How do you go about capturing an over/under image?
I see you!An American saltwater crocodile off the coast of Cuba.
I view my half over half underwater images as a landscape photograph; I prefer brooding and atmospheric skies over a blue sunny midday and a composition that compliments both the above and below elements. I undertake many location scouts with my snorkel gear on. Whilst doing the scouts I will take reference pictures so I can plan how to make my final image when a suitable location has been found. A final image in my portfolio is often a well-researched and planned affair.
In addition to the visual components there are some technical issues. To create a half over half under image you are basically creating a window into another world where light and focus behave on a totally different playing field. When compared to the “air” part of the image the underwater part will generally focus closer to the lens due to refraction, be darker, less contrasty and less saturated so underwater strobe lights are a must, especially on those dark and stormy days or sunrise/sunset. Wide-angle lenses are essential if you want to achieve an image that is sharp all over, though great effects can be made using a standard or short telephoto, the rule is to experiment.
I always use my camera in manual mode and take a meter reading from the sky to make sure that element is exposed correctly. The underwater part is often several stops darker than the sky so I will adjust the power on my flashes to suit. The underwater subject has to be close to the camera for this to work. Light falls off very quickly through the water and even the most powerful flashes have an effective range of only a couple of feet in water.
If I were to give one final useful tip when creating a half over half underwater image that would be the bigger your waterproof lens dome port is the better, 8” diameter is the smallest I would recommend. It helps to blend the two worlds by pushing the water line meniscus further away, which makes it less conspicuous in your image. The large dome also increases depth of field aiding sharp focus both above and below, near and far.
My biggest tip of all is just to go the extra mile to get the shot right in camera and not to rely on editing software to fix it up later. Be true to the subject, show your viewers the reality and beauty of our natural world how it’s meant to be.
I have always used Nikon cameras inside Aquatica Digital water housings for all of my underwater photography, their ingenuity, reliability and tough build quality is exceptional in every circumstance.
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