Photo talk: Adventures in UK Underwater Photography

UK diving 2013Tomorrow, I am giving a photo talk to Leamington Spa Photographic Society. I am to dispel a few myths about UK sea life and outline the challenges which face underwater shooters in our green waters. I hope that I can show some of my favourite images and compare the techniques beloved of underwater photographers with those used above water. Well, I trust the audience will still be awake after my two-and-a-half hours! Oddfellowes Hall, Leamington Spa, 7.30pm (Tue 26-11-13).

dives, techniques

Wrecked lighting

The chance to dive two wrecks in clear warm water made me think of trying remote strobes again. During my Malta trip, we made a series of dives at Cirkewwa Point, which has two excellent wrecks- a military patrol boat, the P29, and a tug boat, Rozi. I had this technique in mind before the trip and had brought with me a spare arm, slave sensor and a small lead block. This allows me to position a strobe out of view of the camera, triggered via the slave sensor by the on-camera flash. The idea is to light up a subject which is difficult to light directly by on-camera strobes (eg further away from the camera) and minimising the backscatter which is usually caused by strong lighting. The technique requires some discipline as, in addition to carting extra gear on the dive, it takes time to set up. I always feel that time is limited enough on a dive, particularly at the 30m depth of the two wrecks at Cirkewwa, but I’d rather a single excellent shot from a dive than a card full of mediocre images. Here are two images, from two separate dives- the first is on the frigate wreck, P29 and the second is the bridge of the tug boat Rozi. You can be the judge of whether I succeeded.

Thanks must go to my patient model, Trevor Rees.




Critter hunting

I really like getting to know a dive site well. Whereas a dive centre will usually take you to a different site every dive, I usually feel like saying, “Where would you take me on the last day?” And then diving that site every time. As a photographer, I want to have a good idea what to expect and to be able to plan, so I can take in the right gear. More than that though, I like being able to spot the details of the site and the patterns of behaviour.

So, on this trip to Malta, all our dives except one have been from the same site. That might sound a bit boring, but there has been so much to see. This particular location, Cirkewwa Point (say “Cher-kew-wa”), is outstanding. It does not look much from the shore, being a car park next to a Ro-Ro ferry terminal (the Gozo car ferry), but it is an exceptional site. There are two wrecks easily accessible from the shore, caves, arches and swim-throughs, as well as plenty of fish life.

Yesterday, I decided to hunt for fish, using fisheye lens and teleconverter. This setup has limitations and there is a danger of not coming out with any images, if no suitable subject is found. Having seen plenty on previous wreck dives, I went in with confidence, patrolled along the wall and was rewarded with this fine scorpion fish (Scorpoena scrofa). I was not able to get quite as close as I wanted, but I managed to get two shots in before it went off in a grump.


Since the scorpion fish was so grumpy looking, here’s a cheeky Mullet (Mullus surmuletus)