Experiments with Underwater Flash Photography
I have been fascinated with the idea of using an external camera flash in and under the water so I finally pulled the trigger and bought one to test in the crystal clear water in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Canon 5D MKIV in Aquatech Housing
Canon 580 EXII in Aquatech Flash Housing
Below are some comparison shots of the flash fired (left) vs. not fired (right). Camera flash was on Manual fired anywhere between 1/4 – full power for these photographs.
Using a flash on a human subject gives it a whole different look and feel. I think there will be appropriate times for a *little* fill light but I think this was a little too dramatic for me.
Solo subjects in the middle of the ocean work a lot better than a just a spot in the reef.
The turtle didn’t seem to care whether I was there or not. I slowly swam down and approached her as she was eating seaweed. A few camera flashes didn’t seem to disturb her at all.
I’m sure if you’re super close up with a macro lens, it would look fine but from a distance it looks a little funky to see the dramatic drop-off of artificial light.
And here are some scenarios that the flash definitely did NOT work in, but I found interesting to see the difference of artificial light underwater vs. natural:
This was taken at another location in Kona, Hawaii under shore break during sunset. The difference of flash fired vs. not fired is very dramatic, and gives a totally different mood to the image. I’m not sold on photographing subjects with a flash in this way.
All I can really say now is that I am looking forward to finding the “right” times to use an external flash above and below the surface, but I have a lot more experimenting to do.