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Five tips for getting the perfect over-under photo

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The over-under or split shot, where in a single image the photographer has managed to photograph something underwater while also capturing what’s happening above the water, is a real crowd pleaser. These types of photos look incredibly difficult to do, but actually they are quite simple if you follow a few simple steps.

5. Large Dome Port

In order to capture what’s going on above and below the water we not only need a wide angle lens, but also a larger dome port to provide maximum surface area were we can really split that water line. If you are using a smaller compact camera where the lens surface areas is about an inch in diameter the chances of capturing a split shot are not very good. However, if are using a camera housing that allows for a larger dome port than you just need to follow the next steps.

4. Shallow Subject

The best results will be when you have a subject in shallow shallow water, anywhere from a few inches in depth to a couple feet. Anything deeper than four feet or so makes it difficult to capture the subject in nice natural light to bring out the colors, but also make it difficult to include both the topside and underwater subject in the same frame.

3. Natural Light

Light is key for this type of photo as we rapidly run short of light underwater, even in just a few feet. If we want to have balanced light throughout the photo where the topside and underwater subject share a similar exposure, we need a nice sunny day and also to remember to keep the sun behind us. If we start facing into the sun or shooting too early in the day or too late in the afternoon where the light is fading our exposure through the frame won’t match leaving us with a blown out landscape or a very dark underwater subject. Bright light in shallow water is best.

2. Water Line

Aside from what you choose to include in the photos, getting the water line just right is one of the pieces of the image which will either make or break it. As the underwater subject will general be the stronger of the two subjects I try to favor it by giving it a bit more space in the frame. If you look at most over under shots you’ll see that roughly two-thirds of the frame are underwater, with the remaining third above water. Something else to consider with the water line is weather you want it to be a smooth water line or a bit wavy, a lot of this will depend on the surface conditions of course, but you can experiment a bit with this for some varied results of the same subjects. Also, something really important to note is that the longer you leave the lens/port out of the water, the more water droplets will form. For best results, have your camera submerged until you’re ready to take the shot (have the composition already planned in your head) and then quickly but smoothly bring it out of the water until you have the composition you intended, and click the shutter. This whole process should take not much longer than a couple seconds. The final thing I’d like to add is that a healthy amount of spit spread over the lens and then rinsed off will keep water droplets from building up on your drying port.

1. Subject Selection

Subject selection is paramount here as we are now selecting two subjects which can be combined in a similar image. Many times I’ll find a fantastic shallow reefscape that would be ideal for including in a split shot, but then there’s nothing to include in the above portion. While I think it’s usually best to have both an interesting above water and underwater subject, there is a way to still get an interesting split shot with no above ground subject. If there is just nothing to include above the water, you can try to make an interesting water line by rocking the camera forward and back while still keeping it half submerged as I press the shutter. This way you’ll have a bit of blue sky and clouds, some turbulent water washing across the lens, and then a brilliant reefscape below.


Find out more at www.snorkelventure.com.

Snorkel Venture is a UK based company specializing in guide led group snorkeling safaris to the world's best destinations. Snorkel Venture's team of professional snorkel guides have years of experience snorkeling all over the world and with their extensive knowledge will make the trip run smoothly leaving you free to enjoy the scenery. Several of the guides are professional underwater photographers and videographers and keen to help you get the most out of your underwater cameras. Find out more at www.snorkelventure.com.

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Ten Sensational Spots to Snorkel or Learn to Dive!

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A guest blog by PADI

Snorkeling has long been a beloved way to explore the underwater world. With vibrant coral gardens, large schools of fish and a vast underwater topography to explore, snorkel excursions are a great way to experience both your own backyard and create memorable holiday memories to last a lifetime.

But often these sensational snorkel spots are an equally a great place to make your first ocean dives. Whether you participate in a PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience or take the PADI Open Water Diver course to become a certified diver, you’ll be guided by a trained PADI® Professional who will be looking out for you the entire time as you take your first breaths under the ocean. This experience allows you to have an intimate connection with the location you are exploring as, oftentimes, you will have the opportunity to see even more marine life than you would from the surface of the water.

To help you plan your next ocean adventure— whether it be down the road or on your next overseas adventure (whenever that may be!) —we have rounded up ten sensational spots where you can both snorkel and learn to scuba dive!

  1. Kohala Coast, Kaanapali, Maui, USA

Not only does Hawaii come with beautiful scenery above water, but the island chain equally boasts some of the most incredible underwater landscapes in America. One of the best places to experience this is along the Kohala Coast in Kaanapali, Maui—whose calm and clear waters make it a favorite spot amongst snorkelers. But it makes for an equally exceptional scuba experience, where you will get to do either do a boat or shore dive and get amongst the turtles, tropical fish and dramatic underwater landscapes.  

Photo Credit: PADI

  1. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

Be delighted by one of Australia’s most beloved underwater gems—the Great Barrier Reef. Featuring a rainbow of colorful coral gardens and hundreds of tropical fish species, there is plenty to explore here. It is an ideal spot for groups that want varied experiences as tour operators can cater for those that want to snorkel, those that want to learn to dive and those that are already PADI certified. And when you’re not in the water you will get an enriching reef talk where the experts, who will take you though ways in which you can play a part in conserving the reef system.

  1. Sharks Bay, Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt

For those that don’t want to spend the whole day out on a boat but still want to have a memorable experience on the Red Sea, Sharks Bay in Sharm-El-Sheikh is a great option. With stunning house reefs and wrecks in a marine protected area, the colorful underwater experience is beloved by both those that snorkel or do a discover scuba through the area. The boat ride to the house reef is a short one and the memories will certainly last you a lifetime.

Photo Credit: PADI

  1. Poor Knights Island, Northland, New Zealand

Have the perfect day out at one of New Zealand’s first marine reserves. Dubbed by Jacques Cousteau as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, Poor Knights Island offers something for everyone. You can easily spend hours swimming through the dense kelp forests and archways full of fish! And in between snorkels you can sign yourself up for a PADI Discover Scuba® Diving experience, where the chances are high you will encounter nudibranchs, long-tailed stingrays, devil rays, sea turtles and even an occasional orca!

  1. Stingray City, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

With unique marine life and spectacular underwater topography, Stingray City in Grand Cayman is a stunning spot to explore the ocean. It is famous for the large of stingrays that come through in search of a meal and offers water enthusiasts a special encounter with them. Those lucky enough may even get a kiss on the lips from these friendly sea creatures. Whether you are snorkeling or doing a discover scuba experience here, make sure you also have your camera in hand, as this spot is extremely photogenic and you’ll want a keepsake of you and your new underwater friends.

Photo Credit: PADI

  1. Great Astrolabe Reef, Kadavu, Fiji

One of the most intimate places to snorkel and also have your first diving experience is in the Great Astrolabe Reef. A few seconds underwater and you will quickly discover why Fiji is regarded as the soft coral capital of the world. It is a great spot to have your “Finding Nemo” moment and chances are high that you will also see manta rays and resident white tip reef sharks while you’re in the crystal-clear warm waters. With only small groups exploring the reef at a time, it is the perfect spot to have a special moment amidst the pristine nature.

  1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, Florida, USA

With this state fully re-open for business (at the time of writing), ditch the crowded amusement parks and beaches for Florida’s underwater park at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which was the first of its kind in America! What makes this an equally great place to snorkel and learn to dive are the shallow waters that have an immense landscape for you to explore. You’ll see abundant sea life with over 650 types of fish, 40 types of living coral the famed 12-foot submerged statue of Jesus.

  1. The Blue Hole, Gozo, Malta

Whether you are snorkeling or diving for the first time in Malta, taking a giant stride into their blue hole is a must-do bucket list item. It’s no surprise this is a favorite spot amongst ocean lovers, as Jacques Cousteau rated this spot one of the best in all of Europe. Be amazed as you watch the natural light rays bounce off the beautiful reef—illuminating the unique topography of the area. For those that try a dive here, it will certainly set standards high for future dives to come!

Photo Credit: Manuel Bustelo

  1. Robberg Nature Reserve, Plettenburg Bay, South Africa

What’s cooler than snorkeling with seals? Diving with them! Plettenburg Bay in the Western Cape is home to some of the friendliest seals who are keen to play all day long. Sign up to snorkel with them for the day during an ocean excursion or do a discover scuba experience— where you learn to dive in the pool first and then head to the ocean to find your furry friends! Either way, it is only a short boat ride out to find the seals, meaning you’ll have plenty of time to play with them in their natural habitat.

  1. Crag-y-Mor, Wales, United Kingdom

Explore the cooler (literally) places in Wales by going on an underwater snorkeling or diving adventure! There are both half-day snorkeling and diving trips that give you a new perspective of the coastline—where both seals and historical ruins are in abundance. While there are magical marine life encounters in these waters all year long, summer offers a chance to see the water sparkle from both moon and blue jellyfish. And if you’re lucky enough, you’ll swim passed walls that are covered in red sea squirts!

Photo Credit: PADI

Ready to dive in? Visit padi.com or contact a PADI Dive Center or Resort to start planning your snorkel or scuba trip!

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Photo Gallery: Snorkeling in Abaco in The Bahamas

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Abaco in The Bahamas, has a lot to offer both keen snorkelers and divers, with beautiful coral reefs, historic wrecks, stunning caves as well as plenty of marine life (including their own swimming pigs). All this in clear, blue, warm, water surrounding a tropical Caribbean paradise.

Just after our visit Abaco was hit by a powerful hurricane that caused devastation. As the islanders were recovering from this the COVID19 pandemic caused travel chaos, but now, after an incredibly challenging time, Abaco is getting back on its feet and it is will worth visiting.

We spent a day out snorkeling with Brendal’s Dive Centre, based on Green Turtle Cay, and got to enjoy encounters with swimming pigs, as well as Nurse Sharks, sea turtles and rays swimming over a healthy sea grass habitat.

For more information about snorkeling in The Bahamas, visit the tourism website by clicking here.

Accommodation: Bluff House

Snorkeling: Brendal’s Dive Centre

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