New Underwater Development Process

In order to make better pictures underwater, I’m not only fitting out a used case for my 5D, but I’m also learning a new technique for developing the underwater raw photos in Lightroom to better reflect what they should look like.

Normally, pictures you take underwater are extremely blue:


Previously, to fix this, I would import the file into Photoshop, run a custom action which would add a red layer, do some magic and then, I’d save the PSD file and adjust it some more and maybe it would look okay:


Now, I don’t know about you, but that looks a bit strange what with the purple water and all. So, I’m now working in Lightroom using a technique that uses white balances and black levels to make corrections. It’s non-destructive, doesn’t require a second PSD file and is very flexible. Much faster as well. Here’s that same picture with the new method:


Blue water, proper skin tones, over all, much better.

New Underwater Direction

After some setbacks and issues with the EOS M, I had an epiphany. We have two “old” EOS 5D cameras. Why couldn’t I just find a used housing for one of them? Sure enough, I found one for half price of what I would normally have to pay for a new case for a new model. I picked it up and have been finding used or on-sale lens ports to go with it.

This idea has several advantages as well as several disadvantages. First, the speed and responsiveness of the camera are incomparable to even a high-end mirrorless. Second, the pixel quality is one of the best in the industry despite it being a bit long in the tooth. The dynamic range is also much better.

The down side, though, is that the housing weighs eight million tons, and with all the accessories, it will be difficult to carry on a dive trip.

Well, I’ll just have to try it out and see.

New Underwater Camera

Over the years, we have tried several digital cameras for our underwater photography, some good some bad, some just passable.

As ironic as it is that the cheapest, oldest, least capable camera has turned out some of our best pictures over time [albeit with the very low resolution of 2 megapixels], I still must strive to have the best equipment that I can reasonably afford to do the job.

The first camera I have used was the Canon PowerShot A20 – a 2mpx camera with almost no manual settings and a hideously long shutter lag. Knowing when to shoot the picture meant pushing the button about 2-3 seconds before I expected my subject to be in the frame. That’s much easier when standing [floating] still. Even so, some of my best pictures underwater came from this camera. Either because of it’s limitations which I subconsciously took into account, or because of the environments in which I dove – which is more likely. The places we went with that camera were deeper and darker, which lent more to flash-based lighting and that just makes things look better underwater.

Ever wanting to be on the technological cusp when it comes to gadgets, I “upgraded” next to the Canon PowerShot S80. For a camera that was technically superior [it was 8mpx and allowed us to shoot in RAW format], it performed in a most substandard way. We had thought it would make better strides in shutter lag, but while a bit faster, it still had serious delay problems. Of course, when we took it diving, we didn’t go very deep or do night dives with it, so I couldn’t get the lighting to do what I wanted and it really didn’t perform any better than the old A20 did. It didn’t last long.

Next up is our current camera, the Canon G9. Now, with this one, I was determined to do better on properly planning the equipment. I at one point wanted to go with a low-end SLR, but the cost of the case alone (over $10,000) fast decided me against that. At the time, the G9 was the top of the line small form factor camera. I picked it up and the Ikelite case with strobe to go with. This is the first time that I had that setup, previously relying only on the built-in flash. Having the strobe off camera makes for better, more clear pictures free from underwater particulates. This camera did much better.

However, there are still some shortcomings, the focusing speed, the still present shutter lag, and most importantly, the sensor limitations of noise, ISO, and dynamic range. I was still getting blown out sections of my pictures in the highlight areas – the kinds of problems that don’t normally present themselves topside. All told though, it’s still a decent solution and even does some low-res underwater video.

Then, Canon went and released the EOS M – a new “mirror-less” SLR camera. That just means that it has the guts of a large body camera, with focusing and viewing through the lens, but without the heavy mirror/prism mechanism present in most SLR cameras today. Not that I mind using the optical mirror viewfinder on my big camera, but for underwater, it becomes cumbersome and cost prohibitive.

With the EOS M, though, you have a “full” [APS-C sized – not full 35mm frame, but the more consumer friendly size] sized sensor in a tiny camera body with 18mpx and high ISO range. This means that we should be able to get better shots in the deep with a lower-noise, higher dynamic range, and crisper detail – and use it underwater WITHOUT a $10,000 case premium. Looking at the options out there shows at present one case for $1,500, but there should be an Ikelite one out in the near future. [That’s my opinion not based on any information from them.]

So, we found a used one at B&H for $200 or so off the $799 retail price including the more flexible lens we wanted. This camera also does an amazing high-def video capture and we’ll be using it on not only our future dive trips, but our upcoming north Atlantic cruise. Plus, it’s lightweight and easier to pack.

I’ll let you know how will it performs.


You can take that in a couple of ways. First, at least chronologically, we have surfaced from our dives and our vacation in fine diving form. In fact, we both took and passed our Advanced Open Water diving certification!

Yay, us!

It was a very good refresher course for us, so much so that Laura even got so excited about diving that she didn’t want to stop!

We loved it in the Keys – it was very relaxing and laid back. We are definitely going back… just not to Miami. Miami wasn’t so great – way too hectic and crowded for a vacation.

Secondly, and most important, I’m typing this blog entry on my brand new Surface! Full disclosure dictates that I tell you that Microsoft is my employer, but even so – this thing is way cool. I’m going on a couple of hours with hardly a dent in the battery. It’s a little small, but that’s to be expected of a tablet device.

Any way you slice it, It’s a cool machine.

Florida It Is

We’ve now made plans and it looks like it will be the Florida Keys for some diving. Yay!

We’ve got the airfare and rental car, now we just need some place to stay… 🙂

The Florida Keys is the place that started Dive Turkey and I will enjoy going back, this time with a camera. Hopefully, I will get some good pictures of wrecks and reefs and colorful fish.

It will not be the same, though, since I will be the only one there from the original trip. While there, I will remember our one-time dive-buddy Jason.

I will especially miss him on this trip to the first Dive Turkey location.

Travel Planning

Planning a trip is hard. Planning a dive trip is harder. Planning a dive drip with good places to do dive photography while worrying about luggage restrictions, cost, and other photographic considerations is even harder.

I’m trying to figure out the best place to go and the best dates so that we can both relax and do some diving photography. Our last trip [the diving portion at least] was unsatisfactory due to water conditions and my general “blah” feeling about it that particular week.

Before that was Belize, and while the trip as a whole was magnificent, as was the diving, I was unable to produce any stellar pictures from that trip.

I think I need more practice. Hence, the dive trip planning that is so frustrating.

It’s hard to do underwater photography when you’re caught drifting, like in Cozumel, or is cloudy cold water, like Cabo. So – what you need is a calm place, deep wildlife [so that sunlight won’t interfere with the camera’s flash and turn everything blue] and of course nice accommodations. Hard to find.

I’m thinking Hawaii or Roatan or the Bahamas or… well, there’s tons of places, but making the decision is hard.

And then, of course, there’s the price.

Gotta keep that in mind. 😐

Our Mexico Trip

I said in December that I would write about our vacation to Mexico, so I’d better do that – you know: keep my promise. It’s the right thing to do, you know.

We had intended to combine a beach vacation with Laura’s mother and a dive trip entailing several days of diving 4 for me, and 3 for Laura, only the Sunday I was supposed to start diving, I get a phone call at the room telling me the port is closed due to high water. Fortunately, I wasn’t really “feeling it” that morning and was in need of more vacation rest. Back to bed I went with no regret.

The next day, Laura and I made the taxi ride to the dive shop only to be turned down again by the port captain for high water. Even so, I was still not upset at not getting to dive – a miracle in itself. Tuesday, we called ahead and were told that all was good.

Once we arrived, we got on the boat – a very SMALL boat for our dives. Laura, at this point, is becoming very concerned due to the size of the boat both for the now-obvious method of water entry [the back roll, which she doesn’t like] and the relative size of the waves in comparison to the boat. Not to be deterred, we board and head out to the reef. After struggling to hold on to the boat for a while we squeeze into our gear and back-flop into the water. What we saw, I think, wasn’t worth the effort. The first dive was only moderately clear, maybe 30ft visibility. We did see two very large spotted eagle rays and two stingrays, but after a while it was time to come up. It was a passable dive.

Once on the boat, we began to feel queasy. For Laura, this was kind of expected with the water being so rough. What was not expected and far from normal was me, leaning over the side and tossing out the chorizo I had for breakfast. After that, we all felt better and decided on one more dive. We might have been better just heading back. Visibility was even worse and the current was now very strong. It was one of the most unsatisfactory dives I’ve had. We finally got back to shore and decided that we’d had enough diving for the trip. We had lunch at a great little restaurant in town and then headed back to the hotel where we were much more interested in lounging by the beach and pool and a couple of snorkeling outings.

We did have Thanksgiving dinner on Cozumel island and Pepe’s Grill. And yes, there was lobster on my plate.

More Belize & Happy Thanksgiving!

After three full dive days at the Turneffe Flats resort, we hopped on the boat back to the mainland for a journey to the interior of this beautiful country. On our way in, we saw four very large cruise ships station keeping off the coast of Belize City. Since there’s no deep-water harbor there, they have to anchor offshore and use water-taxis to get the people off. Four at once, though, was quite a sight. There were boats streaming back and forth to each one causing quite a lot of wakes. I’m certainly glad we didn’t chose that mode of transportation.

Here’s a picture of the sunrise on our last day on the atoll. (well, it’s got a little extra “dynamic range” but it’s true to the emotion… 🙂 ) This was taken from the deck of our ocean-front cabana.


So, after several days of exertion, today is a day of rest and thanksgiving: we’re both thankful that we have the privilege to be able to go on a trip like this – it’s certainly something worth saving up for.

Here is a picture of where I’m sitting right now while I type this entry:


From ocean to jungle. The weather is great up here, and we’re glad since there’s no air conditioning. It does take a little getting used to since when we left, it was close to freezing.

I’m working on getting the pictures ready for posting, but since the bandwidth is so limited, I will not put the on the site until we get home.

That’s it for now: here’s wishing you all a very happy and thankful Thanksgiving day!

The Belize Experience

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this post since I’m exhausted, but I wanted to let you all know that Laura and I are having a great time. We’ve been in Belize a couple of days now and really love the place so far. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in town the first night and made friends with the owners.

Then, we went out to the Turneffe Atoll where we are now. We’ve been on three dives already and we’re TIRED. So, here are a few samples to tide you over.


More to come!