There is nothing worse than an underwater camera housing that always fogs up. Luckily, there’s a few quick and simple steps to consistently keep your camera housing from fogging up.

1. Keep the Housing Dry

Keeping any amount of moisture out of your camera housing is the quickest and easiest way to maintaining a fog free underwater housing. Any time you are opening up or closing the housing, or even just cleaning the o-ring, you need to be particularly aware of every single drop of water. If you close the housing up with just a drop of water inside that water will quickly turn to into water vapor once the inside of the housing heats up as you being shooting underwater.

2.  Keep the Housing Cool

Since it is quite likely that there will be a small droplet of water hiding in the housing somewhere, it’s always a good idea to keep the housing in a shady place any time your are in between snorkels. Also, any time you are aren’t using it underwater, try and keep the camera turned off so that the heat the camera emits when it’s constantly on wont’ vaporize any water droplets inside.

3.  Be Careful with Air Conditioning

If you leave your housing sitting in an air conditioned environment, like your bungalow, then take it outside into the tropical heat, you are going to notice the housing will fog up immediately. It’s always a good idea to give your camera and hosing a few minutes to acclimatize to the tropical heat before closing everything up. Of course, don’t just hold it in the sun, but find a nice shady place for everything to adjust to the different temperatures.

4.  Silica Packets

These little silica packets are handy, but if you aren’t following the first three rules I mentioned then they just aren’t powerful enough or fast enough to battle larger amounts of fog. If you follow rules one through three before and after every snorkel then there is really not much need for the little packets of silica gel.

No matter what destination we are snorkeling, there is one photography question I probably get asked more than any other photo question.

“Wide angle or macro for the next site?” 

Unless it’s a night snorkel where we are likely to encounter smaller critters in the shallow reef, I will almost always say wide angle, and here’s why. In just about all the different destinations we go to the wide angle opportunities like beautiful reefs, larger schools of fish, turtles, and manta rays are readily available and open us up to endless wide angle opportunities. Macro subjects like nudibranches and cooperative reef fish are much harder to find and photograph. I’m not saying there aren’t any macro subjects, there are just as many as the wide angle subjects if not more. The only thing is that where macro subjects are concerned, they are considerably more difficult to photograph—especially reef fish.

snorkeler diving down to photograph coral reef

Wide angle subjects like reefscapes, mantas, and turtles are either non-moving or moving quite slow with more predictive behavior. While things like butterfly fish and angle fish have such erratic movements it’s near impossible to get them framed just right. Nudibranches barely move, but because of their small size we need to dive down to their level in order to properly photograph them which is easier said than done. So, in short there are plenty of macro opportunities, it’s just a matter of consistency of getting great shots. If you are ok with one in twenty shots coming out ok, by all means go for the reef fish, I’m sure the reward of getting the angle fish framed just right will be worth all the effort. However, if you want the closest thing to a guarantee that you’ll be coming back with an SD card full of beautiful photos, then I would suggest focusing on the wide angle. 

I’ve noticed a couple trends among snorkelers with cameras. The first is that just about all of them want to photograph the wonderful reef fish we encounter our snorkel-ventures to show their friends later on. The second is that after a few snorkel session photographing reef fish, many guests will come to me and ask me how to take better photos of reef fish because all their getting are blurry shots of a fish’s bum. So, here’s a few tips I’ve found helpful in photographing reef fish. 

Tip 1: Stop Photographing Reef Fish

The main reason why reef fish photos typically come back as a blurry fish bum is because reef fish are one of the hardest subjects to photograph well. If you stop and watch a butterfly fish or any one of the billion species of wrass you’ll quickly understand why. They never stop moving and their movement is never in one direction—it’s chaotic and all over the place. Not to mention most of the species people really what to photograph are smaller than your hand, and when you’re duck diving down or bobbing along on the surface their movement mixed with yours creates a really non-ideal shooting scenario. So, if your goal is to come back with a collection of awesome photos to show to your friends—reef fish may not be your most ideal subject to focus on. 

Tip 2: Focus on the Big Picture

Rather than focus on getting individual reef fish in a single frame, I suggest focusing more on the big picture with a variety of fish included in the photo along with the reef and everything else. These types of photos are not only easier to achieve, but also tend to be a bit more impressive to the viewer. I love to look for patches where the reef is particularly impressive and also hosts quite a variety of fish as well. On our snorkel tours reef scenes like this are not in short supply. 

Tip 3: If you Absolutely Must…

If you can not live without your fish photos, then what I would suggest is picking an individual fish and follow it. Though their movement may seem a bit erratic, it’s all part of their daily routine and a lot of times you’ll be able to anticipate what they are going to do next if you start to study their behavior. For example, most anemone fish will actually come out to ‘greet’ you as you come close their anemone but then suddenly dark back into the protection of their anemone only to come back out again. Try to anticipate this in and out movement and time it with the moment you press the shutter. Just about every species of fish will have a more or less repetitive pattern of movement and if you spend a bit of time observing this you can time it with your photos. Not to mention, the the longer you spend calmly watching a particular fish it’s more likely that it will perceive you a a non-threat and you’ll be able to move a bit closer for a better photos. 

Cow fish looking into the camera with snorkeler behind

Reef fish photos are considerably harder to get right, but with a bit of patience and understanding they are by no means impossible. My personal recommendation would be to not spend the entirety of your time photographing them, and instead divide it up between big picture photos which include the reef as well as the fish with some time also devoted to individual species. 

Choosing a camera for snorkeling is a tricky thing, and one you don’t want to get wrong since this will be the instrument you’ll be recording your once in a lifetime moments on. With that in mind, I’ve put together a quick list of cameras I believe to be solid choices for snorkelers. 

Before we get into the cameras though, here are a few camera feature requirements I made sure every camera had in order to make the cut. 

  1.  1) Excellent Image quality in both video and photo modes
  2.  2) Must be simple to use but also offer the user the option of more advanced controls. 
  3.  3) Must be able to custom white balance or offer an adequate “Fish Mode” white balance to retain those natural colors even at depth. 
  4.  4) Housing must offer the option to attach macro or wide angle lenses. 
  5.  5) Must cost $1,200 or less for camera and housing. 

Cameras 

3. GoPro Hero 5-7- Cost: ~$450 for Camera and Housing 

go pro hero 7

Despite their diminutive stature, the GoPro cameras are a solid choice. All models of GoPro since the Hero 5 are now waterproof out of the box—to limited depths—which is a huge bonus just incase your housing floods. Where optics are concerned, they offer remarkable 4K video footage and 12 MP photos. The stock lens is already a super wide fish-eye which is great for underwater reef scenes and large animals, and should we want to make some additions like macro lenses, red filters, and dual handled trays, there is a seemingly never ending supply of aftermarket accessories. If you already have a GoPro and are struggling with it, check out this blog for some of the most common mistakes people make with a GoPro. 

2. Olympus Tough TG-5 Camera-Cost: $750 for Camera and Housing 

olympus tg5 on beach

The Olympus Tough line of cameras have become one of the best all around cameras for those wanting a more traditional compact camera, but want some high end specs. Like the GoPro cameras, the TG-6 is also waterproof in the nude for that added security against floods. It offers high end optics which include UHD 4K videos and 12 MP stills, not to mention a whole host of different modes for shooting underwater. Out of the box it’s ready to go, but should you want to make some additions to the camera down the line as your skills improve there are a number of options such as strobes and wide angle lenses.

1. Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 Mark III- Cost: $1,150

While it’s not the most recent model—the Mark IV is the most recent at the time of this blog—it still is a very advanced and versatile camera in a compact and affordable design. While the Olympus and GoPro are aimed at consumers who want something a bit more intuitive, the RX1000 Mark III is aimed at those who may be more serious about film and photo and want something comparable to their DLSR or mirrorless land camera while not having to shell out big bucks. It offers impressive 20.1 MP stills, however it does lack 4K video. That being said, unless your intending to produce sequences for the new Blue Planet, 4K is still more of a frill than a necessity. It’s HD video is still top notch and absolutely up to date.  While the RX1000 will function great in any of the auto modes, the big difference between this camera and the other two are the manual functions it offers to the user. 

GoPro cameras have become probably the most popular camera for snorkeling, and for a number or solid reasons. Their small size is perfect for traveling, not to mention all GoPro’s from the Hero 5 on are waterproof to certain depths without a housing. That being said, it’s wise to use a housing for added security. Even though the GoPro’s are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand they pack a serious punch where image quality is concerned-both in the film and photo department as they offer 4K footage and a solid 12 megapixel photo with RAW format capabilities. However, despite all of these stellar specs and intuitive design—I see a lot of people struggling with their GoPro cameras in a variety of areas. So, to hopefully alleviate some of these camera issues to make your snorkeling experience better, I’ve put together a quick list of the most common problems I see with simple remedies.  Here we go. 

I never edit my footage because I always have too much

If you’re one of those people who strap the GoPro on your wrist and swim around with your arm constantly extended like Mega man while the camera records the entirety of the snorkel session…herein lies your problem. It’s a good idea to fall into the habit of pressing record only when you want to film something. Just by doing this you will then have a series of short clips which are easy to scroll though so you can find the exact moment you are looking for, rather than scrubbing through hours of dizzying footage. 

Everything I film looks so small and far away

All GoPro’s are equipped with a very wide fish eye lens which causes this effect. This is a good thing though as a really wide lens is the best for underwater imaging, so long as we keep one simple thing in mind. Get closer! We need to get close to our subjects-as close a physically possible without damaging the reef or bothering the subject. This will improve the overall clarity of your image as we are now shooting though less water while filling the frame with the subject. The GoPro lens is best for large subjects like turtles-mantas-and reefcapes. Shy subjects who prefer to keep their distance are not ideal subjects to concentrate on, take a mental photo and move on. 

The colors keep changing when I’m filming

This is a white balance issue and is a result of the Auto White Balance (AWB) trying to figure out what white balance setting is best for the constantly changing light underwater. The best thing to do is to turn off the AWB so it’s set to a single color temperature. 

My red filter makes everything looks super red and turns the water purple.

The reason for this is because you are using a red filter that is too strong, or too red. We use stronger red filters when we go deeper to compensate for the lack of red. However, since we are snorkeling and our subjects in the shallows we need just a bit of red. Switching to a lighter shade of red—something that will work up to five meters or fifteen feet in depth—will alleviate any unappealing colors and bring out the natural colors of our subjects.

My videos and photos are always very shaky and blurry.

To create more steady videos and sharp photos takes a bit of practice, and possibly some simple accessories. As snorkelers we are constantly being moved around by the waves on the surface—no matter how flat the water may seem so we need to be extra aware of this. When you see something you want to film or photograph try to duck dive down a bit, even a meter will make a huge difference. Another thing that will help will be to ditch the selfie stick and mount your camera on a tray with a single or double handle. After all, when is the last time we saw a professional camera operator using a selfie stick in the field?