UW Wreck Photography
Everywhere man has sailed, he has left shipwrecks. For some reason even small boats become mystical and interesting when they sit underneath a few dozen feet of water.
A wide variety of fish and sea life will come to make the wreckage their new home, creating a thriving artificial reef out in the middle of nowhere. Depending in the depth and water conditions, a wreck may stay in tact for decades or quickly degrade into a heap of rubble.
DSLR + Mirrorless
Point + Shoot
Shutter Speed: 1/60 or faster
There are many options here, which is why the settings above are in such a wide range. When we think of classic wreck shots we are often referring to natural light images, since lighting an object as big as a wrecks is typically impossible. If we leave our strobes behind the camera's program modes become useful, although they may be a bit bright and the White Balance may be off. These two issues are easily both fixed in Adobe® Lightroom as long as you shoot RAW.
Our favorite wreck images seem to come from crystal clear water (which is rare) and typically have a diver somewhere in the scene for a sense of scale. Look for leading lines and dramatic light; use the sun and the hard edges to make light rays.
Resist the desire to try to light something that you can't. We can use strobes creatively on Wrecks, but we have to be careful. Often their light will be harsh, and obvious. Some tricks are to light up an object in the foreground surrounded by space with the lines of the wreck in the background for a splash of color. You can also try diffusing your strobes with a diffusing dome and shooting from a distance away that creates a very soft fill light (in very clear water this could be 10 feet away). You will lose color saturation at these distances, but you can fill in some details and find some small amount of hue.
There is a difficult and obscure option for wrecks if you are up for a challenge: Light painting. If the visibility is good enough to see the entire wreck, you can use this cave photography trick. Go out at night and make your frame on a tripod, with settings that allow a shutter speed of over a minute. Open the shutter and swim into the scene, "painting” the wreck with a dive light, strobe, or any light source. It is possible to swim through the frame and not show up in the final image.
All images Copyright © 2019 Steve Miller