It was December and I was swimming in the turquoise waters of Isla Culebrita, a small, uninhabited island off the eastern coast of Culebra, Puerto Rico. A camera, I need to buy a new camera!

Our yacht –SEADREAM I—had anchored in front of the beach and Zodiacs dropped us off on the lovely white-sanded beach. You know these idyllic photographs on the cover of holiday brochures. It felt as if suddenly we stepped right into that cover. We were part of it. 

I cannot remember when was the last time I swam in such paradisiac waters. The photographer in me also forgot how beautiful it was to see a ship from water level. Having your eyes, or lens, just a couple of millimeters or centimeters above the surface gives a totally different perspective. Frustration: I did not have a suitable camera. No way that I was going to risk my Nikon D800.

During my career as a photographer I have often strived to shoot ships from a low angle, as close as possibly to the water surface. Sometimes too close… Indeed, one of my old Mamiya cameras once took a dip in the North Sea when I was shooting a sailing regatta from a rubber boat, long time ago. (yes, the salt water destroyed the camera)

Back to the warm waters of Isla Culebrita. My first Caribbean swim convinced me that I urgently needed to buy a waterproof camera. Very unfortunately Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, was not a port of call this time. Because that’s THE place to be when you want to buy cameras. The prices are excellent, and the choice is amazing. Another good place could have been St Thomas, which was going to be our disembarkation port. Too late, I wanted my camera a.s.a.p.

Finally we found one camera, near the tiny and spectacular airport of St Barth’s. The only one they had in stock was an Olympus “Tough”, shockproof and waterproof to a depth of 5m. I think it is one of the older series, with only 12 Megapixels. I didn’t care. I was so happy to have a new creative toy. 

My first opportunity to take a photographic dip came in Virgin Gorda. The sky was slightly covered making the light a bit poor. Never mind, I wanted to be ready for the big day in White Bay, Jost van Dyke (British Virgin Islands), which was heavily (or should I say heavenly) promoted by Club Director Gareth.

I took hundreds of pictures, in all different modes, and in the meanwhile I was treading in the water. 

I learnt to avoid waterdrops on the lens. I learnt how to keep the horizon horizontal (not easy whilst swimming). Unfortunately I discovered that my first 200 pictures were taken in the lowest resolution. Pretty soon this cute little camera felt like it had always been mine.


Oops, that’s my foot, under water

On December 5th I was ready for White Bay. As soon as we were on the beach I jumped in the water and started to enjoy my Olympus Tough again, as more yachts and boats arrived for a day on Jost van Dyke.

A small catamaran with beachlovers

After getting used to the water it was time to swim back to our ship, not the whole mile, but close enough for the pictures I had in mind.

First I had some problems with the autofocus, but once I found how to handle it I enjoyed the creative possibilities.

My aim was to make nice compositions with waves and the ship slightly hidden behind, as if she was sailing in rough weather. 

Conclusions, what do I think about the camera, an Olympus Tough TG-620?

I like:

-Easy to use. Simple and logic settings. In doubt I easily found the information on the camera’s digital manual.

-Feels good in the hand (and in the pocket).

-Wrist strap.

-Creative possibilities, including little movies.

-A camera which is always nice to have with you (waterproof = dustproof)

I regret:

-Possibility to shoot in RAW, which allows much better postproduction.

-Only 12 megapixels.

O yes, the camera is Champagne-proof too!

Text and photos: Mike

The camera:

The ship: