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Book Review: Tobias Friedrich’s “Underwater Photography”
By Brandi Mueller, November 29, 2014 @ 05:30 AM (EST)

What do you do after you’ve won almost every underwater photography contest there is (including the prestigious Ocean Views, Epson Red Sea, and Beneath the Sea)? After you’ve been published in magazines such as Sport Diver, Unterwasser, and Scuba Diver Through the Lens? After you’ve packed your portfolio with all of the “regular” dive locations (Papua New Guinea, the Maldives, the Red Sea) as well as places most people don’t even think to shoot (icebergs in Greenland, rivers in Switzerland)? Well, if you’re Tobias Friedrich, you share your photographic talents and your passion for the ocean by writing a book.

In Underwater Photography (also in German as Die Kunst der Unterwasserfotografie), Tobias has created an informative “how-to” book on shooting underwater paired with beautiful imagery.

Tobias starts his introduction with, “Once you’ve caught the fever to explore the world under the sea with your camera, there is no cure.” Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you can relate—I know I can. All of us who take cameras underwater aim to document and share the beauty below, and hopefully tell compelling stories of what lies beneath. Tobias has achieved this, and he shares his talent with us both through his images and through his techniques.

While directed at shooters with a DSLR—the setup that, right from the beginning of the book, Tobias recommends to all photographers wishing to achieve quality photos—both beginners and more-advanced students can learn from the techniques and suggestions given. There is plenty of information for those just starting out as well as advanced techniques for those looking to make their photos more creative and engaging. 

Each section begins with a case study of one of the author’s photos to help readers get into his mindset, along with a narrative describing everything that goes into capturing that single image. Tobias ably convinces the reader that it isn’t just “pointing and clicking” or sheer luck that gets you the most amazing shots, but a combination of numerous factors. You have to show up at the right time, know something about your subject’s behavior and habitat, understand how best to use your camera, dial in the ideal settings, get the lighting just right, and so on. 

The book is divided into various sections, including equipment (what gear you need, how to take care of it, how to get it safely to dive destinations), basics, composition, shooting wide angle (including split shots, blurred motion, and a little on shooting video with DSLRs), macro photography, and editing. To top it off, Tobias has also added an image gallery by the following distinguished guest photographers: Richard Salas, Ernie Brooks, Alex Mustard, Imran Ahmad, and Eric Cheng. Needless to say, he has provided plenty of fantastic photos of his own alongside each technique, which include information on gear and settings. Usefully, at the end of each subsection, summaries help to reiterate the important points.

Setting this book apart from others on underwater photography include Tobias’s excellent grasp of some of the more popular techniques in underwater photography. The section on over-under shots is probably my favorite. His photos also do well to cover a wide range of types of diving, from cold water to tropical, shallow, deep, big stuff and little stuff—his collection of images demonstrates it all. 

To complete the book, there’s an appendix that, unusually, isn’t just a few pages you turn to get to the back cover. Don’t skip it: It has some very handy checklists, including a travel packing list, a pre-dive list to help prevent those “I can’t believe I forgot…” moments, as well as some great setting recommendations for the predominant types of photography (wide angle, macro, etc.).

In the book’s foreword, underwater photography legend Ernie Brooks talks about how, one day, Tobias will become a mentor to others. It seems to me that, by creating a book that is a great addition to any underwater photographer’s library, Tobias has already arrived.

Tobias Friedrich’s Underwater Photography is available from Rocky Nook for $39.95 (8" by 10", soft cover, 216pp, ISBN: 978-1-937538-52-1). Sample pages and the full table of contents can be downloaded from the publisher‘s website.



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