Those were the days ...
by Colin Doeg
Reproduced from in focus 46. (Dec. 1992)
Colin continues his reminiscences of the
beginnings of BSoUP,
founded twenty-five years ago.
The early members of BSoUP used to tactfully
describe themselves as mild eccentrics. This was about the only
kindly term that could be found to describe a group of fiercely
independently minded individuals who, among other things, had highly
developed allergies to organised diving and especially to diving with
other than photographic models or other underwater photographers.
The amazing thing is that they all got on so well
together and that the organisation they created has both survived and
thrived. Between them they represented a unique storehouse of
technical knowledge and expertise. Most prominent among them - in
alphabetic order and in no way suggesting that even one of them could
ever be described as being the slightest bit unusual in any way
whatsoever - were Tim Glover, Geoff Harwood and Peter Scoones.
They were as adept at making housings and
installing cameras as they were at taken good pictures. Indeed, the
most successful photographers in those early days were mainly the
ones with the skills to make their own housings, develop special
gizmo's and also produce superb prints from their darkrooms.
Tim Glover distinguished himself, among other
things, for having the first flashgun flood. Now Tim's flashgun was
not one of your everyday, 1992 flashguns. All the necessary gubbins
were housed in a Perspex tube that, from memory, was about 1ft or 1ft
6in in diameter and about 2ft long. It needed to be that size to
house all the components because no-one had got round to
miniaturising professional flashguns. The ensemble was fixed to a
Rollei Marine outfit and tucked neatly over one shoulder when you
were taking pictures.
Well, Tim was down at about 80ft in the
Mediterranean when it happened. He glanced in the housing and saw it
was flooding. The ocean was remorselessly approaching the
electronics. As there was clearly insufficient time to surface before
the housing flooded completely, Tim carefully put the outfit down and
finned off to a respectable distance to watch whatever would
transpire. Geoff joined him and the pair gazed in fascination as the
sea crept up towards the vital components.
What would happen, they wondered. Would everything
explode? Would they experience an electric shock? Would they survive?
They knew not, because it hadn't happened to anyone before. Almost as
an anticlimax, the components drowned with grace and dignity. There
were no blinding flashes of light or streams of sparks. The water
didn't boil. Blue sparks didn't race around the sea bed. Indeed, the
event was an anti-climax but it was a good tale for months
Geoff developed System Harwood - a camera housed in
one Perspex box and looking out through a correction lens with
another box containing a flashgun hinged onto it. Geoff put a small
torch- head in the housing alongside the flashgun so its beam would
show the centre of the area which would be illuminated.
He filed and ground the correction lens out of
living perspex with nothing more than instinct and flair to guide him
... plus a bit of trial and error. The result was that he was able to
correct the effect of refraction. That's when the rays of light bend
as they go from air (as in a housing) into water. It meant that a
50mm or 35 mm lense would 'see' the same underwater as if it was in
air rather than about a third less.
The torch meant he could focus his SLR camera on
the pool of light. Then, when he bore down on a subject, he knew it
would be pin sharp when the beam of light fell on it. It was a great
system which worked well and helped Geoff, very deservedly, to win
the title of British Underwater Photographer of the Year at the
Brighton Film Festival.
Peter Scoones, of course, was a law unto himself.
When everyone else was using 'wet' leads for their flashguns - more
of that in another issue - he fired his gun with a 'dry' lead.
Peter's method was simple. He drilled a hole in the camera housing
and another in the flashgun housing. Then he fed an electric lead
from one to the other, sealing it with laboratory bungs. Yes,
It worked like a charm for Peter ... you just had
to remember to shove the bungs in a little harder as you went deeper.
However, when he lent the outfit to someone else they managed to
'drown' everything which, from memory, was a Bronica S2a, 50mm lens
and a small flashgun.
Peter was adept at making housings at a time when
the only engineering facilities he had were the kitchen table and a
hand- held Black and Decker drill. Heaven knows what the Health and
Safety Inspectorate would have thought if they had had existed at
that time, but Peter could mill parts to shape and route out grooves
for O-rings with great precision and accuracy. He must have had
strong arm muscles.
Peter's housings - as ever - were brilliantly
simple and original. During the very earliest years of BSoUP, for
instance, he was experimenting with putting a Metz hammerhead
flashgun and battery pack into a Perspex 'suitcase' which he could
place in position and fire by means of a slave. To me, that seems to
have been the forerunner to the floating housing he has devised for
his underwater video work which gives him a freedom of operation
unmatched by anyone else's ideas.
Tim, Geoff and Peter were particularly unselfish in
helping other underwater photographers make housings, etc and they
were the driving force behind the production of the Society's Data
Book. But that will have to wait for another issue.
Reproduced from 'in focus' 46. Dec.
92 with kind permission of Colin Doeg.