Underwater photography is my favorite way to photograph fish. It provides a look that differs from the typical fishing photo, but it goes beyond that too. Sometimes people stop me on the water and have a curious fascination with the underwater camera housing. These housings are not all too common and for good reason. (Hint: price and size) However, there are several reasons I decided to invest in underwater gear, and focus more heavily into this niche. Fish handling, randomness, and environment.
Underwater photos allow me to keep the fish wet for better fish handling practices. Keeping the air exposure and handling time down is key. On an ideal catch, I can net and photograph the fish without ever touching it or lifting it out of the water. It’s not always possible, but it’s a good outcome to strive for. I lower the net in the water, and photograph the fish as it swims back home.
There’s a good deal of randomness in every underwater shot. You never know where or how fast the fish is going to swim away, or if you’ll even get a photo at all. I can’t tell you how many photos I have of fish darting straight towards the camera at mach speeds, and before I blink, they’ve disappeared. The positive aspect is that the randomness can turn into great photos that you never thought of and couldn’t plan for, and that’s the fun part!
The environment determines a lot about how to approach photos. The best thing about putting the camera beneath the water surface is that it cuts glare, magnifies the subject, and brings vibrancy to the image. This can make a world of difference on a harsh, sunny day. On top of that, you get to see fish in their natural habitat rather than in ours.
When everything works together for that perfect photo, I’m ecstatic. The colors of the water are rich and the fish looks vibrant. The composition and focal points are lined up right, and the subject is sharp. These moments are few and far between, but just like fly fishing, it’s the pursuit of those big moments that keep me going back for more.