5 photoshop tricks for saving your underwater photographs.

5 photoshop tricks for saving your underwater photographs.

If you’re interested in underwater photography, one of the best things about booking your next live aboard diving trip is the prospect of being able to spend an entire week underwater snapping away.

While taking photos underwater is rewarding and a great way to show off to all your work colleagues remember the amazing sites you’ve visited, underwater photography presents budding photographers with a whole range of different challenges that you don’t need to worry about on the surface. Visibility, particles in the water, moving subjects, and light are all new issues that will affect how your underwater images turn out.

Sometimes I find myself taking better photos on my smart phone above the water, than on my fancy digital SLR below it. Or I’ll have spent a week on a live aboard only to discover once I’ve returned home and uploaded a shot of a sea turtle that looked epic on the LCD screen, that it’s actually slightly blurry. If you’ve just started taking underwater photo’s, chances are one out of a hundred of your pictures are actually worth keeping (trust me, I’ve been there!) However there a few little tricks that you can use to potentially save that image you were about to send to the trash.

Good photos start before you’re even under the water.

Think about what setting you have your camera on, and what format these images are being stored in. If you want to be able to maximise your potential to digitally improve your images once you’ve finished snapping away in the ocean, make sure you are shooting all your images in RAW format.

RAW files are far larger than JPEG images (which is probably the format your camera is currently on if you haven’t switched to RAW yet), so you won’t be able to store as many photos on your memory card.  The editing freedom that comes with shooting in RAW however far outweighs the downside of the large size of these files. Just make sure you invest in an extra memory card or two before you head off to your next live aboard dive destination.

Buoyancy, buoyancy, buoyancy!

Not only does good buoyancy equal more relaxed and safe diving but drastically improves your underwater photography technique. If you’re constantly inflating and deflating your BCD, flapping about with your hands and knocking the marine life around you’re going to struggle to return from your dive with good photos.

Becoming a good diver takes time, and you should enjoy the learning process. Too many divers want to rush through their courses and spend little time focusing on actually becoming a better scuba diver. Go diving purely to practice your buoyancy and then start dabbling in underwater photography. To learn some more tips about how good buoyancy will help your photography techniques, check out our article. 

Camera Raw Editor.

An underwater image that could use some TLC.
An underwater image that could use some TLC.
The same image after editing in Camera Raw.
The same image after editing in Camera Raw.

This is an average underwater images’ best friend. Time and time again I have relied on Camera Raw Editor to turn a less than perfect image into a keeper. Camera Raw gives you a second chance at creating great underwater images.

Here you can edit the temperature, tint, exposure and contrast of an image. Over exposed image? Bring down the highlights and play around with your image until you’re happy. You can lift the whites and the blacks of the image and bring more clarity to your photo to create an image that really pops with colour and contrast.

One of the best tools in Camera Raw and Photoshop is the spot healing brush, which literally replaces a selected area of the image with another part of the photo. This means with a little time and effort you can remove all those particles or light spots scattered throughout your photo.  Spend some time in Camera Raw and I can assure you your images will go from woeful to wonderful.

The ‘diffuse glow’ filter.

The edited image with Photoshop filter 'diffuse glow' applied.
The edited image with Photoshop filter ‘diffuse glow’ applied.

After you’ve played around in Camera Raw you can either save your image or continue tweaking it in Photoshop. My one go-to filter for images that are less than ideal is the ‘diffuse glow’ filter. This filter really accentuates underwater light breaking through the surface of the ocean, and give underwater photographs an ethereal and magical feel. To find the ‘diffuse glow’ filter in Photoshop, head to ‘Filter Gallery’ under the Filter menu, and you’ll find it in the distort section.

If all else fails, convert to black and white.

Colour can be hard to correct in underwater images. Black and white is far easier to work with, and you can bring the contrast up without changing the colours to garish neon versions of the original hues. An image that you thought was beyond saving can suddenly turn into an artistic impression of the underwater world. Convert your image to black and white, play around with contrast and brightness and watch it transform.

Jump in with millions of jellyfish in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake.

Jump in with millions of jellyfish in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake.

In a recent article I stated that most dive destinations are renowned for one thing in particular (like humpback whales in the Kingdom of Tonga), but in Palau everything underwater is so diverse and wonderful it’s hard to narrow it down to just one.

I was mistaken.

The Micronesian archipelago of Palau is home to a lake that is full to the brim with completely harmless jellyfish. Jellyfish Lake is a stark (but awe-inspiring) contrast to the breathtaking drift dives and spectacular coral reefs surrounded by year-round tropical water that you can expect of a Palau diving trip.

Jellyfish Lake,
Jellyfish Lake, Eil Malk Island.

Jellyfish lake is nestled amongst a vast expanse of forest on Eil Malk Island. Eil Malk is part of the Rock Islands, which is comprised of around 445 mostly uninhabited limestone islands.  After a short hike, you arrive and take in the view of the lake and it’s surrounds. Emerald water, bordered by dense jungle and lined with a blanket of perfect blue from a cloudless sky. From above,  it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. Sure, the lake and the vegetation surrounding it are beautiful, but it’s not until you enter the water that you truly believe the hype surrounding Jellyfish Lake. 

The Jellyfish Lake is a snorkel-only site, and as you descend beneath the surface on a single breath you are overcome by feelings of serenity and wonder as the millions of jellyfish rise above and below you.The jellyfish that inhabit the lake are giant golden marshmallows, like droplets of soft liquified sunshine floating all around you. The giant jellies that call this marine lake home are either moon or golden jellies, and there are thought to be 10 million of these in Jellyfish Lake.

Jellyfish lake is a marine lake, so when you first dive down you might be surprised by the salty taste of the water.  Once connected to the ocean, the 12 000 year old Jellyfish Lake is now isolated from the rest of the sea creating a mini-ecosystem where the jellyfish is king. While the lake is relatively isolated from the surrounding ocean, it’s  filled with saltwater thanks to a spiderweb of tunnels and fissures through the limestone of an ancient reef. This disconnection from the open ocean has encouraged the evolution of an eco-system lacking in diversity, but abundant with Jellyfish. These jellies no longer require their stingers. With few natural predators they no longer need this characteristic, making snorkelling with the millions that inhabit this bizarre ecosystem a pain free and phenomenal experience.

There are dozens of these marine lakes like Jellyfish Lake throughout the Rock Islands. This particular lake however is unique in the fact that it has an anoxic layer along the bottom, which is one reason why scuba diving is not allowed in Jellyfish Lake. The last 15 meters of the lake contains high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide which can be absorbed through the skin of a diver, leading to death. Jellyfish are also delicate creatures, and air bubbles created from breathing through scuba apparatus can travel through their flimsy bodies, irreversibly damaging them.

Everyday, the resident Golden jellyfish make the arduous migration from one side of the lake to the other, following the movement of the sun. Strangely enough, the Golden jellyfish have a strict schedule they like to adhere to. In the morning they move from the centre of the western basin to the eastern basin, then in the afternoon head to the western side of the lake, finally propelling themselves to the western basin where they spend the night.They migrate in such a way to gain as much exposure to the sun as they possibly can, revolving as they move so each part of their body receives some rays. Golden Jellyfish photosynthesise zooxanthellae living in their tissues and this symbiotic relationship provides them with their food source. Whilst these jellyfish have evolved to lose their stinger, they are still faced with a natural predator quite literally lurking in the shadows. The ethereal Golden Jellyfish avoids shadows not only so it can receive meet its daily dietary requirements, but so it can avoid an attack from an anemone living on the outskirts of the lake.

The Moon jellies don’t have as much of a rigid routine as the Golden Jellyfish, propelling themselves here, there and everywhere. Moon jellies are the opposite of the Golden Jellyfish who seek out and thrive in the sunshine. These jellyfish rise to the surface every night to feed in the light of the moon.

How to get there

How many places in the world can you swim with thousands of harmless jellyfish?

One.

For that reason, most Palau diving live aboards will include a visit to Jellyfish Lake in their itinerary. That way you can not only spent a week diving the myriad of dive sites Palau is known for, but also visit its deservedly famous jellyfish lake.

Scientists have just discovered a glow in the dark sea turtle.

Scientists have just discovered a glow in the dark sea turtle.

This isn’t just a catchy headline.

A team of researchers on a night dive in the Solomon Islands came across a hawksbill sea turtle glowing like a neon sign, and documented the first ever case of biofluorescence in a reptile.

Biofluor-what-now?

Biofluorescence is when an organism absorbs one colour and then reflects it as a completely different colour. Biofluorescence is not to be confused with bioluminescence, where organisms are capable of producing their own light, usually through a chemical reaction. To put it simply, biofluorescent animals can change the colour of existing light, and bioluminescent animals can create their own light.

Seeing bioluminescence underwater is one of the most breathtaking things you can see night diving. Many small organisms are bioluminesent, and put on a spectacular show for night divers. There is few things more surreal than switching your dive torch off and watching the thousands of tiny fluorescent lights dance around you.

Marine Biologist David Gruber, was in the Solomon Islands to film bioluminescence displayed by coral and small reef sharks. You can imagine his surprise when a hawksbill turtle came swimming into view, glowing a distinct red and green (if you don’t believe us check out the video from National Geographic below!) Until this moment, biofluorescence had never before been seen in any reptile, let alone a sea turtle. The divers swam alongside the brightly glowing animal, filming it using a camera fitted with a yellow filter designed to pick up on fluorescent animals within the frame.

Gruber explained that the red glow on the turtle’s shell may be from algae growth, but that the yellow and green was emitted from the turtle. Animals normally use biofluorescence as a defence mechanism or as a form of communication, but exactly why these mysterious and critically endangered sea turtles glow is a question that is now waiting to be answered.

Want to dive in the Solomon Islands? The Bilikiki liveaboard is one of the best live aboards in the area, and visits the main 3 island groups of Florida Island, Russel Island and Marovo Lagoon which boast and array of incredible and diverse dive sites.

The one site you need to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.

The one site you need to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.
The stunning Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space.
The stunning Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space.

The Great Barrier Reef stretches for thousands of kilometers, and there are over 2, 900 individual reefs that make up this Australian icon. Ideally, we’d all love to dive every last one of those reefs, but for obvious reasons this an option that’s not going to happen anytime soon. When you’re planning your diving live aboard trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, it’s important you know which particular part of this area you want to dive. One site that is an absolute must is the Cod Hole in the Ribbon Reefs.

The Ribbon Reefs are ten reefs (that are literally numbered 1 to 10 instead of individual names) that offer divers a wide variety of different sites. There are sheer drop-offs that stretch down hundred of metres, and shallow coral gardens that look like something out of an underwater version of Alice in Wonderland. That’s the great thing about diving the Great Barrier Reef,  the varying topography and marine life mean that there is a dive to suit every level of experience and every diver’s interest.

The Cod Hole is located on the northern end of Ribbon Reef #10, and is a dive with a max depth of around 20 metres, making it perfect for every level of diver. Like the name suggests, it’s where you can dive with potato cod the same size as you. Surrounded by warm, tropical water amongst a coral garden the reef makes the most beautiful backdrop to have such a close interaction with these huge friendly fish. These fish have been fed for the past 20 years. Now, dive operators will only allow Divemasters to feed this enormous fish so that they are not over-fed.  Watching a 150 kg cod use it’s thick lips to suck up the provided food just half a metre from your face is a phenomenal experience. As you continue on your dive, you’ll feel as if someones watching you the whole time as the potato cods follow you around, swimming right up to your face. The intricately patterned Maori Wrasse is also a regular visitor to this site, and you’ll have the chance to see giant clams, sea turtles, feather sea stars and a whole host of brightly coloured reef fish.

Located around 110 km’s off the Ribbon Reefs, Osprey Reef is another must visit dive site located in the Great Barrier Reef. Both the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reefs have great visibility in comparison to sites closer to the Queensland coastline, as they are further away from run off from cities and agriculture. Here, the plunging drop offs and walls plus the abundance of life makes the diving a thrilling  and unforgettable experience.  Huge schools of trevally and a variety of shark species can be spotted amongst the reef, and diving here is a budding underwater photographers dream.

As with most remote dive locations, the best way to get there is on an all inclusive diving live aboard. Australia is a destination with so much to see and do, both above and below the water. If you want to dive these amazing outer reef sites operators such as Spirit of Freedom and Mike Ball’s Spoilsport offer 4 and 5 night trips that visit the Cod hole and Ribbon Reefs. These luxury live aboards also offer longer trips that will see you spending 8 nights out on the stunning Great Barrier Reef.

If you’re on a budget, and want to do an even shorter trip than the ones offered on board Spirit of Freedom and Spoilsport, the ScubaPro vessels are 3 nights, meaning you can head out to see the reef and still have time on your trip to see what else Oz has to offer.

Been to the Cod Hole or Ribbon Reefs? We want to hear about it! Leave a comment for us below.

10 tips for unreal live aboard diving at night.

10 tips for unreal live aboard diving at night.

Night diving… After your first one you’ll either be addicted or realise you’re happier underwater during the daylight hours. Either way, one thing is for sure, and that’s diving in the dark is a very different experience to diving during the day.

When the sun sets, the underwater world changes completely. Different species are getting ready for a night of hunting and feeding, and creatures you saw during the day would be finding snug spots to sleep amongst the reef. While you would think diving without natural light means you wouldn’t get to see as much of the colours that coral reefs are so famous for, it’s far from the truth. During the day, the deeper you dive the more colour you lose. At night, you have your own tiny personal sun in your hand, lighting up the vibrant colours of the animals around you allowing you to see life as you never would during daytime diving in its full vibrant colour spectrum.

When you’re holidaying on a diving live aboard, you want to make the most out of every dive you can. One of the greatest things about night diving from a live aboard is being able to dive hard to reach and remote sites after the sun goes down. Because night diving is so different to diving during the AM hours, there are a few steps and precautions you can take to make sure you get the most out of diving in the dark.

Dive the site in the daytime

Most diving live aboards and dive operations require that you jump in for a dive during the day prior to night diving, but even if they don’t I highly recommend diving the site while the sun is still high in the sky. It will not only make you ten times more comfortable on your night dive as you will have already seen the area, but you’ll know if you have to adjust any of your gear or weight before your evening scuba session.

Keep it shallow

If you’re new to night diving, keep it shallow. Even if your not, and you have plenty of experience there’s not really a huge need to go to deeper depths, especially if you’ve been diving all day. You can only see what is illuminated in your torch beam, so depth and visibility doesn’t have as much of an impact on a dive as it does during the day. Keep it shallower, take in all the bright colours, look for the little critters that are out and about and just enjoy the feeling of tranquility that comes with diving in the dark.

Know your gear

Don’t dive with a brand new kit for the first time on a night dive. Make sure you are familiar with the gear you’re using. This is another reason diving the site during the day is so important, because you’ll know that you’re squared away gear wise for the evening. Make sure you know how to turn your torch on and off (it’s harder than you think underwater!) and that you have the correct amount of weight so your buoyancy will be in check.

Bring a spare torch

Take two torches. If you’re luck is anything like mine, one day you’ll be underwater and everything will go dark thanks to a faulty torch or low battery. Make sure you have a spare and can easily locate it if you need to. Having tank lights or glow sticks on all divers tanks during the dive makes it easy to spot the rest of your night dive crew. Tank lights are a better choice, as there’s no chance of them breaking open underwater and polluting the reef.

Listen to the dive briefing…

It might be your first night dive, or it might be your hundredth. Either way, pay attention to the dive master when you are being given your site and safety briefing. They will run through important need to know things, like signals (these are different to ones you would use during the day) and emergency protocols.

 … and don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re feeling nervous don’t be shy, let your dive master help you because that’s what they’re there for. When people let me know they are feeling a little apprehensive about diving I really appreciate it. That way I know who I want to have stick a little closer to me, and who may need a bit of extra attention. There is nothing wrong with being nervous about diving, and pre-dive jitters are a normal thing. Your dive professional is there to help you, so make the most of them and their experience.

Jumping in when the suns still up

While it might still seem pretty light above the water when you get told to gear up, it gets dark below the oceans surface quicker than you think. Gearing up while the sun is setting is the perfect time, and that way when you hop out you still have time for a cheeky cocktail before your day of live aboard diving catches up with you and you flop into bed.

Stick with your buddy

Occasionally you’ll get a night dive that feels a bit like an underwater circus, limbs flailing everywhere, divers bumping in to each other and kicking each other in the face with their fins. Stick close to your buddy and don’t stray too far from the group, but don’t be afraid to space yourself out a little bit. With bright torch beams lighting up the darkness, it’s actually quite difficult to get lost underwater and you’ll enjoy your dive far more if you’ve got room to move.

Let the sea life get its beauty sleep

I know I get pretty grumpy when I’m woken from my slumber unexpectedly. This would be multiplied tenfold if it were by a bright light to my eyes. If you see a sea turtle having a snooze, aim your torch away from its face. Sea turtles slow their heart rate right down when sleeping, so normally when woken they’ll need to go to the surface and gulp a breath of fresh air and they can become disorientated and distressed, so it’s best to try and keep an eye on where you’re shooting your torch beam. Avoiding pointing your torch in any animals’ eyes (including you’re fellow divers) is an absolute must during night dives.

Relax and enjoy the ride

At the end of the day (literally), night diving is fun! Take it slow and calm. There are no un-expected horrors lurking out there in the dark, and you’ll find if you relax your mind that night diving is one of the most incredible experiences you can have as a diver.

Love diving all day and diving all night? Or diving ’til your hearts content and ending the day with a cocktail in one of the most exotic places in the world as the sun goes down? Why not go on the ultimate dive adventure and head on a diving live aboard. Liveaboard.com offers the widest variety of incredible destinations, and the best price is guaranteed.

Have any night diving tips we haven’t included here? Let us know by leaving a comment!

The big reason behind why the hammerhead shark has its hammer.

The big reason behind why the hammerhead shark has its hammer.

Sharks are one of the most feared animals on the planet. For most people, coming face to face with a shark is what nightmares are made of. For most scuba divers it’s the exact opposite. Sharks are the top predator in the ocean, and they keep our oceans healthy and thriving. If you’ve ever dived with sharks, you’d agree that they are a thing of beauty and grace and don’t deserve their vicious reputation (way to go Jaws movies!) In fact, statistically speaking, you’re more likely to win an Oscar than get eaten by a shark.

Of the 360 or so different species of shark, one of the most fascinating and strange-looking species of shark is the hammerhead. Hammerhead sharks possess one of the most bizarre looking head shapes in the animal kingdom. As the name suggests, this shark has a head literally shaped like a hammer, and it’s believed these sharks’ heads have evolved to enhance its hunting technique. Apart from the nine species of hammerhead, all other shark species are streamlined hunters, designed like slick underwater torpedo’s. So whats the point of this species giant head?

For a while there, some scientist were adamant that hammerhead sharks would have worse sight thanks to their anatomy. Research has shown that these sharks have incredible eyesight, and the strange positioning of their eyes allows them to see both above and below them at once. They can even see behind them as they swim by moving their heads from side to side. Along with their 360 degree vision, hammerhead sharks use their long rectangular noggin’ as storage space for their highly sensorized sensory organs.  A hammerheads favourite food is stingray, and rays like to rest hidden under a pile of sand. Hammerheads don’t only have amazing vision, but can detect fields of energy in the water created by their prey, using sensory organs called ampullae of Lorenzini. Their combination of eyesight and other senses we mere humans could only dream of make them an efficient and powerful predator. In addition to these more advanced adaptations, hammerhead sharks use their rectangular heads just like, well… a hammer. Once they’ve found their prey, they pin it down using their head and wallah, dinner is served!

For some reason, their bizarre looks make hammerheads one of the more-feared shark species. In reality, they are completely harmless and are fantastic and beautiful animals to scuba dive with.

Where can I dive with hammerheads?

Hammerhead sharks thrive in temperate and tropical waters globally, and can be spotted in huge groups migrating to cooler waters. While there are plenty of places you might see hammerheads, there are a few destinations that are renowned for their regular hammerhead shark sightings.

Cocos Islands, Costa Rica

Cocos Islands is a diving mecca, and the place to head to if you want to dive with hammerhead sharks and a plethora of other big sea life. Diving the Cocos Islands is where you can see hammerhead sharks in huge numbers, and is a remote untouched dive destination 550 kilometeres off the Costa Rican Coastline. Due to it’s remoteness, the only way to visit this destination is via a diving live aboard departing from Costa Rica.

The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Honestly, I feel like the Galapagos features in every ‘best place to see…’ themed article I’ve ever written (find out why it’s so special here). Another untouched and remote area, hammerheads are commonly seen here. At the favourite Wolf and Darwin Islands they can be spotted by the hundreds. These islands are a minimum of 14 hours from the mainland, so like the Cocos, The Galapagos Islands can only be visited by a dive live aboard.

The Bahamas

Bahamas is a shark hub. Consisting of 700 different islands, there are quite a few different destinations to see hammerhead sharks, all of them boasting crystal clear, deliciously warm water. Why not jump on the yacht ‘Carib Dancer’ for an 8 day shark-filled dive extravaganza?

Rasdhoo Atoll, The Maldives

The Maldives is a picture perfect escape, and the place to go to spend some quality time underwater with hammerhead sharks. The Rasdhoo Atoll is renowned for hammerheads in large groups, however you can frequently spot these sharks throughout the Maldives. The best way to dive the Maldives is onboard a live a board, and we’ve found some of the most luxurious live aboards in the Maldives for you.

Hammerheads are one of the most bizarre, intelligent and wonderful species to call the ocean home. Seeing them is something every diver needs to have ticked off on their bucket list at some point in their lifetime.

Have any experience with hammerhead sharks you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

What live aboard diving in the Cocos Islands is really like.

What live aboard diving in the Cocos Islands is really like.

It’s phenomenal. But you knew that right?

If you’ve dived in the Cocos Islands, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, let me fill you in.

Diving in the Cocos Islands is an adrenalin filled, crazily good underwater experience. This remote area is around 550 kms off the mainland of Costa Rica, which equates to 36 hours travel time and can only be done by boat. This is a great time to relax and unwind prior to launching into your next week or so of insanely awesome diving. The pinnacles rising from the sea that make up the Cocos Islands are surrounded by nutrient packed water, which attracts the huge amount of life that this dive destination is so famous for.

Cocos Islands is THE place for pelagics. I’m a sucker for big sea life. Give me sea turtles, mantas, sharks and other pelagic species over  small stuff any day. Muck diving is great, and I definitely have time for the little things in a divers life (pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs and frog fish instantly make me happy as soon as I see them) but nothing compares to the feeling you get when you see a large dark shape looming out of the blue and realise there is a 4 metre wide manta ray headed your way. For any lovers of big animals, Cocos Islands needs to be on your bucket list, and it should be right at the top.  Cocos Islands is where you can see schooling hammerheads, and sometimes these schools are so huge that all of a sudden it’s like someone switched the lights out as the sun gets blocked by the sheer number of sharks swimming overhead.

Cocos Islands is a protected marine park, and the island and surrounding waters are relatively untouched by human life, making it a diving haven. Cocos Islands offers a variety of different kinds of dives, and all levels of experience are catered for. From drift dives along steep walls teeming with life to blue water dives there is something for every diver. You can take things to the next thrill level by night diving in the Cocos. Imagine being surrounded by darkness, the only thing illuminating the water around you is the columns of light given off by your torches. Then you see multiple pairs of little green eyes coming out of the darkness as sharks surround you, feeding in the moonlight.

There are over 20 sites to visit in the Cocos Islands, and the fantastic thing is they are relatively close together, maximising your dive time and minimising your travel to each site. A firm favourite and a site that features on most live aboard itineraries is Bajo Alcyone. Here you’re likely to see hundreds of hammerheads and other pelagics as the swim along the submerged formations of the island.

The other great thing about Cocos Islands is there is no ‘season’. Diving is great year round. The rainy season (June to December) brings with it even more nutrients to the water, and in turn this attracts even more life to this diverse ecosystem. Dry season is when waters are calmer, and this is from December to May. It’s really up to you when you decide to visit this part of the world for a diving packed adventure!

Who to dive with?

Due to the remote nature of the Cocos Islands, the only way you can dive this location is on an overnight live aboard. These usually run for about ten days, and will take you to the best of the best sites this pristine area has on offer. Liveaboard.com offers the best price for Cocos Islands live aboards, and there is a trip to suit every budget.