Photoessay: Submerged I

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I’m not a diver, much less an underwater photographer. But when the hardware capabilities are present already (as a consequence of other things) – then why not try them out? My daughter was glad to oblige as model, happily jumping in repeatedly and holding poses underwater. Unfortunately things proved more difficult for yours truly as it turns out I couldn’t find the goggles with corrective diopters, making viewing the screen difficult. In the end I landed up composing blind and guessing the FOV; most of the time I was too close, and I a) see why superwides are preferred for underwater work and b) have a new respect for people who can compose when both you and your subject are moving. Next milestone, increase my hit rate…  MT

Shot with a Sony RX0 II and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved


  1. Beautiful captures! Loved it.

    And almost a coincidence that last week I found a waterproof use and throw film FUJI camera that I used 8 year ago during my Hawaii vacation and totally forgot to get it developed. My regular pictures were in digital. I got the film developed and sent back from lab yesterday and scanned them. Now I am enjoying looking at my kids pics in and under water just like the pictures here. Film acts like a time capsule sometime. 🙂

    • Thanks!

      I realise now that the current iPhone I have would probably do a similar job to the Sony, between water resistance and speed…so maybe I’ll try this the next time.

  2. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    It’s always a pleasure to open one of your posts, Ming – they’re refreshingly different, every time. You may not have had a 100% hit rate, but nobody viewing them knows how many you are ignoring. And the ones yo have posted here will be treasured memories, in years to come.
    People who never try anything different might just as well stop taking more of the same, and just look at the photos they’ve already taken!

  3. Guilherme Mauricio says:

    Correction: just read on Wikipedia that the Nikonos 35mm indeed had a 1.33x crop factor when underwater, working as a 50mm in the air.

    Guess we can’t trick physics. Btw, I hadn’t read the whole article yesterday before posting.

    I love how you capture the frugality of everyday life with such beauty and elegance. Even underwater.

  4. Guilherme Mauricio says:

    The superwides being preferred for underwater is kinda wrong. Superwides are preferred because you can’t see far underwater anyway. But the thing is: your using a flat port non designed to be used underwater, so sure to the difference in diffraction from air-to-glass and water-fo-glass, you lose quite some FOV. That’s why I bought an acrylic dome port for my GoPro, to keep the same FOV.

    Semi related: Don’t ask me how Nikon made a flat port 35mm for the Nikonos V that not only keeps the same FOV, but also works BETTER underwater.

    • Sorry, I should have been clearer with the explanation: water contains particles and attenuates light, so you want to have as little of it between you and the subject as possible: thus, ultra wide to get closer and maintain same relative magnification. On top of that there’s the diffraction FOV loss which in turn requires you to go wider still.

      Nikonos: I suspect the port was an active optical element, not just a protector. Much like how a lot of the front protection glasses in their modern superteles are meniscus optical elements…actually, I’m not sure why they don’t just call it a sacrificial front element.

      • For clarity (!), close is good due to vis/backscatter problems… Ultra wide makes sense (with dome to restore FOV)… or use macro with flat port (and wet close-up lens for super macro). 100mm/105mm macro is common for full frame or 60mm macro for APS-C sensors.
        Weird places like SIlfra in Iceland have basically 100m vis but very unusual. Compact cameras that have a macro mode can get into places easier than a DLSR but lighting is a problem.

        • I actually think M4/3 would probably be a good sweet spot for UW, but it seems not many photogs use this…

          • With Olympus prominently showcasing the weather sealing of their om-d line, their history in waterproof compacts, and the 4/3 sensor being a sensible compromise in image quality, stabilizability and size, I keep hoping they will invest in either a fully waterproof m4/3 line (like the nikon aw1 but actually compelling for enthusiasts or pros), or a series of fixed lens waterproof compacts (like the Leica XU or the SeaLife DC2000, but with better usability and quality as a regular camera than the SeaLife and more versatile and affordable than the Leica)…

  5. Great model and great fun !

  6. Great ! In so many aspects… And refreshing too !
    btw, my own reason not to do underwater shots is I can’t breath under water… 😀

  7. plus points for added difficulty: keeping alive and diving with BCD/regulator (remaining air, contact with buddy, navigation, temperature, maintaining neutral buoyancy), managing focus and composition in surge with both you and subject moving without destroying reef, physically moving the housing (like a bus going through water), adding strobes and managing back scatter/vis. Wide angle is easier (but bigger dome), macro (and super macro) exponentially more difficult for focus. Then add $10k+ for the underwater equipment on top of your body/lens… you would have to be a little crazy 😉

  8. Wonderful images. In many of them there is an emotional subtext that elevates the visual elements. Not only are they nicely photographed, but….Good job, Dad!

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