A compact camera set up with video lighting.

Dynamic compact

Certain underwater scenes lend themselves better to moving pictures than still images, says Mark Koekemoer

hspace=5 LOOKING BACK OVER THIS SERIES of articles, which began in March 2010, it’s clear that the compact camera has become an invaluable tool for underwater photographers, beginner or otherwise. With manual over-rides and accessories, it is perfectly capable of achieving good results in the realm of stills photographs.
However, the feature that often gets overlooked is the ability to capture a motion picture. Found on most compact cameras, usually indicated by the Cinecam symbol, the Video mode tends to be forgotten during all the excitement of shooting still images.
In this, the penultimate article, I want to explore the art of shooting video with your compact. But there are a few technical aspects to be grasped before venturing into the blue, or emerald, world.

Different countries have adopted various methods of encoding and retrieving data for viewing. Consider from the outset where you will be most likely to view your footage through a TV set.
For example, North America and some parts of South America use the NTSC encoding system, while the UK and most of Europe, along with Australasia, India, China and parts of South America, make use of the PAL system. Make sure your camera settings are set accordingly.

This is the frequency at which the camera produces unique consecutive images called frames. Frame rate is expressed in frames per second (fps). There are currently three main rates found in cameras, 24, 25 and 30fps. The higher the frame rate, the more seamless the video will look.

Recorded as pixels; the higher the resolution, the higher the image quality. Standard definition (SD) traditionally consists of 640 x 480 pixels.
More popular today is High Definition (HD), consisting of 1280 x 720 pixels. Quite a few compacts on the market now feature HD-quality video. You may also have seen reference to Full HD, which is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

As with stills photography, videography is very equipment-dependent, so we need to look at the accessories you may require.
Interested in small critters Last month’s article Little Wonders explained in detail close-up lenses. Attaching and shooting remains the same in principle with video.
If your camera housing does not support lens attachments, you can try using the Macro mode to focus closer. Some camera models allow access to Macro while in Video mode, and others don’t.
In July’s issue I emphasised the use of fish-eye lenses, but this is not such a big deal for video. The distortion at the edges caused by fish-eyes makes divers or marine life swimming into or out of frame warp considerably, rendering it unnatural in appearance. For video a wide-angle lens with around 100-130° field of view may be more aesthetically pleasing.

The zoom function is seldom used in the final production of a video, as it usually appears contrived. For colour and quality retention, zoom with your fins. This gets you close to your subject, reducing the total light path.

When filming with natural light, you need to be aware of the direction from which it is coming. For maximum light transmission, shoot with the sun behind you, and for silhouettes face into the sun.
For colour reproduction, it is helpful to know whether your camera has access to the Underwater mode, or manual white balance while in Video mode. Some cameras will allow you to colour-correct, but not all. If not, it may be worth investing in colour-correction filters.

Sunlight is good only for certain shots taken in shallow water on a sunny day. Dive deeper, or on a cloudy day, and you may need to take advantage of another light source.
Unlike stills photography, you do not need a flash for shooting video. The motion capture is constant, so your light source needs to be constant. Achieving this comes in the form of specialised lights that are daylight-balanced and specifically designed for restoring colour in video.
When choosing a video light, take into consideration the lumens, burntime, angle of coverage and type of batteries required.

You will be free to employ your creative talents to the full if you know your camera
and can operate it in its housing by feel, and without hesitation.
Keep the camera steady to ensure that the end result on the TV is easy on the eye. Your buoyancy skills should be perfect.
When following a moving subject, fin smoothly and follow its general direction, but don’t echo its every twist and turn. Allow the subject to swim out and back into frame if need be, to keep the sequence smooth.
When panning the camera, decide in advance in which direction the shot should start. Twist your body to the starting position and begin your pan. By slowly untwisting as you pan, you ensure a much smoother result.
Always begin recording about 10 seconds prior to the action and stop roughly 10 seconds afterwards to allow for any lag on the camera, and for editing purposes.
Good video stories not only have a beginning, middle and an end, but rhythm, drama and humour. The aim of a successful movie should be to entertain, so imagination, creativity and the ability to see the unusual is vital.

Next month - (February issue): Micro Four Thirds, the next generation.

Our online PhotoCall competition gives you the chance to upload your best work to, and to win not only wider exposure and monthly prizes but, ultimately, a wonderful fortnight in the Philippines.
Each month at we offer you a theme, and invite you to upload up to three images. Mark Koekemoer selects the winning image, reproduced both online and in DIVER.

hspace=4 Placed top in Decembers Photocall Competition to suit the theme Close-Up/Macro was Oktay Calisirs nudibranch portrait shot in Saroz Bay, Turkey, using a Canon IXUS 980IS, with D2000 flashguns and INON UCL 165Ad macro lens. Oktays photo wins him a £300 INON UK voucher redeemable against lenses, flashguns or accessories.
A year on, the work of all 12 winners will be judged to find the winner of the Grand Prize - a £2800 two-centre, two-week trip to the Philippines, including all flights, full-board accommodation and unlimited diving!
This amazing prize is offered by Atlantis Dive Resorts, which has centres in two prime Philippines diving locations, Puerto Galera and Dumaguete, and runs the Atlantis Foto Festival (
The winner will join Mark Koekemoer on an INON UK group trip to the festival in summer 2011, and Diver will reproduce the results of his or her diving experiences.

 The theme for January 2011 entries is -

Help on uploading your photos - PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

  1. You need to be registered on the Divernet Forums. If you are not registered and logged-in then you will be asked to do so when you click on ENTER above. Complete the registration form selecting your username and password. There may be a delay before your registration is confirmed while our filter checks that your registration request comes from a real person! As soon as you receive your confirmation you can proceed with the upload of your photos by going to the upload page. If you are already registered with the Divernet Forums you can go directly to the upload page.
  2. Select your photo file from your own computer using the Browse button. Make sure it does not exceed 600pixels in width or height.
  3. Give your image a title and CHANGE THE FILE NAME so that we can connect it to your entry details.
  4. Add a description - location, subject, your NAME if you want to take full credit for the photo, etc.
  5. Select the category you are entering - this will need to be the correct category for the monthly competition, such as March 2010 PhotoCall Competition - Peak of the Action for the March competition.
  6. Add some keywords which would help people find your photo (e.g. include your name, the location, etc.)
  7. Add your registered username so that we can identify you if your photo is selected as a winner.
  8. Hit the Submit button. You may submit up to 3 photos in each monthly competition.

Please study these terms & conditions:
  • Submitted images must be taken on a digital compact camera
  • Only images that have not previously won a place in a photo competition are eligible for the competition.
  • Images uploaded must have a maximum width or height of 600 pixels.
  • Entrants must have their own hi-res version of the image available in case of short-listing.
  • Entrants retain the copyright on their images, but by entering the PhotoCall competition automatically grant permission for Diver and Divernet to publish winning photographs.
  • The grand prize-winner must be available to travel at the times stipulated during the Atlantis Foto Festival, between June and 20 August 2011.
  • If the winner wishes to bring a companion and share a room, normal double-occupancy rates will apply to that second person.
  • The winner agrees to provide any images taken during the festival for subsequent publication in Diver and on Divernet and the Atlantis and INON UK websites.
  • The prize is strictly non-transferrable.
  • This competition is not open to staff, family or commercial associates of Diver Group, Atlantis Dive Resorts, Inon UK or associated companies.
  • In all judgments, the judges’ decision is final.