Photosub judging

It has been my pleasure and no small responsibility to judge the work of the Photosub underwater photography group as guest of honour at their annual dinner, it was my task to pick out winners in advance from the four digital categories and on the evening from the print competition. Photosub is one of the oldest UK underwater photography groups and boasts a number of prominent UK underwater photographers. As a photographer it was humbling to pick out winners from such a high standard of work, but also a valuable experience to objectively critique the work of others. Thank you, Photosub; it was a pleasure to be the guest of such an active, passionate and talented group of underwater photographers!

Here I am with the competition winners.

dives, musings


This hermit crab looks for all the world as if he's looking up at the stars!
This hermit crab looks for all the world as if he’s looking up at the stars!


On a recent trip to Scotland, we were dogged by poor visibility. This image of a hermit crab (Pagarus bernhardus) shows how much silt was suspended in the water. This site was actually one of the better ones (the shore of Loch Sunart, at a place called Camas Torsa) and I like the way the hermit crab seems to be looking up into a starry sky. I find hermit crabs endlessly entertaining and I have mused about them before, but it did make me smile. This particular individual had lovely iridescent hairs on it which have been picked up by the well-snooted strobe. I was shooting using the Nikon 60mm macro lens on my trusty D200. The critter was conveniently walking on an old crate in the water, which provided a fantastic stage from which I could take his portrait as he looked up and wondered if alien life existed out there…


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).


Hermit Crab Addiction

Hermit crab, Loch Long
A hermit crab (Pagarus bernhardus) watching the divers swim by, Loch Long. Nikon D200 in Sea & Sea housing, Tokina 10-17mm, twin Sea & Sea YS-110a strobes

Does anyone else find hermit crabs additive photographic subjects? I find it very hard to swim past one and not oblige it with a portrait. I’m not sure why they’re so addictive. It might be because they seem to ooze character with their cheeky body language and their habit of stationing themselves in prominent locations. It might be because of the amazing range of shells they occupy- all shapes and sizes and even with holes in; the shells are also often adorned with other sea creatures along for the ride. It might be their strong red colour, which often looks striking on a bland dive site. Or, it might be the challenge of capturing all the fabulous detail of their heads and claws.

They are a very common subject, but they are not an easy one to photograph well. There is a lot of white on their shell, which is easy to burn out with the flash. Talking of flash- black background or green water? They have a habit of sitting in an inviting position and, just as the camera is almost in the best spot, moving jerkily off. Those eyes on stalks are complemented by antennae long and short, and one must capture them just in the right position for a pleasing photo.

Well, this I could not swim past this fella in Loch Long. I was shooting with a fisheye and he (she?) was large and sitting well off the flat sea bed on a piece of kelp. An inviting position and a co-operative subject. There was however, rather more silt in the water for my liking. Nevertheless, I blasted off a dozen or so shots. I’m fairly pleased with this shot, but it won’t keep me swimming past the next hermit I see…



Campervan on the Loch shore
Campervan on the Loch shore as we prepare to dive

Diving a new site, possibly one that has not been dived before carries a great deal of excitement. Firstly, the dive begins well before one has even left home, let alone travelled the (in my case) usually considerable distance to the dive site.

Last week, my buddy and I dived in Loch Striven, a sea loch not that far from Glasgow and yet with a very pleasing feeling of remoteness. We did not find very many places to pull the van off the road and be able to get into the water, but we discovered a couple of very pleasant locations.

Entering the water, there is the thrill of the unknown- the charts give clues to the terrain and topology and, therefore, the species which may be seen. What will the visibility be like? Will I add a new species to my list?

In the case of Loch Striven, the dive was pleasant but did not reveal any new species. The highlight of the diving was the large number of very co-operative squat lobsters, hiding under every stone. A species which will usually withdraw into its hole as the camera approaches to a useful shooting distance, these were tolerant enough for me to approach very closely and try out some new techniques using a snoot on what is, for me, an oft-photographed species.

Squat lobster photographed in Loch Striven
Squat Lobster (Munida rugosa) in Loch Striven. Nikon D200 + Nikon 60mm lens. Single strobe with "Trev-style" bottle snoot.

River deep, mountain high

Or possibly river-not-so-deep. This is my buddy Trevor who posed patiently for this image in the river Etive in Scotland. I think river diving is under-rated; you often hear divers discussing dives in terms of “what depth did you get?” I don’t think that’s very important; what matters is what the experience was like. Rivers offer the chance to see quite a different aspect of our environment. The rocks are sculpted into smooth curves by the passing of water in the same direction over many years. The water may take on the “malt whisky” look, giving everything a golden or even sepia look. I have swum with beautiful wild trout and seen the inside of a waterfall. All this in less than 3m of water. Who cares “how many metres” I got?Diver in River Etive, Scotland


Planning time

I am thinking about where to make an early season dip next month. To go South Coast (closer, probably warmer) or W Scotland (further, probably colder, more shelter)? This shot reminded me of great diving I’ve had in the Scottish Sea Lochs and the draw to explore some more is strong…..



Welcome to UnderSea-Images, the underwater photography blog of Charles Erb. Here I will post some of my favourite underwater images, with some comment. I think the comments are important because my best images are usually captured in great company and its nice to remember those times.

Always fascinated by the sea, I have been a scuba diver for 25 years and have been taking pictures underwater for about 10 years. I have dived in a number of worldwide locations, but my abiding love is exploring the waters around the UK coast. Being based in the Midlands does not allow my diving to be as frequent as I would like, but it does at least mean that I have access to a wide variety of locations. My favourite areas are the Devon and Cornish coasts, the Scottish sea lochs and West Wales.