Laurie Young Photography

My first (underwater) camera

09 January, 2020

This is the second post in a series. Read the first post Learning to dive.

After I learned to dive in February 2018 I knew I was going to want to start taking photos underwater. I was moving onto Bali where the plan was to dive with Manta rays. I decided there was no way I was doing that without a camera!

The obvious choice was to get a GoPro. I'd seen one for sale in Koh Tao and they were cheaper than I thought they were. When I found out that the housing for my Fuji XT-2 was way more than the price of the camera itself, I was sold.

I'm sure you're thinking that this isn't a great way to choose a camera and your right. But it was my process at the time.

Diver over coral

My travels took me through Singapore on the way to Bali, and so it was a simple matter to stop off in one of the electronics supers stores and get my new GoPro, and a "Scuba Suit" so I could take it down to 60m deep. That's deeper than I can go, so I figured that would be just fine. Just a few days later I was on a plane to Bali with a shiny new Go Pro.

Me and a Manta

In many ways, the Go Pro is an excellent choice for underwater photography:

The best thing about it is how small and light it is. Even with the housing, it takes up almost no space in my luggage. I can clip it to my BCD during dives and not notice it during the dives. But maybe the best benefit of it being so small is I that can hold the camera in entirely within one hand. That massively increases the choice of angles I can get when shooting.

Secondly, it's super easy to always have with you. Even when you're not planning a photo dive you can take the GoPro with you. I don't want to take photos on every dive, and often don't, but it's a huge thing to know that if you suddenly see something amazing. Just imagine if you were to see an octopus riding on the back of a turtle and you didn't have a camera with you.

Finally, it can take amazing photos. For my dives in Bali, I got to dive with Mocco. He was the divemaster on my dives, but also a great photographer shooting entirely with his GoPro. Just check out his Instagram feed to see some of the photos you can get with a GoPro.

Me and fish

However, the GoPro also has some serious issues:

The camera is tiny and the sensor even more so. That's not great when the light isn't so bright, which is most of the time underwater. Small sensors and low light is the perfect recipe for noisy photos. You can grab some strobes, but then you lose all the benefits of the GoPro being so small.

Small sensors also mean a huge depth of field. Everything is in focus. I mean everything! You can't focus on just one thing, and that's very limiting.

Finally, there are no manual controls. No shutter speed, no aperture. I'm used to using all the options open to me to create the photo I want, and I missed that big time with the Go Pro.

Manta

I used the GoPro on several trips. I took photos of the Mantas rays in Bali and Shipwrecks in Cyprus. In July 2019 I went back to Koh Tao in Thailand and photographed the coral reefs and schools of barracuda. I got some great photos with it. All the photos on this post are ones I shot with the GoPro.

But eventually, I found it too limiting. I knew that I was going to need to upgrade my camera system...