Underwater Scenes and Photography Tips!

Underwater Scenes and Photography Tips!

Our newest contributor, Keri LaMar, submitted these amazing under the sea pics and photography tips for beginners.  And we are so excited about these photos!

St. John’s distinguished beauty is immediately obvious to anyone fortunate enough to spend time on our special little island.  Although I have lived here over four years, I still find that I take more photographs than most visitors.  My fascination with the underwater world is no exception!  And just as on land, I am rarely in the water without my camera.

In full disclosure, I have no formal training – in fact, I have no training whatsoever – yet people repeatedly ask me, “Why don’t my underwater photos look like yours?”

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A happy little Parrot fish frolicking around the reef 

If you don’t know the meaning of ‘RAW’, ‘ISO’ or ‘macro’ as they relate to photography, and your eyes start to glaze when anyone spouts off technical photo-lingo, this article is for you – from one novice to another.

Over the next few weeks, I will be offering some basic tips along with photos from various St. John snorkel spots that will not exactly make you a pro, but will make you look sort of like one!   I took these shots at one of my favorite snorkel venues – Honeymoon Beach.  Whether snorkeling to the left towards Solomon Bay, or to the right towards Caneel, I almost always find something new!

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Some of my most exciting underwater encounters are those involving an octopus! Their ability to change their shape and colors make for the most incredible photos.

Few things are more frustrating than spending a day in the water with your newly purchased camera, only to excitedly load them onto your computer and find that what you see on the screen is not at all an accurate reflection of what you saw in the water.  Having a few basic tips in your bathing suit pocket may help!

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Tip #1:

A quality camera is important.  If you ask for a recommendation in one of the St. John social media forums for the best underwater camera, you will probably get a unanimous response – the ‘Olympus Tough T-series’.  Unfortunately, this affordable, user-friendly underwater camera was recently discontinued.  However, the good news is that several sources are offering them at a significant discount.  Other brands that also offer their own line of quality underwater cameras include Nikon, Panasonic, Fujifilm and SeaLife.  Whichever camera you select, be sure to invest the time to learn the basic features.

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The Caribbean Anemone feeds on other marine life that get too close to its tentacles.

Tip #2:

Make sure you are comfortable in the water before attempting any underwater photography. One of the most important rules while snorkeling is to take every precaution not to kick, stand on, or otherwise disturb our fragile coral.

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Peacock Flounder- Known for its flower-like bluish spots, they are often difficult to see because they blend in with their environment. Take your time when snorkeling so you don’t miss these special hidden treasures!

Tip #3:

While all camera brands offer their own specific settings on their various models, a camera with an automatic underwater mode is ideal for beginners.  The Olympus Tough allows users to select from one of several settings specifically designed to capture action scenes and close-ups, but my favorite setting – and the one I use almost exclusively – is the ‘Underwater Wide 1’.  This setting is specifically purposed for landscape shots but does a fantastic job capturing nearly every situation.

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Moon Jellyfish

Tip #4: 

Lighting is key. It plays one of the biggest roles in capturing exceptional underwater photos. A sunny day lends for the most vibrant, colorful shots. If it is overcast, no amount of creative editing will correct your disappointing photos.  Keep the light at your back when possible.  Use the flash sparingly, and only if you are close to the subject, or you will risk diluting the rich colors.

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One of my favorite jewels in the sea are the Flamingo Tongue Snails – a small marine snail that lives on coral reefs. Curiously, the colors are not part of the shell, which itself has little coloring. The intricate design actually comes from the snail’s soft issue, which is wrapped around its shell!

Editing is one of the most important steps to the final product when it comes to underwater photography.  I’ll be concluding this series with some editing tips in the coming weeks!

13 thoughts on “Underwater Scenes and Photography Tips!”

  1. Anyone who goes to STJ needs some kind of underwater camera! Thanks for the photography tips. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. looking forward to your next articles. avid snorkeler. I have Nikon Coolpix 4K, had for 3 years now. can transfer to I-phone via Bluetooth. very happy. had a Canon, I would advise against, not waterproof

  3. I just purchased an Olympus TG-6 for my next trip to STJ. Thanks for all of the tips in this article, looking forward to the rest of the series!

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