What equipment do you use? by Hannah Prewitt

I think this is the question that photographers get asked more than any other. I actually find it slightly offensive - as if the only reason I've managed to take a good photo is because I have an expensive camera. That's not true. Give an amazing camera to someone who doesn't know how to use it and see for yourself that it's not all about equipment.

Olympus pen and housing.jpg

I bought my first camera four years ago, and I still use it now. I bought it because I wanted a camera and underwater housing package that was reasonably priced and decent enough quality to take good shots in shallow water. Nothing too fancy. The camera itself is an Olympus Pen E-PL5, which is a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera. It has a cool flip-out touch screen and is super lightweight and easy to travel with. It came with a 14-42 mm kit lens, which is wide enough for me to snap some decent half and half photos.

Olympus underwater housing

The housing I use is pretty basic. It's the Olympus PT-EP10 housing, which comes with a standard flat port, but I also purchased a dome port from Zen Underwater. I've had this camera for 4 years and only had to replace the o-ring once. Now I'm spending more and more time in the water shooting, I'd really love to upgrade this setup!

Nikon camera equipment

The rest of my equipment is Nikon. Lots of people make a fuss about what brand you use, but I really don't think it matters. I chose Nikon because the person who inspired me to buy a camera was a Nikon user, and helped me choose my equipment. If he had been a Canon user, I would be a Canon user as well.

I have two camera bodies - a full frame D750 and a D7200 crop frame. Why do I need two cameras? Because cameras fail. If you're serious about being a professional photographer, you need a back-up camera. Also, the crop frame helps me get even closer when I'm shooting surfers from a distance.

Nikon lenses

I have four lenses. A Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 prime lens, which is my most recent purchase and is the widest aperture lens I have. A Nikkor 24-120 mm kit lens, which came with the D750 and is a decent all-rounder if you need something versatile. I have a Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4 as my wide angle, which is my favourite lens for landscapes and if I had a housing, I'd take this lens underwater as well. Then I have a Nikkor 80-400 mm telephoto lens, which is the monster on the right. The shots I can get of surfers from a distance with this lens are incomprehensibly sharp. I also get a lot of compliments from strangers when I'm walking round with this bad boy.

And that's it. I have a Pelican case that I take as carry-on when I travel and I just about manage to fit everything in it if I pack it in a very specific way! It fits every airline dimension restrictions but if I'm honest, it weighs about 15kg when full. Somehow I've gotten away with it every time...

Cloudbreak - the swell of the decade by Hannah Prewitt

The morning of Sunday 27th May was dark, windy and wet. It was also my first wedding anniversary. Perhaps not the best day to plan a surf shoot, but rumour had it that the biggest swell since 2012 was going to hit Fiji. So we waited anxiously for the tide to start to fill in before putting on our rain jackets and heading out to Cloudbreak. This infamous wave that I'd been so thrilled to see for the first time a few weeks ago. I thought it was big then. How wrong I was. 

As we approached the break, you could see the spray from hundreds of metres away. And the boats. So many boats. I don't have that much experience shooting from a boat, but I've never had to compete with 60 other boats for a good spot. Factor in the rain and wind, and this would be the most challenging shoot I've ever done.

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-12.jpg

It's hard to describe the feeling of being so close to something so powerful. Your body is tense and your heart is racing the whole time. Just the waves on their own are majestic, fierce and some of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed in nature.

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-4.jpg

Even the highly experienced watermen who are around big waves all the time seemed to be delighted by the spectacle.

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-3.jpg

To comprehend the size of these waves, you really need to have a something in the shot for scale.

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018.jpg

There were no turns. The aim was to get as shacked as you could and make it out the other side alive.

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-11.jpg
Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-2.jpg
Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-9.jpg
Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-6.jpg

Emotions ran high, especially for those who had to be rescued by jet ski after what was possibly the best wave of their life.

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-7.jpg

I have so much admiration for the commitment it takes to paddle yourself into a wave this size. Talk about a steep drop! 

Cloudbreak swell.jpg

Finding the right spot to shoot photos was difficult. Boats starting getting deeper and deeper to get a clear view. But there were some wide sets that kept the captains on their toes.

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-10.jpg

Just when I thought my day couldn't get any better, Kelly turns up to get a couple. 

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-8.jpg

I think this is my favourite shot of the day. While it's not possible to portray the thunderous roar these waves make when they break, I think this image depicts the chaos, the adrenalin, and the thrill of what it's like to shoot at Cloudbreak during a monster swell.

Cloudbreak thundercloud swell 2018-5.jpg

Tutorial: How to take perfect underwater split photos by Hannah Prewitt

One of my favourite types of photos to shoot are split photos - where you can see underwater and above water at the same time. I just love the glimpse into both worlds. But they can be quite difficult to get right, so here are a few tips on how you can take your own split photos.

 1/1000, f/13, ISO 400

1/1000, f/13, ISO 400

First of all, you're obviously going to need a camera that you can take underwater. Ideally, you're want to use a wide angle lens paired with a dome port. I have an Olympus Pen E-PL5 with a 14 mm lens and Olympus housing with a 7" dome port. The dome port helps to widen the image by moving the water further away from the lens. However, you don't need this setup. GoPro's are already extremely wide and you can even get basic waterproof covers with dome lenses for your smartphone these days!

 1/1600, f/8, ISO 200

1/1600, f/8, ISO 200

There's nothing more frustrating than getting the perfect split shot to find a massive water droplet on the above part of the image. To avoid this, before you enter the water, be sure to spit on the lens. That's right, spit all over it. I like to actually lick my entire dome port before entering the water. I picked up this tip from legendary wave photographer Clark Little if that makes it a little less gross.

 1/2000, f/8, ISO 320

1/2000, f/8, ISO 320

Ok, settings. You're going to need a pretty fast shutter speed to capture the moving water, especially if the conditions aren't perfect. I would recommend something faster than 1/800 but depends on how flat the day is. The aperture is up to you. If you want to get everything above the water and below in focus, then you'll need to use a narrow aperture. But try out some wide apertures as well, to get some different artistic water shots.

 1/3200, f/3.8, ISO 200

1/3200, f/3.8, ISO 200

I would also recommend shooting in high burst mode. That way, you're likely to get at least one great image from a burst, especially if the water is a bit choppy.

I hope these tips are helpful for you to achieve this type of image. One of the best things about these shots are that no two are ever the same, and if you're lucky, something awesome might just swim into your photo!

 1/800, f/16, ISO 800

1/800, f/16, ISO 800

Tutorial: How to create beautiful ocean panning shots by Hannah Prewitt

Recently, I posted a couple of ocean panning images on social media. People responded really well to them, and I quickly received a lot of questions asking how to do a shot like that. So, I thought I'd write a quick tutorial explaining my process.

 2.5s, f/22, ISO 64

2.5s, f/22, ISO 64

Technique

So what's the technique? Well, it's a panning shot, which means that you need to move the camera whilst taking the image. So ideally, you'll need a tripod to keep your camera nice and steady, but I have achieved many great panning shots without one, just using my body to stabilise the camera as much as possible. While the shutter is open, you'll need to slowly move your camera from left to right. I personally like to start moving the camera before pressing the shutter, as I find it helps to make the shot much smoother.

 1.6s, f/9, ISO 320

1.6s, f/9, ISO 320

Settings

This type of shot is a long exposure, which means that the shutter is open for a relatively long time. How long is up to you. Start with 1 second, and then experiment around that. I usually find that 1.6 seconds creates a pretty good image. Of course it depends on what you're shooting and how fast everything is moving. Play around with it to find what works for you. Chances are, you'll have to take quite a few shots before getting one you're happy with. Bear in mind, that because we're doing a long exposure, you'll need it to either be dark enough to avoid blowing out your image, or use an ND filter if there is too much light.

 2s, f/14, ISO 200

2s, f/14, ISO 200

What do you shoot?

Obviously we're shooting the ocean. But what the waves are doing is going to have a huge impact on your final image. The image above was taken from the clifftop overlooking a peeling point break in Bali. But shooting from the shore of a beach break is going to give you different results, because the waves are more shifty and there's probably going to be some white water (which is how I achieved the different colours in this shot below).

 1.6s, f/4.5, ISO 400

1.6s, f/4.5, ISO 400

Also, if you have clouds in your photo, then the final image will look different compared to a clear sky. Personally, I think clear skies work best.

 1s, f/22, ISO 50

1s, f/22, ISO 50

And it's as simple as that! Hopefully you're now able to take your own awesome ocean panning shots. Please feel free to tag me or send me your images. I'd love to see them!

Tutorial: How to make your underwater photos really POP by Hannah Prewitt

I always find it fascinating to see how people edit their images. I love to see before and after shots. I know a lot of photographers don’t agree with editing photos, but personally, I find it just as much fun as taking the shots in the first place. For me, it is an art, my creative outlet. I’ve received quite a few questions about how I make the water in my photos look so clear and detailed, so I’d like to share how I edited this image of silver fishes swimming.

I’d like to start off by showing you what the original image looked like straight from the camera.

Pretty shocking right? Most people would probably look right past this image. You can see that the water wasn’t very clear that day and I didn’t really expose the shot very well. However, this image can be saved because (1) I shot in RAW, and (2) the sun was out - this is very important for underwater photos.

After I did my edits in Lightroom (I won’t cover that here), you can see that the image looks 100 x better.

Fishes with lighroom edits.jpg

But it’s still not quite as punchy as I’d like it. All the data is there, I just need to coax it out a little more. This is where I use Google Nix Color Efex Pro. Google used to charge for this but now it is free. You can download it here.

The only downside to this Collection now being free is that Google no longer support it, so if it is not compatible with a new version of Lightroom or Photoshop, Google won’t fix it. For now it works so I’ll enjoy it while I can.

To open your image go to Photo – Edit In – Color Efex Pro 4. Your image will open in the app.

From Lightroom to Nik Color Efex Pro.png

On the left hand side you can see all the filters available. There are lots of great filters in this app, but there are three that I use for underwater shots.

The first thing I do is add some contrast using the Pro Contrast tool. Have a play around with the sliders being careful not to push them too far. One of the things I love about this collection is the ability to see your before and after on the same image. This really helps with not going too far with your edits.

Color Efex Pro Contrast.png

Once I’m happy with the contrast, I’ll try to bring out a few more details using the Detail Extractor filter. For this image, I found that applying this filter to the entire photo, brought out too much noise in the background, so I used the Control Points to add detail to specific areas of the image.

Color Efex Detail Extractor.png

Lastly, and one of the best tools for underwater images, is the White Neutraliser. Here I’ve pushed it pretty far so you can really see the effect, but it’s great at correcting the colours in your image.

Color Efex White Neutraliser.png

And that’s pretty much it! Press Save and your edited photo will return to Lightroom as a .tif file. You can then carry on editing in Lightroom or Photoshop if you wish.Here's the final image.

Fishes with Nik Color Efex Pro edit.jpg

There are lots of other filters you can use in Color Efex Pro, not to mention the rest of the Nik collection, which are definitely worth a look, but these three filters I find are all I need for my underwater shots.

I’d love to see how you get on using this collection to bring out the best in your photos. Feel free to send me your before and afters, and let me know what you think of this quick tutorial.

Isolated in the Indian Ocean by Hannah Prewitt

Over the last three years I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the majority of my time in the Maldives. On it’s day it is postcard perfect. Pure white sand and water so clear it doesn’t look real. Here is a collection of my favourite photos taken over the years capturing surreal sunsets, the darkest storms and crystal clear oceans.

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