Underwater Photography In Mexico


Principally there are three main areas for diving along the ‘Riviera Maya’ which have well developed diving provision:

Untitled-1Untitled-2Cancun itself, with the surrounding, nearby reefs, several wrecks and La Musa (concrete statues depicting the moods of mankind – well worth a visit).

Cozumel, simply wonderful and kaleidoscopically coloured reefs, abundant marine life and sometimes, deep drop-offs.

Playa del Carmen (Playacar), reef diving, Bull Shark diving, and of course……

The Cenotes.

All of these destinations are within easy travelling distance of each other, so much variety offering ‘top ten’ tick box dives in abundance.

But the point of this little article is to chat about the frustrations and pleasures of trying to do justice in photographic form to adequately convey the colours, wildlife and clear water.


Nowadays just about every newbie diver’s first kit purchase is a camera and housing so that they can ‘capture their memories’ – come on, we all did it. Sadly the results are usually terrible and stored in electronic memories in huge numbers. I remember sitting through interminable sessions watching slides that my parents had taken to be followed by the guests showing theirs.

I’m sure the bit of me that died during those darkened room viewings has a lot to do with my subsequent vagueness and inability to concentrate.

So some time ago I set out on a mission to:

Untitled-61. Not subject my friends and family to the same, showing them hundreds of not so great pictures.
2. Actually try to make better images (note the use of the word image here?? Can’t call them snaps or pics any more).
3. Try not to spend too much money, inasmuch as I don’t have any.

In reverse order, the way Sports Personality of the Year does it,

3. Not spending too much money – ouch!!! I use a Canon S95 and Canon housing, INON Z240 strobe, INON wide angle ‘wet’ lenses with various arms ranging lights etc, etc (this was the cheap option!!!).

2. A fully manual camera, fill-in light and wide angle lens, good images are automatic, right ?? Wrong.

There are many sources of information regarding underwater photography written by far more learned people than me. However, one thing I’ve noticed, is that socially, photographers can attract, shall I say, ‘negative vibes’ from staff and other customers on dive trips.

Untitled-7At my stage on the UW photographic learning curve I need time to take the shot. I can’t just fire off several rounds into the reef and come back with a masterpiece. My results are delivered from almost painful adjustments and experiments.

Time is of the essence when you’re a photographic grasshopper. Other divers just don’t understand your needs. The more time you spend shooting that colourful slug, the shorter their boredom threshold becomes (an opportunity for them to continue developing their buoyancy skills I say).

The dive guides in Mexico were relaxed about us hanging off the back of the dive if a tad unprepared for how distant we’d get. Once they became accustomed to our needs it worked well as it tended to separate us from the other guests.

Photographers tend to hog the best spot to see the beasties, worried that they will disappear if confronted by flailing, gasping and panting newly qualified frogpersons. This too can cause annoyance.

Untitled-5By being a little detached from the group these potential irritations were removed. Win – win!!

So, if like me, you need time to practice with an absolutely huge range of subjects in some of the best conditions you’re ever likely to encounter, then try Mexico.

Wildlife – and I don’t mean the mosquitoes – is massively varied and plentiful. It’s also quite tame. A little care and patience, planning and thought will allow you to approach the animals quite closely. In my experience they seem to tolerate divers more than other places I’ve visited and as such make great models. The turtles are amazing, really awesome.

Among the wide variety of life on display are huge shoals of grunts on the shallow reefs of Cancun. The lack of depth and great light give a wealth of opportunity to practice taking photographs. Truly, the quantities of fish on the reefs here need to be seen to be believed, and I’m told that they are resident all year round.

So, that’s me trying to offer some tips for the beginner.


My last point, not subjecting loved ones et al to viewings of my ‘works of art’… well, I can see where my Parents were coming from. It’s true, I am turning into my Dad.

Travel to these destinations was provided by The Scuba Place:


+44 (0) 207 644 8252

First class accommodation and world class diving are available for all levels of experience and interest. Sail-fish and Whale Shark expeditions in the summer, Bull sharks in the winter, supreme reefs and the Cenotes all year round. Couple that with the welcome Mexico offers and, well… you’ll love it.

Andy Alfred

Andy Alfred

Andy took his first fin-kicks in the scuba world in 2002. Almost immediately obsessed, diving became his one really serious interest (apart from underwater photography, mountain walking, cinema, music, chopping firewood, and purchasing shiny new kit), and following PADI instructor certification through the London School of Diving, he now finds himself regularly teaching scuba around the world. Having joined the team at The Scuba Place in 2012, Andy is also ‘deeply immersed’ in the world of scuba holiday provision for TSP clients. His role includes going out to dive clubs and centres to host seminars, visiting holiday providers to scope the quality and value of their product offered (a particularly arduous task!), and represent TSP with a view to enhance the company’s presence in the market place. Andy has developed a keen interest in the Dark Art of underwater photography, making any excuse to get away and practise. He is currently wrestling with the problem of what his next camera is going to be - and how he is going to convince his wife that it’s in her interests to pay for it.

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