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Photo/Video Techniques for Cold, Dark Waters
By: Bob Michelson

Diving Photo - Tane Casserley

One of the first questions asked of cold-water photographers and videographers who dive in the Northeastern US, Pacific Northwest or Great Lakes is, "Are you crazy?" Generally followed by, "Isn't the water polluted?" Or the generic, "What is there to see down there anyway?"

As the photographer prepares to defend his or her sport, visions of beautiful wide-angle shots with brilliant green (yes, green) water columns begin to emerge. And those fool proof macro or close-up photos of invertebrates such as the delicate anemone that you could barely see come to mind.

Turbid water in the Northeastern United States, Pacific Northwest, The Great Lakes and other cold fresh water bodies are generally caused by suspended particles in the water, reducing sunlight penetration, yielding "dark" water at any given depth. In the ocean, the tiny matter is usually blooms of tiny microscopic plankton, making the Northeast and Northwest's waters among the most fertile in the entire world. The Great Lakes particles are in the form of sediments naturally found in almost every fresh water lake and pond. These sediments are very fine and are easily churned-up by passing storms or watercraft.

The cold/turbid-water photographer does not have to be innoculated from third-world diseases to enjoy their sport. But they do need to have a good working knowledge of bouyancy control, the camera, lighting, how to approach marine life and how to use what available light there is to best advantage.

It is also suggested that photographers brush up on proper preventative maintenance of all their underwater cameras and accessories. The slightest bit of neglect or the tiniest sand or silt particle can ruin a well-planned photo dive trip in an already harsh cold- water environment by flooding. Take the time to care for your equipment, and in time, it will take care of you in the form of beautiful photographs ad video.

The first rule in cold-water photography, as with other forms, is proper bouyancy control. Without good basic bouyancy control in waters with less-than- Carribean clarity, a photogenic dive site can be clouded up beyond recognition in one "plop" to the ocean floor.

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