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palancar.jpg (152802 bytes)Underwater Photography

"Skip the patter and take me straight to the pictures!"

OK. I admit it. I'm a junkie. I need a fix every so often, and there's only one way to satisfy that craving. I have to go take photographs. Sometimes I'm lucky, and I can satisfy my urges on the surface. That's reasonably cheap. But sometimes there's no stopping the cravings without submerging myself and several thousand dollars worth of photographic equipment in the warmest, clearest, most densely-inhabited waters I can find. That's much more expensive.

I've been photographing people and things for almost 20 years now. Most of that time was "dry," but over the past two years I have discovered the joys (and expenses) of underwater photography.  "Why under water?" many of my friends ask. I can't explain it, other than to say that in the ocean is where I find the most outrageous shapes and colors. It's where I'm regularly stunned and surprised by the riotous colors of life and nature.

Photographic Systems


My obsession started innocently, and inexpensively, with an Ikelite Aquashot II. These things are plastic housings for disposable cameras, which, when outfitted with a strobe, allow you to take reasonable pictures at depths of 100 feet (30 meters) or more. The Aquashot houses either Kodak or Fuji disposable cameras. I prefer the Fuji cameras for mostly mechanical reasons. One of the strongest points of the Aquashot is the Substrobe AQ/S, an external strobe which is slaved to the flash from the disposable. With this strobe, the Aquashot can do many things which other entry-level systems cannot. Aquashots have their limitations, however, and after a year and a half with my trusty Aquashot, I upgraded. I still have (and occasionally use) my Aquashot, although I have traded in my Aquashot II for the new Aquashot 3e.

Housed Nikon System

My main underwater photo system is a Nikon N90s in an Ikelite housing, equipped with a single Ikelite Substrobe 200. I also have two Ikelite Substrobe 50 units, and an Ikelite TTL Slave Sensor so I can use them together with only one sync cord. As for lenses, I use the fabulous 60mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor lens, an ingenious piece of engineering which focusses down to 8 inches (20 cm), delivering a 1:1 reproduction ratio. It's a lens which lets me do fish portraits and macro work without changing lenses, and without clunky macro framers. Occasionally I replace the 60mm lens with a 24 mm lens, a moderate wide-angle lens which is good for panoramic shots and close-focus wide-angle (CFWA) work. In 1999 I purchased a Nikon 20mm lens, a "super-wide" lens (which has the same field of view behind its dome port as the Nikonos 15mm lens). I don't understand the finer artistic points of wide-angle photography yet, but I'm learning, and I love the results so far.

Recently (April 2000) purchased a new lens for the setup, namely the 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor  lens.  This puppy does 1:1 at a distance of around 14 inches which means that little fish don't mind you getting 1:1 shots of them because you're not as close as with the 60mm lens,  I've only done three dives with the 105 so far, but I am blown away by the sharpness and usability of the lens.  I can't believe I waited so long to buy it!

Nikonos III

I also own a Nikonos III camera, which I purchased (used) in 1997. I am still gathering the equipment to make this thing usable to me, so I haven't actually used it other than to test its operation. I intend to use the Nikonos III for wide-angle work, mounting it to the top of my Ikelite housing, but I haven't purchased a 15mm lens for it yet...thus I stick with the housed N90s for the time being.


Approximately half of all the "camera dives" I have made have been made at the Flower Gardens. Other places I've been with my camera include Hawaii (Maui, Hawaii, Kauai), Roatan, Cayman Brac, Bonaire, Little Cayman, and Cozumel). Most (if not all) of the images in the gallery below appear elsewhere at this WWW site. What's below is a collection of my favorites, disregarding equipment, location, etc. They're simply the images which I remember most.

Dave Read's Underwater Photo Gallery

I have a nifty new piece of code that I wrote for displaying photo galleries.   Check it out!

Go to the Photo Gallery

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