Spring has sprung – despite distinctly murky conditions on the James Eagan Lane this weekend, there were Oaten Pipe Hydroids (Tubularia indivisa) aplenty to see. The numbers of these marvellous creatures explode in early spring, that is until the nudibranch eggs hatch and they all get munched!
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!
Finally I have been able to take advantage of the summer light and good visibility. I have been rewarded with an excellent dive on HMS Elk. This is a trawler that was pressed into service during WWII, but sank not far from the entrance of Plymouth sound. When I dived it last Saturday, the visibility was excellent; though I have dived this wreck a number of times, I don’t remember there being this much light. The wreck is relatively small, but resting on the seabed at around 35m, this makes it a good size to get a good look around without clocking up too much deco.
Sometimes called by divers “May bloom”, “snot” or terms less repeatable in polite circles, there comes a time each spring in temperate waters when there is an explosion in the algae population. So it was in the Devon waters I dived with my club last weekend. Its not often a trip is a photographic washout, but my recent trip to Salcombe was almost so. Last time I went, early in April the water was clear (but very cold) and the visibility was excellent due to bright sun. That same sun, a few weeks later had caused the same stretch of sea (East Rutts) into murky pea soup, with countless green spheres in the water column from the surface to below 20m. Conditions were not helped by choppy seas and overcast skies. Still, a bad day’s diving is better than a good day in the office, as they say….
I greatly enjoyed a trip to Devon last weekend and, though the water was cold, the visibility was surprisingly good. I managed four dives- two reefs and a wreck (twice). The reef, East Rutts was a very pleasant place to spend an hour and this early in the season is covered in Oaten Pipe (Tubularia indivisa) hydroids. Those hydroids won’t be around for very much longer, as they are the food for nudibranchs (sea slugs). We saw many spiral swirls of eggs, but no slugs yet, but I would expect that by May the hydroids will be gone.
The wreck was called the Riversdale. It’s large and intact (except for the bow), with an impressive rudder and prop. It’s a while since I dived and took photos on wrecks at this depth (38m to the deck) and, photographically it was quite a challenge, due to the narcosis and the limited time. Even with good vis, lighting is difficult. We dived it twice, on consecutive days, as we could not get the shot line up after the first dive, so had to leave it in overnight and send it up on a lifting bag at the start of the second dive!
The vis was very good (about 8-10m), but I could see the beginnings of a “May bloom” of algae in the top few metres. Let’s hope that comes and goes quickly and does not spoil the view too much.
Tomorrow, 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).
When I took up underwater photography, I thought long and hard about whether to go for stills or video shooting. Having a little experience with video presentations for holidays, home movies and dive club AVs, I thought that I would prefer stills due to the length of time needed to tell a story with video.
My feeling was (and still is) that my photography is about capturing a single image to sum up a site, a dive, a person or a creature. However, video is fun. I bought a gopro 2 last season to try out various ideas but did not have much success underwater. I recently bought a proper dive housing and ordered some colour correction filters from the States.
My most recent dive was in Dosthill quarry and, after diving the housing empty to check the seals, I had a go at filming my buddies and the impressive Pike (Esox lucius). I wanted to tell a story with the film and, diving with three photo buddies (one of whom had a new camera and housing), there seemed only one story to tell….