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Dive Photo Guide


How to Shoot in Bad Viz: Part V
By Andrew Marriott, May 28, 2019 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

No matter where you go, super macro always works in crap viz!

In this series, we have discussed tips and tricks for taking good pictures in adverse conditions—check out Part I, II, III, and IV. The reality is that murky green water is what most of us dive in regularly. So instead of only sharing big viz shots from pristine destinations like Palau, we are delving into how to make our local shore or quarry dive great.

In this concluding part of the series, we share five fun destinations you can hit—and make sure you bring a camera because the photographic opportunities are fantastic! Our list here is just a sample, and mostly it involves places that I have dived on many occasions. I’m biased—what can I say? Mainly, the point is to get you thinking about what you have access to and get you in the water with your camera more often. So without further ado, here are five places for you to check out if you feel in the mood for some murky water!

Catfish love murky water, bet you can find some in your local pond or river

La Jolla Shores, California, USA

Did you know there is a vast submarine canyon system filled with nutrient-rich water and a great variety of marine life that comes nearly to the shore just north of San Diego? Upwellings from this canyon form the basis for an ecosystem that would be right at home in the most exotic destinations in Southeast Asia. If you can handle a real shore entry off the beach, don’t mind a little swim, aren’t bothered by chilly water, and don’t need clear water, then this is a dive you don’t want to miss.

There are books written about the life that thrives in this area, and the legendary Scripps Institution of Oceanography makes its home here. As the seasons change, so does the nature of the dives. At some times of the year, expect significant numbers of sharks and rays in the shallows; at others it will be swarms of pizza-sized jellyfish, or armies of big, alien spider crabs marching up out of the canyon.

The bottom here is sandy and muddy, there are waves and surge, and the water is rich in nutrients, so it tends to be green. Aside from the bigger animals, this is real muck diving. Look for colorful nudis, sea hares, small fish, weird fish, and all manner of muck dwellers that live in an area carpeted with sand dollars. La Jolla is a real dive destination in its own right, and it is well worth a long weekend trip to check out.

If nothing else, you can always find some kelp to shoot

A seahare on a bed of sand dollars in La Jolla Shores

Monterey Bay, California, USA

Guess what? I’m from California, so you get stuck with two sites here! Seriously though, these sites are at least an eight-hour drive apart and are destination worthy. Just like La Jolla, Monterey Bay is home to a world-famous oceanographic center, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And just down the road are our friends at Backscatter—who, of course, love nothing more than testing the latest underwater imaging gear in their backyard waters.

There are some good viz dives outside the bay, but for this article, we are sticking to the easy shore dives located inside protected waters. The bottom is sandy, with occasional boulder fields towards the western areas. Here you can find kelp forests, fields of metridiums (a fancy name for a type of anemone), small sharks, and the ever-present sea lions which will greet divers. Visibility usually sucks, and the water is pretty green, but these dives are a blast! Plus, it is only a two-hour(ish) drive from San Francisco.

The rocks and sand in Montrerey Bay hold a wonderous variety of marine life

Kelp bass are very common in California but they still make great subjects


The Great Wall of China, Hubei Province, China

Bet you didn’t know that you can dive the Great Wall of China! True, it is still undeveloped, and it is a logistical challenge—but it can be done. I include this dive as an example of reservoir dives all over the world. We all have man-made bodies of water nearby, and often there is some pretty cool stuff in them if you have the motivation to see it.

If you want an excellent report on diving the Great Wall, check out the article by Imran Ahmad that launched our whole crap viz photography month. He is a heck of a photographer and was able to get some fresh shots in very challenging conditions. The article tells the whole story, but the point I am making here is that you need to adjust your preconceptions about what a great dive is. Open your mind a little and a vast new world will open up!

To find the “lost” part of the Great Wall of China, you’ll need a scuba tank and a thick wetsuit!

Coron, Busuanga Island, Philippines

This destination is for all you wreck junkies out there; you know who you are. Located just an hour flight from Manila, Coron is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on Earth. It is also home to a collection of Japanese shipwrecks from World War II. These are not artificial reefs that have been cleaned and sunk nicely for your enjoyment. The ships here were all sunk violently in battle, and they are a place where the war is still frozen in time.

The wrecks in Coron are beautiful, and they are host to plenty of marine life, but they are also located in protected waters where there are a vast number of oyster farms. Visibility here isn’t great, and the water is green. There are a few exceptions, and on some days any wreck can have good viz—but for most dives, it will not be pretty.

The ships, history, and impressive collection of fish are why you come to Coron. You don’t need excellent viz to appreciate an engine room or cargo hold full of supplies and equipment intended for use by the Japanese Army. Wrecks are excellent dives with a very mixed reputation amongst casual divers. See what you have in your area, get an extremely knowledgeable guide, and give them a chance.

The poor viz adds atmoshpere to the engine room of the Okikawa Maru

You don't notice the six-foot visibility outside the wreck when you are deep inside!

Anywhere Close to Where You Live

What a cop-out for number five, huh? Seriously, though, look what you have nearby and approach it with an open mind. I’ve lived in the desert, but we had a natural spring to dive. I’ve lived around farms, and we had ponds and lakes, and I’ve lived in cities where we could jump in the local aquarium. Get out and shoot and try something new. Not every dive has to be legendary.

If the water isn’t spectacular, just remember to smile and have a great dive

Andrew is a diver, photographer, writer, and trophy husband. Oh, he is also the Editor of DPG! You can find him on all the usual social media stuff if you feel like harassing him.


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