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Underwater Photography with the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM – Capture Stunning Photos of Ocean Wildlife

A photographer captivated by wild dolphins swimming freely in the vast ocean makes the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens her choice. Let’s take a look at the beautiful scenes taken by this lens. (Reported by: Nana Takanawa)

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM/ FL: 15mm/ Manual exposure (f/5, 1/400 sec.)/ ISO 125/ WB: Auto
During the late summer evening, the rays of sunlight that enter the ocean through the surface create a beautiful curtain of light.


Portray the depth and beauty of the vast blue sea where the dolphins swim freely

I have loved dolphins since I was a child, and dreamt of becoming a dolphin keeper at the aquarium. At the age of 19, I found out about Mikura Island, which is under the administration of Tokyo Metropolis, where I would be able to swim with wild dolphins. The beauty of wild dolphins swimming freely in the vast ocean captivated me. After that, while I volunteered to do ecological research of dolphins at Mikura Island and worked as a guide for the Dolphin Swim Tour, I began self-studying underwater dolphin photography.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM/ FL: 15mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/500 sec.)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto
The distortive effect of the fisheye lens further accentuates the silhouette of the dolphin that adapted to underwater life.


I started out with taking photos of dolphins using a 16mm ultra wide-angle zoom lens. That lens was good enough to take photos of dolphins, but I felt that something was missing, which turned out to be the angle of view.
The dolphins of Mikura Island are used to the presence of human beings, and sometimes they are so close to me that it feels like they are going to collide with me. In addition, due to the underwater refractive index, the angle of view feels narrower than on land. Even when I use the ultra wide-angle 16mm lens on land, I feel that the angle of view of the photos of dolphins is not enough.

It is possible to take photos of dolphins underwater with a 16mm ultra wide-angle lens. However, what I want to portray is the blue, deep, and wide sea where the wild dolphins live. Thus, I chose a Canon fisheye zoom lens—the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM/ FL: 15mm/ Manual exposure (f/8, 1/320 sec.)/ ISO 500/ WB: Auto
A young dolphin that is full of curiosity hovers near the photographer. At point-blank range, the image is in focus, and the dolphin’s smooth texture is depicted.


This lens is special in the sense that when used with an EOS camera with a full-frame sensor, it will function as a circular fisheye at 8mm, and as a fisheye with a diagonal angle of view at 15mm. The 180° diagonal angle of view that exceeds the human eye’s field of view was able to reproduce the impressive feeling I had when I was swimming with wild dolphins in the sea for the first time. Using this wide angle of view, I easily captured an “over-under shot”, which includes both the water and the scenery above it (the sky and island silhouette). (For a tutorial on how to capture over-under shots, check out our article on Capturing Both the Underwater and Terrestrial Worlds in a Single Shot.)

Another of the merits of this lens is the shortest shooting distance of 15cm, which is very short. There are times when curious dolphins would come very close to the camera and look into the lens, and that is when I can focus the camera on their eyes.

I do not wish to take photos of just dolphins. When underwater, I also wish to take photos of the sea that the dolphins live in, the sun’s rays shining through the surface of the water, and the sky that one can see through the ripples on the ocean surface; I wish to portray wild dolphins and the environment around them. This lens helps me to fulfil this heartfelt desire.

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM/ FL: 15mm/ Manual exposure (f/8, 1/320 sec.)/ ISO 250/ WB: Auto
With a fisheye lens, it is possible to take over-under shots that give full play to the wide angle of view. The ripple patterns formed by the sunlight on the dolphin’s body, the clear blue sky, and the greenery of the island are all in this photo.


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
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Nana Takanawa

Nana Takanawa

Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1982. Underwater photographer and videographer who dives to take photos and videos of wild dolphins while diving.