In 2015 I got an idea. We were about to embark on a family holiday trip to Italy and a couple of days before we left I rushed to a local camera store and bought the Olympus Tough TG-4, a new version of their waterproof camera, just released. I wanted to try underwater photography.

In the last minutes of packing I threw in an Action Man we had, one with scuba gear. I had tried photographing it in a water container earlier with poor results. I didn’t expect terribly much from this but with Jacques Cousteau in mind I wanted to give it a try. 

During our stay in Italy we were in a place where the waters weren’t clear, it was a disappointment, but a few days in our holiday we decided to take a daytrip to the island of Ponza, 33 kilometers from the coast. There I managed an hour on the beach in clear waters with the Action Man.

The Ponza session was improvised, I was unprepared, but looking at the images afterwards back home I began thinking there was something in it. I bought the then just released Lego Deep Sea Explorers submarine and tried it in our local waters here in Finland. But, alas, our lakes are nowhere near the clarity of the Mediterranean. The photographs were terrible. 

Next year we decided to go to Ponza again but this time to stay for a few days. It's a lovely place and we wanted to have a better look. Thanks to our national airline and their overbooking policy our stay got shortened by a full day. In the end I had two afternoons with the Lego sub and the Action Man. This time the Action Man had an orange wetsuit because the original blue had disintegrated. Same thing happened with the orange one after the trip. It is very unfortunate that soft rubber products these days are like that, self destructing.

Anyway, I was better prepared on this second trip and I got a nice set of photographs. I have posted dozens of them online over the years. I learned a lot of what works and what doesn’t during these couple of days. It was a big leap.

A fun thing happened after we returned home. We watched Wes Anderson’s magnificient The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, one of my all time favourite films, and I realised they had used Ponza for some location shoots.

Not willing to fly if not really necessary anymore I have managed to find clear enough waters from Finland too. Unfortunately they are a long drive from where I live, the waters aren't clear enough in the south. The best I’ve found were some arctic meltwater pools in Lapland but it takes more than a day to drive up there. Then again, if you're on the road anyway, perhaps a roadtrip all the way to the Barents Sea, a part of the Arctic Ocean. It is clear and just as exotic as any ocean on Earth. Two days’ drive one direction. I'd like to do this some day.

Looking for potential locations within reach has turned up some interesting spots. Like this underwater freshwater well, Uhrilähde (Sacred Well) in Jämijärvi, three hours’ drive from home.

The freshwater pool in Jämijärvi has a constant upward flow of groundwater coming in. At this spot it is fairly calm but it was more or less accessible from the firm ground by the pool. I tested how to place the sub in the stream and took a short videoclip of it.

When photographing in various freshwater ponds and brooks, or even the algae prone Baltic Sea, the colours vary a lot. It depends on the weather too, obviously. Mid-day sunshine is different than afternoon underwater, so is an overcast sky. What is around above the water surface matters, even trees, buildings and rocks. I like that.

The TG-4 really is an excellent camera for its size, the TG series are the best underwater cameras in their class, say some reviews. It's quite telling that Olympus with their latest version TG-7 hasn’t been able to improve it terribly much. It’s obviously better but not radically so. The water seals on my TG-4 still work after 9 years of active use, it’s shockproof, offers RAW and has a surprisingly good macro. I've photographed closeups of spiders with it. 

I am looking at alternatives to the old TG-4 however. It’s a nice camera but I could use something with a sensor that is more forgiving. Especially if I’m going to spend days traveling to a location again. 

Photographing toys underwater in real environment is a fun idea all in all, I think.