Flyfishing Underwater Photography

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This topic contains 75 replies, has 23 voices, and was last updated by Stu Hastie Stu Hastie Nov 3, 2014 at 4:12 am.

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    Steve K.
    Steve K.

    Don’t want to hijack the thread so here goes:

    We’ve dabbled in this before on the message board…so I wanted to get a dedicated thread going. Hopefully it will help me out (and others). I’d like to tailor it toward our needs (fishermen/women) as opposed to scuba folks. I’m primarily interested in “over and under” shots as well as shallow water stuff. Hopefully Matt Jones will weigh in as well as others that have knowledge of this subject.

    As you all know….UW photographer brings on a whole different set of obstacles. For our needs, I’m thinking we don’t need strobes as much as someone diving 100 feet to a wreck. Of course bright sunlight and clear water helps out.

    I’m currently inspired by the photography of Tim Pask:

    …and Yngve Ask

    Housings, cameras, strobes, technique, settings (shutter, aperture, ISO), filters (Magic Filter), websites (

    So many questions. Anyone else on here shoot flyfishing UW shots?

    John Bennett
    John Bennett

    I’ve done fair amount of research and as always, it comes back to buying what suits your *needs* and getting the most bang for your buck.

    One day I may (although this is only a slight possiblity) go the DSLR route.  Obviosly cost is part of the equation, so to is how often will you be doing UW stuff. For me at best it’s going to represent a very small percentage..Probably less than 5% or 10%.  That makes it tough to “justify” the expense.

    Conditions. The waters I fish simply arent clear enough. I suppose if more streams and lakes were clear than it might become more of my work, which then makes the cost less an issue but the fact is even the streams I fish aren’t particularily clear.

    Depending on the stypes of shots your thinking about they are more an issue. Regardless it’s probably a good idea to plan on getting one. What should change then is where it stands in your priorities. High or low

    WA ports.
    See Strobes. Worth getting one, just adjust where it stands in the acquisition priority.

    Size and Bulk.
    UW housings are huge and for me the number reason why I will (in all likely hood never go the DSLR route).

    I just packed my bag for what I want to have with me for the next 3 or 4 weeks Steelheading.
    1DMKIIn paired with the 24-70 f2.8
    1DMKIV paired with the 85 f1.2
    180 f3.5 macro
    Tubes for use with the 180 and 85
    spare battery for each body
    40gig in cards
    Flash/Flash Bracket/spare batteries

    You dont want to know how much it weighs and thats a “light” load missing by tripod and some other glass. Not shown is the camera I took the shot with. A Canon S90, and it’s UW housing.

    I was going to go for the G11 until I realsied its size and bulk when housed in an Ikelite housing. So the S90 which is about half the size, has a brighter lens, less shutter lag ( its remarkably good for a PnS) was more to my needs..In time I expect to outfit entirely with FIX housing, WA port and strobe.

    Heres another good site and actually a good write up.

    DSLRs are great, but often over kill in many respects.
    Last year I wanted to get a taste, try to figure out how I was going to approach bringing some UW stuff into what I shoot so I jsut bought a Fuji F200 and its propeitary housing.
    Sold 3 images taken from it including this half/half published as a double truck

    Start with
    where do you shoot most often and what are water condtions like?
    Clear vs Murkey
    Green water prone to algae blooms etc?
    How big a unit do you want to lug around?
    How often will you be using whatever it is you get?
    Can you use what you get one handed?

    Steve K.
    Steve K.

    Thanks for the comments John.

    I’d love to see some more of your UW shots with the Fuji.

    Does anyone have a P&S with UW housing and if so… does it perform? I’d love to get rid of the bulk associated with a DSLR w/housing. I know Canon makes some sub-$500 housings for it’s P&S.

    John Bennett
    John Bennett

    The Fuji F200 ( and Fujis housing) is actually a very nice compact and it takes great shots.As mentioned I picked it up to dip my toes into UW without the expense of what I expected i’d want. Really what i was looking for was to get a sense of how often id use UW and what are the conditions. It made it easy for me to determine that a adv PnS was all I needed. I probably would have used it again this year had my daughter not lost it…/sigh. Cant complain the S90 is really nice.

    Two things I didnt care is its lack of RAW. One reason I was pretty sold on the G11 (until discovering the S90). The other thing I didnt care for was its shutter lag…its not bad, but its noticeable…The G11 is pretty good in that respect, the S90 is surprisingly fast. One of the largest detractions for PnSs vs DSLRs

    Few Fuji f200 samples I have online other than the above half/half
    This from one of the clearer streams I fish

    Typical lake in algae bloom

    Note the light fall off. Yes, its in the middle of an algae bloom which makes is worse but aside from that you can see where a Strobe would have been so much better than the on camera flash.

    If I fished the salt or an region where the waters were clearer I might give more thought to a dslr but its really over kill and they are beast. As mentioned Ikelites housing for the G11 is basicall a 6x6x6 box.
    Add a tray and a strobe………….

    Steve K.
    Steve K.

    Regarding the half and half shots….the strobe won’t do you any good on the underwater portion of the photograph….am I on the right track?

    I’m reading that UW photos (shallow water and over and unders) are best taken at mid-day in gin clear water….typically at a time when the lighting is harsh for above surface photography.

    I’m also thinking for our use (flyfishing)….the camera must have an extremely wide angle lens which calls for a domed port…..which means a huge housing if using a DSLR…..and huge cost.

    John Bennett
    John Bennett

    Yeah your going to want a WA dome and a strobe. For the U/Os you may want/need fill is side or backlit. So aside from provingding better lighting et all, its much like using a flash bracket in so much as it gets the head off the body and reduces backscatter.

    The time of day could ( I say could as Im only guessing) be related to the suns position relative to the horizon so less about the light being harsh and more about the sun being higher in the sky.

    And yes its very expensive, hence why for me its a low priority with less than ideal waters, and the fact its goign to compete with my main image taking pursuits.


    Have you have seen any of Graham Owens underwater shots? They are really cool. After a conversation with him, I went down the Ewa-Marine path. Overall it isn’t to bad. It is a bit of a pain in the ass, but its pretty cost effective. I think some of  the cool factor that you see in the “over and under” shots your referring to can be attributed to the dome. I am guessing it would be *much* easier to get solid shots with a better housing.

    Here are a coupe of the UW shots I got with the Ewa-Marine bag.

    John Bennett
    John Bennett

    Very nice Corey.


    Does anyone have a P&S with UW housing and if so… does it perform? I’d love to get rid of the bulk associated with a DSLR w/housing….

    I agree with you on size/bulk of pro dslr housings. We used them extensively when I assisted for Chris Noble on outdoor shoots, mostly internationally. Although they were fantastic for all the obvious reasons, they were also huge and delicate requiring they’re own Pelican cases etc. (on top of the other six cases we traveled with). I can’t imagine the idea of hiking up a river or drainage with one (read inverse pressure issues, plus falling down).  I live a little too far from the ocean to justify such a novelty item what with all the smaller options available.  

    Here are some taken with my LX3 and a Dikapak(?) housing.

    Steve K.
    Steve K.

    You guys have the “bag” housings (for the lack of a better term) down. Corey…I’m digging #1 and Doug….that permit shot is outstanding. I’m headed to the Keys next week and hope to have something to critique soon.

    Is the in-camera flash firing on the Ewa and Digipak bags?

    Those oversized housings are not very conducive to an itinerant angler 😉

    Thanks for the input.


    question for you guys,
    how much post processing do you have to do to improve the contrast and color?

    that seems to be the issue that i run into

    Steve K.
    Steve K.

    Adam….I’m no expert but my take is… geet mor3e color, you need more light.

    Check out the latest .

    Tim Pask talks a little about his technique. Basically….bright sunlight and crystal clear water.

    Matt Jones
    Matt Jones


    Split shots are without a doubt my favorite thing to shoot now. I can’t get enough of them. Here are things that you will want to consider:

    1. The clearer the water the better.  I had days in Alaska when the river was blown out, it wasn’t even worth taking the housing out. The water may look clear from above with your glasses on, but when you stick the camera under, it will pick up every spec of sand, dirt, leaves, ect. Which brings me to the next tip..

    2.  ALWAYS be thinking about your position relative to the current/tide. You want to be sure to keep the subject out of the debri kicked up by your feet or the fish.  

    3. For split shots, high sunlight is best. You can achieve even exposures much easier this time of day.

    4. I am always shooting in aperture priority usually within range of f8-f14. If you want the subject(s) on the top side of the split shot to be out of focus, open the aperture up. The salmon shot I have on midcurrent was shot at f5.6. ISO range is typically in the 200-500 range, of which I am constantly adjusting.

    5. Always try to find someway to brace the housing against something to prevent shake. I use my knees, objects on the bottom, stick the housing in between my legs, ect.

    6. You don’t need strobes unless you plan to dive or shoot at night.

    As for equipment, the bigger the dome, the better.  I have an 8″ dome for an Ikelite housing that works great.  It’s acrylic, but it’s better than paying $5000 for a housing. Glass domes are better for the reason that they don’t scratch as easily and the water beads off of it better. Again, I have an acrylic dome, but if the water is beaded up, I just do a quick dunk and its gone.

    I could continue blabbering on, but I am running out of time. I hope this helps. If you have any detailed questions please post them!

    I just returned from Los Roques, and I will be posting a few pictures soon!


    Billy Harris

    I scuba dive and I fly fish.

    Steve K.
    Steve K.


    I fish with a guide in King Salmon, AK named Mark Emery. He is pretty well established as an underwater videographer….specializing in salmon in AK. He lives and guides in Ocala, FL in the winter and KS in the summer. If you book him for a trip….you can also spend the day picking his brain about UW videography/photography. Here’s his website:

    Matt….Thanks for your insight. As soon as I take the cover off the swimming pool, I begin playing with the housing in earnest.

    Here’s one of my first feeble attempts and I quickly see what you mean about light and water clarity:


    Daryl Human

    Great thread this.

    I took these with my Sony DSC – W80 and under water housing:

    Ok, this one I played with a bit & perhaps the colors are a bit on the “rich” side:

    So what do you guys think?


    Daryl : Cool stuff the first two look pretty sharp!

    Curious … I *think* you can get a housing that uses a dome for the coolpix. However, after all is said and done (camera, uw housing, dome) your still looking @ about 1k, or a bit less. Does anyone else know of any point-and-shoot housings that accept a dome and/or a fisheye? At close to 1k, it seems like it would just be logical to take the step up to a dslr housing. Thoughts?

    Steve K.
    Steve K.


    I’ve thought this housing thing through and through and I’ve decided to get a quality P&S with a good housing. Right now I’m thinking Canon S90 with a Fisheye Fix housing. I believe it will accept a dome.

    Doug Barnes touched on my line of thought in his post….a DSLR housing is large and cumbersome… much so….that I would not use it as much because of that fact. I do a lot of backpacking and fishing and a DSLR housing is just not practical.

    I bought a used Fantasea housing fro my D70s and it is just too big. By the way…the build quality of that housing is terrible….lots of tiny plastic parts that break!

    Here’s the Fisheye Fix….msrp $799

    Steve K.
    Steve K.

    Comprehensive article regarding “split” or “over and Under” shots:


    graham owen

    Wow, the quality of underwater shots posted here is incredible, and all of the helpful tips are invaluable!

    Thanks Corey for the kind remarks!  I’m a big fan of your work.

    I’ve been practicing my underwater photography, with a EWA-Marine bag, the largest one they make, which allows me to insert any sized SLR, with room for a flash on top.   Instead of mounting a flash I mount a PocketWizard radio transmitter, with a motor drive cable, and keep a second transmitter in my vest pocket (in a ziplock bag).  This allows me several options, including submerging and leaving my camera underwater, either near my feet, to allow for leading fish back and forth in front of the lens, while firing away, or, leaving a camera mid-stream while I stand on a bridge or shore waiting for fish to swim past.

    On stream, I typically shoot a D300 above water, in aperture priority mode, while my D200 goes underwater, with every setting on fully automatic, including ISO.  Initially I hoped my 17-55 f/2.8 lens would be my underwater workhorse, for various reasons, but it really didn’t work out as well as desired.  The slightest pressure on the front of the lens, including swift current, pushed the lens in, and my preset for 20mm would go tight, to 55mm, leaving me with bits and pieces of fish.  So, I bought a dedicated lens for this type of photography, a Sigma 10-20 f/4.  When the front of the lens is pushed in, it does the opposite of a Nikon, it goes wider as opposed to tighter.  I like to leave it set at 15mm to diminish wide-angle lens distortion.

    I think the biggest advantage of EW-Marine bags is the relatively low cost when compared to dedicated customized housings, including the ability to insert a variety of cameras and lenses without having to purchase individual ports and domes, as well as being able to insert a radio transmitter.  The biggest negative is having a 77mm flat glass port, which really is not conducive to over-under shots.  Perhaps someday, I will dunk my head and peer through the viewfinder to achieve nice over-under shots, because my spraying and praying has not worked out all that well.   That said, I often like to fish alone, and I have found it much easier to capture pleasing fish photos underwater, than above water, by myself using the transmitter.

    the photos below were shot from bridges, while my camera was left mid-stream

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