One of the skills required of an Underwater Videographer is the mastery of task loading and skills management. Whilst the range of considerations and specific tasks you will have to perform are vary dependent on the type diving and camera equipment you use the fundamental principles of practice prior to putting the camera into position and shooting can be distilled to 5 key stages in the preparation;
1, THINK about what your shooting and what path you will take whilst recording, perform your safety checks, visualise your composition.
2, POSITION, always think about where the light source is coming from, ensure that you are in a stable and neutrally buoyant position well clear of the marine environment.
3, remember to control and use your BREATH to assist you in taking the shot, for example if you’re taking a panning shot breathe out as your body moves through the movement in order to get a smooth shot.
4,COMPOSITION is very important, visualise the framing of your shot, ensure the elements will work in harmony with your intentions and anticipate, after all we are dealing with wildlife if their natural environment.
5, FINALLY bring your rig up ready to take your shot.
As I prefaced before this list is not the final word but it’s a useful list, run through all of these points in your head before then taking the shot and life as an underwater videographer will become a lot easier.
Of course there are many other things to keep in mind while taking a shot. When shooting underwater and most important is respecting and protecting the natural inhabitants and environment. One of the roles of a videographer is as an underwater ambassador; it is important to show the these natural environments on camera, this helps the viewer feel a part of what they are watching, and brings them understanding of things that they may never have experienced. For example shots of feeding, cleaning stations, mating, mimicking, fish fighting are always great behaviors to shoot to show the underwater world in it’s true glory.
But remember just because one way worked for someone else it may not be how you want to present your images and you may take an entirely different view point. You should always try and nurture your own creative approach to film. One way to develop your own style is to consider your use of different camera angles and shot types. You have on offer a entire language where each word depends on the words around for its meaning, so you can evoke different feelings and reactions by its use. Using the basic grammar of this language the shot, the close medium and wide you can experiment with your use of this language. Cousteau didn’t become the worlds pre-eminent underwater explorer by following the rule book, rules are made to be broken, sometimes you will get it completely wrong but when you get it right, it will stand out from the rest.
In summary before taking a shot think about what you need to do, how you want to tell the story and what emotion you are trying to create. Returning to the basics regularly makes you readdress how you look at scenes, shots, post and your creativity as a filmmaker, it continually helps me to consider the way I film and how to look at things anew.