Charles Davis

The Selfie Invasion Underwater

The selfie, a self portraiture often taken with a digital camera or a camera of a smart phone, has taken over social media. They have become so common that, when a parody online newspaper did an article that said American Psychological Association has announced that taking too many selfies was a mental illness, millions believed it and mentioned friends suffering from it. In the truth is stranger than fiction category, some studies launched after the hoax article did find that people with certain mental disorders did take more selfies. A Thai Health ministry study showed excessive selfies can lead to depression if not enough people “like” it on social media.

Whether you are a fan of selfies or believe in the mental health issues, the fact is they are everywhere online. You can pick up a digital camera very inexpensively to take basic snapshots, and you seldom see a cellular phone that does not include some style of camera, most have two. If days of film you had a limited number of shots and each one cost you in film cost, processing and printing. Today, it cost the same to take one photograph or a thousand. Most of the time you can see the result as you take the photograph. If you do not like it, shoot another. At the end of the day, just delete the ones you not like and save the rest to your computer or online storage.  The introduction of mono-pods, often called selfie sticks, has even helped the growth.

These selfie sticks are starting to show up more frequently on dives coupled with low cost digital cameras. The Go Pro is the brand that sets the standards for a new breed of sports cam. The concept is very simple, the cameras are small and lightweight. Generally they produce HD videos shot at an ultra wide angle. They have rugged housing to protected them from damage and are generally waterproof to recreational diving depths. While some models have viewfinders, not all models do. The user turns them on and lets them record. Different types of mounts are available for the cameras: attached then to the handle bars of a mountain bike, a helmet while shooting rapids in a kayak, a chest strap while hang gliding, there is even a harness for your dog to carry it while you walk. For scuba divers, a selfie stick seems one of the more popular ways of using these sports cams.

These sports cams attract many extreme sport enthusiastic and scuba divers seem to be taking to them in growing numbers. Less than a decade ago, if divers wanted to shot a video underwater they needed thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The simplest versions of the sport cams allow a diver to turn on the camera and record two hours of diving on a camera that is a tenth of the cost. The frame quality of this cheaper camera is even better than the older expensive cameras. The resulting video will of course depend on many elements, such as the photographers skills, lighting and visibility. However, post production processing will also allow the sport cam user greater flexibility to improve the images.

Maybe I am not just that observant or it may be my area is slow to catch on, but, this combination is relatively new. While the sports cams have been around for a few years, the first underwater selfie image that I saw using a selfie stick was of one of the contestants of the Miss Scuba International pageant last November. Since then, I have seen a rapid increase in the number of divers using the sports cams and using them with selfie sticks. On recent dives, I have noticed that most of the younger divers are using them. While the camera is sometimes pointed towards the diver, most of the time it is pointed ahead.  I, myself, have recently purchased a sports cam and am using it with a selfie stick. One of the advantages I found was that I could get the camera closer to the fish compared to hand holding the camera. Using the selfie stick and extending my arm, I can slowly position the camera only a few inches from a small coral head that is home to a number of juvenile fish. The fish did not seem to notice. I did this recently and was able to get a nice clip of the fish tucking in and out. Another advantage is that it is easier to record with the camera ahead of me and away from my body.

This set up will work best in clear shallow water that does not need extra light, still I did an acceptable video at 95 feet in poor visibility.  Depending on the make and model of the sports camera you purchase, you may be able to add filters which are a great help to improve your images. Some processing after the dive and some editing allows you to create an exciting video log of your dives. Reading some books on underwater photography is a must if you want to move beyond the snapshot style photographs. It is not difficult to learn, just some points to understand so that you can make the adjustments needed. For the diver, who wants to show their friends and family what they see underwater, this is a good way to get started.

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