Sunbeams At Sunset Photographs | Scuba Diver Mag

Mario Vitalini discusses how underwater photographers can make the most of their ‘golden hour’ – usually referred to as ‘dappled light’

Photography is all about light and how we ‘paint’ with it. For me, one of the most-striking forms of ambient light you can find in underwater photography is dappled light. Land photographers talk about the ‘golden hour’, a time for shooting pics early in the morning or at dusk, when the sun sits low in the horizon and creates a soft, alluring light with a beautiful warm tint. In underwater photography we have our own golden hour, but we tend to refer to it as ‘dappled light’. At sunrise or sunset, the sun’s rays hit the water’s surface at an acute angle. Most beams are reflected by the surface. However, a small portion penetrate through, creating visible sunbeams and striking shafts of light you can photograph. This is dappled light.

Finding The Sunbeams

There are a few key elements you will need to plan for if you want to capture dappled light in your images. Firstly, timing is essential. To achieve a strong image, it is imperative that you are in the water at the right time. The sun in the tropics sets incredibly quickly, so you will only have a few minutes in which to capture the light shafts. Try to dive within an hour of either the sunset or the sunrise, otherwise the sun will be too high in the sky and the rays will hit the surface at a greater angle, or will be too low.