Wide-angle photography is usually described as a tricky technique and professionals say that it is more difficult than macro. Wide lens, or a fish eye lens, is very useful while traveling and even more so whilst shooting under the water.
Wide angle is any focal length equivalent to 35mm or less on a full frame camera. It could be a fixed-focal length or a zoom lens. A fish eye lens is a specific category – ultra wide lens, which is designed to show you the world as a spherical picture, which you can notice especially in the corners of your shot.
When are you shooting wide-angle photos, you should have a few tips in your mind.
The first “problem” you will face is a distortion, which you will see if you you don’t hold the camera straight ahead. In underwater this effect appears a bit less than when shooting the landscape. The best way to get eliminate this, is holding your camera level with the horizon. Leading lines on your screen might also help to avoid a distortion. With all known rules of the composition, the wide-angle lens can help you to create more dramatic pictures.
But there are cases, when you need to use this effect that your fish eye lens creates – for example if you are shooting big group of your friends, big subjects or a landscape view from the top of a mountain. The underwater shots are usually the best when you work with the natural light, or you help yourself with the strobes, still keeping the rule of the horizon, but if you don’t really need the light, you can also point your camera directly down, or opposite, directly up to the surface. Done that way your shot will get a completely round effect.
I personally like shooting vertical shots more than horizontal ones. It is not usually good for the formats being printed out for some billboard campaigns, but vertical shots give you more freedom to play with the layers of background, and you can fit very tall subjects into your picture easily. The importance here is playing with the angle.
Your shot should always have both – interesting background and foreground, too. The interesting background is easier when you have a dramatic looking sky, or colorful landscape. Wide-angle lens will give you very wide spherical view, so your picture can tell a better story. But if you will miss the main subject in the foreground, your picture might look boring. This is important for both, topside and underwater photography.
In underwater photography especially, but for landscape pictures as well, it is important to shoot low. If you do underwater, you can get the sun ball exactly where you need, which, with low aperture, which brings more contrast and action to shoot. You can also include a bigger area to your photo, which makes your main model or subject excel. Wide lenses are great for shooting large subjects, as buildings, in our cases boats, whale sharks or large formations of corals. A slight deformation, which comes with especially a fish eye lens, is a huge benefit you can use to create interesting shots, with never ending games between light and shades.
Some of the rules of shooting wide, is keeping people out of the corners, and avoiding “cuts” in the corners. I found this rule not really important, as some wide-angle shots with the large background look more interesting with a diver or its torso in the corner. For example the direction diver is looking, might also help to bring the attention to the subject you meant being the main spot of your shot. If you want to have somebody in the corner of your photography, count on the distortion, so some divers (mainly women) would complain about “looking” fat or having “some bad genes” or such. So when you keep the main subject close to the middle of your shot, of course respecting the rule of thirds, the distortion will be smaller.
If you are using a DSLR camera underwater, you have to make your decision before you go diving. Compact cameras give you freedom to decide in the water, as you can take both, macro and a wide-angle external port with you, and screw them into your housing from the outside.
With DSLR, it is better to ask before what lens is better for each coming dive.
Also macro photography requires some rules and tips, to achieve better shots.
Till I got my very first DSLR camera, I was shooting macro more and I also preffered it. My pictures were better, as when using a compact camera, even with two strobes, never brings same results as DSLR camera when it comes to wide-angle shots.
If you go for macro, the first and only rule is: You can never be close enough. When you think that you are close enough, get even closer. And again... and even more.
Macro lens also gives you an opportunity shooting large subjects and animals, turtles, octopuses, but you need to concentrate on a small part of the subject only (the eye, face, gills while being cleaned etc.). And macro lens is also great while shooting shy animals, as squids or cuttlefishes. They move fast, but if you have a macro lens and make your ISO a bit higher, results could be really nice. For a black background the smaller aperture is better, but sometimes your pictures looks more dramatically with lower aperture, as the colors of background could be seen. Also, and mainly in macro photography, you have to focus always to the eye of fish (or a diver).
This is just basic information for underwater shooting.
If you want to try: Come, bring your camera and let’s get wet!