Perhaps the most famous of the United States Marine Corps’ mantras is “every Marine a rifleman”. It doesn’t matter what specialization you go into, each marine must still undertake regular training and assessment in their ability to fire a rifle. I mention this as there should be a similar mantra with regards to scuba: every underwater photographer a diver. The key issue is that if you’re an experienced diver and an inexperienced photographer, you may get mediocre shots, but you’ll dive safely and within your limits. If you’re an experienced photographer and an inexperienced diver, you can quite easily, and very quickly, find yourself in serious trouble.
An SLR camera in a housing is large, heavy, bulky, expensive and demands your concentration. Add strobes and you’ve just magnified all these factors. If you are having any issues with your diving – buoyancy, navigation, exhaustion, air management, decompression etc then the camera is only going to make things worse. Spend too much time looking through your viewfinder and not enough time checking your gauges and you could easily find yourself being rushed to a hyperbaric chamber or worse.
If you’re a photographer and would like to expand your artistic horizons, taking the plunge into underwater photography could be a lot trickier than you might expect. The above shot of the gobies is a good example. As a nature lover you study the way the little fish excavate the hole, as a photographer you adjust the aperture and the angle of the strobes to correctly expose the image, but most importantly as a diver you know your depth is 35 meters so that no matter how interesting the subject, and no matter how good the photograph might be, you have only a couple of minutes before you need to ascend.
Every underwater photographer a diver. Picture editors may be tough, but Mother Nature is even less forgiving.