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Doug Allan - Freeze Frame



How was it for you?

by Bill Bunting

Reproduced from in focus 28. June/July 1988

Well, it was all that swine Glover's fault really. 'Get yourself a camera' he said, 'living down here you've got every opportunity.' After his departure I ruminated. 'Every opportunity for what ?' I wondered, 'Health? wealth? sex? Still, photography, now that was a thought!'

I had just moved down to Devon and bought a charter boat and after twenty years or so of diving, hadn't got much to show for it. I was never into knocking wrecks about? I'd seen enough brass and copper scrap in my plumbing days to last me a lifetime. It would be nice to have some snaps to thumb through in my old age. But underwater photography though - well, why not? Hadn't I, many aeons ago, mastered the intricacies of the Brownie 127?? Can't be any more difficult than that, I'll give it a whirl.

I phoned my mentor for advice on camera purchase. No doubt whatsoever in his mind - start with a Nikonos and maybe go on to a housed camera later. Get a Nik II or III but not a IV, they leak! (The Nikonos V wasn't around then).

Much searching of the small ads followed and, eventually, after a round trip to the Midlands and back, I was the proud owner of a Nik II, Oceanic 2000, tray and lightmeter all in a neat little blue case.

I phoned my mentor again. 'Good' was his comment followed by the cautionary advice 'Don't get too despondent with your first film, if you get one or two good shots you're doing very well'.

Armed with these encouraging words and a roll of Ektachrome 200 I took the plunge into the mysterious world of f-stops, shutter speeds and depths of field. When I collected my film from the chemists shop I was cock-a-hoop. I always knew, of course, that I was naturally brilliant but this film proved it beyond any doubt, I had at least fifteen and possibly twenty really great shots on that roll! My euphoria lasted until the weekend when the accursed Glover came to visit. 'One or two good shots huh!' I said, casually tossing my masterpieces on to the table. 'Take a look at them. ' He did, and, one by one, somewhat callously I thought, cast them aside until he was left holding just one. He studied that one again and said 'That one' s not bad, the rest are rubbish.' Allowing me a moment or two to pick up some of my fallen ego he said he thought I was on the right tack and to stick at it. 'Try some extension tubes or close up - the 35 mm is a bit limited, especially when the water is a bit murky.'

Now I had always thought that extension tubes were some sort of marital aid but Peter Rowlands soon put me right and I became the owner of a set of gleaming black Oceanic tubes and framers, not fully appreciating that I had embarked on the long and never ending voyage to destitution. Somehow or other I was instantly successful with macro, producing good clear shots of jewel anemones and the like. When asked how I achieved such consistent shots I would smile knowingly to hide the fact that I hadn't really got a clue.

Using my success with more justification, a close-up kit was soon winging its way to me from Mr Rowlands emporium. I was rapidly becoming a gear addict.
Around about this time, Steve Page showed me an excellent A.V, he had put together. Of course I had seen slide shows before but never had I seen one picture dissolve into another, making a third on its way and all set to beautifully appropriate music, 'That', I said to her of infinite patience, 'is what I want to do'.

Consultation with father Glover revealed that the only projectors to have were Kodak Carousels. A few days later found a rather green, would be film producer in a photographic store in Plymouth.

'Can I help?', said the assistant.

'Yes, I would like a couple of Kodak Carousels please'.

'Oh, would Sir like the AV something or other or the SAV something?'

'What's the difference?'

'The AV etc is several hundred pounds and the other one is even more hundreds of pounds'.

'Hmm', I said, trying to regain my composure whilst mentally picturing my rag clad wife and children shuffling along the snow laden streets. 'Have you anything else?'

Eventually I settled for a pair of GAF's, promising myself that I would replace them at the earliest opportunity. An arm and a leg later I had an Imatronic fade system, a new tape deck (suitably converted by Les Kemp) and the first epic production was underway, What fun, what joy, what frustration and when finished, what sense of achievement, but if I hear that piece of music just once more I shall ....

Nevertheless, I had done it and if no one else liked it, so what - I did. Since then, I have acquired a wide-angle lens, a flashgun to cover it and an overdraft. I have assured Mary that my outfit is now virtually complete but I can see that she has her doubts. My pictures are not, and probably never will be, prize-winners, but I like them and I get a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of planning and taking them. I have a host of happy memories, Mary and I have both made lots of new friends and I now throw away my own rubbish. I shall always be indebted to my very good friend Mike Glover for starting me off and for his subsequent patience and help.

I could go on reminiscing about Splash-Ins, Brighton festivals, Cameras beneath the Waves, my award winning shots that judges somehow missed etc, but I must finish this article now as the shop down the road is about to close and I hear they have an underwater video system in stock. Also, my bank manager has expressed a desire to meet with me - URGENTLY.


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