Just think how it is for us when a bright flash goes off. This is even more important when taking pictures of smaller delicate subjects. Multiple strobes can stress the animal and have negative impacts on them.
Another way to reduce your impact is to remember that they are wild animals and they do not care about us! This means that most of the time they do not cooperate, resulting in them being in positions not great for photography. They may not be in a good position for us but they are in the position they want to be and they should not be moved for the sake of a photo. Don’t try and manipulate their position, instead move on to the next critter. The more time you spend under the water, the luckier you get and if you are patient with enough dives then eventually everything will be in a good position for photography!
After you have made sure you have looked after the beautiful animals you want to photograph don’t forget to look after yourself! Make sure you are still checking your dive computer and air gauges regularly. A good picture is not worth risking your life.
The final thing to remember is that your photos do not define your dive. We have come across many divers who rate their dive based on the quality of their photos. “How was your dive?” “Oh not good, my Mimic Octopus is overexposed and my mating Blue Ringed Octopus are out of focus.” While it may frustrating not to capture an amazing moment it does not mean that you can’t still enjoy your dive. We are still experiencing and seeing things that the large majority of the world will never see. Enjoy your diving no matter how your photos come out.
Here at Two Fish Divers Lembeh we want to give you the best potential for some awesome photos and our dive guides are fantastic at spotting these amazing creatures but please remember the above points and not only will your fellow divers thank you but the marine world will be left in a good condition for the precious inhabitants we love to observe and admire so much.