Lesson 13 The Underwater Photo Course
Home Page; Lesson 13; Lecture Notes  

Creative effects

This course just wouldn't be complete without even a small section on creative photographic effects. You will probably find that the art of taking good underwater photographs is enough of a challenge to you on its own, and you may not feel the need to experiment with alternative techniques in order to obtain altered images.

Traditional Effects

One special effect immediately springs to mind, and that involves the technique of over-under shots, where the bottom half of the frame is underwater, while the top is shooting over the surface. A special split screen diopter lens is available for the Nikon 16mm fisheye lens which permits partial correction of the magnification effects for the underwater half. Realistically, this has only little application, but if you choose to take such shots in a swimming pool, then your model may appreciate this effect which prevents her legs and hips looking 30% wider than they are!

Another effect, or rather technique, is that of multiple exposure. This has been more popular in the past than it perhaps is today, and permits, with or without masking, for parts of two images to be recorded on a single frame to make a composite image. The complexity of the technique depends very much on the type of camera used, with some permitting re-cocking of the shutter without film wind-on. For other camera this may involve re-winding the film and reshooting certain frames.

To my mind this is very much a technique for on-the-day types of competitions, such as spash-in's or shoot-out's, where the result must be obtained on the film used. Similar or better overall results can be much more easily obtained by duplicating techniques or by computer manipulation.


There is a booming aftermarket in the general photographic field for special effects lenses and filters, and there is no particular reason why this should not apply to the underwater world.

Although I have not yet experimented with these creative effects underwater, looking through my Cokin catalogue, I reach the opinion that the majority are likely to offer little improvement to your image as:

However, I do not wish to be negative about this, and can offer some interesting possibilities if you wish to explore them, in the shape of

I have absolutely no idea what polarisers might do, but would believe that as there are no real reflections underwater, they would only serve to cut out some of the light and saturate the colours in the image more. It is highly likely that the water scatters the rays so much that the polariser really has nothing to work on, but why not try it, or even better, experiment with cross polarised flash on shiny surfaces.

While the Nikonos V has external filter threads (and the Sea & Sea doesn't), with housed systems, you must put the filter on before you submerge, and you will have to use it for the whole shoot. This assumes that there is room in the port to house the filter assembly, especially Cokin types. The worst case is that there is just room, but as the lens extends it presses against the front of the port, dislodging the port and causing a flood. Experiment, but carefully!

Lesson 13 Previous Page Next Page Lesson Contents Home Page

This page was last updated on 11 August 1998
Please address any comments to Mark Mumford