Digital UW Photo by Kat C. (Guest Blogger!)

A few weeks ago while lazing around the house on Facebook, I happened to be online right when Maui Dreams posted a contest for a free underwater digital course. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I responded and was picked ;-). My husband, not to be left out, also decided to sign up for the online course. My husband and I had discussed taking an underwater photography class, and even talked to Maui Dreams last year, but never signed up. To be honest, the thought of taking any such course was quite intimidating to me, especially since I barely knew how to turn my camera on.

Here’s a brief history on me and my experience with taking photos underwater. I have been diving for nine years and have logged over 100 dives. My first camera was a point-and-shoot disposable; hundreds of dollars were spent on cameras and the development of film. Almost all of the pictures were fish butts, yet I kept doing the same things over and over again until my husband said ‘no more’ and bought me my first digital camera and underwater housing.

That camera, an Olympus 5060, paid for itself during the first trip since we no longer had to buy and process film!!! I thought that camera was the cat’s meow and thought that I took good photos =). I never had the patience to learn how to really use this camera, just used default setting of “P” and off I went.

I tended to take ALOT of pictures and simply hoped that out of the hundreds taken, a few would turn out well and sometimes I got lucky! There was never anything thought out or methodical when I took these pictures, I simply swam furiously and ‘snap, snap, snap’….. it was really quite spastic …. never mind the saturated blue, out-of-focus photos that were the end result!!!!

This went on for quite a few years until I noticed that other people’s underwater photos actually had color! So I complained to my husband and he bought me a strobe. That helped sometimes but not always. Complained again, and he got me Photoshop that had a nice little button to remove blue. This was better than before and I was a little more satisfied as sometimes it worked, sometimes not so much. Many times my editing job on the pictures looked, well um, photoshopped but not in a good way. (see my eel shot from early on)

We took the online Digital Underwater Photographer course offered by PADI, and did so while on vacation. I was a bit concerned that it would be too overwhelming to take both the course and enjoy my vacation, but I was proven wrong. The online course was easy to follow and provided outstanding examples of before and after photos so I could not only understand why, but I could visually see the difference (remember, I could barely turn my camera on so it was important the course provide visuals). The course also taught the different camera options out there and how important it was to know how to use your camera and locate settings PRIOR to the dive.

The MOST important thing the course taught me is that I could take fantastic underwater photos by making a few simple changes. The course taught about this little thing called ‘White Balance’ and shooting in ‘RAW’ format. Go figure, you mean there is a method to shooting underwater photos???? It was like the heavens opened up and the angels started singing…. ‘white balance….raw….white balance….raw!’

Immediately after completing module two, my husband and I did a shore dive on our own so I could check out this white balance thing and guess what??? It did make a difference (check out my frogfish shot)!!! I could not wait until my next dive to practice more of what I had learned. Amid swimming, sunning, luaus and general vacation plans, my husband and I were able to complete the online course within 3 nights (1-2 hours each night). We learned more taking the online course and taking the course with Jim at Maui Dreams than we did in eight years of diving and taking photos on our own!

I had feared that this course would cater to the advanced diver with years of camera training and was pleasantly surprised that I was actually able to not only understand the course, but was able to pass the online course. We could not wait to meet with Jim at Maui Dreams to finish the next step of our training………..

…to be continued in next week’s blog entry

p.s. Kat is the diver in the far right of the above photo, with her husband right next to her. We took this photo when we got to dive with her a few years ago.