Underwater Photography 101: The Beginning Beginner


People often ask what the best camera is for underwater photography.  Chase Jarvis said, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” I do believe that is true.  When I first started shooting images underwater, I had no idea what a good snapshot should look like, let alone how to get that image.  I started my underwater photographic journey with a compact camera, that was made for underwater photography.  It had a setting for blue water, and one for green water, and an on-board flash.

Fish over Hard Coral

The above image was taken with my new compact camera on its maiden voyage (or dive) which also happened to be my first dive after certifying.  It isn’t horrible, but I sure could have used some pointers back then.  Later I learned the importance of good lighting and I added a strobe to my compact camera.

Good lighting makes a big difference as you can see from the above photo in my first effort using a strobe.

After a year of experimenting with my compact camera and strobe, I began to master some of the basics and my desire for a DSLR camera became stronger. The next image was taken on my new DSLR’s maiden dive.  You can see that there is improvement in the clarity and composition of this image.

Blenny in hole

My point in showing off my first efforts with underwater photography is to demonstrate that I had a lot to learn in the beginning, and after a couple of years of practicing, I got better.  But I didn’t simply get better.  I studied other images by well known underwater photographers.  I read books on underwater photography and took both private and group classes with underwater photography instructors.  I found some mentors and I asked them a lot of questions and I asked them for critiques of my work. Eventually, I began to take images that I am now proud to put my name on.

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Fortunately for beginning underwater photographers, there is help!  I recently became acquainted with Matt Smith who has created a great info-graphic for beginning underwater photographers. You can read his blog here.  At the end of the info-graphic, there is a list of resources you can use to further your study in underwater photography.  Most of them were sources I used when I was learning. One of the most valuable of these was Underwater Photography Guide , an online resource center with lots of accomplished photographers who contribute articles on mastering underwater photography techniques. In addition to these, I joined some underwater photography groups on Facebook where I could see what other photographers were doing.  Wetpixel and Underwater Macro Photographers boast some wonderful photography on Facebook.

So as you progress through your journey in underwater photography, don’t get discouraged.  It is a lot to learn, but there is a lot of help out there.  Check out my “Underwater Photography 101” series and accompanying You Tube tutorials for more information.

If you have questions, or suggestions for underwater photography tips, please feel free to leave comments below.

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog!
My photographs are taken with a Nikon D7000 or D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

Sex Change


In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Change.”

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The blue ribbon eel is one of the most fascinating creatures of change.  All of the ribbon eels are born male.  Toward the last year of their life, they may begin to turn yellow, and also turn into a female.  All yellow ribbon eels are female, and all blue ribbon eels are male.  A female ribbon eel will procreate after she has changed, and then die, so it is very rare to see a yellow ribbon eel.

Blue Ribbon Eel

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

Pinnipeds: The Puppies of the Sea


Fall is the right time of year to enjoy the company of playful young sea lions.  By August or September, these young pinnipeds have grown past infancy and are entering the playful “puppy” stage of their lives.  I have enjoyed several dives lately where the curious little guys came to pay me a visit.

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At first he is shy, keeping his distance and just watching the divers.  A group of sea lions see us from the surface and watch us jump into the water, then they stick their heads under the surface to see what we are doing under there.

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Pretty soon, curiosity gets the better of this little guy and he comes in for a closer look.

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After a while, the sea lion starts to think of you as one of it’s playmates.  It starts swimming in front of you and holds various poses, all the while keeping eye contact with you.

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Sometimes they start blowing bubbles as they swim past.  It seems they are mimicking the scuba divers.

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This sea lion began to get a little rambunctious in his play, displaying his teeth, much like young dogs when they wrestle with their siblings.

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  If this sea lion had been a large male, I would have felt threatened, but since he was just a few months old, it was hard to take him seriously.

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Eventually, it is time for us to surface and say goodbye.  The sea lions watch us until we are completely out of the water, as if they yearn for us to stay.  To tell the truth, I wish I could!

As always, if you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.  Don’t forget to follow me here at waterdogphotographyblog and please feel free to share on Facebook or other social media.

My photographs are taken with a Nikon  D810 in Sea and Sea Housing using two YS-D1 Strobes.
All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

Underwater Photography 101: Get Down and Boogie


Underwater photography has its own unique set of challenges and in response to the requests of several readers, I would like to post some tips for better underwater photography.  These will appear under the heading, “Underwater Photography 101.

The first challenge a new underwater photographer will face is how to take an image of a marine animal so that it “pops” out from its environment.  This is because as a scuba diver, we are swimming along horizontally in the water, looking down on the subjects below.  Many new photographers will snap images focused straight down because that is the perspective they have of the subject.

1.  Get Close.  For example:  Below is an image of an anemone full of various fish.  This can be an exciting thing to see, and something you may want to share with your topside friends.  However, from this perspective, the fish are too small, taking up only a fraction of the frame.  The black fish are hard to recognize as fish, and the photograph has too many subjects.

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 Get closer and adjust the angle of the camera so that it is more at eye level with your subject. Shoot with the lens pointed up at your subject, and you will have a much more pleasing result.  The image below has just the anemone fish as the subject, and the fish is looking at the camera.  The anemone itself becomes interesting background material without distracting our eye from the fish.

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 2.  Get Down.  Sometimes, this is much easier said than done, as some subjects are in a crevice or are very tiny and hard to separate from their environment.  Nudibranchs are a great example of this.  The image below is of a rarely seen Hypselodoris californiensis (California Chromodorid).  Shot from above, all the details of the nudibranch’s rhinophores and gills are lost.

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 But when I waited for the nudibranch to crawl up onto a rise, and got my lens down on it’s “eye” level, I got a much more interesting result:

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 3.  Change Perspective.  The same principle applies to wide angle photography.  In the following photograph, I wanted to show the thousands of fish on the reef.  I pointed my lens directly at them, but the reef in the background makes them hard to see.

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To make the fish “pop,” it is necessary to get right next to the reef leaving the water as the background for the fish, as in the image below:

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 With a few adjustments, it is easy to improve your underwater photography.  Remember to get close, get down, and change perspective!

 If you have suggestions for underwater photography tips, or questions, please feel free to leave comments below.

If you enjoy my images please visit my website, waterdogphotography.com, or give me a like on facebook at Waterdog Photography Brook Peterson.
 All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please contact me

First Place!


Bluewater Photo in Culver City, California runs an annual underwater photography contest they call the So Cal Shootout.  In this shootout, participants are given a 36 hour period to take images and submit them for judging.  The photographs cannot be manipulated digitally, and can only have a few global changes made to them such as adjustments in contrast, exposure, and clarity.  No removal of backscatter is allowed and no cropping.  This year I entered eight photographs.  The judges smiled in my favor and awarded me first place in the open macro category for this image I took of an octopus eye.

Eye Candy

Eye Candy

Underwater photographers gathered during these three days to photograph everything from tiny nudibranchs to large schools of baitfish.  You can view all the winning photographs HERE.  Of course, there are many more images that didn’t win a place.  A few of my other entries can be seen below.

Hopkins Rose

Hopkins Rose

Envious Eyes Without a Face Reef Scene A Rose Among Thorns

Underwater Shootouts are a fun way to test your skills and get to know other underwater photographers.  Though the prizes are certainly a big motivation, just participating in the contest for the experience would be time well spent.

 All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.  To discuss terms for using these images, please use the contact form above.

Slug Bug! Another Nudiphile Episode


Introducing P. cremoniana!  While on a dive, searching for tiny critters, I came across this little fella, the likes of which I have never seen before.

Placida cremoniana

Placida cremoniana

Just in time for Halloween, this tiny critter makes its appearance in Southern California!  I have written an article that has been published in California Diver Magazine, so rather than reiterate the entire story here, I will refer you to the magazine, where you can read it in its entirety.  Suffice it to say that I am very pleased to have found the very first sea slug of it’s kind in Southern California.  This little guy originated in the Medeteranian, and has been found in the Western Pacific and also Mexico, but never as far north as California.

Placida cremoniana

My obsession with nudibranchs continues, even though this guy isn’t technically a nudibranch.  (It’s a sea slug)  It still has the beautiful colors that are typical of nudibranchs and the fascinating cerata and rhinophores, but lacks a gill plume.  It is unique.  And tiny.  It was no larger than the head of a pin, about 3 or 4 mm, although I have read they can get twice that size.  Still.  T  I  N  Y!

Placida Cremoniana

All images are copyrighted by Brook Peterson, and may only be used with written permission.  Please do not copy or print them.