The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSoUP)
Inspiring and informing underwater photographers since 1967

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Underwater Photography '85

A festival of films organised by BSoUP

by Brian Pitkin

Reproduced from in focus 10 (June 1985)

The Society's second film festival was held on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th April last, at the Commonwealth Institute, Kensington High Street, London. The three hour programme featured the work of some of the foremost British underwater film makers as well as other world class cinematographers. In addition, a display of prints by Society members, was set up in the lounge.


DAVID GEORGE, BSoUP's President, and PETER ROWLANDS, Chairman, introduced the programme on Friday and Saturday evenings respectively. The first film of the evening was 'The Open Ocean', an episode from BBC TV's 'Living Planet' series, produced by RICHARD BROCK, BBC Natural History Unit. This episode chronicles the evolution of the oceans of the world and their inhabitants. The film which was introduced by PETER SCOONES, is narrated by DAVID ATTENBOROUGH and contains some outstanding footage both above and below the surface.

Despite minor sound synchronisation problems on Friday evening, which were rectified for Saturday's performance, seeing this magnificant episode on the big screen was, on its own, well worth the very reasonable £3 admission.

Taking us from fact to fantasy, MIKE PORTELLY introduced his own production, 'The Ocean's Daughter'. Mike, who's interest in underwater photography started in 1976, began filming his award winning film in 1981. It has been shown once before at the Brighton International Festival of Film, but was well worth seeing a second time.

BSoUP Brochure

After the interval, the premier performance of ' HMS Rhone', a wreck in the British Virgin Islands, was shown. This was a technically excellent audio visual made by STEVE BIRCHALL and PETER ROWLANDS. The original slides were shot on a recent trip, which unfortunately coincided with a hurricane. For me the audio visual lacked the impact of their award winning 'Royal Oak'.

The evening closed with the premier performance of the made for television film 'A Closer Encounter'. The film, shot by PETER SCOONES and PAUL BERRIFF, relates the story of an encounter between a man, HORACE DOBBS, and a dolphin in the waters around Brittany. Some of the underwater sequnces of the dolphin were exceptional, but I'm still puzzled by some of Horace Dobb's antics.

Altogether a very entertaining evening and good value for money. What a pity more people weren't there! The Society did make a small profit, but only because the films were loaned free of charge and the speakers gave their services for nothing. To all, the Society is extremely grateful.

We would also like to thank PETER FUNNELL and Pershke Price Service Organisation, who not only donated and printed the programme covers for the festival* but covers for the Society's new colour information booklet (above), given free to all who attended the festival; and to our advertisers Ocean Optics Ltd, Sea and Sea Ltd and Fujimex; and sponsors of the printed programme Nikon (UK) Ltd.

BSoUP Brochure - back



The British Society of Underwater Photographers is pleased to welcome you to the first in what is hoped to become an annual event to display the talents of Britain's underwater photographers.

Whilst our waters are by no means as clear and easy to dive as overseas locations, the skills learnt in difficult conditions enable us to produce top quality work wherever we dive.

We are currently the World Champions and are about to defend our title in the Maldives in May.

Our evening includes two 'world premiers' - 'HMS Rhone' and 'A Closer Encounter'.


Dr. David George, BSoUP President (Friday)

Peter Rowlands, BSoUP Chairman (Saturday)

7.10 pm Introduction to
'The Open Ocean'
Richard Brock/Peter Scoones
Produced by Richard Brock, BBC Natural History Unit.
7.15 pm 'THE OPEN OCEAN'

Filmed by Martin Saunders, Hugh Maynard, Roger Jackman, Wolfgang Bayer, Gary Capo, Walt Deas, David deVrie, Jim King Krov Menuhin, Bora Merdsoy, Hugh Miles, Peter Scoones, Mantis Wildlife Films and Oxford Scientific Films.

Narrated by David Attenborough.

8.10 pm Introduction to
'Oceans Daughter'
Mike Portelly
8.25 pm 'OCEANS DAUGHTER' Written, filmed, produced and directed by Mike Portelly.
9.00 p.m. INTERVAL

Drinks and light refreshments are on sale in the Foyer.

The British Society of Underwater Photographers will have a display stand featuring colour and black and white prints taken by members of the Society.

These prints were taken in both British and overseas waters and include prints which have won major awards in international film festivals.

9.30pm 'RMS RHONE'

Produced by Steve Birchall and Peter Rowlands

9.40pm Introduction to
'A Closer Encounter'
Peter Scoones

Produced by John Gau Productions.

Filmed by Peter Scoones and Paul Berriff





Peter Scoones has been diving and taking underwater photographs since 1959. originally trained as a naval architect and,with a keen interest in dinghy racing, his service with the RAF in the Far East initiated his underwater interests?

Peter's work first came to notice when he won the Gold Medal for the Best Amateur Film at the first Brighton International Film Festival. Since then he has gone on to win many awards including Underwater Photographer of the Brighton (twice) and Best British Underwater Photographer at Birmingham (twice) to name just some of the awards.

Peter currently works as a freelance cameraman working extensively in both TV and other fields.


Mike Portelly's interest in underwater photography started in 1976 and within 12 months he had been voted 'Best Beginner' at the Brighton International Film Festival and been awarded an 'Oscar' for underwater photography by the CMAS.

Initially working in stills, he quickly developed his talent to produce startlingly different and innovative images. Together with Derek Berwin he represented Britain in the first World Championships for underwater photography winning first place in this team event.

Mike started filming 'Oceans Daughter' in 1981 in the Red Sea and soon began directing TV commercials for Fouracre Films, the first winning a top TV advertising award.

He is currently working on a new film for cinema.


This London based production company first came known through their excellent documentary about the salvaging of gold bars from the wreck of HMS Edinburgh in 1982.

Since then and in addition to other productions, they have produced 'Deep into the Blue Holes' about record breaking cave diving in the Bahamas.

Their latest project is a series entitled 'Assignment Adventure' and tonight's world premier showing of 'A Closer Encounter' is part of this series for worldwide distribution. Peter Gillbe is one of the company's leading producers and directors who came from the BBC.

Currently being produced in the 'Assignment Adventure' series is an episode about free-swimming with great white sharks.


Richard has worked for the BBC Natural History Unit for the past 20 years firstly in radio and now for television. His long experience in this department has made him one of the most prolific natural history producers. He has been closely involved in almost all of the BBC's major productions including 'The World about us', 'Wildlife on one', 'Life on Earth' and 'The Living Planet' from which tonight's film 'The Open ocean' is an episode.

Much of Richard's work includes underwater footage with a particular interest in marine mammals and coral reefs. Although not a diver himself, he has a desire to learn - when time permits.


Steve and Peter have been specialising in underwater audio visuals for 5 years and in this time have produced work which has received acclaim both in diving circles and with the general public. one of their first shows covered the BSoUP Underwater Photography Competition which is held annually at Fort Bovisand in Devon.

The highlight of their career so far was at the International Film Festival 'Brighton '83' when they took first and second places in the AV category and then went on to be judged 'The Most Outstanding Entry' at the same Festival.

Their documentary 'Royal Oak' which came second at Brighton 1983 has since been voted 'Best Documentary' in the Royal Photographic Society's Audio Visual Festival.

Steve and Peter are currently producing educational sequences aimed at school audiences.

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