Wreck dives are hugely popular amongst divers looking for a challenge, as they swim through wrecks to discover the animals that have made their home there and see what remains of a part of human history.
But wreck dives aren't just thrilling for explorers; they're also the perfect opportunity to get some dramatic underwater photographs.
Getting that First Shot
The first shot that most divers take advantage of is the one that they can capture as they approach a wreck. As it begins coming into view, you can easily capture an iconic photo that displays the large wreck amidst the ocean life that surrounds it.
Dramatic in nature, these photos can't be lit properly with a flash, so be prepared to turn off all strobes and instead use ambient light to expose your shots. When utilising automatic exposure, it's a good idea to dial a bit of underexposure in so that you can keep the water looking blue.
Clear, Shallow Dives
If you're diving in clear and shallow water, you'll notice that the ambient light has an obvious direction. Shooting with the sun behind you will provide you with colourful photos, but shoot across the stream of light to get the best black-and-white images that contain shadowy shapes that pack a big punch.
Also read: Top 4 Wreck Dives in the Bahamas
You can either switch your camera to black-and-white while underwater or convert your digital images to black-and-white during editing. Use the light correctly, and you'll get the most brilliant monochrome photographs. Plus create even more drama by boosting contrast during editing.
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Taking Pictures Inside a Wreck
If you've browsed through wreck dive photos, you’ve probably already realised that many of the best shots are those taken of the architecture inside a wreck.
When inside, you should focus on the most interesting features that a wreck has to offer, as well as the views you can enjoy by looking through openings like portholes and doorways.
Also read: [Video] This is Why You need Proper Wreck Diving Training!] (http://www.bookyourdive.com/blog/2012/1/6/wreck-diving-training)
Here's where you can use strobes to light up the scenery. But whenever you shoot inside a wreck, try to figure out where the ambient light is and angle your camera towards that area, as the blue that comes into your photos will provide more depth and beauty.
Also, aim for areas in the wreck where shafts of brilliant light come through openings and cracks. Put yourself in the area of that naturally available light, and use strobes only when you need to.
The ambient light on its own can create an intense, atmospheric effect, especially without strobe use. But to get the best shots, you must shoot in the direction of the light while remaining in the darker areas of the wreck. Tilt the camera only slightly in order to capture the beams of light on a diagonal as well.
If you do find a feature that's illuminated by a shaft of light, and it's an interesting feature, lighting it further with a bit of strobe is a great direction to take. But remember that if you're looking for atmosphere, the less strobe, the better.
Focus on Individual Pieces Throughout the Wreck
Every wreck has an interesting story to tell, but looking at the artefacts and cargo throughout a wreck is what brings the story to life. War wrecks, in particular, often contain small objects that are quite simple to light using strobes.
Larger objects, like military vehicles, can be more challenging to light, particularly when found in silty, dark waters. If you're planning on lighting an entire wreck scene with your strobes, just be sure to pay attention to the positions of your strobes and aim them appropriately.
Two strobes can be mounted on arms above your camera housing to create an even amount of light across your entire subject.
Bear in mind that, when inside a wreck, you also want to avoid backscatter, and you can do so by not stirring up sediment by using your buoyancy and fin control.
Don't Forget the Marine Life
Wreck dives often house an abundant array of marine life, and it's not uncommon for myriad creatures to call wrecks homes. Look for huge groupers, barracudas, eels, and jacks at most wreck sites, but always research the marine life you should expect to find so that you know what to look for.
Capture portraits of these animals in their native environment, but be sure to compose your shot in a way that shows the fish along with the wreck to get the most compelling image.
Remember that the otherwise "dead-looking wreck" filled with metal and man-made objects is really brought back to life when you incorporate the fact that it's now a living reef, providing shelter and habitat to marine creatures of all sizes.
With the right gear and these tips in mind, you're sure to capture stunning underwater photos of every wreck you explore.
Do you have any tips on how to make awesome wreck dive photos? Let us know in the comments below
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Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.