Underwater photography is considered a gear-intensive endeavor. Few will argue that it takes some time and effort to learn how to use everything from cameras and strobes to computer software. However, just because you own a piece of equipment doesn’t mean you have to use it all the time. We want our equipment to give us options, not orders.
The question of whether to use a strobe(s) provides a good example. With all the emphasis on the value of using strobes in underwater photography, I think that too often we fail to consider the possibility of creating images illuminated solely by Mother Nature’s strobe — the sun.
Both of the photos you see here were created on the same dive using natural light — aka available light, or sunlight. One image is a silhouette; the other reveals colors and detail in a blacktip reef shark and the pleasing patterns of dappled light on the shark’s body.
The conditions were perfect for available-light shooting — a bright sunny day, calm seas and very clear water. Rather than get into the techniques involved in creating these images, the point I want to emphasize is this: Before you go charging off with your strobes ablazing, take a few minutes to consider your surroundings. There are times when sunlight might be all you need when composing compelling images.