1. Start with a dry camera inside your water housing or at least don’t take it from cold AC to a warm (and humid) outdoors and then into a cool ocean with hot sun. The stresses and release of trapped condensation will cause your camera housing to fog up on the inside.
2. Make sure your camera housing is clean and seals properly. One little speck of dirt can compromise your seal and cause leekage when you go deep or far from shore.
3. Stabilize the camera with handles that minimize camera shake and lateral movement. 2 handles work better than one and 3 handles (one on top or bottom in addition to 2 side handles) gives you more options to find the right grip to minimize camera movement while swimming around or when dealing with strong currents or waves.
4. Use lights when going deeper than 10-20 feet. Your footage may come out rather greenish in color if you don’t bring your own light source when diving down more than 10 feet. You can fix this in post by adding back in a red filter to even out the color balance but the best way to shoot great underwater footage is to shoot it right before post production and that means bringing your own light source.
5. If your camera shoots in a high speed mode you can use this to minimize camera shake or to slow-mo that amazing whale breech or fleeting moment of underwater action. Sometimes after an event you find that the action is happening a little too fast to fully appreciate the beauty of the moment. A 50% slow motion effect not only minimizes camera shake but gives you the freedom to highlight the best parts of your shoot by slowing the footage down. You can of course accomplish this in post production but as with everything else it’s always better to shoot the extra frames in camera if you can and not have to depend on post production filters to accomplish the shot.
6. Use some type of moisture absorber to minimize camera fogging inside the housing. Silica packs can all but erase camera fogging issues but if you find yourself swimming around miles from shore with a fogged up housing and some extra time on your hands try turning the camera off and holding it under the water to cool it down inside. As the camera heats up moisture expands and creeps out of the camera and collects on the inside of your housing. Cool it down and the moisture usually disappears. If you can get out of the water for a minute just open the housing (be careful not to let any water, especially saltwater, into the housing) and air it out. This should evaporate the condensation problem within a couple of minutes or less.
7. Pay attention to your surroundings and if you are looking into an eye cup try opening your other eye so you don’t miss anything amazing while you’re zoomed in on that special shot. This can also help you avoid underwater dangers and to be more aware of where you are and what is happening around you in this potentially hazardous environment.
8. Check your camera housing often for leeks but especially when you first get into the water. A good policy is to seal your camera housing and then give it a test dip to make sure no water is getting in to ruin your precious equipment BEFORE YOU SWIM OUT TO SEA OR DROP DOWN 80 FEET.
9. If diving down make sure to use the buddy system and don’t ever go out alone without telling someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. If you are filming surface action like surfing or kiteboarding make sure to work with a confident athlete who knows their abilities and won’t send you to the hospital instead of the XXL Big Wave Awards. Also know your own abilities and don’t swim out in surf bigger than you can handle. It’s hard enough to get everything right when filming in the water without fighting for your life in surf that’s way too big for you. Also keep in mind that if you are filming barreling waves and you are in the barrel with your camera then surfers are going to be coming straight at you to get that barrel and it’s up to you to get out of the way and not get run over.
10. Lastly, just get in the water as much as possible. Nothing beats experience and being fit for getting great water footage. If you are comfortable in big waves from swimming around in them every chance you get then you will have the focus and peace of mind to get great water shots. Also if you are in great shape for swimming and are used to your swim fins (and don’t get blisters after hours of treading water) then you will have a much better chance of making it back to shore with some great water shots then if you just jump in and start filming with no practice at all. If you’re just starting out filming in the waves try swimming out without your camera first and see how you do. And remember, stuff happens fast especially in extreme sports so the better equipped you are to handle whatever mother nature (or your talent) throws at you, the better chance you’ll have of making it home safely with some amazing water footage.
For sample videos of some great underwater video check out: http://www.videoproductionmaui.com
Or if you just have a question about water video in Hawaii e-mail: [email protected]