It wasn't until the millenium that I had the means to combine my
favourite pastimes - photography and diving. At that time
film was the only recording medium which meant one was constrained
to just 36 exposures; far from ideal given how opportune underwater
encounters can be. Digital cameras freed underwater
photographers from the 36 exposure barrier and closed-circuit
rebreathers allowed divers to go deeper for longer. No
bubbles meant that one was less intrusive and could approach
sea-life more readily.
Almost a decade later, these two advances allowed me to take a
digital camera and flashguns to a depth of 80 metres in the Red Sea
to photograph two if its renowned locations: Thomas Canyon and the
Arch at the Dahab.
Being preoccupied with either the sub-aquatic or terrestrial, I
was unaware of the interface between them and the photographic
opportunities this represented. Whilst still nameless, the
water/air interface features in all our aquatic activities; from
bathing to fishing, boating to beachcombing . Semi-submerged
photographs, are typically constrained to azure representations of
idyllic holiday locations. Relatively little has been
undertaken inland and in temperate climates.
In October 2009 following an underwater encounter with wild
salmon in the river Rauma in Norway, I decided to try freshwater
underwater photography for the first time and took the camera and
drysuit to 'Fairy Pools' in Glen Brittle, Isle of Skye.
Semi-submerged or split shots are challenging in that separate
allowance has to be made for exposure and focus in the water and
air elements of each picture. Fortunately, modern digital
cameras help greatly here. The front of the underwater camera
where water, air, light and glass meet is particularly quirky and
whilst there are steps one can take to manage the dynamics of it,
there is no substitute for 6 or more frames per second and a large
memory card. The nature of the water interface in the
resulting pictures can never be second-guessed but is a key part of
any successful outcome.
Inland sites have not been the traditional home ground for
underwater cameras hence new opportunities are easy to find, most
recently a narrow incised gorge on Skye called the Bay River -which
can be canyoned but is too deep to stand in. Here, underwater
flash not only provides light from a unique angle but helps freeze
fast moving water.
My work for the Trust has involved semi-submerged shots of coastal
activities such as sea kayaking and Coasteering. Not only
does the weather have to be favourable, so does the underwater
visibility and sea state. Activities such as these when
combined with the sea's motion and the underwater view, invariably
lead to some unique results.