Take a close look -- a very close look -- at the two images in this column and then come back to me.OK, no doubt you noticed how I changed the image of a diver (CEDAM International divemaster Stella Covre) on a reef into a much more dramatic image. Sure, some of the changes are obvious, including:* Adding the ''reflection'' of the anemone fish in the dome port of the diver's underwater camera housing* Adding the sunburst on the surface of the water* Adding the light ''bursts'' in the strobes* Cropping the picture much tighter* And, perhaps most important, improving the color and contrast.Some changes, perhaps, are not so noticeable, like:* Erasing the strap on the bottom of the housing* Hiding the diver's thumb behind the housing* Whitening the whites of the diver's eyes.How did I do all these enhancements? How can you do the same things to improve your images? It's actually relatively easy: Use a digital imaging program.Many digital imaging programs are available. For very serious underwater photographers, there's Adobe Photoshop ($600), which offers advanced image correction, enhancement and manipulation. That is the program I use. For kinda serious shooters, programs like PhotoSuiteII ($50), Corel Draw 8 ($130), Adobe Photoshop LE ($100) and Wright Design ($100) offer basic and way-cool digital imaging functions. Before you can enhance your pictures, however, you need to get them into your computer. Here are the popular options for most underwater shooters:* Use a film scanner for slides and negatives ($800-$2,000) or a flatbed scanner ($100-$400) for prints.* Order a Kodak Picture CD or disk from the lab when you have your film processed (about $10 for a roll of film and only available for print film).* Have a pro lab scan your images (about $10-$20 per scan).* Use an on-line picture service to deliver scanned images of your slides or prints to your e-mail address or page on a Web (about $7-$10 per roll).I use a film scanner because I like to scan my own slides and work (play?) with them in the digital darkroom, usually late at night. It's totally cool being able to go through my slides, pick the one I want, and get to work. Anytime.Scanning, however, is an art in itself. It takes some time to master, as does working in the digital darkroom. For beginners, I suggest using a Picture CD (again, only for prints) or pro lab scans (for slides and prints). These services are a good way to get your feet wet with digital imaging.Once in your computer, the degree of enhancement and creativity is limited only by the program and your imagination. The more you play with a program, the more creative you will become and the more you'll see how you can improve your pictures.I could tell you step by step how I did all the enhancements on the picture in this column, but that would only be my way of working. You see, in many of the programs, especially when it comes to Photoshop, there are several ways to get to the same place. So my way may not be your way. You simply need to know that the color, brightness, contrast and effects controls are relatively easy to master -- if, and this is the BIG if, you spend some time at your computer monitor and understand the basics of photography.In this illustration, the enhancements took about 20 minutes, but that's because I knew what I wanted to fix: boost the reds and increase the sharpness and contrast (three things that are reduced or lost in many wide-angle underwater pictures). Erasing the strap and diver's thumb were accomplished with the Rubber Stamp tool; the whites of the diver's eyes were brightened with the Dodge tool; and the anemone fish in the dome port was cloned from another picture using the Rubber Stamp.Getting the pictures for this column to Sport Diverwas easy. I simply wrote (''burned'' in computer speak) a CD and sent it via U.S. mail to the editor.Once you are happy with your digitally enhanced picture, it's time to print it. Many desktop inkjet printers are available that deliver good results; the new HP DeskJet printers rival photo prints. The key to getting a good print is to do what Ansel Adams used to do: make print after print until you have one you really like. To save time, paper and ink, however, calibrate your monitor to your printer. This will help you get consistent colors and brightness.Photos the Easy WayA reader recently asked me, ''All I want is to come home from a dive trip with one good picture of a diver or fish, a picture good enough to be enlarged and hang on my wall. I'm a new diver and I'm on a budget. What do you suggest?''It was a good question. I answered by offering my ''Six Quick Tips for Successful Underwater Pictures.'' Here they are:1) Get a point-and-shoot amphibious camera and read the instructions at least two times. 2) Buy some ISO 400 color print film, like Kodak's Max. It's much more forgiving than slide film. 3) Go to a pool with a buddy and shoot a few rolls. Take full-frame buddy shots and close-ups of his/her hands in motion (to simulate a fish swimming).4) Get as close as possible to your subject, which reduces the amount of water between the camera and subject. As the camera-to-subject distance decreases, picture sharpness increases. (If possible, buy an accessory wide-angle lens to get you ultra-close.)5) Review your pictures at home and note your mistakes.6) Go back to the pool and shoot until you get good pictures.Now, after going through those steps, you're ready to take real underwater pictures. When you're down under, stay shallow (so you get lots of color in your photos) and dive between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (when it's brightest under water).Good luck!New, Cool StuffLooking for an inexpensive camera to record your underwater memories? Need a new flash? Want more color in your pictures? Then check out this new stuff for underwater shooters.* Canon Elph Sport:The Elph Sport is one of the world's smallest and lightest underwater cameras and is guaranteed to a maximum depth of 16.5 feet. It's a fumble-proof camera for two reasons: 1)The controls are easy to handle; and 2) It's an Advanced Photo System (APS) camera, which offers foolproof film loading. Another advantage of the APS system is what's called Print Quality Improvement (PQI), a feature that records lighting and exposure information, allowing the photo finisher to make the best possible print. List price is $270.* ReefMaster SeaLife Flash:Experienced underwater photographers know you need a flash to bring out the true colors of the coral reef. Toward that end, SeaLife has introduced an external flash for its popular point-and-shoot ReefMaster cameras. The flash mounts easily on the camera and includes a flash deflector that covers the camera's built-in flash to reduce backscatter. Maximum depth is 164 feet, and max flash range is 8 feet. List price is $199.* Ikelite Aquashot II:You've used them topside, but did you know you can take a single-use camera under water, too? All you need is an Ikelite Aquashot II housing and a camera and you are ready to shoot. These housings feature an optical glass lens and sport finder. Max depth is 125 feet. A kit with a macro setup costs $144; a kit with the addition of a strobe costs $248.* Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100 film:All photographers want great color in their underwater pictures. Kodak has made it easy with its Extra Color 100 film, which produces images that are saturated with vibrant colors. Topside, this slide film is also an asset to color-minded landscape and nature photographers. If you use it for people photography, however, your subject's face will look a bit too red.* Sea and Sea MX-5:''Fun and easy'' are the words to describe the new SeaandSea MX-5 camera - or should I say cameras, because they are available in four trop
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