Swimming with a camera … Deliberately!

The Plan.

The day didn’t start with a swim as part of the plan, however when an update arrived from the Wild Seas Centre (my ‘seaside office) advising of amazing condition, calm and clear, it slipped in as a good way to wind up a scorching day. Batteries charged, camera housing prepared, camera controls reprised and initial setting input. Tucked into a bag along with a range of snorkelling kit it was off to Kimmeridge in the calm before the rush hour.

The Kit.

The kit used was fairly minimalist, I could have just gone with the Panasonic tough camera, my ‘go to’ wet pursuits camera, but I find it lacks low light capability, and even on a bright sunny day the light levels sub surface soon fall off. So the next step up on the minimalist approach is a better specified compact in an underwater housing. Over the years I have had a number of the Canon ‘G’ series Powershot compacts, only replaced when they die or are killed (oops!). The current one, a G5X is a sound performer, still not a low light lover but for the price good enough. The housing by Ikelight is camera specific, even allowing the Canon eTTL system to control an external strobe.

The Action

The bay was very lightly populated, with the majority of the visitors not bothering to walk beyond a stone’s throw from the beach entrance. That suited my plan well as I dislike leaving my bag on a busy beach and the are I was working from had three other couples, one pair being a photographer on a one to one with Dorset’s landscape guru, Guy Edwardes. It is easy to see why the bay receives a lot of photographic attention.

It is pleasing to say that the water was around 17C! So, for the first time, the first flush of water through the wetsuit didn’t take my breath away. In fact I was over-suited (thanks Howard) but better warm and wet, than shivering. So after around two blissful hours of marine meandering it was time to leave the water, primarily as the bay shuts to the public at 20:00.

The Outcome

At first glance the images are a little lack lustre

But a quick run through LR with some general dehaze adjustment, and some localised tweaks, a final run through Topaz AI to manage the noise inherent to small sensors and high iso (well, high for a compact)

Some subjects are almost grab shots such as the crab and fish, but the seaweeds and slower moving fauna give the opportunity to move the camera around the subject to use the sunlight that provides some fascinating light conditions beyond just front light and backlight. Light rays and refracted rainbows are two of the most obvious.

There was even time for a little Arty interpretation … Take an over exposed image of light penetrating slightly ‘soupy water’

apply a little dehaze, tweak the levels, apply some selective exposure and saturation and Robert is your father’s brother …one impressionistic underwater image… or is it the Northern Lights?

Health and Safety note.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that the perceived wisdom is that you should not snorkel alone, however prior knowledge of the bay meant I knew that the area I was planning on swimming in was never more than a stroke or two from being able to stand up, and that the tide was on the fall with a subsequent 1m reduction in depth. Also the bay is not subject to rip currents in all but the most extreme circumstances , and those are certainly not conducive to swimming!!

Thanks for reading, I hope it was of interest

Published in Member Blogs
  1. That’s fascinating, and looks great fun! It’s really useful to see the gear you are using, and I hadn’t appreciated how much the light would fall away. Nice bit of art at the end too!

    • Glad you enjoyed it Paul, the whole iso selection issue also has another element, the need to attain a high enough shutter speed to freeze the movement of both the subject, and the photographer as each id pushed and prodded by the waters movement

      • Phil – thanks for your blog. Really interesting. And some great photos too. Especially liked the post treatment grasses.

  2. Cracking set of images and something I have wanted to do. Love the edits as well,.

  3. lovely blog, Phil of something i will never do! Having discovered many years ago on a first snorkel when the fish appear I disappear – totally freak out, worse than a spider in the same room!

    • Thanks Jayne, It’s a shame you don’t like it, it is almost like being on another planet, the nearest most of us will ever get to being in space astronaut 👨‍🚀

  4. Phil, I think I would rather be remembered as the one who brought the largest Adult Toy back to Earth in one piece (and with batteries still working)! Great blog thanks; very interesting content and striking images. Subsurface colours are something that have always surprised me, even those from great depths.

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