Challenge yourself with Wide-Angle Underwater Photography
Text and Photos by Ken Knezick
As an old mossback who began shooting underwater with a Nikonos II, it has been exciting to watch all the positive changes that digital photography has brought to our underwater shooting. However, an area that seems to be lagging is on the wide-angle aspect of the spectrum. Enthusiasts have pushed macro and super-macro to remarkable lengths, showing us full-frame images of tiny skeleton shrimp and disparate eyeballs galore. It may be that digital has not been as helpful to wide-angle shooting, in particular because the “sun ball” that we so enjoyed capturing with film, now often turns out looking like pixelated mush. Beyond that, the fact is that making an impactful wide-angle image is a challenging endeavor, and in my experience, extending well beyond the challenges of macro photography.
Wide-angle composition is a skill that must be developed over time and plenty of practice. Rather than starting with a super-wide fisheye, you might begin with a medium-wide lens, such as the Nikkor 20 mm prime lens, or a Canon equivalent. With such an aspect, you can begin to control your wide-angle compositions, without struggling to avoid photographing your strobes, your fins, errant dive buddies, etc. Then work your way up to a true wide-angle or wide-angle zoom. In wide angle, it is the ambient light that should control your exposure, resulting in a beautiful blue water background. Don’t feel you need to have double, gigantic strobe arms, at least at first. A single strobe, above your lens and aimed straight ahead, can be quite effective at filling in a bit of color to your primary subject.
What better place to practice your wide-angle photography than Indonesia and Raja Ampat. With such broad vistas of healthy coral, schooling fish, and manta rays galore, there are plenty of exciting opportunities. I invite you to challenge yourself, and give wide-angle underwater photography a try.
Ken Knezick is an avid photographer, underwater explorer, and travel agent who has lead many trips to the Bird’s Head. To enjoy more of Ken’s work visit his website, Island Dreams Travel.