Practicing Underwater Photography


About 90 miles from NYC is a playground for scuba divers. Dutch Springs, a limestone quarry, attracts northeast scuba divers to train, practice, try new gear and socialize. Many divers thumb their nose up at diving Dutch. Local wreck divers prefer to dive the changing offshore shipwrecks. Warm water divers are not interested in the cold water and some-what low visibility. That being said many dive shops in the Northeast conduct their training at Dutch, and many divers come here to practice their skills.

Even the tiny boat wreck between the platform and bus could make a dramatic image

Diver exiting the Sikorsky H-37 helicopter

Very few divers bring their cameras to Dutch. But this is a perfect place to practice, and you could create some stunning images. With the low vis and task loading with cold water gear, if you could shoot here, you could shoot anywhere.

The light under the docks could make for interesting images.

Dutch Springs, sometimes known as the Pennsylvania Caribbean, has gone through many changes since 1980 when Stu Schooley purchased the land and turned it into a place for divers. The spring-fed freshwater lake is 100’ deep in some areas, but most of the attractions are located between 20 to 60’ underwater.
Platforms were built for instructors to safely conduct exercises in a controlled environment. Over the years many items have been sunk for divers to play on. Besides boats there is a school bus, tanker, crane, cars, trucks, a Sikorsky H-37 helicopter, and a number of planes. The pump house and blasting station left over from the days of a working limestone quarry are now underwater. These attractions are perfect for practicing underwater photography and video.

Diver inside the school bus

A number of years ago, visibility greatly improved thanks to zebra mussels, who are filter feeders by nature, accidentally entering the quarry. This accident is a real bonus for underwater photographers. Before they arrived vis was 5 to 20’ at best. Now it could range from 20 to way over 60’. The bottom is very silty, so it is important that divers have good buoyancy and trim or the vis could quickly be brought down to 5 or 10’.

The pumping station is left over from when this was a working quarry.

When creating photographs at Dutch it is even more important to be close to your subject. Since the most interesting images are of divers practicing skills or playing on the attractions, wide-angle lenses are key. In the shallow water there are small fish so you could practice your macro photography as well. Dutch is the perfect place to practice your lighting. There is enough light to get colorful backgrounds and using your strobes to bring out color. Dual strobes are best. Using a good arm system such as the ones from Beneath the Surface allows you to bring the lights out to the side. By feathering the lights away from the subject it is possible to get clean images even in low visibility.

Special events such as one put on by The Historical Dive Society Make for a great photo op.

So when getting your dive gear together for a weekend at the Pennsylvania Caribbean don’t forget your camera equipment!


Larry’s photos have appeared in such publications as Sport Diver, Scuba Diving, Diver, Immersed Magazine, Sub Aqua Journal, Alert Diver and Northeast Dive News. His photos have also appeared in books such as National Audubon Society Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes. Larry is a founding member of the New York Underwater Photo Society. He is a past president of The NYC Sea Gypsies dive club and is on the committee of Oceanblue Divers dive club. At B&H Photo, Larry provides Live Chat and email support for customers looking for underwater gear. He could be reached at uw[at]bhphoto[dot]com. Also be sure to check out his website.

See Larry at Empire Divers summer happy hour this Tuesday, July 19, 7-10 pm. At Session 73 1359 First Ave @ 73rd Street New York, NY. He will be talking about Getting Started in Underwater Photography. He will be showing photos from Dutch Springs as well as more exotic locations including: Egypt, Indonesia, Newfoundland, Socorro, and Truk Lagoon.