Water Droplets: Breaking the Rules of Surf Photography

The first thing I was told when I picked up my new SPL Underwater Housing for my 5DIII, was always make sure to keep the front element clear of water droplets when shooting.

I started researching the best way to do this. Everything from mini squeegees, to spit and even the grease from the corner of your nostrils (which actually works the best) came up.

Surfer: Craig Grant

What got me the most though, was the countless surf photographers hating on water droplets on the outer lens element. It really got me thinking about it and why it is such a pet peeve for so many photographers (if it is your pet peeve you may want to stop reading now).

So, I did as I would always do when someone told me about a particular must follow rule in photography. I did the opposite.

Surfer: John Afshari

The results? Amazing.

I will start off by saying though, that it is pretty unpredictable, and I did blow a lot of shots trying to make these good ones, but if you are shooting images and worried about failing, you simply will never create art. You will just create the obvious boring old image.

Surfer: John Afshari

When you dip your housing into the water and raise it up to shoot, you have no clue where the water droplets will end up. If the drop lets cover the main part of your subject, the shot is simply not going to work.

Paddler: Adam

The other key to shooting with water droplets on the outer element is it is best to shoot into the sun to get a bokeh effect. Shooting away from the sun, or on an overcast day leads just nothing but blurry blobs that don’t add to the creative aspect of the image.

Paddler: Adam

So go head surf photographers. Try shooting with some water drops on the lens element and see what you get!

—John Rathwell

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