By Tine Funderud & Stone Meharry.
You will always hear that buoyancy is the key to being a good diver or underwater photographer. Getting your buoyancy just right is hard and it takes practise. Add a camera and it suddenly becomes a lot harder again. People seem to dive just to experience something incredible or unforgettable, but diving, like any other sport, requires practise.
The Stick Trick
A great exercise to improve your skills is to take a stick long enough to hold with both hands, shoulder-width apart, and never let go. This is best done at shallower depths, as it is more challenging. Once you descend and establish your buoyancy, hold the stick firmly in front of you, like you would a camera. You can now swim freely, but try not to let go. Using only your breath you should be able to rise and fall with little effort. A lungful of air should allow you to rise up out of the way of most obstacles, and a long controlled exhale will allow you to sink down to get a better look at life on the bottom.
Don’t be afraid of playing underwater. Do loops, go upside down, swim on your side and try to look at aquatic life from different angles. While doing acrobatics in the water try to orientate yourself and see if you always manage to tell which way is up. This is very helpful while taking pictures between rocks or on a reef with fragile aquatic life. Horizontal or vertical is not always the best way of positioning yourself, as it may harm the life around you.
While exploring a wall or taking photos in a hole it can be difficult avoiding a collision. Moving too much in the surge can do more harm than good. In the water you want to get to the point where you are doing as little movement as possible to move gracefully through the water. Your legs have more buoyancy with your suit and fins; use that instead of fighting it.
When you are in a horizontal position facing down with knees slightly bent, while pushing your legs straight, lift your backside and you will move closer to the bottom. The opposite is achieved by tucking your knees in and pulling your feet up towards your chest, this along with a deep breath will allow your head to rise to a vertical position.
Try using these techniques to spin all the way around, fins facing up and head closest to the bottom. Try to kick as little as possible. Controlling how you position your body can allow you to move more gracefully and with more purpose through the water.