As a keen amateur photographer, my first purchase when I moved to the Caribbean eight years ago was an underwater case for my camera. Pretty soon I learnt that it takes some practice with hundreds of photographs of heads or tails, or bits of coral, before I had some idea of what I was looking at.
I realized that for every 20 or so pictures taken you may be lucky to have one worth viewing. Of course with the advent of the digital age this is not a problem. Each time I snorkel I regularly take around 100 pictures. Obviously, the calmer and sunnier the conditions then the easier it is. I try to swim as slowly as possible; it's amazing what you can see if you hover over a piece of coral or around a wreck. Too many people just rush along and then get out of the water saying "well there was nothing there to see." Wrong! There is always something to see. I now never get in the water without my camera, the one day I had forgotten it I had a very close encounter with a dolphin. As wonderful as the encounter was I rue the day I had no camera.
The camera I am currently using is a Canon Powershot SD750. I do not bother with the underwater setting as I have found it makes no difference to the end picture. The secret to clear photographs is Photoshop. You do not need the expensive version, Photoshop elements is sufficient. To completely change the depth and color of the photograph, all you have to do is click on 'image' then 'auto enhance.' The change to the finished image is quite amazing, what may have been a gloomy scene is transformed into an underwater landscape.
It's not only fish and coral that I love to photograph; wrecks can have the most fantastic colors. One of my favorite pictures was taken off the floating dock (now sunk) in Simpson Bay, St Maarten. On a calm day there is so much to see around the wreck, from beautiful Queen Angel fish to Peacock flounders hiding on the bottom. The fish here love to hide in all the old machinery so it's worth hanging about just floating. If you are patient enough then you are bound to see something of interest. Also in St Maarten, if you take your dinghy down by the French side then you will see a more unusual sight, thousands of upside down jellyfish. At this point I have to say I was not in the water! The colors of vivid blue are fabulous and it's so shallow all you have to do is stick the camera under the water and click.
Illusion is also a fun thing; I took the photograph of the Black Tip Reef shark in Anguilla. After much consternation from my family back in the U.K., I was able to admit the shark was a baby, maybe 18 inches long, and the photograph taken in about three feet of water.
As for turtles, I have found that in the Caribbean the easiest place to photograph them is the Tobago Cays. There are literally hundreds of them and they are unafraid of snorkelers, so you can follow them around at your own pace.
For the clearest water and the biggest fish I have ever seen then it has to be Bonaire and CuraÃ§ao. Here you will see enormous Parrot fish, Angel fish the size of dinner plates, and all manner of fish that you have never seen before. All of this said it does not matter where you are, every time you get in the water if you look hard enough then you will be rewarded.
As a final note, as soon as you get out of the water rinse off the camera case with fresh water. Camera manufacturers are getting very clever. Model changes now occur a few times a year, so if anything happens to your camera or case then more than likely you will have to replace both. You can pay exorbitant money to replace the case to fit your old camera or vice versa.
Good luck and happy snorkeling!